Report Critical of Mass Transit Options in Eastern CT Along I-95

Wed October 08, 2003 - Northeast Edition

WATERFORD, CT (AP) An independent report prepared for state transportation officials concludes that millions of dollars in rail and other public transportation improvements would not ease traffic congestion along Interstate 95 in eastern Connecticut.

Parsons, a Boston engineering firm, found that $36 million in hypothetical improvements would divert less than 1 percent of the peak traffic between Branford and the Rhode Island line on Fridays in the summer.

Duncan W. Allen, principal transportation engineer for Parsons, said experience has shown “that people are willing to tolerate enormous delays to ride in their car.”

The engineers used statistics on summer traffic and estimated what that traffic situation would be in 2025, The Day of New London reported.

The draft report included improved bus service and a hypothetical extension of Shore Line East rail service to Westerly, RI, with increased service, including weekends, and a seasonal stop in Niantic. Shore Line East now runs from New Haven as far east as New London and only for weekday commuters.

The engineers concluded that public transportation improvements are not a viable option to widening the interstate.

The small range of improvements would make it difficult to win federal funding for public transportation projects, the engineers wrote.

Eastern Connecticut leaders were skeptical of the findings, which they discussed with the engineers during a meeting at Waterford Town Hall recently.

Waterford First Selectman Paul B. Eccard said the findings were unacceptable and failed to consider the changes that could take place in the next quarter century in the way people are willing to travel.

Old Saybrook Selectman William Peace said if rail service was made affordable and convenient, people would use it.

“What you wrote kills any mass transit efforts,” Peace said.

Allen, of the engineering firm, acknowledged the study did not consider the construction of more rail lines or account for potential changes in lifestyle that would lead more people to use mass transit.

The report is one of several being prepared for the state Department of Transportation as the state seeks a solution to the growing traffic problem.