Markley: Busway Construction Too Close To Fairview Cemetery
By DON STACOM
July 13, 2012
NEW BRITAIN —— Gesturing toward the path that busway construction crews cleared through the center of Fairview Cemetery, Sen. Joe Markley said Friday he's more convinced than ever that the project is a mistake.
"We know we're wasting money, we know we're creating an eyesore and disrupting people's lives. Now we see that it even interferes with the peace of the grave," Markley told reporters at a press conference at Fairview.
Opponents say that heavy construction work along the long-unused railbed through the center of Fairview is disrespectful to the people buried nearby and their survivors.
But the state transportation department said that's simply not true. Contractors are being meticulous to avoid disturbing gravesites or headstones. Workers are staying entirely within the old railroad right-of-way that Connecticut has owned for many decades, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said.
"I can't emphasize enough that we're not going outside the existing right-of-way," Nursick said. "There are many cemeteries around the state that are in closer proximity to roadways — with higher traffic — than Fairview is to the busway."
Part of the Hartford-to-New-Britain busway is being built along a long-unused freight rail line between downtown New Britain and Newington Junction. A stretch of that railbed passes through the heart of Fairview Cemetery. Visitors there in recent decades have seen only a ridge with shrubs and small trees. But in earlier generations, freight trains used to regularly chug through the center of the cemetery.
Contractors last month used heavy equipment to tear out the overgrowth and clear the old railbed for regrading and paving. The DOT plans to install retaining walls to visually separate the busway from the cemetery.
Markley, a Republican from Southington, and state Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, predicted that homeowners and merchants along the 9.4-mile route will raise complaints as they realize what the bus-only highway will look like. They said the DOT is rushing to tear up the trackbed so that work gets underway before opposition can be organized.
The DOT, which promotes the $567 million busway as a jobs source and as a solution to I-84 traffic jams, took a different view.
"Let me get this right, they're complaining that we're working too fast?," Nursick said. "The plan has been out there for a decade, the alignment has been published for years. Everything has been out in the public. There should be no surprise to anyone at this point."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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