What do Connecticut residents want their highways, airports, ferry lines and railroads to look like in the future?
State transportation planners are visiting Bridgeport, New London and Hartford this week to get public opinion for the TransformCT long-range strategic guide.
The ambitious project is intended to create a 50-year plan to guide the Department of Transportation and other agencies as they make choices about what kinds of projects the state should build. Just as importantly, the final version will reflect — directly or indirectly — what sorts of projects that state shouldn't pursue or simply can't afford.
Advocacy groups for transit commuters, bicyclists, pedestrians and others have already started putting forward their ideas, and the DOT is eager to get more from them. It's also making a pitch to hear from ordinary motorists — the bulk of state residents but a group that's mostly unorganized.
Starting in late March, the DOT will invite everyone in the state to pitch in with ideas through an online survey at http://www.transformct.info.
The goal is to begin crafting a plan that's more than just a list of new highway exits, extra bus routes and additional train stations that residents would like, Project Manager David Elder told several dozen people Tuesday evening at an hour-long forum at The Lyceum in Hartford.
"The real question that we haven't asked before is 'What is the purpose of our transportation system?,'" Elder said. "Transportation is just a means to an end."
The DOT wants a plan that links transportation policy to residents' vision of what Connecticut should look like in the future. Young professionals in urban centers may favor a heavy emphasis on expanding the public transit system in the coming decades, for instance, while older residents of remote rural communities are much more likely to cite keeping highways in good condition as their top priority.
"It's important that we consider all modes of transportation," Elder said.
People attending the Hartford forum offered suggestions on everything from bus schedules to bikeways. The DOT will compile those ideas, along with what it hears at the next two sessions: Feb. 26, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Housatonic Community College's Beacon Hall Events Center in Bridgeport, and Feb. 27, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the New London Public Library.
A DOT consultant will conduct a random survey of 1,000 residents, and the agency has a social media forum at http://www.transformct.com where individuals can discuss ideas. In late March, the agency will post a copy of the full survey and is encouraging all residents to complete it. The DOT is working with AAA to spread the word to motorists, said Thomas Maziarz, an agency bureau chief.
One way the final plan will be used is to help coordinate strategies of the state's housing, environmental protection and economic development agencies, according to the DOT. If the state is going to invest heavily building in a public transit system along a new corridor, for example, there should be a concerted effort to encourage housing development along the line, Elder said.
Elder said one pattern has stood out at the roughly three dozen presentations he's made around the state about TransformCT.
"People want a connected system. They want to drive to a park-and-ride lot and get a bus, or get off a train and have a bus there to take them to the job," he said. "Having a connected system is something we're hearing a lot, no matter what mode [of transportation] people use."
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