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Newington Car Repair Shop Says It's Getting Thrown Under The Busway


June 21, 2012

NEWINGTON Mike Camillo predicts that when the New Britain-to-Hartford busway barrels through town, it's going to roll right over his car repair business.

"I'm probably going to have to lay off three people, I'm probably going to have to move," Camillo said at a press conference Thursday outside West Hill Automotive on Willard Avenue.

While workers from Middlesex Construction hauled equipment along the busway route just behind West Hill's property, Camillo said his business could fall victim to the project that Gov.Dannel P. Malloyhas been promoting as a powerful engine for economic development.

The press conference, led by Republican opponents to the busway, suggests that the years-long fight over the project isn't done.

"People are just beginning to learn about this thing. Nobody wants it, and now they're seeing what it's going to do to the towns all along the route," Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, said.

"It's never too late to undo a mistake," added Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington.

But hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts have already been signed, and companies this month are deploying construction crews all along the route from Hartford to downtown New Britain.

Supporters of the project dismiss the continuing criticism as sour grapes and partisan politics.

State transportation department spokesmen said Thursday that building the busway, now called CTfastrak, won't create nearly as much inconvenience as large-scale jobs like the reconstruction of the Q Bridge. The state has acquired most of the easements it needs, so the vast majority of its work will be done on busway land without significant impact on neighbors or traffic, the DOT said.

The DOT is taking land behind West Hill's main shop through eminent domain, Camillo said.

He complained that without that land as storage space, it won't be possible to keep his towing and auto body business operating with 10 employees.

But DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick and Michael Sanders, the agency's public transit chief, said the state took a little more than a tenth of an acre and paid Camillo $140,000 for it. As with all eminent domain cases, the owner has the option of challenging the price in court, but $140,000 was fair market value, they said.

About 3 miles south of the garage, neighbors of Fairview Cemetery in New Britain are complaining that busway tree-cutting crews are leaving debris and tire tracks near gravesites. Nursick said that's untrue.

"In no shape or form are we damaging the cemetery. It is being treated with the utmost respect," said Nursick, who also noted that crews stop work for about 20 minutes before and after each funeral to avoid creating noise.

By December 2014, central Connecticut will have a rapid transit system along an old industrial corridor that will relieve traffic on I-84 while fostering business and housing development, the DOT said.

Betts and Markle, longtime opponents of the project, said its a waste of money.

"As the busway is built, people are going to get more and more upset," Markley said, looking at West Hill."This is a family business that's been serving people for 50 years. Now for a nonsensical project, we're going to shut it down?"

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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