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The CT Fastrak bus station in New Britain undergoes construction. Connecticut Department of Transportation expects the project to be finished in 15 months. | (Dan Jackson/The Citizen)

Regional towns looking for Fastrak connection

The state Department of Transportation is making few changes to local bus routes feeding into the CT Fastrak system in the towns surrounding New Britain.

DOT officials hope to have Fastrak, the busway that will shuttle riders between New Britain and Hartford, operational in 15 months, by February 2015. The state has opened a comment period on bus routes that service the region.

Local towns hope DOT will add more bus routes or more times when buses travel through their towns, as a way to help residents connect to and from the Fastrak system.

Under the current plan, DOT will keep about the same number of buses running the same routes through Berlin and Plainville. Express buses will continue to stop once in Southington before swooping up to Hartford.

Michael Sanders, DOT transit administrator who will oversee the busway once it is operational, said the CT Transit busway is about linking places together.

“The more connections we can build in the better,” he said.

Sanders said DOT has already talked about adding more feeder routes that carry passengers to CT Fastrak.

However, the routes on the map currently are the routes DOT is committing to for the start of busway service, Sanders said.

For example, there is a possibility DOT will send more buses to the Berlin Train Station in the future. Today, the BK bus travels from New Britain and passes by the train station nine times on a weekday.

After the infrastructure is built, Sanders said, it is easy to expand service.

“It’s easy enough to do,” he said. “You just throw buses out there. You can always add.”

Throughout the planning process, the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency has taken comments from the public and passed them on to DOT, as well as adding their own, such as the suggestion to add a new bus route that would run to Pymouth and Thomaston.

The agency plans and promotes regional economic, land use and transportation policies. It also plans disaster response. Berlin, Plainville, Southington, New Britain, Bristol, Terryville and Burlington work with regional planning agency.

Jason Zheng, an associate planner with the transportation program at the agency, said DOT released the revised service plan only a few weeks ago, and the agency is still analyzing the plan. However, in the document, DOT denied the agency’s request to service Plymouth and Thomaston.

After DOT ran ridership models, Zheng said, it decided it could not support the proposed route.

During this comment period, Zheng said the planning agency will propose additional bus lines to service Southington, especially along the Route 10 and Route 229 corridors. ESPN and many industrial parks are located along those routes.

“It seems logical that they would have a bus route for these big corridors,” Zheng said, adding the agency will look into the accessibility of bus stops by cyclists and pedestrians. “Some routes don’t even have signs,” while others don’t have sidewalks.

While the regional planning agency solicits funding to distribute around the region, Zheng said CT Fastrak is funded by DOT.

Jim Mahoney, Berlin’s economic development director, said DOT is creating the initial bus way, and the next step is to talk about improving the region’s local service.

And while improved bus service between Berlin’s train station and the beginning of CT Fastrak is not on the plan at this point, Berlin has suggested it to DOT.

Mark DeVoe, Plainville’s director of planning and economic development, said “We’re not going to benefit directly from the Fastrak,” but local residents in regional towns such as Planville, Berlin and Southington could use the Fastrak by driving to the nearest station, or “hop on one of the local lines.”

Whether or not local service will improve, “it’s a little difficult to predict at this time,” DeVoe said.

For more information about CT Fastrak and to view the new service plan, visit ctfastrak.com.



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