HARTFORD >> The U.S. Navy is working to develop a new high-tech gadget that can quickly identify whether a debilitating iron sulfide mineral exists in concrete, the same problem that’s plaguing thousands of Connecticut homeowners with crumbling foundations.
Late last year, unbeknownst to many Connecticut officials, the Navy began seeking out small businesses to invent a device that can quickly detect pyrrhotite in concrete. The mineral is known to naturally react over years with water and oxygen, causing devastating damage to concrete basements and foundations.
“As a large consumer of concrete, with a big footprint of military installations in the U.S., they actually decided they wanted to find a way to make sure their structures are sound,” said Courtney. Currently, no Navy structures have been identified as having problems associated with pyrrhotite. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington recently chose three companies to begin developing a portable device or test kit that can analyze pyrrhotite in damaged concrete structures, as well as loose aggregate before it is mixed into fresh concrete. The firms have received federal funding to test their hypotheses that their proposed technologies can detect pyrrhotite in a controlled environment, a process that should take six months, said Theresa Hoffard, research chemist at the Command. Prototypes are expected to be developed by the end of the second phase of the process, which usually takes two years. If a company makes it that far, the third and final phase involves commercialization of the product. “We are hopeful that a viable device will be produced, but cannot predict with certainty,” Hoffard said. He added how the Navy wants to prevent future Navy concrete construction from inadvertently using pyrrhotite. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Operator selected for CTrail Hartford Line bid $41.8 million; management team must live in state
The $41.8 million bid from the joint venture selected to operate the CTrail Hartford Line came in among the middle of the five proposals submitted to the state Department of Transportation, putting it $10.1 million above the lowest proposal.
TransitAmerica and Alternative Concepts Inc., the two companies forming the joint venture, performed well enough on a technical evaluation, which accounted for 60 percent of the scoring, to win the contract, according to records the Record-Journal obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DOT Commissioner James Redeker announced Monday that the DOT selected the joint venture, named TASI/ACI, as the operator of the commuter line. TASI/ACI beat out Amtrak, which owns the railroad, First Transit Inc., Keolis Rail Services and Bombardier.
TASI/ACI did propose the lowest startup costs, with just $1.3 million to get the rail line mobilized. First Transit Inc., proposing $1.6 million for startup costs, was the only other company to request less than $3 million for the mobilization phase. The state is pushing back the start of service to May 2018 — it was originally January — to allow more time for construction and other mobilization.
TASI/ACI’s proposed operation costs, though, were in the middle of the pack, averaging $8.1 million over the five-year period of the contract. Amtrak, at $8.5 million annually, and Keolis Rail Services, at $8.7 million, were the two higher proposals. First Transit, at $6 million, and Bombardier, at $5.8 million, both pitched lower prices.TASI/ACI comfortably outperformed the other bidders on the technical evaluation, though, earning 54.1 out of a possible 60 points. Amtrak, with 51.5 points, was the only company within 10 points of TASI/ACI’s proposal.
Rich Andreski, chief of DOT’s Public Transportation Bureau, said the process was intended to avoid having to merely select the lowest bidder.
“It’s subjective in that we’re using our professional experience,” Andreski said.
The evaluation scored each company based on their oral presentation, management team, experience and overall proposal.
Andreski said the DOT was particularly drawn to TASI/ACI’s experience in startup lines. Of the 20 combined rail lines the companies have serviced or currently service, 11 were “new starts.”
Andreski said the process for starting a new rail line is highly regulated, including a roughly 130-point checklist from the Federal Railroad Authority.
Among those startups is Tren Urbano, a Puerto Rican rail line that is also served by TASI/ACI. Officials with Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation and Public Safety didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Efforts to seek comment from some of the other rail providers served by either company were also unsuccessful.
Andreski said the DOT also looked favorably upon the TASI/ACI management team, which will be led by General Manager Douglas Hahn, who currently holds the same position for the Altamont Corridor Express in California. That line is serviced by Herzog Transit Services, Inc., of which TransitAmerica is a subsidiary.
The contract between the DOT and TASI/ACI requires that the general manager and three other “key personnel” reside in Connecticut. Additionally, it requires DOT approval for the hiring or removal of someone in any of the four positions: general manager, chief transportation officer, and the managers of stations and parking, and of safety and training.
The contract also mandates that service runs from 5 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. during weekdays, and 6:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Northbound trains leaving New Haven during the week are expected to depart at 4:55 a.m., 7:20 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. in the morning, followed by afternoon/evening services at 3:12 p.m., 4:35 p.m., 6:25 p.m., and 9:20 p.m. Trains leaving New Haven are expected to take roughly 40 minutes to reach Hartford and 90 minutes to arrive in Springfield.
Southbound trains are expected to arrive in New Haven at 8:01 a.m., 9:35 a.m., and 11:56 a.m., as well as 3 p.m., 5:11 p.m., 6:27 p.m., 10:36 p.m., and 11:30 p.m. in the afternoon/evening.
DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said the agency and TASI/ACI still need to negotiate fares for the new rail line, but he pointed to Shoreline East as a reference. That rail line, operated by Amtrak, charges $7.25 per trip to ride from New London to New Haven, or $152.25 for a monthly pass. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
One bridge on River Road over Choate Brook at the scenic entrance to Hidden Acres Family Campground might qualify for federal preservation funds, First Selectman Robert Congdon said. A bridge on Parks Road over Broad Brook and a Cooktown Road bridge over an unnamed brook each could qualify for rehabilitation or replacement funding.
The town has received a proposal from Cardinal Engineering Associates of Litchfield for $750 per bridge to inspect the three bridges and determine their condition and whether the town should apply for the grant through the state Department of Transportation. The bridges would qualify for 80 percent federal reimbursement, Congdon said.
The cost to refurbish or replace any of the bridges would not be known until the engineering study is done, Congdon said.
The Board of Selectmen received the proposal at Thursday's meeting and could vote on whether to hire the firm at a future meeting.
Minnesota bridge collapse still reverberates 10 years later
Ten years ago Tuesday, a bridge carrying a busy stretch of freeway collapsed without warning into the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis during the evening rush hour. Many leaders saw the disaster, which killed 13 people and injured 145, as a wake-up call about the country's deteriorating infrastructure.Here's a look at what happened, what's changed since then, and how Minnesota is marking the anniversary:
The collapseThe Interstate 35W bridge was one of the busiest in Minnesota before it fell Aug. 1, 2007.First responders scrambled to rescue survivors from the debris, including a school bus carrying 52 students and several adults. Navy divers spent two weeks recovering bodies from dark waters full of sharp steel. Federal investigators stayed for months. A fast-tracked replacement opened less than 14 months later.
The state and two contractors ultimately paid out more than $100 million to survivors and families of the dead. Most used the money to cover medical bills and get on with their lives. One young survivor from the bus used much of his money in 2014 to travel to Turkey and Syria to join the Islamic State group. He's still believed to be in Syria.
The causeWhile the collapse drew attention to the condition of America's aging infrastructure, federal investigators said poor maintenance wasn't the chief cause. They ruled it was a design defect in the bridge, which was built in the 1960's.
The National Transportation Safety Board said that crucial gusset plates that held the bridge's beams together were only half as thick as they should have been. A contributing factor was the nearly 300 tons of construction materials stockpiled on the deck for renovations.
The 35W bridge had been rated "structurally deficient," a term that means in need of repair or replacement, before it fell. It was also "fracture critical," which means bridges are at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails. While neither category means there is an immediate safety threat, they are red flags.
What changedThe American Society of Civil Engineers says the number of structurally deficient bridges nationwide declined from 12 percent in 2007 to 9 percent today. Minnesota improved from 8 percent to 6 percent, according to the group's latest report card on the country's infrastructure. The figures ranged from 2 percent in Nevada to 25 percent in Rhode Island. The report card still estimates it would take $123 billion to address the nation's backlog of bridge rehabilitation needs.
The improvements happened because states stepped up, said Andy Hermann, a former president of the society and one of its experts on bridges. He said federal funding has been "pretty stagnant," but about 20 states raised taxes to increase their bridge spending.
Minnesota launched a 10-year, $2.5 billion improvement program in 2008 that targeted 172 structurally deficient or fracture-critical bridges. About 120 of them have been replaced or repaired, or will be soon. Another 32 need only routine maintenance. Most of the rest will be repaired or replaced by late 2018. And the state now requires a formal independent peer review during the design phase for major bridges to minimize the risk of critical errors. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Senate Committee: DOT to Receive Funding in Key Areas
The spending plan is $978 million above the DOT's current levels, and almost $3.3 billion more than what President Trump had requested.
The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation July 27 that would provide a $19.5 billion funding boost for the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2018, The Hill reported.
The spending plan is $978 million above the DOT's current levels, and almost $3.3 billion more than what President Trump had requested. In addition, the Senate bill will also provide a $50 million increase to funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) for a total of $550 million, The Hill reported.
TIGER, which was put in place by the Obama-era economic stimulus package, is a discretionary grant program that allows the DOT to work on road, rail, transit and port projects that will benefit the country, although it was never Congress-approved.
In his budget request, President Trump proposed killing the program, which the House honored in passing a spending bill July 17, cutting the DOT's budget by $646 million. However, bipartisan opposition voiced their concerns about doing away with TIGER, according to The Hill.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair of the Senate subcommittee on transportation and housing, called the Trump administration's proposal approach “incredibly irresponsible,” and said an increase in TIGER's funding was key, as the nation's infrastructure is in poor condition.Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member on the full committee, said, “This bill rejects the shortsighted budget that was put forward by President Trump.”
In the bill, the Appropriations Committee allowed for more funding to pay for airport infrastructure by raising a federal cap on the fee that airports are allowed to charge passengers to support infrastructure costs from $4.50 to $8.50. Both airports and travel advocates have long been in favor of the cap's increase or removal, saying that it will allow for improvements to be made without the need for federal funding, The Hill reported.
Additionally, the bill would allow for the Federal-Aid Highways Program to receive $45 billion in funding from the Highway Trust Fund; $1.1 billion would go to the Federal Aviation Administration's modernization program; and the Capital Investment Grant transit program would receive $2.1 billion.
New gas line in Wolcott may get extended to center of town
WOLCOTT – A new gas line to Tyrrell Middle School could be the start of an effort to bring natural gas into the center of town.
Last week, Eversource Energy crews extended a gas line from Meriden Road about 1,500 feet onto Todd Road to serve Tyrrell Middle School. Next year, town officials hope the line can be extended all the way down Todd Road to Nichols Road.
The future line could provide fuel for the public works facility, Frisbie Elementary School, Wolcott Police Department and Wolcott Senior Center, along with homes along the route.
At Tyrrell, the school’s water heating system, which is nearly 20 years old and fueled by oil, will be replaced with new equipment that runs on natural gas. The conversion will save a significant amount of money, Facilities Director Dave Stankus said. A dollar estimate was not yet available.
School officials initiated discussions with Eversource about extending gas service to Tyrrell. Eversource determined it could install the gas line at no cost because it expects to profit from having the school as a natural gas customer.
The new heating system should be running by mid-August, Stankus said. For now, the school will continue to use oil-fueled boilers to heat the building.
However, that may change in 2018, when Tyrrell is due to replace its oil storage tanks, which are nearing 30 years of age. The district will study whether converting the rest of the heating system to natural gas would be more cost efficient, Stankus said. In that case, the district would remove and abandon its oil tanks.
Tyrrell is the second Wolcott school to begin using natural gas. In 2013, the town paid to install a gas line to Wolcott High School. The conversion from oil to natural gas saved about $67,000 in 2014, school officials said at the time. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
OSHA Revises Online Whistleblower Complaint Form
OSHA recently revised its online whistleblower complaint form to help users file a complaint with the appropriate agency. The form provides workers with another option for submitting retaliation complaints.
The updated form guides individuals through the process as they file a complaint, providing essential questions at the beginning so they can better understand and exercise their rights under relevant laws. One significant improvement to the system includes pop-up boxes with information about various agencies for individuals who indicate that they have engaged in protected activity that may be addressed by an agency other than OSHA. The new form is available in both English and Spanish.
“Workers who report unsafe conditions and wrongdoing have a range of legal protections from retaliation,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “The revised online complaint form works to ensure whistleblowers file their complaints with the appropriate federal agency for prompt action.”
In addition to the online form, workers can file complaints by fax, mail or hand-delivery; contacting the agency at 800-321-6742; or calling an OSHA regional or area office.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/.
For more information, visit www.osha.gov.