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Hartford (AP) - Commuters weighed in Wednesday with generally positive reviews on plans to build a $567 million bus-only corridor in central Connecticut, which could take thousands of cars off the road and cut commute times.
Several dozen commuters and others interested in the Hartford-to-New Britain route attended the second of three state Department of Transportation presentations, taking a look at maps and asking questions about Sunday service, bringing bicycles on the buses and other issues.
Lillian Doerschler, of Wethersfield, said she's been interested in the so-called CTfastrack project for years, and came to Wednesday's forum to learn more.
"I can see now where it is going," she said, adding that she's confident it will work "mainly because the highways are such a mess."
The Department of Transportation has pushed back the opening of the dedicated bus rapid transit system to March from February. Michael Sanders, the agency's transit administrator, said the possibility of major winter storms threatens delays in training and testing.
Transportation officials have explained the details to towns and cities along the route and are preparing a marketing campaign along with economic development officials this summer to sell riders on the value of the route as a more flexible option than rail.
State officials are projecting more than 16,000 daily riders by 2030, double the number of bus passengers in the corridor now.
Several commuters said after the presentation they look forward to a shorter commute on the 9.4 mile car-free highway.
"This seems to take tens of thousands of cars off the road," said Hartford resident Stephen Goddard. "Until you try something you don't know if it's going to work."
The price tag staggered critics who say the money can be better spent on other transportation projects. But Goddard, who has written about transportation issues, said the bus-only route is less expensive than light rail.
"The first day that it runs, I'll be on it because my interest goes back 15 years," Goddard said. "I'm glad to see it finally materialize."
Marjorie Pierce, who commutes from Bristol to Hartford for her job at Hartford Steam Boiler, said she spends $119 a month for her bus commute. She said she asked transportation officials if her commuting costs will go up with the bus-only corridor and was told "they shouldn't."
She said she believes the new bus route will cut her commute in half, from 50 minutes to 25 minutes.
"I wanted to find out if anything will change. It won't, which is good," she said.