Betts, Markley: It’s Not Too Late to Stop the Busway

April 19, 2012

Hartford- State Representative Whit Betts and State Senator Joe Markley hosted a press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford today to rally support for their proposal to transfer funds from the controversial New Britain to Hartford Busway to instead be used for badly needed bridge and road repair.

The proposed busway is estimated to cost a total of $567 million dollars. The shared cost to each taxpayer in Connecticut is estimated to be $382.48 dollars if the project is built. Meanwhile, there are 1,800 bridges in Connecticut that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

“Some public officials are ignoring the will of the people and wasting taxpayer dollars on something nobody wants while ignoring the safety of our citizens and allowing our roads and bridges to remain in disrepair,” Betts said.

Markley said they have identified a number of amendments that will be called in the House and Senate that will seek the funds transfer to stop the busway. “We will have this debate before this session is over, we will force legislators to vote on the record, and we will have our chance to stop this extraordinary waste of taxpayer dollars. The will of the public cannot be ignored.”

House Republican Leader Larry Cafero and Senate Republican Leader John McKinney offered their support at the press conference saying the condition of Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure is too bad to ignore for a questionable project.

“The shovels haven’t broken ground yet and this project is falling apart,” Cafero said. “We don’t have the luxury of spending so much money on this project when there are much greater priorities.”

“It doesn’t make sense to spend all this money on something we don’t need when we have limited resources and such significant deficiencies in our transportation infrastructure. It is far more important to fix our crumbling bridges and ensure the safety of our motorists than it is to build a busway that so few people will use,” McKinney added.

The State’s Transportation Commissioner has echoed concerns: Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told the New Haven Register, “Bridge maintenance … is my nightmare,” and said that the state’s statistics on bridge maintenance are starting to look like they did before the Mianus River Bridge collapse. (From the January 20, 2012 New Haven Register)

Mike Nicastro, President and CEO of Central Connecticut Chamber of Commerce offered evidence that busways do not spur economic development around bus stations as proponents have claimed. He also pointed out that the largest contract was awarded to a Massachusetts firm sending jobs out of state.

“Recent data from independent analysts make it very clear that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) simply has not shown any efficacy in generating increases in land values and, in fact, has a negative impact,” Nicastro said. “As to jobs, while Middlesex Corp who has been awarded $130 million of the initial contract may hire some Connecticut workers it remains that the leadership and most of the project will benefit Massachusetts and not Connecticut.”

Recently, a number of New Britain homeowners living along the proposed 9.4 mile busway path, including Nicole James of Cottage Place, New Britain spoke out against the project saying, “The bus line will run behind our homes, taking away some of our backyards.”

Homeowners were not told of any compensation from the state for the taking of their property, and the promise of six foot noise barriers has now dwindled to a chain link fence.

“The day it comes, I’m out,” Sedrick Nelson of Cottage Place, New Britain said. “The ‘for sale’ signs go up, I’ll take a loss, but I’m not going to live like that.”

Legislative session ends on May 9th. Betts and Markley say they are prepared to vote on legislation to stop the busway as early as this week.