Earlier this year, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced an initiative that would “draw on broad public input and result in a plan to transform transportation in Connecticut.” Acknowledging that the Nutmeg State’s transportation needs were moving away from just cars and highways toward walkable neighborhoods and healthy communities, the TransformCT initiative was launched in order to engage the public through meetings, surveys and opinion research as well as its interactive website.
Early input* confirms what state officials had surmised: that Connecticut residents want and need a more balanced transportation system that gives them more mobility options than they have today. The highest percentage (22 percent) of responses call for expanding transit and 17 percent of responses call for better operated and maintained roads. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements received the third largest share of responses (15 percent), and only 9 percent of respondents call for expanding roads.
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The 2010 Hub of Hartford study looked at dramatic alternatives for the segment of I-84 that cuts off downtown Hartford from other parts of the city. Rather than simply rebuilding the highway viaducts as is (depicted at left), planners have suggested several ways to reclaim downtown real estate and reconnect the city (right).
Hartford faces a once-in-a-century opportunity to reshape its downtown as state engineers again turn their attention to the aging “Aetna viaduct” which carries I-84 through the city center. Bringing this elevated highway down offers a chance to reconnect neighborhoods and give the city a major economic jolt.
The viaduct, constructed in 1965, accommodates roughly 175,000 vehicles a day, but it also acts as a barrier between neighborhoods and is a blighting influence around major employers like Aetna and city landmarks like Union Station, Bushnell Park and Capitol Hill. So last decade, when the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) began studying a project to replace the now-deteriorating structure
s, civic and community leaders saw an opportunity to undo some of the disruption caused by the placement of the highway.
Three years ago, the Capitol Region Council of Governments (guided by the aforementioned civic and community leaders, who dubbed themselves the “Hub of Hartford” committee) completed a study of visionary alternatives for I-84. The study found that moving the highway at-grade, placing it in a short tunnel segment between Broad Street and Union Station, and rerouting the Amtrak rail line to the north of I-84 would free up 15-20 acres of developable land next to Union Station. Such a rearrangement could support at least one million square feet of mixed-use development and raise city property taxes by at least $12 million annually. On top of that, new streets and parkland would create a better urban fabric, all while costing the same as rebuilding the viaducts, though far more study is needed to be sure.
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In 2009, Connecticut passed one of the strongest Complete Streets laws in the country, but a law is only as effective as the agencies who implement it. This summer, Connecticut DOT released a webpage and report outlining the progress it has made to change the way it designs streets. It’s a welcome show of transparency and shows that the department has made real changes toward making the complete streets approach part of its daily business. At the same time, many important reforms — like a badly needed rewrite of the department’s road design guidelines — still remain to be addressed.
ConnDOT has been providing wider shoulders on two-lane state roads, such as this stretch of State Route 99. | Image: ConnDOT.
According to the report, ConnDOT has been systematically widening shoulders along two-lane state roads, narrowing car lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet to provide the extra space. Of the 180 miles of two-lane highway that were resurfaced in 2012, 162 miles were redone with wider shoulders.
The department has been using a “bike and pedestrian form” at an early stage in the project design process to ensure that designers consider the need for pedestrian and cycling improvements. And since 2012, ConnDOT has sponsored or sent staff to at least four complete streets training workshops. Last year the department also established an internal Complete Streets Committee to recommend changes to agency policies.
One of the most needed reforms is a rewrite of the state’s Highway Design Manual. The manual is the standard reference book for road designers in the state and does not reflect a complete streets approach. Encouragingly, the ConnDOT report says that ”eventually, future initiatives will include the development of a Complete Streets Manual that integrates with the Department’s Highway Design Manual.” However, there is no timeline for this eventual “future initiative.”
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With CTfastrak and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail projects set to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively, discussion about future development in the area is ramping up. Recently, the Capitol Region Council of Governments, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Sustainable Knowledge Corridor Consortium commissioned a report detailing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around these bus and train transit stations.
The report, titled Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, analyzes which station areas on those future lines are most ready for development and what needs to be done to further encourage development at others.
The need for responsible strategies to deal with future development couldn’t be clearer. The area to be served by these future systems, also known as the “Knowledge Corridor”, is a large and long-interconnected area with a population of 1.8 million, more than 45,000 companies, a labor force of 1.1 million people, 32 colleges and universities and more than 120,000 students.
[Source: New England’s Sustainable Knowledge Corridor]
This density of people and employers, especially schools and students, provides a great opportunity to utilize transit as rapid and reliable means of transportation to enhance the economy.
[Source: Making it Happen: Opportunities and Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development in the Knowledge Corridor, Executive Summary, September 2013.]
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Source: NYTimes.com Connecticut officials must think outside the box to address the current crisis facing New Haven Line commuters.
The transit crisis facing the New Haven Line is now in its sixth day, and ConnDOT and the MTA have been doing what they [...]
Connecticut bus riders are facing a 15 percent fare increase. | Photo: Federal Transit Administration
When the Connecticut state budget passed earlier this year, legislators swept $110 million out of the (supposedly) dedicated Special Transportation Fund. At the same time, a 15 percent fare hike on Connecticut Transit (CTTRANSIT) bus riders was included in the budget as way to reduce state spending on bus service. Essentially, Connecticut’s leaders chose to balance the budget on the backs of those who could least afford it.
This past month, CTTRANSIT held fare hike hearings where advocates and riders alike cried foul, pointing out that the hikes will impact transit users who make on average $7,000 less annually* than those who drive to work alone and arguing that any increase should be used to improve service. (Read Tri-State’s official testimony here.)
The hikes will raise the price of a single fare from $1.30 to $1.50, with the cost of monthly passes expected to increase by 15 percent. CTTRANSIT is operated by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and provides service in the Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, Bristol and Wallingford areas.
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Interstate 84 will be widened from four lanes to six between Exit 23 and 25A near Waterbury.
On Friday, Connecticut’s State Bond Commission approved $537 million in transportation projects. (The full commission agenda is here.) While the list of projects includes funds for road and bridge repair, transit and planning, it also commits the State to the widening of I-84 in Waterbury between exits 23 and 25A. The approved funds put the state on track to put the project out to bid by spring 2014.
The three-mile widening will cost the state up to $500 million, or $167 million a mile. To put this in perspective, Connecticut receives just $486 million a year in federal funds for all road and bridge projects. In a statement, TSTC Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said:
While the Department of Transportation has made progress in tackling a long backlog of repair needs, the state’s road conditions remain dismal and ten percent of bridges are structurally deficient. Committing to another pricey road widening means less funding available for maintenance, and slower going ahead. Furthermore, decades of experience in Connecticut and across the country have shown that highway expansion leads to sprawl development, which increases traffic and quickly re-congests the road.
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Governor Malloy | Photo: Daniel Jackson/Berlin Citizen
Compact, pedestrian-friendly development is as important in small towns as it is in large cities, and can help create a traditional “Main Street” look that makes downtowns attractive. With that in mind, Governor Malloy and Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein traveled to Berlin last week to announce 14 [...]
The proposal to extend Route 11 has always been considered bad transportation policy which would lead to environmental degradation, further suburban sprawl and increased congestion. But a new study from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) released last month shows that even using tolls to pay for Route 11′s extension would not cover the cost [...]
Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman discussing the Transform CT plan at the State Capitol in Hartford yesterday. | Photo: Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker announced yesterday that the state was launching an 18-month transportation planning process, TransformCT, that will draw on broad public input and [...]