tod news

CTfastrak station nears completion
Scott Whipple | New Britain Herald


Kevin Bartram | Staff Connecticut DOT representative Lisa Rivers, left, and Tyler Tompkins from Baker Construction inspect the nearly complete downtown New Britain CTFastrak station on Friday. The dedicated busway from New Britain to Hartford is scheduled to begin service next year.

While working on the New Britain Downtown Station, a CTfastrak construction worker hums the theme to “The Jetsons.” Lisa Rivers, transit manager for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, knows why.

“He says the lampposts look like flying saucers,” she said. “We used a lot of stainless steel here. It’s easy to maintain and it has a modern look”.

With the station nearing completion and needing only finishing touches, Rivers gave a visitor a tour of the site Friday.

Rivers said construction teams have been getting the 9.4 mile busway and its stations built. “Now we’re making sure what we built works for our customers,” she said. She was especially proud of the level platform, so riders can enter and exit buses easily.

“We adjusted the bellows on buses to ease the berthing,” Rivers explained. “A finishing touch will be a rub rail along the curve so drivers can use their mirrors to line up the bus with the platform. The rub rail bumps the tires so the bus can’t get too close.”

Opening day is scheduled for Saturday, March 28, 2015. However, there could be an earlier soft opening showcasing express buses. Signs will tell riders when their bus will arrive and its ultimate destination. People with visual impairments can push a button and hear the message on the sign.

All stations will be completed on time, though, at this point, downtown New Britain is farther along than stations closer to Hartford.

“The other stations started later, and we‘ve been using those locations as a lay-down area [storage for construction.],” Rivers said.

The solar panels for the platform will be installed next weekend, and later the ticket vending machines. Over the winter, more bits and pieces will be added.

Rivers said she is confident riders will be pleased with results. CTfastrak will host open houses in November to acquaint customers with the new buses and routes.

Tyler Tompkins, CTfastrak’s construction community liaison, acknowledged that some residents have not been happy with the size, cost and inconvenience of the project. The estimated cost is $567 million, with 80 percent funded by the federal government.

“A lot of outreach needed to happen,” he said. “It took knocking on doors and telling people we had to close a road for a couple of days to make everything happen.”

Thanks to the project, rusty fences have been replaced, an old, broken-down car behind a condominium was removed, and now residents have a place to walk their dogs, Tompkins said.

An area adjacent to the station will be turned over to the City of New Britain so the space can become a transit-oriented development — retail, residential or both.

“With bus rapid transit,  you get all the amenities you’d expect from a rail line, but more frequently,” Rivers said. “You can’t afford to put a rail car out there every six minutes. You can with a bus.”

From New Britain, riders can pick up rail service at Hartford heading north or south.

“This station is a beautiful representation of what we’re doing,” Rivers said. “Maybe people will get the message that riding a bus isn’t so bad.”