Mayor Art Ward is introducing the congressman, telling everyone here at Nuchies that U.S. Rep. John Larson has been a great friend of Bristol.
Ward is pointing out how important Larson is to Bristol and beyond.
"We all have reservations about what the final package is going to be," Ward said, "but the health care system does need to be addressed."
Now Mike Nicastro, the chamber chief, is busy introducing dignitaries, including state Reps. Bill Hamzy, Frank Nicastro and David McCluskey (of West Hartford). My boss, Mike Schroeder, even got a plug.
Sitting next to each other are T.J. Barnes and Elliott Nelson, the heads of the two local political parties. Maybe it's early, but they're getting along fine.
Now Nicastro has some kind of slide show to plug the chamber's agenda.
Depot Square was once the heart and soul of the city. "It was the pulse of the city of Bristol," Nicastro said.
Let's hope that's not true now, given that it's mostly a lot full of rubble.
But Nicastro is pointing out the value of the trains and trolleys back in the day. The automobile, of course, changed all that, Nicastro said.
"We were promised a piece of that highway future, but never really got it," Nicastro said.
Downtown was razed, he said, and Route 72 was a long-delayed promise.
"We ripped down the downtown. We built a mall," Nicastro said.
Now the mall is gone "and the future lies before us," he said.
Route 72 is 55 years late and won't get us where we want to be, Nicastro said. Now it's necessary to get the old rail line again, with a transit hub and an ability to move people.
It's worked elsewhere, Nicastro said.
He's pointing out the success of Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine in using rail transit to grow and prosper. They've built their stations and are seeing great success, he said.
What's in the way of success here?
"We have a busway proposed. We're not anti-busway, but it is in the way. It is a monolothic, one single-minded approach," he said, and will take five years or more.
"We're at a tipping point in our community and we need to make changes," he said. "We haven't got 55 years and we haven't got 10 years."
We have a partner with Pan-Am Railways and Norfolk Southern.
"It's time to move forward," Nicastro said. "We've got schedules already in place and ready to go."
It would be cheaper to rely on rails instead of the busway.
Nicastro said a healthy Bristol is important to New Britain and vice versa. He said there's money to use for improvements.
Help state and regional officials to make it work.
"What was old can be new again," Nicasto said.
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