Public backs state transit initiatives

New London - An investment in rail infrastructure, more train stops and bus service connecting different regions were among suggestions at a public forum Thursday on the state's transportation needs.

More than 30 people filled a room at the public library to offer ideas for transit improvements and learn about the state's strategic planning initiative for transportation.

The state is seeking public feedback through a series of forums and a website, as the first step in developing a 50-year plan for the Department of Transportation. The planning initiative, called Transform CT, was launched in June and will take about 1 years to complete.

Transform CT project manager David Elder said the department is developing a vision made up of community needs for all transportation modes, from highways to mass transit to ports. The planning will also analyze the state's transit infrastructure, as well as consider revenues and costs.

At the forum, Tucker Braddock of Norwich supported upgrading the Central Corridor Rail system. He said the upgraded rails could carry larger freight. The rails would also enable many college students to take the train and boost tourism.

"I think it would be a great initiative we could see for the future," Braddock, a former Norwich City Councilor, said.

Braddock added later that the initiative would attract manufacturing companies to the region, since the companies could transport their products by rail.

New London resident Bud McAllister spoke about the possibility of revitalizing transit in the region. He said about 90 trains once passed each day through New London, but now it's about 40. New London's port could also be used more: "There's a lot more capacity than what we're using now," he said.

McAllister added after the meeting that improved transportation could help boost the region's tourism and the economy by bringing more people to the area.

Penny Parsekian, a New London resident, supported adding more train stops to the existing rail system, so residents could easily go to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Niantic and Groton, among other places.

"To me, it's so important to have good mass transit," she said in an interview.

Parsekian, former CEO of New London Main Street, said bicycle and pedestrian paths offer healthy transportation alternatives, and public transportation can reduce pollution and be more economical for residents than purchasing a car.

Additional public forums will be held in the fall. People are also able to submit suggestions at www.TransformCT.org.

k.drelich@theday.com

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