January 31, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday January 31, 2017

Stonington buys land for boathouse park for $1.6 million

Stonington _ The town has officially purchased the land for the proposed Mystic River Boathouse Park for $1,672,914.
First Selectman Rob Simmons, signed the contract with property owner Frederic Baumgarten on Friday.
Last year, voters approved a $2.2 million bond to purchase the 1.5 acres of riverfront land on Route 27 just north of Mystic Seaport and turn it into a public park. In addition, the town has reached agreement with the Friends of Stonington Crew, in which the organization will raise money and construct a dock and boathouse on the property for use by the Stonington High School crew team and the public.
Simmons said the original $1.8 million purchase price was reduced by $127,086 to account for the cost to clean up contamination on the site. The Trust for Public Land negotiated the contract for the town.
Simmons said the next step is for the newly formed Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee to hold an organizational meeting on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in the Stonington High School commons.
Before work can begin to demolish buildings on the site and transform the land into a park, the committee and town will have to address issues such as whether to hire a project manager, secure and perform some initial clean up of the property and then obtain Planning and Zoning Commission approval for the new use.

Transportation Committee Agrees To Take Up Issue Of Tolls On Highways

Preparing for what's virtually certain to be a passionate debate, a legislative committee on Monday decided there will be a public hearing this year on whether Connecticut should reinstitute highway tolls.
The transportation committee agreed to raise the issue, but there's no sign that opposition has weakened.
Republican legislators and some Democrats have spent the past several years resisting the idea of highway tolls, but the committee agreed Monday to give the topic a hearing during this legislative session.
Lawmakers also indicated there's been little or no change in the partisan split over the possibility of a mileage tax. Republicans said even considering the idea would be foolish, and are trying to block spending $300,000 to study it. Democrats countered that Connecticut's aging highways and bridges need costly maintenance — and the state should look into all ways to pay for it. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to give a harsh assessment of the state's financial position when he proposes a two-year budget in February, and toll advocates believe the prospect of huge deficits ahead will lead lawmakers to reconsider their thinking. 
Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the committee, has emphasized that modern electronic tolls don't use booths, attendants or coins and don't require drivers to slow down. He also says there might be a way to refund some of the cost to Connecticut drivers who must pass a toll in their commute to work.
But Republican Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, committee co-chairwoman, hasn't moved away from her solid opposition. She and other Republican legislative leaders insist the state can rebuild failing bridges and other infrastructure while expanding transit systems without a massive infusion of new revenue.
"Tolls would be another tax. For commuters, it would amount to a reduction in their pay," Boucher said Monday.
The committee generally hears virtually all relevant bills that are proposed, so Monday's action isn't a measure of the toll bill's chances of passing. The committee in February will schedule a hearing.
So far, there's been little sign of enthusiasm for developing a mileage-based tax on Connecticut drivers, but Democrats and Republicans remain split about whether to examine the idea.
"I'm not a big fan of this," Guerrera said. "But I get that we're only talking about a study."
Malloy last year said Connecticut would pay $300,000 toward a regional study of instituting a tax based on how many miles each driver travels in a year.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Blumenthal Urges State Support For $1 Trillion Transportation Infrastructure Spending

lanked by union workers and the head of the state's construction industry association, Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Monday called for Connecticut to support the Senate Democrats' $1 trillion national infrastructure plan.
"We would create 15 million jobs - good, middle-class jobs" while rebuilding highways, bridges, airports, schools and water and sewer systems across the nation, Blumenthal said at a press conference.
"There's an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation on this," said Blumenthal, who stressed that the 10-year proposal is a starting point for negotiations with the Trump Administration and the Republican majority in Congress.
Facing the multi-billion-dollar cost of replacing the I-84 Hartford viaduct, the I-84 "Mixmaster" interchange in Waterbury and scores of structurally deficient bridges, Connecticut needs a federal plan for coping with overdue infrastructure repairs, according to speakers who sided with Blumenthal.
"We spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year waiting in congestion," said Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments. "With infrastructure, keeping up is a challenge - catching up is a bear." Wray said Connecticut is eager to build better mass transit connections to Boston and Manhattan, which he described as "white hot" spots for jobs and economic development.
Senate Democrats and President Trump have separately said they want mass-scale infrastructure rebuilding initiatives, but haven't specified exactly how they'd pay for it. Trump's administration appears to lean heavily toward public-private investment deals. Senate Democrats are more interested in a mix of closing tax loopholes, a government-sponsored infrastructure bank and an inducement to corporations to bring profits invested overseas back to the United States - at a lower-than-usual tax rate. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


January 30, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday January 30, 2017



                                      MONDAY, JANUARY 30,2017





Dan Haar: Connecticut Isn’t On Early Infrastructure List, But It’s Too Soon To Worry

As if Connecticut didn't have enough to worry about, the state doesn't have any infrastructure projects on a list reportedly prepared for the Trump transition team.
The list of 50 projects totaling at least $137 billion includes the rebuilding of dams, bridges, highways, airports and aviation technology, electric grid upgrades, subways, harbors, rail lines and more goodies. It includes work in 29 states plus the District of Columbia, plus a few projects that cover several states.
No one is saying whether the list has any bearing on what projects will ultimately win fast-track approval from Congress and the new administration. The lobbying has barely started.
"I've been talking with members of Congress who are on the Trump transition team," said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, the second-ranking Democrat on the House Transportation And Infrastructure Committee. "I think we've got an excellent case to be made."
"We're working on it," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, who's pushing a gargantuan tunnel project for I-91 and I-84 in Hartford and East Hartford, said he was also unworried about the state's place on a list of questionable provenance.
"We'll get this in front of the administration," Larson said after a forum Wednesday night on the project, which would cost at least $10 billion, probably much more.
The list, reported this week by the Kansas City Star, was floated in December to the National Governors Association, according to the Washington bureau of McClatchy, which owns the Star.
And while the list is nothing more than an early template, if that, Connecticut would be better off on it than off it – especially at a time when we're not seeing as much economic activity as other states.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy hopes to make transportation infrastructure a lasting legacy, with a decadeslong plan to spend tens of billions of dollars. "For too long, our state failed to make the necessary investments in its infrastructure and it's our residents and businesses that suffer as a result. We can do better," Malloy spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said.
Priorities for Connecticut include rebuilding the aging I-84 viaduct through Hartford, a new I-84 interchange at Route 8 in Waterbury, Metro-North Railroad improvements and perhaps I-95 upgrades in Fairfield County and commuter rail upgrades along I-91 from New Haven to Springfield. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Amid local enthusiasm, Connecticut casino proposal faces challenges

EAST WINDSOR >> Promises of up to $6 million in new, local tax revenues, good-paying jobs with benefits and homegrown organizations willing to invest in the local community brought cheers from the hundreds who attended last week’s pitch for a third casino in Connecticut.
One woman at a “community conversation” in East Windsor even presented her resume to the chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, saying she’s ready to work after struggling 10 years to find a full-time job.While eager to see slot machines moved into a vacant movie theater complex right away, many who filled the East Windsor Middle School gymnasium may have to wait a while. Despite the tribes’ stepped-up efforts to build a third casino to help compete with the MGM Resorts International casino that’s expected to open in late 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts, big challenges for the $200 million-to-$300 million project remain.Besides not having a final location, the tribes do not yet have approval from the General Assembly to build the state’s first casino off tribal land. And it’s unclear whether there’s enough support for such legislation.
“There are so many questions,” said Republican Fairfield Sen. Tony Hwang, who is working with a nonpartisan group of churches and other organizations that oppose casino expansion, arguing the economic and social costs are too great. “The challenge is ultimately time and the obstacles and the questions that are being raised that are not being answered.”The tribes first announced joining forces to build a new casino in early 2015, originally suggesting several satellite casinos were needed to blunt out-of-state gambling competition and protect the thousands of jobs at Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in southeastern Connecticut. That proposal was later narrowed to one casino in northern Connecticut. While they had hoped to have legislative approval by now, the process was delayed as the tribes attempted to finalize a location.They have since narrowed the list down to the old movie theater in East Windsor, a tobacco field in Windsor Locks or Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks and are planning to push for legislation this session.Mohegan Tribal Chairman Mark Brown said it still remains the goal to open before MGM opens its casino, but acknowledged they are “in the 11th-hour of that timeline” and it might not happen. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Killingly council to discuss deal options with NTE Energy

The Killingly Town Council will host a special meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall to discuss several potential agreements with NTE Energy LLC, a power plant developer that hopes to build a 550-megawatt facility in Dayville.
Tax revenue: Town Manager Sean Hendricks said the council on Tuesday will discuss a tax stabilization agreement with NTE that would provide the town with approximately $90 million over a 22-year period, potentially making the company the town's largest taxpayer. The agreement is contingent on the Connecticut Siting Council giving permit approval for the project. The Siting Council, which recently finished the evidentiary portion of its proceedings, is expected to make a decision in the spring.
Benefit agreement: The council will also discuss a proposed Community Environmental Benefits agreement that tentatively calls for NTE to provide the town with $4.5 million in "cash," Hendricks said. The money, aimed at providing environmental benefits to the town, could be used to upgrade local parks, pay for repairs at the community center and be used for student scholarships as well as water quality testing at local lakes. The agreement will also include land easements that would benefit the town, Hendricks said.
Protection: The council will discuss a commitment by NTE to provide property value protection for a number of residents living within 2,500 feet of the proposed facility site near the town's industrial park. The protection would extend to about 20 homeowners and involve assessments of the property before any construction began. If a property owner moves and the value of the property drops within an eight-year window, NTE would make up the difference.

January 27, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday January 27, 2017

Bristol Hospital picks developer for Centre Square

BRISTOL — Bristol Hospital’s developer for the Centre Square ambulatory care center is Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, a Florida-based builder who specializes in healthcare facilities, hospital officials announced Wednesday.
The company, based in Jupiter, Fla., beat out four finalists for the job of building the physicians’ offices and ambulatory care center on about four acres of land in the heart of downtown, said Tiffany Fernandez, administrator of Ambulatory Development Services for the hospital.
“We see them as a great partner for the downtown project,” Fernandez said Wednesday. “It was important they’d be able to meet the financing, understand the culture of the hospital, and know what is needed for a thriving urban area, for the city.”
Eight firms vying for the job received a 250-page document in early June detailing the specifications hospital officials want for the site, Fernandez said.
Rendina’s website shows many different kinds of buildings throughout the country, but all essentially with the same purpose of ambulatory care and offices.
“We’re fortunate that we have other clients in northeast,” said Steve Barry, Rendina executive vice president for Business Development & Leasing, who added he has a warm coat and gloves and is ready to come up next month to work. “We understand their vision and want to help them, build an ambulatory care center, help revitalize downtown and meet patient needs. We’re going to have a nice set of gold shovels to put in the ground.”
The exact date of the groundbreaking is dependent, first on the transfer of the property to the city. The hospital has a Letter of Intent to buy the property, which expires Feb. 28. Then the hospital has to go through the permitting process for development of the parcel.
Barry said he and the company followed the Centre Square study conducted by architectural engineers, Milone & MacBroom this past spring and summer. That company polled residents to find out specifically what kind of buildings, landscaping and features residents and workers want in the 17-acre site.
“We followed that news with great interest and do have some ideas,” Barry said. “But it’s pretty early at this point. We want a project that reflects their vision and the polling of residents will be incorporated in our process.”
Costs are not yet being discussed, as the purchase price for the property isn’t even firm, Fernandez said.
While the purchase is not yet complete, “between now and Feb. 28, we’ll be continuing to sit and meet with the hospital, get a clearer picture on the design parameters and requirements,” Barry said. “We want to better understand the way their physicians work and prepare for the process.”
Rendina will handle everything from the building to landscaping, Barry added. Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Tribes Present Proposal For Casino On Tobacco Fields In Windsor Locks

Tribal leaders seeking to open a third casino in Connecticut focused mainly on dormant tobacco fields off Route 20 in a presentation at Windsor High School Thursday night.
A casino at Bradley International Airport, which the joint tribal venture identified as a possible casino site last week, was not mentioned.
Residents were mainly in favor of the development, but only if the tribes could promise jobs to Windsor Locks residents and major improvements to roads and schools. 
"Current road conditions in town are in rough shape," Robert Shepard said. "Would you have a plan to partner with the town to improve those roads?"
Representatives from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan joint venture known as MMCT said they were negotiating with Windsor Locks officials about how much aid they would provide the town if it was selected for the casino site. 
"What we will do is enter in negotiations with the town to see what, other than property taxes, we can do for Windsor Locks," Mohegan Tribal Authority Chairman Kevin Brown said. 
The tribes, which formed the joint venture to pursue a Hartford-area casino, are now considering just two towns — Windsor Locks and East Windsor. In Windsor Locks 76 acres of vacant tobacco fields along Route 20 are being considered, while a former Showcase Cinemas site is the contender in East Windsor.
A satellite casino in north-central Connecticut is being pushed as part of a strategy to compete with a $950 million casino and entertainment complex under construction in Springfield.
The idea is to retain jobs in Connecticut tied to the gambling industry and preserve funds the state gets monthly from slot revenue at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Brown said the development would help close Connecticut's $1.2 billion budget deficit by creating $77.9 million in tax revenue and more than 6,500 local jobs.
Any site and the expansion of casino gambling off tribal lands in Connecticut will need approval from the legislature.
Windsor Locks has said it will hold a referendum on the project, while East Windsor has said it does not need to in order to approve the development.
For residents, the main question was what they would get out of a casino in Windsor Locks. 
"Is there any extra compensation for Windsor Locks?" Mike Forschino asked. 
Residents were told that the tribes would provide for any extra police staffing needs as well as infrastructure improvements and traffic control. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Farmington High School Project Designs To Be Revised

The timeline for multimillion-dollar renovations at Farmington High School has been delayed to allow architects time to devise scaled-back, less expensive proposals.
The Farmington High School Building Committee on Wednesday tasked New Britain architectural firm Kaestle Boos Associates with revising three existing concept designs for the high school project.
The initial cost estimates attached to each concept were roughly in the same price range, committee Chairman William Wadsworth said.
"We felt that we needed to take another look and try and separate those costs, so there is more of a choice between additions, renovations and a new building," Wadsworth said. Wadsworth said a final proposal will not be ready for the ballot in April's budget referendum. Instead, the committee will aim to have a plan prepared for a special referendum in June.
The least-expensive design — estimated to cost $138 million to $150 million — would retain the largest percentage of the current school and repurpose existing space.
The mid-range priced proposal costing $150 million to $161 million that would have involved additions and renovations to the school was removed from consideration.
That proposal would have come close to constructing an entirely new building and school officials said that would have been too disruptive to students.
The most expansive design, with an estimated cost of $169 million, was a new school located on the natural grass fields behind the current building. However, that plan was scrapped in favor of constructing a new building closer to the existing school.
Wadsworth said an adjusted timeline was presented and, regardless of which design is chosen, construction would likely be complete by summer 2022.
The high school was built in 1928 and has had five expansions from 1952 to 2003.
All concept plans would leave the original 1928 portion of the building intact and keep it for either part of the school or for town offices. The plans would also expand the school's athletic fields and make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$2 million donation to cover Derby High School fieldhouse, baseball field

DERBY >> The Board of Education announced Thursday that a private donor, whose father was a 1915 graduate of Derby High School, is donating $2 million for construction of a new fieldhouse and baseball field, which school officials are calling a real “game changer.”
Superintendent of Schools Matthew Conway said the donation from Joan A. Payden is being made in memory of her father J.R. (Joseph Raymond) Payden. J.R. Payden, born in 1896, grew up in Derby and was valedictorian of the class of 1915. He graduated from the Yale University Sheffield Scientific School of Engineering and later served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation Division as a fighter pilot for the Royal Flying Corps in England. Conway said the gift is earmarked for construction of a new, state-of-the-art fieldhouse at the Leo F. Ryan Athletic Complex and a new high school baseball field. The donation comes at a time when a $2.9 million renovation to the athletic complex is being planned. The state Bond Commission approved the funds last year. The district originally applied for $5 million, but had to cut $1.8 million, which scrapped the fieldhouse and contingencies  The existing baseball field, which isn’t regulation size, is located at Ryan Field. School officials said it has to be relocated to make way for the makeover which will feature an artificial turf, multi-purpose field, eight-lane rubberized track and other improvements. A Baseball Field Relocation Committee was and is entertaining relocating the field to Bradley School or Witek Park. A forum last October drew a huge crowd in support of moving the field to Bradley School. The committee has since met several times and has been weighing the pros and cons of each location.
Now, however, with the sizeable donation, Conway said it’s possible the baseball field could be done right at its current home.The committee has lots of work to do, and no decision has been made about the field’s future location.No matter the case, city officials assured coaches worried their sports programs may get displaced that things will work out.“No program is going to be hurt by this. ... I will not allow our kids to suffer,” said Aldermanic President Carmen DiCenso, a committee member. Committee member Anthony DeFala, Derby’s director of Public Works, echoed similar sentiments. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 26, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday January 26, 2017

State committee keeps Ag-STEM project on priority funding list

The state School Construction Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to keep Region 12’s proposed Agriscience-STEM academy on its funding priority list, despite the Malloy administration’s recommendation that the project be dropped.
Commissioner Melody Currey of the Department of Administrative Services had written to committee members saying that Region 12’s enrollment projections for the academy, though recently revised downward, “cannot be validated,” and that the slimmed-down project recently approved by the school board still has too high a square-foot-to-student ratio.
But State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who sits on the construction committee, said members decided to keep the project in play because school officials did everything they were asked to do in revamping an earlier, larger and more expensive proposal.
“The legislature doesn't always listen to what the administration wants to do,” said Boucher, who also co-chairs the Senate Education Committee. “They made it through the very first hurdle, but there are very many hurdles ahead.”
Boucher warned that the project will face extra scrutiny because of Currey’s letter and a Dec. 29 letter from Ben Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, urging the committee “review the project carefully” for many of the same reasons.
Citing Connecticut’s fiscal woes, Boucher added that the state will have a hard time funding even those school construction requests that make the priority list.
Still, Region 12 officials were pleased that the project is moving forward for now.
“We’re still on the list,” said Superintendent Patricia Cosentino.
A final decision on the construction plan would be up to the General Assembly.
The Ag-STEM project, which would offer training in agricultural sciences and other technical fields, is an effort to bolster student enrollment in a district whose three rural towns — Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater — project steep population declines in coming years.
The original $39 million proposal, approved overwhelmingly by district voters in November 2015, envisioned enrolling as many as 226 students from Region 12 and surrounding districts in new and renovated space at Shepaug Valley School. The state was expected to pay about $29 million of that total. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy Administration Questions Construction Of New School In Greenwich

Despite recommendations from the Malloy administration to eliminate funding for new schools in Greenwich and Litchfield County, an education subcommittee gave preliminary approval Wednesday for state grants to 49 school construction projects totaling nearly half a billion dollars.
Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, chairman of the education committee, began the meeting by questioning a letter from Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody Currey that suggested the two long-planned projects be removed from the list of proposed school projects for next year. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan Proposed

Democrats estimate their plan would create 15 million jobs. The plan includes $210 billion to repair aging roads and bridges and another $200 billion for a "vital infrastructure fund" to pay for a variety of transportation projects of national significance.
An example of the types of projects that could be eligible for financing from the fund is the Gateway Program to repair and replace rail lines and tunnels between New York and New Jersey, some of which are over 100 years old and were damaged in Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The project, which would double the number of trains per hour using the tunnels and help enable high-speed Amtrak service, is estimated to cost about $20 billion.
Republican leaders are unlikely to embrace the Democratic plan. It's not clear where Democrats would get the money for their proposal.
Infrastructure was raised at a meeting Monday between Trump and lawmakers from both parties. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats pitched their plan to Trump and asked for his support. Schumer said he also warned Trump that doing so would mean he'd have to "go against" elements of the Republican Party. Trump acknowledged that and seemed open to working with Democrats, he said.
A White House spokesman didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters he doesn't want another infrastructure plan that is effectively an economic stimulus program like the one Congress passed in 2009 at former President Barack Obama's behest. He said Republicans are waiting to see what the Trump administration proposes and he hopes it is paid for in "a credible way."
Democrats "thought that was an area maybe to find common ground, and then Sen. McConnell made the important point it needs to be paid for because we've got $20 trillion in debt," Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican leader, who was at the meeting.
Trump bemoaned the state of America's roads, bridges, airports and railways during the presidential campaign and promised to generate $1 trillion in infrastructure investment, putting people to work in the process. But Trump has offered few specifics. Administration officials have indicated they expect Trump to offer details this spring.
"Senate Democrats are walking the walk on repairing and rebuilding our nation's crumbling infrastructure," Schumer said. "We ask President Trump to support this common sense, comprehensive approach."
Besides transportation, the plan includes money for expanding broadband access in rural areas, water treatment and sewer construction, veterans' hospitals and schools.
A proposal by two of Trump's financial advisers circulated just after the election calls for using $137 billion in tax credits to generate $1 trillion in private investment in infrastructure projects over 10 years. But investors are typically interested only in projects that have a revenue stream like tolls to produce a profit. Elaine Chao, Trump's nominee for transportation secretary, told senators last week that she wants to "unleash the potential" of private investors to boost transportation. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Larson Pitches Plan For I-91, I-84 Tunnels Through Hartford

U.S. Rep. John Larson's ambitious idea to rebuild miles of I-91 and I-84 underground met a mix of public opinion Wednesday night: Supporters called it visionary while skeptics warned it's simply unrealistic.
Building a vast network of tunnels for highways and their interchange would free up hundreds of acres in the city and East Hartford, recapture Hartford's riverfront and reunite the north and south ends, said Larson, D-1st District.
He conceded it could take 10 or 20 years to finish, but insisted the result would be worth the wait.
"Do we incrementally do what we've done for the last 50 years, or do we say it's time that Hartford thinks big?" Larson asked an audience of about 100 at a forum at Hartford Public Library.
Much of the crowd appeared to endorse the idea of diverting trucks and other through traffic into a tunnel system while building boulevards for local traffic where the highways stand now.
But residents took the microphone to say they doubt the federal government or private investors would pay billions of dollars to build it. Others feared the idea could derail the state's more modest plan to replace about 2 miles of I-84's viaduct in Hartford; millions of dollars and years of engineering have already been put into that project.
"The viaduct is like an Edsel — we're keeping it running, and we've put away enough to replace it with a modern hybrid," said Christopher Brown of Hartford. "Now we're going to wait for the Jetsons' car that flies? I need more convincing that this is doable."
City resident Tony Charolis said Connecticut's plan to replace just the viaduct is within a few years of breaking ground and came after years of design work and dialogue with the community.
"They're so close to starting — I'd hate to see this be a distraction that pushes everything back 40 years," Charolis said.
Larson emphasized that the Trump administration will make major infrastructure projects a priority, and warned that Connecticut could be left behind if it doesn't put forward a proposal that does more than simply replace the deteriorated viaduct.
"We need bold visions. The time has passed for duct tape and bailing wire," said U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, who accompanied Larson and about two dozen regional leaders to pitch the idea to the federal Department of Transportation earlier this winter.
"The image of this is so exciting – our city not being controlled by these highway systems that just destroy the quality of life," said state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford.
Larson estimated the cost at $10 billion to dig more than 6 miles of tunnels beneath Hartford, the Connecticut River and East Hartford. But he stressed that he's not an engineer, and that detailed cost projections and schedules would require a professional study. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 25, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday January 25, 2017

Point of Interest: New Stamford police station construction
Bedford and North Streets: Crews are continuing clear the site of the city’s new police headquarters. The most recent demolition, near property line separating the station from the courthouse on Hoyt Street, is part of the latest effort to make way for a new 94,000-square-foot, three-story building and attached four-story parking garage. Construction of the new police headquarters, a $45 million job awarded to O&G Industries last month, is expected to be completed in February 2019.
Have a question about a building or property? Email Nora Naughton with “Point of Interest” in the subject line at nora.naughton@scni.com or call 203-964-2263. Photo: Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media / Stamford Advocate
Bedford and North streets: Crews are continuing to clear the site of the city’s new police headquarters. The most recent demolition, near the property line with the courthouse on Hoyt Street, is part of the latest effort to make way for a new 94,000-square-foot, three-story building and attached four-story parking garage. Construction of the new police headquarters, a $45 million job awarded to O&G Industries last month, is expected to be completed in February 2019.

Trump signs orders advancing Keystone, Dakota pipelines

WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump moved to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines Tuesday, a pair of projects that were blocked by the Obama administration due in part to environmental concerns. Both orders are subject to renegotiations of the agreements.Trump also signed a notice requiring the materials for the pipelines to be constructed in the United States, though it was unclear how he planned to enforce the measure.“From now we are going to start making pipelines in the United States,” Trump said from the Oval Office.Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is praising Trump’s efforts to advance construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The Republican governor said in a tweet Tuesday that the pipeline drives economic growth and is good for national security.
Trump has sought to focus his first full week in office on jobs and the economy. Republicans, as well as some unions, have cited the pipeline projects as prime opportunities for job growth.Groups including the MAIN Coalition, National Manufacturers Association, The Building Trades and the Laborers’ International Union of North America are calling Tuesday’s orders a victory for workers and consumers.National Manufacturers Association CEO Jay Timmons says it’s decisive leadership by Trump “to get American energy infrastructure moving forward.” Building Trades President James Callahan says it helps fulfill a Trump campaign promise to create middle-class jobs.Association of Oil Pipe Lines CEO Andrew Black says the two pipelines also will help the goal of “plentiful, affordable energy” for consumers.North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness also touts “energy and economic security.” Former President Barack Obama stopped the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy. The pipeline would run from Canada to Nebraska where it would connect to existing lines running to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needs to approve the pipeline because it would cross the nation’s northern border.Separately, late last year, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline under Lake Oahe, saying alternative routes needed to be considered. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters say the project threatens drinking water and Native American sites, though Energy Transfer Partners, the company that wants to build the pipeline, disputes that and says the pipeline will be safe.The pipeline is to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.Law enforcement officers are gearing up in southern North Dakota for any protest activity in the wake of President Donald Trump signing executive actions advancing construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.Morton County sheriff’s spokeswoman Maxine Herr said Tuesday that plans are in place to deal with “illegal potential protest activities” along the pipeline route near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. She didn’t release details.Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Ken Thomas, Erica Werner, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Multimillion-dollar condo complex closer to reality in New London

New London — Plans are moving forward for a $40 million condominium complex on Howard Street — a project with the potential to become the first new construction in the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development area.
Renaissance City Development Association Executive Director Peter Davis said a development agreement has been drafted between RCDA and principals of a project being called Shipway 221.
“This could be the first out-of-the-ground Fort Trumbull project. It’s a huge deal,” Davis said. “It’s a big deal for the city and the RCDA, as well as the state.”
Shipway 221 is conceived as a series of three buildings with ample parking and a host of amenities to attract millennials while specifically targeting employees at the nearby Electric Boat. It is located on two parcels of land totaling about 5.4 acres.
Project Manager Anthony Silvestri said the phased project would begin with a 70-unit, four-story structure with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units with an average price of $200,000. Parking would be located on the ground level of the structure. Other buildings would follow, with a total upwards of 180 units, he said.
The complex would include things like an indoor and outdoor pool with cabanas, a rooftop lounge area and barbeque area, movie theaters inside and out, a bike storage area, sunken fire pits, bar with climbing wall and community gathering and entertainment areas.
The project is being financially backed by the Tagliatela family, who have funded both the ongoing City Flats initiative and Harbour Towers project. Silvestri said the idea for the condominiums is to attract more residents looking to live in a lively city environment. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Casino Proposal Brings Hope For Jobs, Concerns About Crime And Traffic

As the operators of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun narrow the choices for a third casino site, some residents here voiced concerns Tuesday about crime and traffic burdens on the town, but far more were enthusiastic about the potential for job growth.
Kathy Bilodeau, an East Windsor resident, said the $300 million proposed casino could bring the job she's been searching for in town.
"There was a statement on your board that said you would be hiring local workers and working with local businesses ... and I am going to be very bold and give you my resume," Bilodeau said.
Bilodeau, who did submit her resume, was one of hundreds of town residents who crowded into the East Windsor Middle School auditorium to listen to Mashantucket and Mohegan tribe leaders give a brief overview of the project. The tribes, now in a joint venture referred to as MMCT, listened to residents' concerns about the proposed casino, which could be built on the old Showcase Cinemas site off I-91.
The tribes, which formed the joint venture to pursue a Hartford-area casino, are now considering just two locations — Windsor Locks and East Windsor. East Hartford, Hartford and South Windsor were eliminated from the running earlier this month.
A satellite casino in north-central Connecticut is being pushed as part of a strategy to compete with a $950 million casino and entertainment complex under construction in Springfield.
"We are now in the eleventh hour of our timeline ... that being said, all is not lost if we do not beat MGM," Chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Authority Kevin Brown said of the project.
The idea is to retain jobs in Connecticut tied to the gambling industry and preserve funds the state gets monthly from slot revenue at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Brown said the development would help close Connecticut's $1.2 billion budget deficit by creating $77.9 million in tax revenue and more than 6,500 local jobs. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Ballpark Officials Say Work Is Still On Track For April 13 Opener

Officials working to finish Dunkin' Donuts Park in time for a Hartford Yard Goats home opener less than three months away reiterated Tuesday that they will get the job done on time.
"As it stands today, we're on schedule for baseball April 13," Arch Insurance Senior Vice President Patrick Nails told the Hartford Stadium Authority. "That does not mean we don't have significant challenges ahead of us."
Nails and Michael Spinelli, a principal with the architectural firm Cashin Spinelli & Ferretti LLC, updated members of the authority on the progress made on the $71 million, publicly financed ballpark since December. A concrete pedestrian bridge in left field was put into place last week, completing the 360-degree concourse. The roof is also now watertight and a water leak in the right field slab is being repaired, all structural repairs in stairwells are finished, and work continues on fireproofing structural steel. A section of seats that had been installed with an obstructed view has also been corrected. Spinelli also told the authority that areas were discovered where expansion joints should have been installed and that work continues to make all the elevators operational, but added that he expected to have "very good news" at the next meeting in February.
Spinelli said that another concern — slippery conditions on the concourse when it gets wet — was also being addressed and that a coating that eliminates the slickness is expected to be applied in February.
However, Spinelli cautioned that "this is a schedule with zero float," meaning that there is no room for unexpected setbacks that could derail the progress being made.
"If someone opens a wall and finds something no one knew about, it could be a problem," he said.
Asked what the biggest concern was at this point, Nails replied, "time keeps both Mike and I up at night."
Afterward, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he was pleased with the progress on the stadium and the level of communication. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

EXCLUSIVE: Trump team compiles infrastructure priority list

President Donald Trump’s team has compiled a list of about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities, according to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune.
The documents, circulated within the congressional and business communities, offer a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges.
Among the projects could be a new terminal for the Kansas City airport, upgrades to Interstate 95 in North Carolina and the construction of a high-speed railway from Dallas to Houston.  The document obtained by the Star proposes funding the projects as public-private partnerships, with half the money coming from private investment.
The Trump team put together the priority list of “Emergency & National Security Projects,” a senior congressional aide said. It includes cost estimates and job impact numbers.
It is not clear whether that document is a draft or a final version. The National Governors Association circulated a similar list, which had been compiled by the transition team, as a spreadsheet among state officials in December, requesting further suggestions. All but two projects on both lists are the same. Some projects that governors suggested — in California and Washington state in particular — do not yet appear on either list.
The governors’ association has received 43 responses from states and territories so far, said Elena Waskey, a spokeswoman for the association.
“The total number of projects is more than 300,” Waskey said. “We are working to convene information for as many states as possible that we will then forward to the administration.”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article128492164.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article128492164.html#storylink=cpy

January 24, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday January 24, 2017

States send Trump wish-lists for promised roads-and-bridges plan

With President Donald Trump promising to rebuild crumbling U.S. highways, bridges and buildings, states have begun submitting lists of priority projects in need of funding.
The information has come in response to a December request from Trump's transition team to the National Governors Association to collect lists of projects from the states, executive director Scott Pattison said in a telephone interview. About 40 states have responded so far, and Pattison said he thinks Trump's team wants to assess how many "shovel ready'' projects there are as it crafts the president's infrastructure initiative.
"The feeling was 'if we wanted to try to move quickly, what are some of the things that we could do and what's out there,''' he said. Pattison and some transportation officials said they don't know how Trump's team plans to use the information.
Former President Barack Obama's team made a similar request for "shovel-ready'' projects for the more than $800 billion stimulus package developed in 2009, said Neil Pedersen, the executive director of the Transportation Research Board, who's a former Maryland state highway administrator.
In the end, only about 6 percent of the stimulus bill -- aimed at helping to pull the U.S. out of the worst economic downturn since the 1930s -- went to transportation projects, according to PolitiFact. That led Obama to say in a 2010 New York Times interview that he learned "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects" because of the lead time generally required.
Pedersen said he suspects Trump's team is "trying to identify, under various financing mechanisms, what is the universe of projects that actually can be funded.'' The board, he said, has provided Trump's transition team with policy reports and research papers produced over the past several years, especially about public-private partnerships and other infrastructure funding and financing issues.
Pattison said he hopes the intent of requesting information about state projects is not to have the Trump administration identify which projects will be completed. States have robust processes for prioritizing projects and wouldn't want to see that "upended in any way,'' he said. Trump talked frequently during the election campaign about the need to upgrade aging U.S. infrastructure and put millions of people to work doing it. He emphasized that goal again during his inaugural address on Jan. 20. "We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation,'' Trump said. "We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.''
While infrastructure advocates have said the federal government can streamline or eliminate regulations that often slow down permitting and approvals and delay construction, Trump hasn't spelled out how work would be funded.
Trump's advisers have emphasized leveraging more private capital to fill a massive funding gap. A framework for the "America's Infrastructure First" policy was laid out on Trump's campaign website but hasn't migrated to the official White House page so far.
Trump has asked real-estate developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth to lead a new council he's creating of 15 to 20 builders and engineers to monitor infrastructure investments, the Wall Street Journal reported on Jan. 16. Steve Solomon, a spokesman for LeFrak, confirmed that LeFrak had been asked but said the initiative is in a very early stage. A spokeswoman for Roth declined to comment. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Downstate lawmakers want competitive bidding among casino operators

Lawmakers from the Bridgeport and New Haven areas who support expanded gaming in the state are calling for an open, competitive process for the evaluation of casino proposals, an approach that differs sharply from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ ongoing pursuit of a Hartford-area casino.
State Reps. Christopher Rosario and Ezequiel Santiago, both Bridgeport Democrats, posted statements Monday in which they backed a bill introduced by Rep. Michael DiMassa, a West Haven Democrat.
The measure proposes the establishment of “a transparent and competitive process for the issuance of commercial gaming licenses by the Department of Consumer Protection.”
A 2015 law enabled the tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, to jointly pursue proposals for casino sites from Connecticut municipalities. The tribes' partnership, MMCT Venture, has narrowed the field to two towns, East Windsor and Windsor Locks.
Legislation authorizing commercial rather than tribal casinos would have to be enacted before the tribes — or anyone else for that matter — could open a third casino in the state.
“We need jobs in Connecticut, and our economy needs help,” Rosario said in a release posted on his website. “Connecticut needs an open, competitive process where the state — and the public — would evaluate competing proposals from world-class developers that must include plans for hiring during all phases of construction and when a casino begins operations.”
“The process we have now is nothing more than a string of missed opportunities and endless secrecy,” Rosario said.
MGM Resorts International, the gaming giant whose ongoing development of a $950 million casino resort in Springfield, Mass., has fueled the tribe’s in-state expansion bid, hailed the downstate lawmakers’ pronouncements.
"These legislators have it right, and they are proposing what Connecticut should have done from day one: put in place a process that is fair, open, transparent, reliable, and competitive,” Alan Feldman, an MGM Resorts executive vice president, said in a statement. “That’s how Connecticut wins — with a process that allows all qualified bidders to compete and the state to get the best deal. It is hands down the best way for the state to maximize the number of jobs that can be created, and the amount of gaming revenue that can be generated.”
MGM, which has been opposing the tribes’ pursuit of a Hartford-area casino, has commissioned market research that determined that a casino in Bridgeport would be more beneficial to the state than one in north-central Connecticut.
“We look forward to having an opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan that can be carefully considered side-by-side with other industry competitors,” Feldman said.
A bill proposed by Rep. Roland Lemar, a New Haven Democrat, would allow for new commercial casinos to be developed in the state and impose a tax of 25 percent on such casinos’ gaming revenues — both slot machines and table games.
The Mashantuckets and the Mohegans now remit 25 percent of their slots revenue in accordance with exclusive gaming agreements with the state.
An alliance of groups opposed to casino expansion announced Monday that it planned to hold a news conference Tuesday morning at the state Capitol. The tribes are hosting a public meeting Tuesday night in East Windsor to discuss their third-casino efforts. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

After Years Of Construction, Wethersfield High School Renovation Project Complete

When Jo Hedges walked through the newly renovated Wethersfield High School on Sunday, she couldn't believe it was the same school she graduated from in 1954.
The school's new television studio equipped with iMac computers, its state-of-the-art cafeteria, robotics lab and fitness center were a far cry from the inkwells and film slides that Hedges remembers from her school days.
"It's absolutely gorgeous. The amount of equipment in the gymnasium, the desks, the chairs, the greenhouse," Hedges said, after a tour of the building.
The $85 million project to completely renovate and expand the school began in September 2013 and wrapped up earlier this month.
"We're fully functional and open for business," Superintendent Michael Emmett said. "It's been a while in the making."
On Sunday the district held an open house for residents to explore the school's three new wings and dozens of improvements.
Student tour guides led residents to the new gym, where the Wethersfield girls basketball team was practicing on Sunday afternoon.
The expanded gym features new locker rooms and space for 900 spectators, as well as a trophy case and snack bar by the gym's entrance.
The music wing has acoustic-enhancing ceiling panels, as well as more storage space, practice rooms and a recording studio for students.
Other improvements include a television studio equipped with all the technology student news anchors need to produce weekly video announcements for the student body.
"I think there are people who think technology is extraneous, but we utilize it," Emmett said.
Residents and future students gushed over the rooftop greenhouse and the new science labs.
"There wasn't even a green plant on the windowsill and now there's a whole greenhouse," Hedges said. "It's completely amazing."
For most who have toured the building, thenew auditoriumand cafeteria were the highlights.
"The cafeteria — what a space — we could have 300 kids in there," Emmett said. "It's a space where kids aren't confined to one area. They're in the high-back chairs or the couches ... it's a great social space."  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Little Derby has a big plan

In the frenzy of urban renewal that followed World War II, it was almost axiomatic that vast swaths of city fabric had to be leveled in order to be recreated. Thus went Hartford’s East Side, New Haven’s Oak Street and others among the state’s urban neighborhoods.
In time, many cities came to regret demolishing so much of their architectural and social heritage, sometimes with little to show for it. The practice of clear-cutting neighborhoods began to die out, but slowly. One of the last municipalities seduced by this approach was Derby.
In 2003 the city demolished a row of 19th century brick buildings along Main Street to make way for a major development. That project never happened, leaving a vacant 19-acre site with little more than a rusting grain elevator — kind of a landmark — that once was used to store birdseed. Derby is the state’s smallest geographical city, with just over five square miles of land, so 19 acres is not insignificant.
After a dozen yeas of inactivity — the empty lot is right across the street from City Hall and easily visible from the mayor’s second-floor window — city officials started over, bringing in a planning firm known for “new urbanism” — planning the kinds of buildings and neighborhoods that the city tore down.
Did they have it right the first time? The Derby project, called “Downtown Now!,” is an example of how thinking has changed in the efforts to revive cities.
Derby is nine miles northwest of New Haven at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers, in a valley that once was an industrial (and high school football) powerhouse and now is trying to reinvent itself, with varying degrees of success.
As with many of the state’s once-vibrant older cities, industries left, retail struggled and the compact downtowns along the Naugatuck River went into a long decline in the latter part of the last century. By century’s end in Derby, the 19th century brick buildings on the south side of Main Street were abandoned and decaying. The town acquired more than a dozen of them via tax foreclosure. Officials decided to demolish them, against the strong advice of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and others.
New Haven-based writer Philip Langdon, who writes nationally about planning and design issues, excoriated the demolition decision in a Hartford Courant commentary titled “Drop the Demolition, Derby.” He said the city was repeating the mistakes of the 1960s, exhibiting “the flawed thinking of the urban-renewal era.”
The 19th century buildings were still standing then, and Langdon pleaded for a stay of execution: “Their details are still worth admiring: giant brackets, stone lintels, terracotta decoration, roundheaded windows, elaborate cornices – an encyclopedia of styling on a street that you can walk … in five minutes.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 23, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday January 23, 2017

Oak Street residents strongly opposed to new trail design in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — Engineering officials presented details of a walking trail to connect the town senior center to Community Lake at an information session Thursday night.
The trail will stretch from the senior center’s parking lot, at 238 Washington St., to the area of Community Lake near Oak Street, which is located off Washington Street, Town Engineer Rob Baltramaitis said. The trail is about three-tenths of a mile and will pass near the end of Oak Street.
Baltramaitis and other project officials presented preliminary designs of the project at the meeting, which was attended by about 40 residents.
Several residents of Oak Street attended the meeting to voice strong opposition to the trail’s current design, which calls for a portion of the trail to run near the street. Preliminary designs also allows pedestrians to access the trail by foot from the end of Oak Street, which residents worry could invite walkers to park on Oak Street when visiting the trail. Oak Street is a narrow, dead end road, which exacerbates any parking issues, residents said.
“I don’t understand why you’d bring a trail into our neighborhood,” Oak Street resident Raymond Rys Jr. said about the trail.
State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, co-chair of the Quinnipiac Linear Trail Advisory Committee, suggested posting “no parking” signs on the street to curtail the issue, but residents said there are already signs posted and people still illegally park on-street. In a contentious discussion, residents asked members of the trail committee why the town went away from the trail’s original design, which did not pass near Oak Street.
The previous design called for the trail to cross a portion of property owned by White Way Cleaners, 271 Hall Ave. The town had to go back to the drawing board after the company rejected the town’s plans to run the trail through its property.
“We were dead in the water with White Way. We offered them money, a chain link fence, and lighting,” trail committee member Elaine Doherty said about the town’s effort to negotiate with the owner of White Way to run the trail through his property.
Town Councilor Jason Zandri proposed using eminent domain to purchase a narrow strip of land from the business to execute the original design. He said he would support the issue being placed on an upcoming Town Council agenda.
“I don’t want to keep seeing residents upset,” said Zandri, the only councilor to attend the meeting Rys also raised concerns about coal tar contaminants he says are embedded in the soil near Oak Street. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
I am almost as excited about the pedestrian bridge that will provide access to the proposed National Coast Guard Museum on the city’s waterfront as I am about the museum itself. As part of the museum plans, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has pledged $20 million in state aid to construct the bridge. Though the museum would be a game changer for downtown New London, if for some reason it does not come to fruition, the state should still build the bridge.
Richard Grahn, president and CEO of the National Coast Guard Museum, met with the Editorial Board last Tuesday and provided an update on the status of the project. Grahn named the spring of 2021 as the target date for the opening of the museum. After laying the groundwork in 2016, the goal in 2017 will be substantial progress in raising funding, he said.
Led by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Congress in 2016 amended a prohibition on federal funding for the museum, a roadblock erected as part of a crackdown on earmarks. Thanks to the amendment, the museum association can use federal funds to pay for exhibits and the spaces to display them. The museum association anticipates Congress, over several years, will authorize grants equaling about 30 percent of the estimated $100 million museum cost.
Also in 2016, the museum association and its Boston-based architectural firm, Payette, worked through the difficult challenges of designing a museum on a small waterfront footprint. It has to be capable of surviving the rising water that a mega storm would produce, an event statistically expected once every 500 years. The museum plan still must undergo the review required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
Many are grousing about the contemporary design of the proposed museum, with its glass waterside fa├žade contrasting with the brick architecture of the nearby Union Train Station. I think the contrast in styles is invigorating and eye catching. It would depict a city that has roots in its past, but is not stuck in the past. New London should want people to notice the museum. Blending its architecture with a pseudo-19th century design mimicking the train depot would not do that. Frankly, it would be boring. And it wouldn’t work given the flooding concerns.
So, about that pedestrian bridge.
The bridge is necessary to get people over the catenary lines that power Amtrak’s electric-powered trains. It would not only carry visitors to the museum, but also provide safe passage from the Water Street parking garage, which the city plans to enlarge, and the Parade Plaza area to the train station, the Cross Sound Ferry terminal, and the waterfront.
As things stand now, pedestrians have to fight traffic to cross Water Street. Finding one’s way is confusing and even dangerous. It is not a good experience. And it provides no interaction with the city.
Entering across the glass-enclosed walkway, high above Water Street, would be a different experience altogether. Visitors would have a view of Bank Street and a better appreciation of the city’s interconnectedness with its waterfront. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Preston officials want bridge expansion moved up in infrastructure plan

Colorful maps unveiled this week by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority depicting the potential for several hundred million dollars' worth of development at the former Norwich Hospital also showed a narrow line cutting across the Thames River just south of both the project property and Mohegan Sun.
That is the Mohegan-Pequot Bridge, a two-lane span across the river described by a state transportation official as adequate for current traffic volumes and in good physical condition.
An estimated $100 million to improve the Route 2/2A/32 corridor between Preston and Montville, including a potential second bridge span, is listed in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s “Let’s Go CT” massive $100 billion, 30-year state transportation infrastructure plan released in February 2015.
Thomas J. Maziarz, chief of the state Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Policy and Planning, said at the time that the Route 2/2A/32 project was envisioned as a “long-term need.”
But Preston residents and town officials were quick to point out this week that the narrow span likely would not be able to support traffic for the destination resort development envisioned by tribal planners for the former Norwich Hospital property: a 40-acre theme park, outdoor adventure park, synthetic skiing, hotels, major sports complex and retail offerings.
On Wednesday, the morning after the unveiling, First Selectman Robert Congdon asked officials at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments to set up a meeting with DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker to discuss moving up the proposed Route 2/2A/32 improvements, designating them as a high priority for this region.
“I think it makes perfect sense to move it up in the priority list to support economic growth of the region,” Congdon said.
Council of governments Executive Director James Butler said the project already is listed among six “highest long-term priorities” for the region, including a new bridge span over the Thames River, in the council’s “Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan FY 2015-2040.”
In both cases, Maziarz and Butler said, the plans can be altered to reflect changes in projected development or other regional priorities. For example, Butler said, the council listed completion of Route 11 as its top priority, a project since canceled by state officials.
“It wouldn't be unusual to move a project up,” Maziarz said. “Occasionally, we’re being asked to put something as a higher priority because conditions change.”
According to traffic counts listed in the council of governments’ long-range plan, average daily traffic volumes from Mohegan Sun Boulevard to Preston on Route 2A increased from 15,500 in 1992 to 23,900 in 2014, a 54 percent hike.
Maziarz said without the proposed Norwich Hospital development, the current traffic totals would not warrant the proposed widening project that calls for two lanes in each direction with a second bridge span.
A tentative schedule of development of the former hospital property calls for finalizing the Property Disposition and Development Agreement by late February, followed by one year of final environmental cleanup before the tribe takes ownership of the property.
Mohegan Tribal Council Chairman Kevin Brown said Tuesday the five-year timeframe called for the proposed agreement — not yet public — would have development substantially completed by 2023.
“It takes several years just to design a bridge,” Butler said.
Other improvements to the corridor on both sides of the river also are anticipated and might be able to be done quicker than a bridge project, Maziarz said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State Bond Commission meeting canceled, delaying Norwich Hospital cleanup funds

Preston — The state Bond Commission has canceled its Jan. 27 agenda, causing what is expected to be a slight delay in state approval of the final $10 million in cleanup money for the former Norwich Hospital property.
Following Tuesday’s news conference at the Sky Tower Hotel at Mohegan Sun, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy anticipated that the Bond Commission might meet in early February rather than next week, and he pledged approval of the $10 million at the upcoming meeting. At the news conference, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority unveiled its concept plan for a $200 million to $600 million development on the 393-acre former state hospital property in Preston.
Preston Redevelopment Agency Chairman Sean Nugent said he was informed by officials at the state Department of Economic and Community Development that the Jan. 27 Bond Commission meeting would be canceled. A new date for the Bond Commission meeting was not posted Friday afternoon on the state Office of Policy and Management website.
Nugent and First Selectman Robert Congdon both said Friday that the state’s delay would not directly affect the tentative schedule to hold public informational meetings in Preston on the draft Property Disposition and Development Agreement now in the final stages of negotiations with Mohegan tribal officials.
But firming up the proposed dates of Feb. 2 and 4 for informational meetings and Feb. 9 for a town meeting, will depend on whether the draft agreement can be completed in time for those meeting dates, Nugent said.
The parties set a Feb. 19 deadline to approve the development agreement.
Congdon said if the state Bond Commission hasn’t met by the time Preston is ready to vote on the purchase and sale agreement, the town could approve the agreement on condition that the state provide the $10 million in cleanup money. The memorandum of understanding signed by tribal and town leaders in May contained the provision of state cleanup funding as well.

Manchester touts $86.4M in construction in 2016

Manchester experienced success with business growth and economic expansion in 2016, the town's director of planning and economic development said in a report released this week.
The value of construction projects grew for the third consecutive year in 2016, Gary Anderson, directing planner, says in the economic update.
The Building Department is able to track the value of construction projects because building permit fees are based in part on total estimated construction value, Anderson said.
Since the 2013 fiscal year, the value of new construction has more than doubled, rising from $34.7 million that year to $86.4 million in 2016, he said. It's also a marked increase from 2015, when construction value stood at $59.7 million.
The department expects continued growth in 2017, though there will be little expansion from the prior year, Anderson said. He estimated new construction at approximately $90 million this year, he said.
"While Manchester has very little developable commercial land remaining, we have seen continued interest in redevelopment of under-utilized properties and re-purposing of existing spaces," he said.
"In recent months, there has been a notable uptick in both activity and interest" in several parts of town, including aerospace and medical industry expansions in the Progress Drive business park and the commercial district on Tolland Turnpike, he continued. Vacant spaces in Buckland, the downtown area, and other commercial areas have also filled up in the past year, as "the development community, business leaders, and entrepreneurs continue to see Manchester as an attractive place to be," Anderson said.
Key projects contributing to Manchester's economic success this year included a new production facility for HydroFera, a manufacturer of medical sponges. The company has invested more than $1 million into 340 Progress Drive and will employ 50 workers, some of whom will be new hires. Additional significant new business developments include the East Point Cancer Center on Tolland Turnpike, which will employ up to 50 and serve 30 patients daily, and the Homewood Suites hotel on Pavilions Drive, which will give the town more than 500 total hotel rooms. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

North Haven another step closer to redevelopment of former Pratt and Whitney plant

NORTH HAVEN >> The town has done all it can do to facilitate the redevelopment of the former Pratt and Whitney plant, town officials said. Last week the Planning and Zoning Commission held a special meeting to approve the town’s application to extend Valley Service Road 700 feet into the former plant. The plans for the road were approved back in 2008, and the money was allocated then - $2.2 million, $1.6 million of which comes from the state. Planning and Zoning Commission chairman Vern Carlson could not be reached for comment. First Selectman Michael Freda said the road is the final stage of the project that needs town involvement. After that, it’s up to the property owner, Rabina Properties, to sign a deal with the end user, which hasn’t been publicly identified.
It’s a project Freda has been working on for months. In September, both the Inland Wetlands and Planning and Zoning commissions approved applications for the project, a 1.5 million-square-foot warehouse to be built on the 165-acre site at 415 Washington Ave. The plans also call for 245 tractor trailer parking spaces, approximately 47 loading docks, parking for approximately 2,500 cars and an overflow parking for 500 more spaces, making it one of the most significant projects in the town’s recent history. The project, if it comes to fruition, is expected to bring at least 1,000 jobs to North Haven. But deals like this can fall apart at any time, so Freda has declined to name to end user, but he said it is looking good that it will be finalized soon and an announcement could be made in the next two months. Rabina Properties acquired the former Pratt and Whitney site in 2001 and dubbed it Northeast Gateway Industrial Park, billing it as “the largest shovel-ready industrial commercial site available in the region.” Its location, between New York City and Boston, makes it “one of the most accessible industrial-commercial sites in the northeast,” according to its marketing materials. A representative from Rabina Properties couldn’t be reached for comment. The town has been involved in the steps necessary to bring the interested end user’s plans to a successful conclusion, Freda said, including his meetings with the State Traffic Commission earlier this month that he describes as “smooth.” The approvals to extend Valley Service Road was the last piece the town needed to contribute to make the project possible, Freda said.
“The road to be extended was actually approved back in 2008. There’s a total of $2.2 million allocated for this that was approved at a town meeting back in 2008. $1.6 of that is state funding,” he said. “So as we are trying to finalize this project with Rabina Properties, one of the procedural things we had to do was finalize this extension of the road from the end of Valley Service Road into the property itself. The town is working with the engineers to have that road extended to utilize the funding that has been in place for eight years.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

NCCC building on schedule

WINSTED – The building under construction for Northwestern Connecticut Community College’s veterinarian technology and allied health programs is on schedule and within its $28.7 million budget.
The project began in December 2015 and is scheduled for completion in July.
“We’re looking to be in the building for the fall semester,” NCCC’s Dean of Administration Steven Frazier said last week.
Frazier said there was one three-week delay when the contractor, Lawrence Brunoli Inc. of Farmington, realized he needed 318 steel beams instead of 294.
“So it took them a little longer to put in the extra ones and figure out where they had to go,” he said. “But they’ve made up most of that time.”
Frazier said workers will begin installing the windows soon “and buttoning up the rest of the building.” Eversource was there on Thursday to begin hooking the 24,000-square-foot building up with electricity.
Frazier said he has also ordered $1.5 million worth of equipment that should be delivered in the summer.
“That gives us 2 and a half months to get everything squared away,” he said. “We’re on top of it.”
But the existing allied health and vet tech building, the Joyner Learning Center, has to be demolished once the new building is complete. Frazier estimated demolition to take four to six weeks. The fall semester is slated to begin in early September.
“That doesn’t give us a lot of time,” he said.
But he said 60 percent of the equipment and furniture has already been removed from the Joyner Center, even though there are still a half dozen classes being held there.
“There are surgical labs we can’t copy anywhere else,” he said.
The Joyner Center on South Main Street, adjacent to the Route 8 southbound exit, was built in 1957 and was originally a supermarket. The new building is going up where Joyner’s parking lot was and once the Joyner Center is knocked down, a new parking lot will go there. Frazier said this will cause NCCC to lose 10 spaces, from 125 to 115, but that should not make it difficult for students and staff to find a parking space.
Grantley S. Adams, NCCC’s director of marketing and public relations, said enrollment figures for the vet tech and allied health programs were 119 and 226, respectively, in the fall of 2016.
The state bond commission approved $24.6 million for the project. Another $2 million in equipment and telecommunications previously bonded makes up roughly half the $4.1 million difference. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 19, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday Januaty 19, 2017


Renovations to Route 133 bridge on Brookfield-Bridgewater border topic of meeting

BROOKFIELD - The state intends to rehabilitate the 851-foot bridge on Route 133 over the Housatonic River beginning in Spring 2019.
The Department of Transportation will hold an informational meeting on the $7.1 million project, which would be paid for through state and federal funds, next week at Town Hall.
The proposed project includes repairs to the deck, joints and parapet, drainage improvements and painting of the bearings on the structure, which straddles the border between Brookfield and Bridgewater.
 The bridge was built in 1955 and rehabilitated in 1998 and 2011. In 1998, the state strengthened and lightened the structure, while in 2011 it replaced the rivets with high-strength bolts, DOT District Engineer John Dunham said.
But in 2015, a state report found the bridge was “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete,” he said.
“That sounds really bad, but it's just terms when describing the condition of the bridge and it’s not to say that it’s unsafe,” Dunham said.
Still, the report sparked an evaluation of the structure as part of a statewide program to keep bridges in good condition, Dunham said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Meriden school board puts $1.5 million roof replacement project out to bid

MERIDEN — The Board of Education voted to put an estimated $1.5 million roof replacement project at Roger Sherman Elementary School out to bid.
The City Council voted last year to add the replacement of the school’s 26-year-old roof to the city’s capital improvement plan. On Tuesday, the board voted to put the project out to bid, with construction expected to begin this spring.
 “The roof is 53,000 square feet and the last time it was replaced was 1989,” said Michael Grove, assistant school superintendent of finance and administration.
Architects for Silver/Petrucelli Associates Inc. presented design plans and a cost estimate to the School Building Committee earlier this month. Construction is expected to begin this spring and end in the fall, Grove said

The Board of Education first proposed adding the roof replacement project to city’s capital improvement plan about five years ago, but the project has been postponed due to other bonding priorities, such as renovations at Platt and Maloney high school.
During budget deliberations in 2015, then councilor and current Mayor Kevin Scarpati expressed concern about putting the project off due to student safety. Grove assured the council that a structural engineer assessed all school roofs and deemed them safe following heavy snow that winter. At the time, then City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior recommended that the project be put off until fiscal year 2017-18.
In other construction updates, Board member John Lineen reported crews are still laying the floor in the main gym at Platt High School and the administrative offices are nearing completion. They expect the school to be finished by summer. Renovations at Maloney High School are complete besides some landscaping this spring.

Future plans discussed for former train station destroyed by fire

BERLIN — Mayor Mark Kaczynski said this week that the town isn’t opposed to future redevelopment on the site of the former train station, which was destroyed in a fire last month.
“We’re not committing to anything, we’re just going to advocate,” he said. “We hope they can do something with that area.”
  Since the Dec. 21 fire, some community members have been pushing to reuse the Depot Road site. The Berlin Historical Society is circulating an online petition to rebuild the station. The Economic Development Commission has also been discussing future plans for the area.
“The loss was catastrophic for our community, as we had high hopes for it being reopened as a museum and event space,” said Lorraine Stub, historical society secretary.

The century-old building was undergoing renovations at the time of the fire. A new station is also being built next door.
Town councilors addressed the issue at a meeting earlier this week.
“This was a big loss for Berlin,” Town Councilor Rachel Rochette said. “We don’t own that train station at the moment, so I’m not even sure what the process would be.”
Amtrak owns the building, and was leasing to the state Department of Transportation.
Rochette suggested a restaurant on the site, with a portion of the building dedicated to the old station.
Town Councilor Brenden Luddy said insurance issues have to be resolved before any future plans can be formulated.
“There was construction in process and claims that are associated with that; I really think it’s premature,” he said.
Fire Marshal Steve Waznia said the cause of the fire has not been determined and the investigation is ongoing.
MOHEGAN - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that an additional $10 million is on the agenda of the State Bond Commission for clean-up efforts to support the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's non-casino resort development concept at the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston.
Malloy was at a press conference Tuesday at Mohegan Sun's Sky Tower along with Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin "Red Eagle" Brown, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Preston First Selectman Bob Congdon in which the tribe unveiled concepts for the project.
Brown said the gaming authority's concept is the culmination of years of "hard effort" by local, state, federal and tribal authorities.
"There's been a whole lot of years and a whole lot of hard effort that has gone into getting us into this moment we're at now," Brown said. "I wouldn't want anyone to think this is all a result of the Mohegan Sun Tribe stepping in and deciding we wanted to be the ones who developed this property.
"This is a cooperative regional solution," he said. "It's about all of us and achieving a collective goal."
Brown said the development, which could cost between $200 million and $600 million, would feature outdoor and indoor entertainment attractions, large performance venue, time-share unit and retail-restaurant space, among other amenities. He said a timeline for development would be: One more year to clean the land, two years before any ground is broken for construction and five years before Preston reaps any tax benefits from it.
Congdon said the "current Grand List is $387 million" and that there is the "potential" to eventually double that value.
The 393-acre property, on the Norwich-Preston line, has been vacant since 1996. Preston bought the land from the state in 2009 for $1. Since then, the town has spent nearly $20 million, including $9 million from the state, to clean up the property and demolish buildings to prepare the site for development.
Malloy acknowledged Tuesday that the state was "grossly unfair" to all parties involved for leaving the property in terrible condition. He said he was glad it had provided bonding to help with the cleanup. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Rocky Hill Moves Forward On Intermediate School

The town council took the next step on the intermediate school project approved by voters in November, by establishing a building committee .
The $48 million intermediate school was approved during a referendum after the town's elementary school population grew too large for the two existing elementary schools.
During the town council meeting Tuesday night, Town Manager John Mehr said the state requires municipalities to set up a building committee to oversee the management of the project.
"What this resolution aims to do is establish a building committee that satisfies the state's needs and the town's needs," Mehr said. "So that we have representative from the board of ed and the town council...and this would be the main committee that oversees the so called day-to-day of the project." Mehr said the committee would interview and vet candidates for architect, construction manager and contractors and then make recommendations to the council. 
"When it comes to the contracts associated with architects and construction manager and when we get into the trades it would come to this committee here and they would bring a recommendation to the town council and the town council would have to approve entering into the contracts," he said
Mayor Claudia Baio said the committee would be comprised of two members of the council, two members of the board of education and three members of the public building commission. Members of the committee can resign from the position, but cannot be voted off the during subsequent elections.
Council member Tony LaRosa said he thought keeping members consistent on the committee was a good thing.
"It'll outlive the next election," he said. "So whoever will be on this committee will continue to the end of the project and I like that."
Baio said that the committee had been designed that way, after problems with continuity cropped up during the town's renovation of the high school.
"That was the intention to keep continuity and avoid any interruptions," she said.

Why does our transportation system stink? Ask Connecticut

If you’re wondering why American infrastructure stinks, don’t just look at Washington, D.C. Look at what’s going on right now in southeastern Connecticut.
Last month, as part of an effort to shave 45 minutes off the Acela commute between Boston and New York, the Federal Railroad Administration announced its support for a 30-mile bypass around existing train tracks along the Connecticut shore. Lots of people in Connecticut hate the idea, because the new high-speed railway would cut a new path through farms, conservation land, and historic areas — and around downtown New London, where local officials are eager to hold on to Amtrak service.
Governor Dannel Malloy and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy swiftly issued a joint statement opposing the bypass, which they say has “inflamed” the affected communities. Blumenthal raised the issue last week in confirmation hearings for Elaine Chao, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for transportation secretary.
Even the most useful project stands little chance when leaders of the state where most of the work would happen resolutely oppose it. The uproar in Connecticut highlights a much broader obstacle to improving America’s transportation systems. Beyond a dearth of public investment — which is also a problem — we can’t strike the political compromises, or absorb the inconveniences, necessary to make major projects happen.