While CTfastrak is attempting a series of public engagement meetings this month, it is simultaneously attempting to disengage one specific segment of the public: those opposed to the complete closure of Flower Street.
Running parallel to Broad Street between Capitol Avenue and Farmington Avenue, Flower Street has been the subject of controversy since the announcement that it would be barricaded for “safety” reasons. Several inquiries made for data supporting this claim that the New Britain-Hartford Busway/CTfastrak and the existing rail would significantly endanger lives if Flower Street remained open have been disregarded by those affiliated with CTfastrak and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. At a meeting in February, one employee laughed at the request, saying no such data existed.
At the same meeting, anyone who expressed concern with any part of the CTfastrak project was labeled a “detractor.”
What are residents and stakeholders to do if they are portrayed as lousy rabblerousers for trying to help shape a project that cuts through their neighborhoods?
Take time off from work on three consecutive days, travel to the Department of Transportation headquarters on the Berlin Turnpike, and wait around to speak out, even though the agency may arbitrarily not grant the status required for one’s voice to have any impact.
This is, according to the DOT’s Petition for Reconsideration, what the agency has in store.
The DOT, by the way, is petitioning itself. All decisions related to Flower Street have been made internally.
This latest petition was filed on March 6, 2013 by Timothy Wilson, the Manager of Highway Design in the DOT’s Bureau of Engineering and Construction. After the City of Hartford and others filed documents showing intent of having witnesses at the scheduled April 4th hearing, Wilson, in his petition, requested that the hearing take place over several days:
These are not lawyers, paid for their time to attend such meetings, but neighborhood residents and stakeholders who have to take several days off from work, in addition to the hours they may have already lost during 2012 and earlier this year, as this has been an ongoing battle. It is suspected that the location of these hearings — in Newington, not Hartford — intends to minimize involvement by the public, who may find it difficult to reach DOT headquarters on foot, bike, or bus.
Wilson has requested that the decision on this be fast-tracked:
This request has been interpreted by some involved in protesting the closure as an assumption that Hearing Officer Almeida would be ruling in Wilson’s favor.
Residents, stakeholders, and neighborhood groups like the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association and Frog Hollow NRZ have been filing objections.
This is not the first time residents and neighborhood organizations have felt they were being kept from participating in the hearings. In February, the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association submitted a letter saying the group had been viewed as something to be “contended with, or worse yet, ignored” by the CT DOT:
In the same letter, AHNA recognizes the ongoing issue that is the DOT providing a shaky case for closing Flower Street on the grounds of safety:
In a lengthy letter issued in February, the Frog Hollow NRZ echoed these sentiments and suggested that the CT DOT begin accepting responsibility for its actions instead of punishing the neighborhoods for its poor planning:
On March 19th there will be two CTfastrak presentations at the Hartford Public Library. There are online surveys about its service plan and there is a form provided for input.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.