All aboard the CTfastrak (formerly the Busway) [New Britain Herald]

May 24, 2012

Article as it appeared in the New Britain Herald

By Scott Whipple
Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Forget “New Britain to Hartford Busway.” The official name is now “CTfastrak.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy and state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker dug the first two shovelfuls of dirt Tuesday on Park Street, the site of the future project’s Parkville Station. With the symbolic gesture, construction of the new $567 million rapid-transit link between the two cities has begun.

The project includes 11 stations along the route from New Britain to Newington into West Hartford and ending in Hartford with buses running every three to six minutes during peak commuting hours.

“CTfastrak is an important part of Connecticut’s overall investment in transportation,” said Malloy. “For years, Connecticut public transit has languished — outdated systems and antiquated infrastructure have slowed travelers, commuters and commerce. With the investment in bus rapid transit, putting new railcars in service in southern Connecticut and moving forward to build interstate higher-speed rail, we are well on our way to turning the page on years of neglect.”

In addition to CTfastrak, Redeker introduced new elements of a statewide public transportation branding campaign created under the “CTrides” name.

CTfastrak is being built on an abandoned railroad corridor from New Britain to Hartford’s Union Station alongside the active Amtrak rail right-of-way. Buses will operate from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Buses will also use the 9.4-mile corridor to provide direct service to major employment sites such as the UConn Medical Center, Westfarms Mall, Central Connecticut State University and throughout downtown New Britain and Hartford. Service is expected to begin in late 2014.

The federal government will cover $455 million of the $567 million project cost, with the remaining $112 million funded by the state. An estimated 4,000 construction jobs and at least 100 permanent jobs are expected to result from the project.

The first construction segment will begin on a 5.8-mile stretch that begins near Cedar Street in Newington and runs north to Sigourney Street in Hartford. The $130 million contract for this segment also includes the construction of seven stations, a new $19.9 million bridge at Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford and the construction of a new gravel maintenance road for Amtrak.

State Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, thanked New Britain Downtown District Director Gerry Amodio and Bill Millerick, president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, for helping her understand the project’s economic potential.

Millerick said CTfastrak means potential for economic development for the city.

“The first phase was getting it up and running,” he said. “The next phase is taking advantage of it. We need to seize this opportunity.”

Ed Reilly, president of the Greater Hartford/New Britain Building Trades Council, said his union members are ready to do just that.

“For two years we’ve been in an economic depression with 40 percent unemployment,” he said. “Today, we’re going to put thousands of construction workers to work in their own communities thanks to the vision of Gov. Malloy. Workers now have transportation vital for education and job creation.”

New Britain residents Craig Frederick and Stephen Hard came away from the ceremony impressed.

“This isn’t just a Busway,” said Frederick. “It’s a breakthrough in transportation technology — a way to get people out of their cars and into state-of-the-art buses.”

“Anyone who commutes between New Britain and Hartford and is stuck in traffic should understand the need for [CTfastrak],” Hard said.

Two Republican legislators — state Sen. Joe Markley of Southington and state Rep. Whit Betts of Bristol — saw no cause for celebration. They had vowed to block the Busway. However, their amendments to sidetrack funding for the Busway on transportation measures in the recently completed short legislative session failed to gain enough votes. Their measures would have required state funds earmarked for the Busway to be used instead for road and bridge repair.

Markley warned that the Busway will eventually cost more than $20 million a year to operate once it is completed.

Accused by some as using the Busway issue for publicity, Markley countered that he only wanted to stop wasteful spending.

“My dream as a legislator has always been to save the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “This [Busway project] struck me as good an opportunity as was presented me.”