HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The state’s transportation commissioner fielded questions from skeptical legislators on Wednesday as he reported that a $567 million bus-only corridor between Hartford and New Britain is on budget and on time.
The so-called CT Fastrak, set to open next year, is among the biggest transportation initiatives of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration. Transportation Commissioner James Redeker has been the point man defending it and extolling its benefits, among them taking cars off the road and spurring economic development in communities along the 9.4-mile highway.
‘‘You’re going to have to communicate to people this is a game-changer,’’ Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, told Redeker. ‘‘The public perception of using buses is not as positive as we would like.’’
Redeker told the Transportation Committee that the bus rapid transit system is not comparable to city or interstate buses that Connecticut passengers are used to.
‘‘This is a brand new product that’s never been used before,’’ Redeker said.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, House chairman of the committee, said the string of recent winter storms that paralyzed Connecticut’s highways and rail lines has been on his mind.
‘‘What are you going to do about the snow?’’ he asked Redeker.
Snow blowers and other equipment have been tried out in anticipation of the 2015 opening of the bus-only corridor, Redeker replied. ‘‘We’re practicing now,’’ he said.
Sen. Toni Boucher, the committee’s ranking Republican senator, cited the numerous recent troubles on the Metro-North Railroad and asked Redeker what plans are being made to serve passengers if buses break down. Transportation officials told her other buses will be available to quickly transfer passengers off broken vehicles.
Boucher pinned Redeker down on the final cost not exceeding the amount advertised from the start.
‘‘This certainly is one of the most controversial things DOT has done,’’ she said, referring to the state Department of Transportation.
Critics of the project — generally Republicans who oppose the Democratic administration’s spending priorities — have faulted the bus-only corridor’s half-billion-dollar cost, with some ridiculing it as a $60 million-per-mile highway.
Transportation officials counter that the two-lane road along unused rail lines through New Britain, Newington, West Hartford and Hartford includes 10 transit stations, 17 bridges, scores of retaining walls, a five-mile trail for biking, walking and other exercise and the relocation of one mile of an Amtrak rail line.
Transportation officials also tout the system’s electronic ticketing, GPS on buses and other technology.
‘‘This is an intelligent transportation system,’’ Redeker said. ‘‘I don’t know what that says about our other forms of transportation.’’