October 21, 2013

Busway pushing bioscience development proposal (VIDEO)

The construction of the westernmost CTfastrak station is progressing in Newington, readying for an early 2015 open.

VIEW: Busway video

CTfastrak Development

CTfastrak will have 11 stations for passengers to board the buses

Hartford

• Union Station

• Sigourney Street

• Parkville

• Kane Street

West Hartford

• Flatbush Avenue

• Elmwood

Newington

• Newington Junction

• Cedar Street

New Britain

• East Street

• East Main Street

• Downtown New Britain

In addition to buses traveling the corridor, CTfastrak will connect with:

• 19 Hartford express routes

• 37 Hartford local routes

• 12 New Britain/Bristol local routes

• 28 Waterbury local routes

• Amtrak rail in Hartford

• Metro-North's Waterbury line

Visible signs of progress are popping up all over the $567 million CTfastrak rapid transit route, and cities along the thoroughfare are prepping their economic development plans in anticipation of the opening.

CTfastrak, formerly the Hartford-New Britain Busway, is on schedule for an early 2015 finish date, and the route has bridge, paving, and station work well underway along the 9.4-mile path.

City and town planners are trying to figure out how they can leverage the new transit line to spur economic development.

Newington, with two busway stops, is planning a bioscience facility and a transit-oriented complex, said Andrew Brecher, Newington economic development director.

Next to its Cedar Street station, Newington has acquired the four-acre, blighted National Welding site and obtained a $2 million state grant for the demolition of the building.

Newington is strongly considering a bioscience facility for the site to leverage the bioscience plans for UConn Health Center in Farmington, Brecher said.

"There has been a great deal of developer interest," said Brecher.

After the busway is finished, Amtrak will put in a new station on its rail line running parallel to CTfastrak. A researcher could come from New York City or Yale University via rail to Newington and catch the busway to the Newington bioscience facility and then onto the UConn Health Center, Brecher said.

Around its Newington Junction station, the town is considering several offers from developers, particularly those focused on transit-oriented development where people can work and live next to the busway, Brecher said.

Since the area adjacent to Newington Junction is so large, it offers more potential, Brecher said. The town is working with the Capitol Region Council of Governments on a plan that works best.

In New Britain, the city is less certain of its plans for development around its three CTfastrak stations: Downtown, East Main Street, and Main Street.

"We are still sorting it out," said Steven Schiller, New Britain city planner. "The idea is that you want to put a pretty intensive residential population near the stops."

The city is exploring downtown sites for mixed-use, transit-oriented projects with commercial and retail businesses on the ground floor and residents in upper floors.

At the former police station on Columbus Boulevard near the Downtown station, the city is entertaining proposals like putting in student housing for Central Connecticut State University.

"That is being looked at for a number of different things," Schiller said.

The length of CTfastrak is 9.4 miles, but the length of the service area for the buses using the transit line is 28 miles, stretching from Waterbury to downtown Hartford. In addition, passengers can transfer buses in Hartford to travel an additional 10 miles to get to Buckland Hills in Manchester.

"If we move even 200 cars off I-84, the traffic speeds on the interstate will increase 11 percent," said Michael Sanders, transit administrator for the state Department of Transportation.

Of the buses along the route, 60 percent of passengers are headed eastbound to Hartford while 40 percent are going west.

"It is just giving people more options," Sanders said. "Giving more options for how people can get to work helps employers with recruiting."

The express buses using CTfastrak can go the entire length of the route in 15 to 17 minutes having to stop at five stoplights where bridges were too expensive. Fares will be $1.30 for a local bus and $2.20 to $4.35 for express buses, depending on distance.

At each of the stations, passengers waiting for buses will be covered by clamshell structures that won't be enclosed or have amenities like bathrooms.

"It will be like a subway station," Sanders said.

In Newington and New Britain, the route will be pared with a five-mile-long, 10-foot-wide running, biking, jogging, walking path that should encourage people to avoid using their cars, Sanders said.

Development will be geared toward this theory, Sanders said, with transit — not cars — as the main source of transportation.

"You are seeing a little bit of a sea change in how planning is done," Sanders said. "Pedestrian access is playing a larger role."

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