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    Monday, March 27, 2023

    OPINION: Sen. Somers says Mystic water taxi bill is not aimed at Seaport Marine

    I assumed, when I first read an email about Sen. Heather Somers introducing legislation that would create a task force to study a Mystic intermodal transportation center, that she was targeting the burned-out remains of Seaport Marine.

    The seven-line bill submitted by the senator proposes that the state create a task force to study the new idea ― Who has ever heard of it before? ― of building an “intermodal transportation center” in Mystic, with a parking structure and water taxi system.

    Strangely, the thin bill, which came out of the blue, calls Mystic a “town,” which of course it isn’t. It’s troubling to see such a significant mistake in such a short bill.

    And hang on to your hats. The senator’s vague proposal is scheduled for a public hearing Friday in Hartford.

    Despite the brevity of the proposed legislation, it seems, in suggesting an intermodal transportation center with parking garage and water taxis, custom designed for the Seaport Marine property, which is on the water, on the train line, near the Mystic train station, and, of course, largely empty now and big enough to accommodate a parking garage.

    Where else could you find a big piece of empty property on the water in Mystic to build a garage?

    I suppose you could build a parking garage out by Interstate 95 and maybe engineer a connection there to the river, but that’s not in Mystic and I’m not sure you could call it intermodal when you were done. And there’s room by the highway for a big parking lot anyway, no garage needed.

    The Seaport Marine property is owned by a loyal and consistent Somers’ campaign donor. And it was not that long ago that Somers proposed the state spend $10 million to help the Seaport Marine owners shore up their property’s riverfront.

    That idea went down in flames as state environmental officials and townspeople, who turned out in huge numbers for public hearings, all vetoed the mega development for the property to be called Smiler’s Wharf.

    So I was surprised this week when I reached out to Somers’ spokesman - she doesn’t talk to me, and I guess I don’t blame her - who said no one has discussed the Seaport Marine property in regards to the senator’s Mystic proposal.

    I’ll have to take the senator’s word for it, though it does seem strange, given that everyone I’ve spoken to about this agrees the proposal seems tailored to fit the empty Seaport Marine property.

    Given the public’s distaste for the Smiler’s Wharf plans, I doubt a big parking structure on the edge of that historic neighborhood would get a big welcome.

    In any case, I hope this strange, unexplained bill dies quietly and without ceremony.

    I agree with many people I hear from that growth in Mystic, while certainly welcome in some quarters, like the business community, seems uncontrolled.

    Parking problems and congestion, which an intermodal transportation center would seem meant to address, should be tackled first at the community level with public participation and a wide range of possible solutions.

    Sen. Somers’ bill does not even have any co-sponsors, other legislators from the community who might help build a collective solution.

    A community dialogue would be a good place to begin, not a hearing in Hartford to create a state task force to impose some “solution” on Mystic.

    I can’t imagine there is much appetite in Mystic for a big parking garage in the village. And I suspect people would not welcome whoever might be appointed to a state-engineered task force telling them how to do it.

    I know Hartford is a long way to drive on short notice this week, to give the proposed Mystic task force legislation a big raspberry.

    But feel free to tell your other lawmakers to make sure this bill goes back into the thin air it came out of.

    This is the opinion of David Collins


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