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OP-ED | A Transportation Wish List for 2015

by | Dec 18, 2014 9:00pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Business, Economic Development, Opinion, Transportation, BDL

Hugh McQuaid photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said that his big focus for 2015 is going to be transportation infrastructure. This is excellent news; our state has lagged behind in transportation for too long. We don’t yet know where he’ll focus transportation spending, so here’s a list of suggestions:

Expand bus rapid transit

CTFastrak is going to be a success; in fact, if you look at the economic activity and investment it’s attracting, it already is. Because buses can easily enter and exit the busway at many points along the route, it’s incredibly flexible, and will work with many of the area’s busiest lines.

We should be looking at expanding bus rapid transit (BRT) services. There are a few possibilities for clear expansion to the north and east. For example, there is a disused rail line running up through Bloomfield toward Bradley Airport. This line was the focus of a proposed light rail project called the Griffin Line back in the 1990s. It should be repurposed for bus rapid transit traffic and stations, and finally provide the mass transit link between the airport and downtown that the state needs. BRT could also be expanded east toward Manchester on disused rail lines there. BRT lanes can also run in dedicated, separated lanes on major streets. This is what Cleveland did, with much success.

If BRT is a success in Hartford, there’s no reason it can’t be expanded to other cities like New Haven and Bridgeport. Bus rapid transit is going to be a big part of the future in this country, and we should invest in it.

Improve rail service

Rail service in Connecticut has fallen on hard times, lately. The new commuter rail line scheduled for 2016 will be a boon for the state, but more needs to be done. That line needs someone to run it; Connecticut needs to choose wisely. The second phase of stations needs to be built sooner rather than later.

Secondly, Metro-North needs a shakeup. The tracks need work. The trains aren’t running on time. Surely we can fix this. Also, Metro-North could be expanded. The Waterbury line ends at, well, Waterbury. But there are tracks between Waterbury and Berlin, where they link up with the main tracks connecting New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield. Let’s upgrade them and start passenger service there.

Lastly, the line running from New Haven to New London needs a boost. Shore Line East’s ridership is strong, and it would be even stronger if the trains ran more often.

Rail trail expansion and other
bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure

Rail trails are cheap, and they can make a huge difference in a community’s quality of life. Unusued rails and railroad rights-of-way exist all over the state — why not convert a few into multi-use trails? Let’s connect the Farmington Canal trails together and make it possible to bike from New Haven to Massachusetts, for instance.

Our cities and larger towns also need better bicycle infrastructure, from dedicated, separate bike lanes to improved crossings to bike share programs. New Haven, which has a large and passionate cycling community, would benefit most from this sort of improvement.

Rethink cars and highways

Our highways aren’t in great shape, and we know our bridges need work. But beyond this, we need to think about whether we are well-served by these massive ribbons of pavement cutting through our cities and towns. Imagine, for example, how different Hartford would be without the looming Aetna Viaduct that carries I-84 through the heart of the city. Many cities, like Waterbury and Bridgeport, have large sections of elevated highway that might work better in a different configuration. I-84 in Hartford, for example, would work a lot better as a tunnel — just as Boston is much better with I-93 buried.

We also need to think about what we put on those highways. The cars of the very near future will run on hydrogen and electricity; in fact, Toyota is rolling out hydrogen-powered cars in California next year. We ought to have them here as well. Let’s invest in fueling stations for hydrogen and electric cars at points all around the state.

Avoid the mistakes of the past

What we don’t need is the same sort of thinking that has made Connecticut a transportation nightmare over the past 50 years. No more huge highway projects, no more acres of asphalt and concrete covering up cities and towns, and no more sacrificing city real estate to create parking spaces.

Public transit and smarter highways and cars are a better way forward. I hope the governor embraces it.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(6) Archived Comments

posted by: Noteworthy | December 19, 2014  12:21pm

And those projects would require a doubling of the gas tax, a change of past practice that stole the transportation money and the addition of tolls throughout the state - just for starters. Oh, and a dramatic increase in the price of those bus and train fares so that they cover a lot more than 22% of the operational cost.

posted by: justsayin | December 19, 2014  1:26pm

Why do we not start by fixing what is broken, you know the things that everybody uses roads and bridges. Pay for that $$$$, you never mentioned how we are going to pay for these things you speak? Then we can ease in The Big dig and busses to bring people to Manchester?

posted by: ASTANVET | December 19, 2014  3:02pm

ok - question 1 is: where did all the money go from the gas tax, registrations, drivers licenses, fees, tickets etc that are suppose to go into the transportation budget to fix those roads/highways/bridges?  Question 2: where is the money going to come from to expand the rail if it is not from ridership?  Where is the capital investment to re-assure the industry that it is going to make a profit?  No captial investment - no rail!  If rail was so star spangled awesome, AMTRAC would be the most successful railroad in history - we know it is not! Rail to trail - is a PERFECT example as to how rail fails in CT.  It’s funny how that is used as an example to expand pedestrian traffic.  Who pays for that by the way?

posted by: art vandelay | December 20, 2014  8:57am

art vandelay

Here’s my wish list for improving transportation in Connecticut:

1.  Widen I-84 & I-95 into 4 lane super highways from boarder to boarder.

2.  Complete I-291 from Farmington to Windsor to elevate traffic going to Bradley from downtown Hartford.

3.  Complete I-384 from East Hartford to Providence

4.  Complete Rt-2 from Colchester to New London

5.  Complete Rt-7 from Ridgefield to Norwalk

6.  Construct a bridge similiar to the Chesapeake Bridge & Tunnel from New Haven to Long Island.

7.  Rebuild the train tracks from New London to GCT to accommodate high speed trains.

Lets face facts. When people were introduced to affordable personal transportation by Henry Ford there was no turning back.  Yes public transportation is a vital element to large cities like New York & Chicago.  Don’t try and force it down Connecticut’s throat with more bus & train routes to nowhere. Stop trying to force people out of their cars and back into crowded cities.  People move to Connecticut to get away from that style of living.

posted by: art vandelay | December 20, 2014  10:49am

art vandelay

In my second wish I meant to say eliminate instead of elevate.

Susan I forgot to mention how the state is going to pay for our wish lists. First would be to transfer the gas and gross receipts tax back into the transportation fund.  Second would be (as much as I hate to admit it) tolls on the boarders.  Yes if we are going to make drastic improvements to our transportation infrastructure tolls have to be incorporated. There are many out of state trucks and automobiles using our roads without paying their “fair share”.

posted by: joemanc | December 21, 2014  9:34am

Susan - You have your wish list mixed up. Shouldn’t we have fixed our existing infrastructure first before building out new pieces? If we can’t maintain what we have now, like the New Haven Line, Waterbury Line, I-84/I-91, then how do you suppose we will maintain the new infrastructure?
I don’t think the busway will be a success primarily because not enough people will use it.
I invited Gov. Malloy to take a ride on the Waterbury line, which I take everyday, and which might as well be a 3rd world rail line. Have not heard back yet.
I would have built a rail line between Waterbury and Hartford via the busway. There’s a freight line that currently runs from Waterbury to Berlin and then Hartford. They offered to kick in money to upgrade the line. But we built a busway instead. A lot of people from the Waterbury area commute to jobs in Hartford. Do you think they will go out of their way to take a bus in to Hartford? Encouraging carpooling would have been a better idea. Just look at the lack of traffic on the highways when schools are closed.

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