In a legislative maneuver that came to light Wednesday, state Sen. John Fonfara of Hartford inserted a 25-word provision in the gigantic, 97-section bond package that says that the now-closed Flower Street in Hartford must “remain open to vehicular traffic for at least 20 hours per day.’’
Few legislators knew about the provision until the package had already been passed by both the House and the Senate. The House passed the measure at about 11:15 p.m. as battle-weary legislators were unaware of the brief description that had been added to the bill.
Fonfara and some local advocates have been battling the state for two years over the closure of the street, which runs parallel to Broad Street and Sigourney Street in Hartford and crosses where the busway passes. Both Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state Department of Transportation have been strong supporters of the 9.4-mile, $567 million busway.
The street is within walking distance of the state Capitol and down the street from the Hartford headquarters of Aetna.
Fonfara said he is concerned about access for police cars and ambulances that are heading to emergencies, as well as pedestrians from the local insurance companies who are trying to reach the businesses along Capitol Avenue for coffee, a sandwich, or other items.
Despite numerous meetings, Fonfara said he has been unable to convince top officials at the state transportation department to keep the street open for all or part of every day. He said he would not oppose the closure during peak commuter rush-hour periods when cars might be backed up across the tracks.
Judd Everhart, the chief spokesman for the DOT, said the department had no immediate comment.
Since the state has fought for the closing for years, Fonfara said he doesn’t not expect an overnight resolution.
“I will not give up, and I will use the full powers of the position I have to ensure that the Department of Transportation understands that I am not going away,’’ Fonfara told Capitol Watch in an interview. “They are a government unto themselves. They have gone out of their way to erase virtually any evidence that Flower Street, where the busway will cross, ever existed – as if there never were a road there. I’m hopeful that the governor will intercede on behalf of the people of Hartford’’ to reopen the road.