Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Rockville intermodal transportation station back on table in new form

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2008 1:18 PM EDT

VERNON — The much-maligned, misunderstood, and oft-changed multi-million-dollar intermodal transportation center is back on the Town Council table as a special meeting on the proposed downtown Rockville project has been set for May 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the senior center.

The transportation center, which has been drawn up as little more than a bus station of late, has taken on various manifestations since its inception in 2003, when Republican Councilwoman Diane Wheelock was mayor.

At that time, the intent was to put a parking garage with a sky-bridge walkway to Rockville General Hospital in the parking lot of the Mecca building where Vernon’s Adult Education program is located.

“It was never the intention to put a bus terminal in that building,” Wheelock said.

Former Mayor Ellen L. Marmer, a Democrat and a pediatric surgeon, carried the vision further by suggesting a medical helicopter could land on the garage rooftop, and included other modes of transportation and commerce, such as buses and shops.

Two years ago the Rockville Downtown Association came forward with yet another idea of moving the intermodal transportation center to the parking lot across from Ladd & Hall furniture store, opening up the river to pedestrian walkways, and returning Market Street to through traffic.

The latest incarnation presented at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting places a bus station on the Brooklyn Street side of that parking lot across from the Tolland County Courthouse — covering up the river entirely — in an area known as Court House Plaza. The plan also includes a parking garage to the rear of the bus station with a large green area facing Main Street.

Last fall, federal authorities limited the project’s scope, saying it wouldn’t finance a parking garage and would pay only for a bus station.

At the time, Republican Town Council members balked and were ready to scrap the project entirely, but decided at minority Democrats’ urging to not throw away $4 million in federal funds without more debate.

The original $6.6 million federal allocation was approved by Congress in April 2004. It has since been cut to $6.2 million.

The funding would be split, 80-20, with the federal government supplying the lion’s share of the funds and the town and state coming up the rest, which is roughly $1.2 million.

There was no money appropriated in the budget that voters approved Saturday as freshman Mayor Jason L. McCoy, a Republican elected in November, wanted to schedule a town meeting and consider other funding sources for the complex.

Instead, the Town Council decided to spend some time better defining the project with Wheelock urging the council to see if it shouldn’t be revamped yet again.

The Greater Hartford Transit District is administering the federal grant and if a serious plan is not made soon, the town is in danger of losing the first installment of funding, McCoy said.

The deadline for implementing a plan is October.

Democratic Councilman Michael Winkler asked that all the involved parties — the RDA, the transit district, and the town Economic Development Commission — come together and see if the proposal “can be twisted into something good, or if it’s something that should be flushed.”

Other council members agreed, saying that over the years there has been so much confusion over the project that it’s become too difficult to make a decision.

Republican Bill Campbell says he likes the new location better, but was concerned over the lack of input from the RDA.

“They’re suppose to comment on this and to my knowledge they haven’t done so — I don’t even know if they support it,” Campbell said.

Republican Councilman Dan Anderson said he is still against the project.

“I’ve been vocal in the past and I stand true — I don’t think Rockville needs a bus station,” Anderson said. “I don’t see where it would be any benefit to the downtown area. Even with the modified location, I just don’t think it serves the community.”

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