Markley: Busway Not Needed


By Joe Markley

Imagine a bus ride that cost $60 million a mile. That would be a magical bus: I’d expect cocktails and canapé’s, served by smiling hostesses while I soaked in my hot tub, serenaded by a string quartet. We can each conjure our own transportation fantasy, but the bus Governor Malloy wants to sell us is a nightmare.

The governor recently endorsed a busway from New Britain to Hartford, to be built on an existing rail bed: 9.6 miles of road, closed to motorists, at a projected cost of $579 million. Of course, there are roads already from New Britain to Hartford, and buses too, that run nearly empty most of the day. But though no reasonable person sees the need for this project, it is shovel-ready and federal funds are available–hence it doesn’t have to make sense.

The governor claims this project would create jobs and “maximize the availability of federal funding now and going forward.” I’m not concerned about leaving federal funds on the table—I believe that money comes out of our pockets too, and shouldn’t be wasted. Not that it’s free for Connecticut: startup alone will cost our state $110 million, not to mention our responsibility for overruns.

The private-sector jobs creating constructing the busway will only last a couple of years, until the project is completed. The permanent employees will be state employees, driving empty buses on the ghost highway, waiting at ticket counters for customers who never come. And of course there will be an ongoing subsidy the state will pay for each rider, each day and every year until we acknowledge the error. If we want to throw money away, I’d rather do it from a helicopter.

The busway won’t reduce highway crowding, either. Mass transit can be a great service in the right circumstances, but intercity buses in central Connecticut won’t work now. The way our homes and businesses are spread out, only a small percentage live within walking distance of any projected bus station, and few of them would be headed somewhere within walking distance of a stop. We may not like it, but our world is built for cars.

The worst part of this misguided undertaking may be the destruction of the existing rail bed. What we will need soon, as energy costs soar, are not more buses and roads but more tracks and trains, for freight especially but in time for passengers too, as our society reorders itself on more traditional lines. As we are grateful for the downtowns we did not redevelop, I predict we will be glad for rail beds we left be.

The Governor has asked that busway funding be put on the upcoming bond commission agenda, and requests for construction bids could go out soon. The magic buses might commence their lonely journey by the summer of 2014.

To fast track such spending when we face a $6.2 billion deficit seems ludicrous—it’s the kind of decision that makes folks cynical about politicians. The average person understands that such a project makes no sense, even in flush times. Given the hole we are in, we should not consider new spending until our fiscal house is in order, and that will take years. I will fight this bus boondoggle by any means I can, until we have stopped it.

The State Bond Commission, which the governor chairs, must approve the $113 million to fund the busway. The bond commission’s next meeting is April 29.

The public may contact the members of the commission to urge them to stop spending our money on these wasteful projects which put us deeper in debt.

Members of the Bond Commission:

Governor Malloy, (800) 406-1527, Governor.Malloy@ct.gov
Ben Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, (860) 418-6500, ben.barnes@ct.gov
Denise Nappier, State Treasurer, (860) 702-3001, state.treasurer@ct.gov
Kevin Lembo, State Comptroller,(860) 702-3301, kevin.lembo@po.state.ct.us
George Jepsen, Attorney General (860) 808-5318, attorney.general@ct.gov
Jonathan Holmes, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, (860) 713-5790, jonathan.holmes@ct.gov
State Senator Eileen Daily, Co-Chair of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee 800-842-1420, daily@senatedems.ct.gov

State Representative Patricia Widlitz, Co-Chair Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee, 800-842-8267, Patricia.Widlitz@cga.ct.gov

State Senator Andrew Roraback, Ranking Minority Member Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee, 800-842-1421, Andrew.roraback@cga.ct.gov

State Representative Sean Williams, Ranking Minority Member Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee, 800-842-1423, Sean.Williams@cga.ct.gov

***Please note that Sen. Roraback and Rep. Williams are opposed to bonding money for this project.

As always please feel free to contact me with your questions and concerns.

Sincerely,

Senator Joe Markley

Sen. Markley represents Wolcott, Southington, Cheshire and Waterbury

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3 Responses to “Markley: Busway Not Needed”

  1. Wonderful! A Highway to Nowhere. Gee that sounds somehow familiar.

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