Sen. Boucher Calls For Allowing Disposal Of Land Acquired For Super 7

March 4, 2009

Applauds Overwhelming Show Of Local Support For Proposed Legislation

Senator Toni Boucher (R-26) expressed her appreciation for the testimony submitted in support of her proposal to permit the state to sell or transfer land acquired for the long dormant Super 7 highway project.

The General Assembly’s Transportation Committee recently conducted a public hearing on SB 434, An Act Concerning The Disposition By The Department Of Transportation Of Land Originally Acquired For The “Super 7” Highway. Senator Boucher is the leading Republican Senator, or Ranking Member, on the Transportation Committee.

“As so many of those who testified pointed out, necessary upgrades to the existing Route 7 is underway and so it is unlikely that we will ever need the land acquired so long ago to build the Super 7 highway. For one thing, priorities have changed. Building Super 7 highway now would require the state to acquire a great deal more land, much of it environmentally fragile and unaffordable. Permitting the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to sell or transfer the land it has acquired for this long defunct project makes sense. Our resources must be directed to feasible projects that the public supports, notably our mass transit and smart growth initiatives,” said Senator Boucher.

Those expressing agreement with Senator Boucher include Representative John Frey (R-111). In his testimony, Representative Frey wrote: “Since the language includes “may sell or transfer” it is not the intention of this bill to mandate what the State of Connecticut should do, but to allow for greater flexibility. It makes sense in these troubled times for the State of Connecticut and the Department of Transportation to have as much leeway as possible.”

Others who submitted testimony or travelled to Hartford to address the Transportation Committee in person had the following to say about the proposed legislation:

“Towns in the Route 7 corridor are in need of land for community recreational purposes – playing fields, hiking and bike trails, gardens and nature preserves – in brief, “green ways” that will expand recreational and quality of life activity. I urge the Transportation Committee and the Legislature to allow the Commission of Transportation the option to sell of transfer the title of the existing right-of-way acquired for the potential use as a Route 7 highway to local communities for recreational and passive conservational purposes,” said Wilton First Selectman William F. Brennan.

“The Town of Redding has long opposed the construction of the proposed Super 7 Highway because of its significant and detrimental impact on one of the largest wetlands in our state. We believe that the project would never receive the required affirmative federal environmental impact statement . . . Therefore, particularly in these troubled economic times, it makes perfect sense to untie the DOT’s hands with respect to the property it acquired for Super 7. If it is not going to be used for the project, the DOT should have the ability to sell the land for some productive purpose. It is not in the state’s best interest to have the unusable land on its books, nor is it in any municipality’s best interest to keep it there,” said Redding First Selectman Natalie Ketcham.

“There is only one shovel that is ready for use in connection with the Route 7 limited access highway, a.k.a. “Super 7”, and that is the shovel that should finally be used to dig a deep grave for this ill-begotten project so as to put it to rest permanently,” said Michael J. Autuori of Ridgefield, adding that he favors transferring property acquired for Super 7 for the Sugar Hollow Greenway.

“Such legislation appears to be a better option and gives our state Department of Transportation (DOT) more flexibility in the use and disposition of this land which has been restricted so many years ago. Accordingly, DOT may or may not sell or use this land according to the times or needs of the state at some future date. Let’s move on with resolving this long-standing irritant,” said Joseph A. Equale of Wilton.

“When one considers that there is an existing underutilized railroad line that parallels the existing Route 7, that there are prudent and feasible alternatives to building the new highway, and the huge price for Super 7, one can only conclude that supporting this bill is the only way to proceed,” said James P. Snedeker of Wilton.

“The construction of this highway would require building across one of the largest wetlands in our state. This will not only have huge financial implications, but it id truly an environmental risk I am unwilling to take with my downstate neighbors . . . It would therefore make sense to give our state DOT more flexibility in the use or disposition of this land . . . ,” said John T. Markey IV of Wilton.

“As a Wilton resident for 33 years, an elected official there for nine, and a realtor for 14, I can attest to the upset that the uncertainty of the Super 7 issue has caused this town . . . and I’m confident that I speak for the vast majority of Wiltonians. The project is neither politically viable nor financially feasible. The concept for all practical purposes is “dead,” said Howard A. Sherman of Wilton.

“Providing the DOT with options as to the use of this land will liberate the state. In fact, with the present economic situation, if the land were to be sold, the monies generated could be applied to assist funding in appropriate needed areas. As a concerned citizen, I urge the committee to lift the restriction and possible raise funds for well needed state financing,” said Michael Perrella of Wilton.

“The cost of building a 20 mile long and 100 foot high fly over highway would be unaffordable given the new national roadway engineering requirements. Environment group and local town opposition, including Ridgefield, Redding, Wilton and parts of many surrounding towns would keep in the courts for decades,” said Dianne and Tom Gorman of Wilton.

“There are some who have proposed that any land or buildings that the state has held for over 20 or 30 years should be sold, transferred or disposed of for the public good – and reinvestments made in present urgent needs,” said Senator Boucher.