Friday, March 19, 2010

Low Bridge! Everybody Down!

I wrote a story for The Bristol Press yesterday about a state bill to allow a replacement railroad bridge (a bridge over a railroad track) on Broad Street in Hartford to be more than two feet lower than regulations require.
Who cares? The railroads do, and perhaps we all should, as a letter on the issue to lawmakers, from the regional planning agency, makes clear.
The bridge is needed for the New Britain-Hartford busway, but if it is lowered, it could be an impediment to freight and passenger rail cars.
Much of my story focuses on a letter from the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency to lawmakers, warning them of the trouble with the bill.
I don't think my story has run yet (hopefully soon!), but here's the letter from CCRPA Regional Planner Francis Pickering, emailed a week ago to some members of the Transportation Committee:

Dear Transportation Committee Members,
The Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency (CCRPA) would like to share its concern about Senate Bill 411, An Act Concerning the Replacement of the Broad Street Bridge over the Amtrak Railroad Tracks in Hartford.
This bill would lower the statutory minimum clearance for this bridge from 22’ 6” to 19’ 4”. Discussions with stakeholders, including the owners of the railroad whose tracks and trains pass under the bridge, suggest that such a reduction could have profoundly negative consequences for passenger and freight operations through the region. It has been indicated to us that 19’ 4” will not only preclude enhanced intermodal service between points north and New Haven/Waterbury; it will also render electrification—a prerequisite for a true high-speed rail connection between New York City and Boston via Hartford—impossible.
CCRPA understands that, in an environment of constrained funding, tough choices have to be made. However, these choices must not endanger the state’s economic, social, or environmental wellbeing. The potential for rail, both passenger and freight, along the New Haven/Waterbury-Hartford-Springfield corridor is enormous. CCRPA cannot support any transportation project that undermines this potential.
CCRPA therefore strongly urges you to take a closer look at this legislation. In particular, we ask that you invite the parties the proposed height reduction would affect—including Amtrak, Pan Am Railways, and Metro-North—to testify as to the impacts this change would have on present and future rail operations.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Carl Stephani or me.
Thank you for your consideration.
Regional Planner

Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency
225 North Main Street, Suite 304, Bristol, CT 06010-4993
t (860) 589-7820 x18 f (860) 589-6950


  1. If you had not written this story I would not have known about this blatant effort to prevent the future possibility for a rail sytem designed to help commuters and businees in cnetral Connecticut. The proponents of the bus system have yet to make the case justifying spending $600 + million fo a 9 mile roadway, and they definitely have not shown any benefits to Bristol (and other communities in surrounding area) of the proposed busway.
    If the need and benefits of the propsed busway are so compelling then the Commissoner of DOT would have overwhelming support for moving forward. But it's clear there is strong opposition to the busway proposal. Here's a suggestion for our public officals - why don't you survey the people and businesses in Central Ct. and ask which we prefer - bus or rail ? Instead officlas are following the self serving and arrogant actions of Congress which is acting like they know what is best for us with respect to health care, and totally ignoring what we the taxpayers want. Jackie - keeping watching and reporting what these officals are doing in their obsession to get their own way.

    - whit betts

  2. Thanks, Whit. I appreciate the comments. Maybe part of the problem is that the busway project has been in the shadows all these years. A little more public airing and awareness would be a good thing.