Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Plans for High-Speed Rail Moving Full-Speed Ahead

Tomorrow--Thursday, July 29--DOT Officials from Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts will host a public informational meeting to discuss the environmental impact of the planned New Haven-Hartford-Springfield high-speed rail line. According to Governor Rell, the project "has tremendous economic development potential for Connecticut and will go a long way to ease congestion on heavily traveled Interstate 91." Transportation officials from Connecticut and the other states involved have been collaborating with the federal government and Amtrak to complete necessary preliminary work.

Earlier this week, Governor Rell also announced the state Bond Commission is expected to approve $260 million in bonding to improve the corridor. This funding may be matched by $220 million in federal funding should Connecticut's application be approved. Officials have high hopes the NHHS High-Speed Rail Line will attract enthusiasm on the federal level given the strong regional collaboration taking place in New England.

Come to One Union Place in downtown Hartford at 6:00 P.M. tomorrow evening to learn more and to speak for the public.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Woman Hits Liability Lotto-Will CT Nature Lovers Lose 3000 Acres of Paradise? Public Hearing TONIGHT!

In mid-May, a Connecticut jury awarded $2.9 million to Maribeth Blonski, 43, for injuries sustained after she crashed her mountain bike into a large, obvious, yellow gate at the West Hartford Reservoir in 2002. In response, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) is considering closing its gates to all recreational activities to avoid potential future lawsuits and higher insurance premiums.


The MDC is a non-profit municipal corporation created in 1929. It owns several recreation areas, including the West Hartford Reservoir, which the MDC itself calls a “nature lovers paradise.”

Blonski, from Wethersfield and Rocky Hill, formerly hosted a public access television program about mountain biking. She publicly commented that at the time of the accident her head was down and she did not see the gate until she was only three feet away. Court documents indicate she was riding between 20 and 30 mph. An expert witness noted skid marks 20 feet from the gate, and that she was riding in the wrong direction.

The MDC argued the accident was a result of Blonski’s own negligence and that as a political subdivision of the state, it is immune from such lawsuits.


Nevertheless, after a complex legal analysis involving Connecticut’s Recreational Liability Statute and definitions of “municipal corporations,” “government functions,” “corporate profits,” and “proprietary functions,” the judge determined that the MDC was notimmune from liability. The jury then decided the rider was 30% at fault and that the MDC was 70% at fault for not having signs and warnings to make riders aware of the gate that was present and closed for most of 30 years.

Since the jury announced its decision, the MDC has entered a motion to set aside the verdict. Opposition to closing the West Hartford reservoir has become vocal. West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka and town councilor Joseph Verrengia will introduce a resolution calling for the MDC not to close its reservoirs, and State Rep. David Baram said he will propose legislation that will stop future lawsuits against the Metropolitan District Commission.

Additionally, a public meeting on this topic will be held Tuesday, July 20th at 5:30 P.M. in the Auditorium of the Town Hall in West Hartford. If you appreciate the West Hartford Reservoir, it’s important that show up and say so.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Livable Communities Planning in Hartford Sets Example for the State of Connecticut by Erin Bourgault

U.S. Congressman John B. Larson held an open forum on Monday, June 28th on Livable Communities and the Hartford “One City, One Plan” and iQuilt Proposals, with special guest Congressman Earl Blumenauer. Hartford’s plans should set an example for the rest of the state of Connecticut towards urban planning, improving transportation and housing options, and protecting the environment. The proposals include goals to revitalize downtown Hartford and enhance its role as a cultural center, as well as connect people to the city by improving mobility and coordinating multimodal transport. The major focus of iQuilt, the “Capitol District Vision Plan and Hartford’s Pathways of Innovation,” is to create a Greenwalk between Bushnell Park and the riverfront, as well as a “Connecticut Square” outdoor festival space to transform Hartford into a more friendly and welcoming environment.

Although Hartford is a compact district, many people drive throughout the city. By improving streets so they are enjoyable, walkable and bike-able, citizens can become less dependent on cars. The new proposal includes a connection to Union Station in order to enhance the use of public transportation in Hartford. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that families with access to good public transportation can save an average of $9,000 per year in transportation costs compared to households with no transit access. Congressman Earl Blumenauer used the phrase “bike partisanship” and stated that cycling is a tool to bring people together. Improving transportation options across the state of Connecticut would do more than decrease traffic congestion; it would improve quality of life.

The proposals and commitments in Hartford connect to the proposed Livable Communities Act, written by U.S. Senator Dodd of Connecticut. According to Senator Dodd, “This legislation provides funding for regions to plan future growth in a coordinated way that reduces congestion, generates good-paying jobs, creates and preserves affordable housing, meets our environmental and energy goals, protects rural areas and green space, revitalizes our Main Streets and urban centers, and makes our communities better places to live, work, and raise families.”

In March 2010, Senator Dodd and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Ron Sims went to New Haven and Hartford to promote the integration of housing, transit, and smart land use to create more livable communities. Congressman Larson said, “As we work to rebuild our economy and put our neighbors back to work, we must also rebuild our communities, making them greener more sustainable and more livable for generations to come.” Hartford has begun to take on this goal, and the rest of the state of Connecticut should follow.

For more information, check out