Hartford, New Haven As “Suburbs” of Boston and New York Raises Possibilities - and Pushback

The objective was to provide evidence that Connecticut is on the cusp of a transit renaissance.  But a “thought leader” article by a prominent faculty member at the University of Connecticut School of Business – an acknowledged expert in transportation and its impact on residential property values – has drawn a range of reactions from municipal, business and transportation officials in Connecticut, including some pushback. The article, by UConn associate professor of real estate and finance Jeffrey Cohen, stated that “with high speed, inter-state transportation, it would be much easier for Greater Hartford and New Haven to thrive as suburbs of Boston and New York City.  Imagine how great it would be to hop on a fast train to Logan Airport, JFK or LaGuardia.  The world would be at our doorsteps, and our doorsteps would be there for the world to explore.”

The characterization of two of the state’s largest cities as potential “suburbs” of New York and Boston, seemingly overlooking Bradley International Airport and Tweed-New Haven in the process, has raised questions from officials.

“As the second-largest airport in New England and the recently ranked third-best airport in the country, Bradley Airport offers convenience and efficiency that the airports in Boston and New York cannot match. Enhanced rail connectivity to the airport would be a major win for passengers throughout Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and we would encourage UConn to consider maximizing the airport in its own state rather than promoting the outsourcing of Connecticut’s economy to its neighbors,” Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin A. Dillon, A.A.E, told CT by the Numbers.

“While the Connecticut Airport Authority is supportive of high-speed rail connectivity in Connecticut, it is unfortunate that UConn would not recognize the benefit of promoting and utilizing Bradley International Airport as the primary airport for travelers in the region,” Dillon added.

“With regard to Bradley, Aer Lingus’ commitment to another four years of service between Hartford and Dublin is a huge boon to our economic development efforts and we hope other airlines will take note and pursue additional domestic and international routes,” said MetroHartford Alliance’s Brian Boyer, Vice President of Communications, Marketing, and Media and Public Relations.  “It’s time to continue showing loyalty to our hometown airport as we position ourselves as a global region attracting international companies. With the ease of use at Bradley, brief 90-minute layovers in Dublin en route to destinations throughout Europe, pre-screening on return flights to clear customs before arrival in Hartford and the prospect of attracting new airlines, this flight is a win-win for our community.”

While some officials saw possibilities, as did Cohen, in the potential impact of continued enhancements to the state’s transportation system, they also acknowledged that those changes were not immediate and current assets should be maximized.

“Fast-growing healthcare, pharmaceutical, and technology sectors of the New Haven economy would be well-served with easier access to major markets in New York and Boston, and the international transportation options in those cities as well,” pointed out New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp. “We know one-hour train service between New Haven and New York is technologically feasible: what we need to complete the project is the collective will to make it so.”

“High speed rail offers tremendous opportunities for New Haven.  Our proximity to New York City is already a great selling point for the region, if the commute time became significantly shorter, then we are that much more attractive as a location.  We should strive for this type of transportation improvement,” said Garrett Sheehan, president of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

Sheehan went on to emphasize that “planning for the future of transportation should not take away from the present.  This type of high speed rail is years away.  In New Haven, we have an incredible transportation asset in Tweed-New Haven airport.  It is already located within the city limits and just short drive from anywhere in this region.  The Chamber supports expanding the airport’s runway and investing in Tweed to bring back more flights and destinations.  Even a handful of more flights would be beneficial to the economic growth of our region.”

Cohen, who has received national recognition in his field, praised the CTrail Hartford line - which connects New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield, MA - and CTfasttrak bus line – which links Hartford and New Britain - noting that “we are starting to see residential and business development near the stations, and this is one of the big benefits of transit.”

He added that “Some people in New York are starting to discover the hidden treasure of relatively low-priced real estate, along with the good schools, beautiful parks, and savory restaurants in central Connecticut.”

“An ideal location with easy access to major cities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, we are proud to be at a point where talent and businesses from these markets should consider Hartford as an opportunity for economic growth and development,” the MetroHartford Alliance’s Boyer noted. “Transportation plays an integral role in this growth and with the new Hartford Rail Line and the continued growth at Bradley International Airport as one of the nation’s top mid-sized airports, we look forward to working with our community and prospective businesses to ensure long-term economic growth for generations.”