Depending upon who is asked, the state Department of Transportation is either a “hero” or an “embarrassment” for spending $20,000 to repave a portion of Broad Street prior to the Hartford marathon.
Beth Shluger, executive director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation, believes the DOT is a “hero” for saving the day, paving the road, and moving the jersey barriers.
The milled and unpaved eastern portion of Broad Street was less than one-tenth of a mile from the start of the Hartford marathon and presented a “huge safety issue” for the 15,000 runners. She said she had nightmares just thinking about runners trying to jump over the jersey barriers at the start of the race.
Why not just change the course?
The marathon route is certified, so they were unable to change it, Shluger said. If they did change it, there would have been no prize money and runners would have been unable to use their times to qualify for other races, such as the Boston Marathon.
Shluger contracted the DOT about a week before the race to voice her concerns.
Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the department, said the freshly milled road posed a “substantial safety concern.”
So the DOT laid down about an inch of asphalt over the milled section and moved the jersey barriers to give runners more room. The paving was done on Thursday, two days before the Saturday race.
“The DOT receives requests all the time to modify or adjust projects,” Nursick said. “When it is feasible we try to accommodate those requests.”
But not everyone agrees.
“It’s an embarrassment to everyone who knew the marathon was coming,” Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, said Tuesday.
The construction, which started about a month ago, is related to the Hartford-to-New Britain busway that will run beneath Broad Street near the Hartford Courant building and alongside the rail line. The 9.4 mile dedicated bus route will be built on an abandoned railroad corridor, running from New Britain to Hartford. When it opens in 2014, buses will be running the route every three to six minutes during peak traffic hours.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said the project—funded by $455 million in federal funds and $112 million from the state—will create 4,000 temporary jobs and 100 permanent jobs.
Markley, a busway opponent, said lawmakers keep getting told the busway is being built mostly with federal money, but these types of cost overruns are coming out of the state’s budget.
A budget that already is in deficit three months into the fiscal year, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Tuesday.
“When things like this happen you don’t have to wonder why people lose faith in government,” Cafero said.
“This was not a waste of money,“ she said.
In fact, the marathon is a huge event for the city of Hartford. With 56 percent of the runners coming from outside the state, it means 900 hotel rooms were rented, and it has an economic impact of between $5 million and $6 million on the area. Also, runners raised about $1 million for charity.
But for an event as large and important as the Hartford Marathon, both Cafero and Markley were surprised that no one thought to mention it before they decided to tear up the road.
Nursick explained it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen at the agency.
Now that it is, Shluger said she’s already thinking about how to handle next year’s marathon since construction will still be ongoing.