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Both Sides Gear Up For Busway Meetings

Supporters, Opponents Of The New Britain-to-Hartford Busway Are Pushing Their Agendas On The Internet

By PETER SLEIGHT

July 25, 2011

NEW BRITAIN Against the backdrop of a bitter debate in Washington over new mass transit projects, both supporters and opponents of the proposed New Britain-to-Hartford busway are taking their cases to taxpayers this summer.

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a public meeting Aug. 11 to discuss its construction timetable and show the latest version of its maps and potential commuter schedules. On its busway Facebook page and its http://www.ctrapidtransit.com website, the department invites people to "come meet the busway team," and promotes its new guide for how local merchants can minimize disruption to their businesses when the 9.4-mile, bus-only highway is built.

But Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, calls the busway a "ludicrously overpriced boondoggle" and is campaigning to ensure it is never built.

Markley and Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, are convening their own public meeting in Waterbury on Wednesday to talk about strategies for blocking the project.

Markley and Rep. Whit Betts, R-Bristol, are promoting their arguments against the $569 million busway on the website, http://www.blockthebus.com, and Markley recently declared that he believes the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will delay any construction schedule.

Markley said he expects DEEP to conduct a hearing on the project in October, and promises that opponents will make a pitch then to jettison the idea.

The long-delayed busway has become a point of major political controversy in recent years. Advocates claim it's essential for relieving I-84 rush hour traffic congestion and generating new jobs.

Opponents contend it will attract few riders and require massive annual subsidies.

In New Britain, political adversaries Rep. Tim O'Brien, a Democrat, and conservative Republican Mayor Timothy Stewart both insist the busway is an important part of rebuilding the city's downtown.

Town leaders in Newington and state lawmakers from Bristol oppose the project, while New Britain's legislative delegation and Hartford's city government are lobbying for it.

The transportation department is waiting for federal confirmation of more than $250 million in aid to construct the busway. That process stalled last year, though, and the DOT has pushed off the scheduled start of service from late 2013 into 2014.

It's unclear how the budget battle in Washington will affect projects such as the busway. The Obama administration is fighting to fund mass transit initiatives, while House Republicans are trying to axe much of that spending.

The meeting run by Markley and Noujaim is set for Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Rotella Magnet School, 380 Pierpoint Road, Waterbury.

The DOT's session is scheduled for Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Frank DiLoreto Hall at Central Connecticut State University

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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