Town of Vernon receives $6.35 million appropriation for transportation center
By Jessica Ciparelli
VERNON — On Aug. 10, Congressman Rob Simmons arrived at Vernon Town Hall with a very large check to present - a $6.35 million appropriation - made to the town for a transportation center. The project will include construction projects such as a bridge that will extend from Rockville General Hospital across Union Street to West Main Street and streetscapes.
"This is a great day for Vernon," said Town Administrator Larry Shaffer, who was joined at the announcement ceremony by Mayor Ellen Marmer, several town council members, state representatives, ECHN representatives and representatives on behalf of Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
"Public transportation is about public safety," Simmons continued. "It's about moving people around in a safe and convenient way. We have safety, economic and beautification benefits [with a project like this]."
For the past two years, Connecticut's delegation - which includes Senators Lieberman and Dodd and Congressman Simmons - has waged a battle in Washington to make sure that Connecticut receives its fair share of federal dollars. Senator Lieberman helped negotiate $2.5 billion for Connecticut transportation projects over the next five years.
"This is an important investment in an older urban center and it is consistent with smart growth principles," said Simmons. It is environmentally sensitive, economically practical, and community-oriented. I know the mayor is going to be able to spend this money quickly," he said. "I know she and her team are going to do a great job."
"Anytime the town has the opportunity to access federal dollars, it's a great thing," said Rep. Claire Janowski. "It's not an easy thing to do. I have an additional request," she said, turning to Simmons. "Keep it coming!"
"The sun is shining brightly on Vernon," said Marmer. "Our star is rising. I don't know about Hartford's star- I think ours is shining brighter."
The idea for the large-scale transportation project has been in the works for a number of years. The idea was introduced during the Diane Wheelock administration.
'This is only preliminary," said Marmer, pointing at the large schematic print of the plan at her side.
A "think tank" of town officials is planning to convene shortly after Labor Day, including Neil Pade, economic development coordinator/assistant planner, Town Administrator Larry Shaffer, officials from the RDA and RGH and Mayor Marmer.
Preliminary plans include: a new two-or-three story parking garage and bus depot along West Main Street, Route 74 traffic calming measures and road narrowing, a pedestrian bridge, a visual linkage between downtown Rockville and Central Park, and moving the RGH helicopter pad to the top of the parking garage.
The town does not own the property being considered for the bus depot, said Shaffer. But the owner of the property in question purchased it after the concept was proposed, and Shaffer said he has expressed an interest in having further conversations with the town regarding the property.
"It's really important that we work together," concluded state Sen. Tony Guglielmo. "This has gone through a couple of administrations. I think it's important that we work together - [at the] state, local and federal level."