It took Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other officials about 20 minutes to travel from New Britain to Hartford on Tuesday on a tour of the 9.4-mile dedicated bus route that is scheduled to open in March.
The busway, named CTfastrak by the state, will be open to the public on March 28. Construction workers were putting the finishing touches on many of the route’s 11 stops Tuesday afternoon as Malloy, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, and several area legislators rode by on a pair of green buses.
They boarded at the state Capitol building and made their way down to New Britain with a few stops along the way.
Then the buses made a straight shot back to Hartford. It took about 20 minutes — a little slower than the Transportation Department’s 17-minute estimate, but the buses slowed often to avoid piles of sand or construction equipment that sometimes crowded the guideway.
Malloy already has signaled that addressing the state’s aging transportation infrastructure will be a top priority during his second term, which will begin when he is sworn in again Jan. 7.
The Tuesday trip represents the near completion of a project he approved early in his first term when he greenlighted a busway that had been discussed by the state for a decade. He said the alternative route between the two cities will prove useful when future projects, like the replacement of the I-84 viaduct, are under way.
“A lot of this is about our ability to move people in and out of Hartford particularly when it comes time to address the I-84 issue with the raised roadway that is going to have to be replaced. Building alternative systems of transportation makes a lot of sense,” he said.
The project has plenty of opponents. It was rebranded as CTfastrak after detractors had taken to calling it things like the “busway to nowhere.” Most who oppose the busway believe it will be under-utilized for a bus route with a $569 million price tag, even if that cost is largely covered by federal dollars.
Malloy told reporters Tuesday that opposition to the project was enough to give him pause and do more research.
“This would have been an easy thing for me to kill but, as I understood the project, I became firmly convinced that this is the way to go, the project to build, and, on a long-term basis, this would be a winner,” he said.
Malloy said the state did not have the option, as some have called for, to scrap the project and use the federal funding on some other effort. “It was this or [the money] goes back to Washington,” he said.
On Tuesday, the governor said he believes Connecticut residents were beginning to embrace the project. He said he expected the busway’s popularity to “build over time” and encourage economic development along its route.
During the tour, DOT Transit Administer Michael Sanders said the department expects to encounter some issues with snow removal in sections of the busway “where we have fairly narrow shoulders and no place to throw the snow.” He said it will require “unique” snow removal methods.
“The guideway is closed for three or four hours every morning. We could do nighttime, overnight snow removal operations. We also have workaround plans so if we need to pay particular attention to a segment of it we could run a detour around that segment,” he said.