HARTFORD —— The state transportation department said it's "all aboard" time for the New Britain-to-Hartford busway and plans to formally break ground on the $569 million project next month.
TheU.S. Army Corps of Engineersannounced Wednesday it has issued the final permit necessary to start construction.
That means contractors can start building the 9.4-mile bus rapid transit system early in the construction season, the DOT said. After years of frustrating delays, the transportation department is eager to put construction crews to work so the buses can start rolling by late 2014.
"With this permit, we are full-speed ahead on the busway," Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said in a statement. "This project will have major, positive implications for Greater Hartford — reducing congestion and emissions on I-84, making it easier and more convenient for people to travel in the corridor, and creating or sustaining 4,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs."
DOT workers have already removed some obstructions along the busway route and done some site preparation. On Wednesday, it scheduled the ceremonial groundbreaking for May 22 at a point along a nearly 6-mile stretch of the busway between Cedar Street in Newington and Sigourney Street in Hartford.
Opponents aren't giving up, but their chances for stopping the project are slim and growing weaker.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, and Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, want to force a floor vote in the General Assembly on whether to divert busway funding to overdue highway and bridge repairs.
"There are people saying the busway is a done deal, but it's not a done deal," Betts said Wednesday.
He and Markley are under a deadline of May 9, when the legislative session ends. It's unclear whether Democratic legislative leaders will even let the issue go to a vote, because lawmakers would be forced to either endorse a controversial and expensive project, or else buck Gov.Dannel P. Malloy, who gave it his blessing last spring.
A large coalition of business groups, transit advocates and environmentalists promote the busway as a way to reduce I-84 gridlock, spur redevelopment of downtown New Britain, create jobs and reduce pollution. Opponents ranging from the Sierra Club to the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce call it a boondoggle that wastes money desperately needed for overdue highway and bridge repairs.
Redeker, though, predicted motorists will become busway advocates after it opens.
"Central Connecticut commuters will notice a real difference in the amount of time it takes to travel through the corridor, especially during peak commuting times," Redeker said.
"By offering a very real alternative to car transportation … the busway will result in fuel savings and cleaner air while sparking economic development," said Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of energy and environmental protection.
The busway will include 11 stations in New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford, and buses will operate from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., the DOT said.
Some will be shuttles between New Britain and Hartford, but many of those buses will carry riders from Southington, Waterbury, Bristol and other communities. Rather than get stuck in I-84 traffic jams, those buses will use the bus-only highway to reach the center of Hartford, according to DOT's plan.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at