State DOT agrees to fund study

Norwich - The Southeast Area Transit District will move forward on a study that aims to improve transportation services in the region, now that it has secured state funding for the initiative.

The state Department of Transportation has agreed to fund the proposal to analyze bus routes and regional transportation needs, SEAT General Manager Michael Carroll told the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments on Tuesday.

The study will consider SEAT's rate structure, facilities, performance demographics and the cost of tweaks in service. It will analyze current and longer-term transportation needs for the region and seek public comments, he said after the meeting. The regional council of governments and SEAT will collaborate on the study.

The state DOT assumed management of the bus district in February 2013 and agreed to pay for the clean-up costs resulting from an oil spill near the district's Route 12 facility. The DOT also discussed a transit study during the takeover.

In October, the council proposed pursuing funds from the federal Surface Transportation Program to pay for the study. The program will cover 80 percent of the $250,000 total cost of conducting the study. Council Executive Director James Butler said the state and Council of Governments will fund the remainder of the study.

The council has recently taken a more active role in SEAT. East Lyme, Groton, Led yard, Lisbon, Montville, New London, Norwich, Stonington and Waterford are SEAT member towns.

More selectmen and mayors of the member towns are joining SEAT's board of directors, Butler said. The council is also encouraging nonmember towns to join the board to assist in planning beyond the nine-town region, he said.

The council and SEAT hope to begin the study by October and finish it in about a year. The recommendations can then be rolled into the next year's budget. SEAT will now work on the technical aspects of the study, Carroll said. The board of directors will meet at 4 p.m. next Wednesday.

k.drelich@theday.com

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