Busway Public Relations Campaign Hits A Bumpy Patch In New Britain
By DON STACOM
May 30, 2012
NEW BRITAIN —— As contractors start amassing payloaders and bulldozers along the path of the busway to Hartford, some homeowners along the route were raising last-minute concerns Wednesday about worsened noise, traffic detours and flooding in their neighborhoods.
Construction supervisors at a public meeting at city hall assured the audience that they'd listen to complaints, answer questions and consider requests for small modifications where possible.
But they also emphasized that one point is beyond debate: The busway is coming through.
"The design is set in stone," said Dave Ferraro, a state transportation department design engineer. "It's too late [for major changes]."
That wasn't the message that frustrated Cottage Place resident Jamie Vaughan wanted to hear.
"Don't tell me it's too late," he shot back in a testy exchange during the hourlong informational meeting sponsored by the city and the DOT. "We've all been getting this the whole time — a runaround."
Accompanied by several Cottage Place neighbors, Vaughan complained that the $567 million busway will generate too much noise in residential neighborhoods.
Sharon Baretta questioned how the two-lane bus highway and accompanying multi-use trail will fit on the narrow right of way through the historic Fairview Cemetery, and other speakers asked for better sound barriers or guarantees that the busway won't cause flooding after workers fill in a drainage ditch that used to run along the old railroad right of way.
Ferraro and other DOT staffers and consultants assured the crowd that engineers have designed the roadway with all of those concerns in mind.
"There will be some things we can tweak, and some we can't," said Michael Sanders, public transit chief for the DOT.
When a few residents complained that the DOT had left them in the dark about its plans, Brian Cunningham, a DOT designer, pointed out that the agency has held several highly publicized public meetings over the past few years.
"Everyone along that route should have been contacted by mail," replied Baretta.
A number of speakers said that despite very localized concerns by homeowners, the city is enthusiastic about the imminent construction of a major public transit system to Hartford. Some buses will shuttle between New Britain and Hartford, but most will go on to Waterbury, Cheshire, Bristol or other communities, or else get off the bus-only highway at various points to reach the UConn medical center, Central Connecticut State University and other destinations.
"It's going to be an exciting time for New Britain and it's going to start quickly," said Mark Moriarty, the city's public works director.
Ferraro said large-scale clearing of trees will begin Thursday, followed by relocation of utility lines and then preliminary construction of new bridges over Route 9 and East Street.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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