New Britain, Berlin, Farmington propose CTfastrak extension, while Meriden hopes to get on board

New Britain, Berlin, Farmington propose CTfastrak extension, while Meriden hopes to get on board

Record-Journal


Several central Connecticut communities are hoping the state Department of Transportation will consider extending the CTfastrak busway.

Extending CTfastrak service to the Berlin train station is part of a strategy submitted by Berlin, New Britain and Farmington in their joint CT Next Innovation Places grant application. The group was recently named a finalist with six other cities and towns to share in the $30 million award.

“Better transportation and connectivity are key factors in the transit-oriented study with focus on bringing in young professionals to town,” said Berlin Economic Development Director Chris Edge. “The CTfastrak connection will be a good asset for the town. Continuing to build off the success of the bus way makes sense.”

Improving the region’s local transportation service has been front and center for municipalities trying to build transit districts aimed at improving the local economy. CTfastrak would improve access from Berlin to New Britain, in addition to providing stops in Hartford and West Hartford and UConn Health Center in Farmington.

Some Meriden officials are also considering CTfastrak as an addition to commuter rail service, which is set to increase in January 2018 from New Haven to Springfield along the newly minted Hartford Line. Both Berlin and Meriden are getting new train stations and 17 trains to Hartford, and 12 trains to Springfield every day.

“We’re going to have better than a CTfastrak connection to Hartford,” said Thomas Welsh, president of the Meriden Economic Development Corp. “But it would be great to have both Central Connecticut cities in a win-win situation.”

Welsh said the need for the busway service is greater in Meriden. Adding a CTfastrak stop in the city would give residents a direct link to Central Connecticut State University and other CTfastrak stops in New Britain, or transfers to other lines that service Southington, Cheshire and Waterbury. It currently takes more than an hour and 22 stops from Westfield Meriden mall to downtown New Britain by bus.

“This would help New Britain’s economic development efforts and Meriden’s by connecting these towns directly,” Welsh said.

Welsh and others are talking to New Britain economic development leaders about including Meriden in any possible busway expansion.

A costlier and more time consuming alternative would be to extend CTfastrak to the Berlin train station to allow Meriden commuters the option of taking the Hartford Line to Berlin where they could connect to the busway.

But there could be no alternatives because the state is not considering any plans to extend CTfastrak service to Berlin or Meriden mainly because the Hartford Line expansion will be increasing service in that corridor next year, said a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“Berlin and Meriden will fully benefit from that (train) service,” said spokesman David Bednarz. “The expanded service and new stations are expected to increase ridership, improve the high speed and passenger rail system serving the Northeast, expand intermodal transportation options, encourage economic development and create more livable and sustainable communities.”

State Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, has been critical of the 9-mile busway since it began in 2014 and doubts the state is going to pay for expanding the service, although it might add more bus services on existing roads.

“I assume they are not talking about extending the physical runway,” Markley said. “We need to have a balance. There is a need for a public bus system, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay for itself. What the legislature has to say is ‘This is what we have to spend for X, and let’s spend accordingly.’”

Tim Stewart, president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, which is behind the Innovation Places proposal, said plans are to increase bus service on existing lines to provide access from new train stations in Meriden, Berlin and Newington.

“There are local routes already that come to New Britain but they are not hourly,” Stewart said.

The cost to increase service for an eight-hour day would be about $125,000 a year, or $125,000 for half-day service, Stewart said.

mgodin@record-journal.com 203-317-2255 Twitter: @Cconnbiz


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