MALLOY BACKS BUSWAY BUT DOESN’T GIVE UP ON RAIL; WEST HARTFORD, OTHERS SKEPTICAL

Seduced by the allure of federal money, Gov. Dannel Malloy says the much-debated, $567-million busway from New Britain to Hartford will go forward, putting contractors and construction workers to work and signaling that the state is serious about mass transit. However, the big questions remain: Will anyone use it? Will anyone get off the highway on the way from say, Waterbury or Danbury to get on a bus, even a high-tech, runs-every-three-minutes bus?

Eighty percent of the 9.7-mile busway will be funded by the federal government. The thought of turning back federal dollars is anathema to Malloy, apparently even if it’s for a very probably to be under-used service that threatens future high-speed rail development. The busway is planned for an abandoned rail bed. Obviously, the busway would preclude any future use.

Malloy did throw high-speed rail proponents a bone by saying he wants the state Bond Commission to authorize borrowing $1 million for a study of commuter rail from Bristol to Waterbury.

Two weeks ago, Malloy called in the stake holders in the project. Hartford Courant columnist Rick Green speculates whether Malloy’s decision is union-driven given the fact that he is seeking $2 billion in state employee union concessions over two years to balance the state budget. The busway project would employ thousands of union workers.

Malloy’s fellow Democrats in one town on the route are not happy. West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka is worried about the Elmwood section of his town which the busway would cut right through causing major traffic headaches as well as environmental impacts.