HARTFORD, Connecticut — As Connecticut's bus-only corridor begins its eighth month, state transportation officials are turning their attention to the next stage of the half-billion dollar project: promoting development along the Hartford-to-New Britain route.
Transportation Commissioner James Redeker is scheduled to lead real estate agents Friday on a tour of possible sites to consider for renovation and construction of housing and offices, including a one-time coal yard, former car dealerships and empty manufacturing and industrial areas in Hartford, New Britain, Newington and West Hartford.
"The expectation of any major transportation corridor investment ... is that it will attract people and businesses to locate," Redeker said.
On the tour, real estate agents and brokers will identify potential barriers to development, such as zoning, industrial pollution, financing and other issues, said Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capital Region Council of Governments.
"We've been at this forever," he said. "This is our baby."
So-called transit-oriented development promotes a mix of retail and residential space adjacent to rapid transit stations, encouraging growth of walkable communities.
State officials sold the $567 million CTfastrak to the public and legislature by saying it will take cars off Interstate 84, reduce pollution and speed bus commuters through a busy portion of central Connecticut. Critics slammed the cost of the 9.4-mile route — $112 million in state money and the rest from the federal government — insisting it could have been better spent on highway improvements or to boost Metro-North Railroad.
Backers said the transit system would also promote economic development by encouraging construction and renovation of properties for apartments, condominiums, restaurants, offices and similar sites that have fallen into disuse.
Redeker said ridership of more than 16,000 a day has greatly exceeded expectations, boosting hopes that the corridor will be a magnet for new communities and economic activity.
"The focus on Friday is to really try to encourage the real estate community to understand the capacity of this corridor, to understand the attraction of this corridor with housing, apartments and businesses," he said.
Frank Amodio, partner at Amodio and Co. Real Estate in Farmington, said he has listings on commercial sites along the bus-only corridor.
"As it got closer to opening, the energy level started to build," he said. "It became more and more apparent there were better and better opportunities for development."
He has been marketing properties along the busway and working with developers to find sites now that the system is running.
"It's here. It's operating," he said. "It can be an asset to commuters. It can be an asset to developers. But the fact it's completed is step one."
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This story has been corrected to show ridership is more than 16,000 a day, not per week.