August 5, 2013

New Britain-to-Hartford busway halfway done

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Construction workers are busy building the Flatbush Avenue station and bridge site in West Hartford, which is part of the $567 million New Britain-to-Hartford busway project, known as CTfastrak. A bridge is being built for vehicle, pedestrian and cycle traffic to cross over the Amtrak tracks and CTfastrak guideway. 

While many Connecticut construction firms have been hurting for work, the $567 million New Britain-to-Hartford busway project has been a bright spot for the industry this summer.

In fact the project, known as CTfastrak, is nearly halfway done as hundreds of construction workers in recent months have been busy paving roadways, installing steel frames for bridges, and reconfiguring large stretches of road and side streets along the 9.4 mile busway route.

Recent work has included construction on a bridge over East Street in New Britain, which will likely extend into the fall. Significant work is also underway near the Broad Street and Farmington Avenue intersection in Hartford.

Meanwhile, storm drain installation, retaining wall construction, and other underground work along the bus route have largely been finished, officials say.

"Construction is moving along, and we're probably getting close to 50 percent completion," said Brian Cunningham, program director for the state Department of Transportation. "There are multiple construction crews all over the place this summer and that is why we are showing ourselves on schedule."

The New Britain-to-Hartford busway has been a controversial project. It received intense criticism from some Republican lawmakers and business industry representatives who railed against the projects' costs, and questioned if it would garner enough ridership to justify the significant investment.

Regardless, the project is putting people to work, which was one of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's major goals when he threw his support behind the busway in 2011 and helped secure the financing to make it a reality.

The busway has several purposes, but its main goal is to ease traffic congestion along I-84 in Hartford by encouraging more people to opt for a bus ride into downtown Hartford, rather than driving a car.

It will also be a boost to some nearby businesses and colleges like Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), which will gain easier access to Hartford and surrounding towns.

"The busway is going to improve access for individuals to come to and from the University, whether it's to take classes or attend athletic or theatrical events," said Richard Bachoo, CCSU's chief administrative officer. "In our opinion, we will be the greatest users of the facilities."

Recent and upcoming construction work includes erection of a wall separating the busway from Amtrak railroad lines. In Hartford, a bridge carrying Broad Street traffic over railroad tracks has to be replaced to allow CTfastrak buses to run underneath.

Construction crews are also building a new bridge on Flatbush Avenue on the Hartford/West Hartford line.

One challenge, Cunnigham said, has been dealing with soil conditions during structural construction for new bridges.

Moisture had to be sucked out of supporting areas to strengthen the ground's hold on the base of some bridges near Hartford.

Even still, there have been no major construction issues so far, Cunningham said, and the project remains on budget and on pace for a February 2015 completion.

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