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CTFastrak Set To Open In March; Economic Growth Expected Along Busway

Officials involved with the CTfastrak say the 9.4 mile busway from New Britain to Hartford is on track to open in March 2015.  The Department of Transportation ...

Officials involved with the CTfastrak say the 9.4 mile busway from New Britain to Hartford is on track to open in March 2015.  The Department of Transportation estimates construction is around 70 percent-75 percent complete.

The department held a tour on a portion of the busway for various stakeholders Thursday.

Officials say the plan originally called for the project to be complete in February 2015, but officials realized it would take longer to hire and train 100-125 drivers needed to drive the fleet of 55 buses.

“We’ve hired the first 25 or 30 drivers already and are training them, so that’s not a gigantic issue of getting the training done. It’s just the training we have to do and the volume we needed,” said Michael Sanders, public transit administrator for the DOT.

Sanders says he expects buses to run every 7 1/2 minutes during peak usage and 12 minutes during off-peak times.  He estimated an average of 22 buses will run every hour.

The line will end at Union Station in Hartford, and officials are still trying to determine the route of the downtown loop – the  continuation of Fastrak buses to destinations around downtown Hartford after reaching Union Station.

Sanders also said that the network will make accommodations to add more buses during large events around Hartford.

“Whether it’s the XL Center or the Bushnell or convention center, we have the ability to take some of these routes and extend them for special events  or put on extra buses,” said Sanders.

Public transportation advocates on hand say they’re pleased the line is attracting development, especially around the Flatbush station.

“We’ve seen economic development along the line. We’ve seen where it can connect people to health services, to food shopping and to future New Haven-Springfield rail,” said Karen Burnaska with Transit for Connecticut, a group formed in 2007 to advocate for rapid bus transit.

Officials hope CTfastrak will not only relieve congestion on nearby I-84,  but connect communities along the route.

West Hartford town officials are eyeing  development along the Elmwood Fastrak station.

Recently the town passed an ordinance allowing for more residential development in areas zoned for industrial use.  The ordinance was aimed in large part to encourage development around the Elmwood station, a historically industrial zoned area of town.

“We  think there’s potential around the stations to have both  retail, commercial development as well as multifamily housing, which would be beneficial,” said Mark McGovern, director of community services for the City of West Hartford.

CTfastrak will also feature a 5-mile multi-use trail running alongside the New Britain to Newington section.

“People are just talking about the buses. They haven’t talked about bike paths along with it,” said Dave Arnold, owner of Newington Bicycle.

Arnold says his store is planning to host a race on the bike trail next spring.

He predicts more people will choose to bike, which will be good for business.

“Once we start getting people to use the lane over there, people will really start coming in and talking more about it,” Arnold said.