A study, it appears, is the easy and lucrative part

After you have been at this as long as I have, it is hard not to get jaded about development studies. They cost so much and sound so great, but follow-up is often lacking.

Stories on two more studies were listed recently in the pages of your local newspaper, one nearing completion the other just getting started. Both involved initiatives by the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

A story earlier this month updated the progress of a year-long analysis of how the Naval Submarine Base in Groton could be better incorporated into the surrounding community. It is a worthwhile undertaking. Busy Route 12 segregates the base.

Its recommendations include making Route 12 and Crystal Lake Road more bike and pedestrian friendly, creating a bus stop with more frequent service near the main gate, and providing a shuttle service linked to Electric Boat.

Funding the study was a $319,187 grant from the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment and $35,921 from the Southeastern COG, which sponsored and coordinated the project. It has good ideas, as noted in a prior editorial, though one has to wonder why it cost that much to come up with them.

And how much will really happen?

Also came word recently of a $239,050 state grant, administered through the council of governments, to develop a regional bicycle and pedestrian plan for the region. People increasingly want opportunities to bike and walk. Providing alternatives to traditional car transportation is particularly attractive to the millennial generation.

But this reporting in the story grabbed my attention: “As far as implementation and construction down the road, (Kate) Rattan (transportation planner for COG) said planners and towns would seek state and federal funding wherever possible.”

There’s the rub. Studies, as expensive as they may seem, are much less costly than implementation. They’re a chance to dream.

Moving a project forward, getting the votes, finding the money, confronting the NIMBYs, that can be the nightmare.

I recall a study undertaken in 2008-2009 with the lofty title, “Regional Intermodal Transportation Center Master Plan and Efficiency Study.” COG and the state awarded a $690,000 grant to a company called TranSystems to carry out that one. It issued a report in March 2010.

The idea was to undertake a plan to capitalize on the bus, rail, ferry and taxi services — Uber wasn’t a thing yet — that are found on New London’s waterfront. Analysts envisioned a commuter hub, with visitors filling the city and employees living here while traveling by train to jobs elsewhere, with storefronts filled to cater to increased pedestrian traffic and office space busy.

They had some ambitious ideas. The state, said the planners, should buy Union Station. It remains in private hands.

Water Street, which runs parallel to the Amtrak tracks, could be shifted west, with sidewalks, a small park and other amenities better tying the downtown to the water and the transportation services. It sounded wonderful. It didn’t happen.

To further improve the area, said the analysts, New London should consider razing the Water Street parking garage and developing a new parking and transportation hub. To this, city leaders responded, “Are you out of your minds?”

It’s not an exact quote.

Granted, there have been improvements for pedestrians, though not many. And the plan could be dusted off and updated in the future — for a price. But as far as getting excited about studies, I’ve seen too many come and go nowhere.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.


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