December 14, 2013 01:30AM
By Jesse Buchanan
Miles of concrete barriers, retaining walls and curbing were needed to line the New Britain to Hartford busway. Much of it was cast at United Concrete Products in Wallingford.
The Church Street concrete manufacturer was one of a half-dozen companies in the Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire region that received contracts or supplied builders working on CTfastrack. Those contracts represented more than $13 million of the project’s total half-billion-dollar price tag.
State Department of Transportation officials hope to have Fastrak, the busway that will shuttle riders between New Britain and Hartford, operational by February 2015. The 9.4-mile CTfastrak is a bus-only roadway built over an abandoned rail line.
United Concrete employs 175 people, 15 to 20 of which were hired as a result of the castings needed for the busway. Owner John Gavin said the concrete supplied totaled about $8 million and represented a major project for the company.
“We’re sad to see it coming to an end,” he said. “I wish there were about 10 more of those jobs lined up.”
Bridge pieces, retaining wall sections and pipes can be cast at the company’s Wallingford plants rather than poured on the jobsite. Pre-casting is faster, cheaper and produces better results according to Joe Richello, pre-cast division manager.
It also allows construction crews to work through the winter when temperatures would make casting concrete very difficult and expensive, Richello said.
United Concrete’s role in the busway is almost complete and they don’t anticipate a job of that scope in Connecticut in the near future. Gavin said there are no major highways planned and the state’s density usually prevents projects like the busway.
“We’re pretty built out,” he said.
Local companies with contracts for DOT work include: Underground Builders Inc. of Southington for $2,921,000; K & R Trucking of Southington for $121,100; The Quaker Corporation of Cheshire for $2,138,100 and True Blue Environmental Services of Wallingford for $33,000.
The busway will allow transit buses running between New Britain and Hartford to avoid congested roads. But the nine-mile Fastrack faced opposition due to the cost.
State Sen. Joe Markley, a Republican representing Southington, said he’s glad that some are employed because of the busway but opposed spending on the project.
“If you spend $600 million you’re going to employ some people, there’s no mystery to that,” he said. “We could easily have spent $600 million on our infrastructure, on projects of much greater value.”
CTFastrack involves $112 million in state funds, with the balance coming from the federal government.
Supporters of the busway say it’ll help alleviate congestion and spur economic growth.
Mary Mushinsky, a state representative and Democrat from Wallingford, said businesses have complained that it’s difficult to move product and their employees during rush hour. Creating alternate transportation could make doing business easier, she said.
Mushinsky is also pleased that local companies are benefiting from the state and federal spending.
“I’m glad a Wallingford company got some employment out of this project,” she said.