Senator Boucher Questions Validity Of Super 7 Survey

September 9, 2009

Some Survey Techniques Can Lead To Bias – Many Interviewed Do Not Live In Affected Communities

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26), Senate Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee, questioned the usefulness of a recently completed survey being promoted by a fellow legislator as proof of local support for building a Super 7 highway.

“I understood that this study, which was funded by Senator Duff’s caucus funds, would analyze the environmental, financial and structural barriers to a Super 7 highway. Instead, the money was used to survey many people that do not even live in the towns potentially affected by this outdated proposal. The affected towns could pay for a similar survey that produced very different results,” said Senator Boucher.

Senator Boucher noted that Senator Bob Duff (D-25) is vice chair of the Transportation Committee and a long-time supporter of building a Super 7 highway. The state-funded survey of 486 people was conducted by the University of Connecticut-Stamford.

“I find the results of this study inconsistent with what I know about my constituents. Previous public hearings on this subject have attracted 500-600 people with only 10 in favor. I have several file cabinets filled with thousand of letters, emails and petitions against this concept. One of the red flags I saw right off is the use of snowball sampling. This is a sampling method that is used when it is difficult to find a large enough sample of people to respond to a survey. In this case, the researchers got only 23 responses from 500 direct contacts, or a rate of about 4.6%, which is very low. So to increase this, the report says that they then used snowball sampling, which means that they asked their direct contacts, whose views they knew something about, to refer them to other respondents. Although a common sampling technique, snowball sampling can, for obvious reasons, lead to bias. It is also important to note that of the 486 responses, well more than half — 264 — were from Norwalk and Danbury, where Super 7 would not be cutting straight THROUGH houses and environmental features,” said Senator Boucher.

“Also, it is interesting to note that towns in the affected area, along with the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials and the state, have taken this expressway off all planning documents and instead have focused on widening the existing roadway, and improving mass transit and other multi modal forms of transportation. It seems to me that Senator Duff is beating a dead horse,” said Senator Boucher, adding that she believes the state caucus funds spent for the study could have been better used.

Senator Boucher stressed that there are many good, valid reasons why building a Super 7 highway has not attracted much support. Senator Boucher said it is important to note the following points:

  • The State Department of Transportation does not own a large portion of the land needed for the expressway, including valuable wetlands that cannot be replicated or mitigated – making it nearly impossible to obtain necessary environmental permits.
  • Building a Super 7 highway would cost billions of dollars.
  • A significant portion of a Super 7 highway would be nearly 100 feet in the air due to topography, wetlands, and new federal grade guidelines.
  • A Super 7 highway in this location would not receive a positive review from a required federal environmental impact statement.
  • A compromise reached in 1999 to widen the road in order to alleviate congestion is nearly completed.
  • Every environmental group in Connecticut opposes building a Super 7 highway.
  • All elected officials and town boards in the affected towns oppose building a Super 7 highway.
  • State transportation policy is focused on mass transit and multi modal transportation projects; new resources and funding for the Danbury to Norwalk train line have been appropriated.