The State Bond Commission approved spending $89.7 million to construct the long-planned Hartford-to-New Britain busway, despite bipartisan complaints that it should be reconsidered by the General Assembly because of cost increases.
“It’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s a good project and it sucks the air out of so many other worthy transportation projects,” said Sen. Eileen Dailey, D-Westbrook and co-chairwoman of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
“I’m not convinced this is the wisest use of scarce transportation resources,” said Sen. Andrew W. Roraback, R-Goshen and ranking member on the finance committee.
Dailey, Roraback and Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, voted against the project, which was approved 7-3.
When the legislature approved the plan in 2006, the total cost was estimated at $300 to $325 million, with $50 million coming from the state. The state’s share now has grown to $113 million, with another $460 million coming from the federal government.
“Now I’m not very good at math, governor,” Roraback told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy during the meeting, and then went on to say the busway would cost $952 per inch to build.
“It’s far too costly now,” Daily said after the meeting. “There’s bus service out there already and it’s not heavily used. What are we doing?”
The cost issue has concerned legislators for some time. In December, then-Sen. Donald J. DeFronzo, co-chairman of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, wrote committee members saying the project should be reconsidered in light of the costs.
“Today’s $600 million busway is not what was proposed and sold to the legislature in 2006,” said DeFronzo, who has since joined Malloy’s administration as commissioner of administrative services.
“Doesn’t the price really say it all? That’s a lot of money for nine miles” of busway, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said following the meeting.
But Malloy continued to back the project, which his administration projects will create 12,000 jobs during construction.
“It’s worth the money. It’s an important project,” he said after the meeting.
Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, welcomed the bond commissions’ decision.
“With service every five to 10 minutes, the project will be Connecticut’s first true rapid-transit system and will relieve congestion on the region’s busiest highway section,” he said.