July 31, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday July 31, 2017

Navy seeks tool to detect damaging mineral in concrete

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.

“It would be a very positive development,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, acknowledging the technology could be years away. The Democrat’s district includes many of the 36 Connecticut communities identified as potentially having the crumbling basement problem.A Vernon resident, Courtney said some of his affected neighbors have tested for pyrrhotite, an expensive process involving multiple borings into concrete walls. The ultimate fix involves replacing an entire foundation or basement could have a price tag up to $200,000.  Courtney said the Navy’s efforts have been totally independent of any requests made by the state’s congressional delegation or Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who have been working to persuade the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide financial assistance to the homeowners for what they contend is a slow-moving natural disaster.
“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
Preston — Town officials are considering a proposal from an engineering firm to inspect three bridges on local roads to determine whether the town should apply for federal transportation funds to refurbish or replace the structures.
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.”
More Funding
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.

July 28, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday July 28, 2017

EL President Remembers Misery, But Calls Dunkin’ Donuts Park A Gem

It was August 2016 and those associated with the construction of Dunkin' Donuts Park all seemed to be in bad mood.
For good reason. Construction at the stadium site had been halted, the rhetoric had heightened and the Yard Goats were nearing the end of their nomadic Eastern League season spent on buses and in cramped hotel rooms.
Finally, there was a press conference in Hartford and up to the microphone stepped Eastern League president Joe McEacharn, clearly aggravated with what had been going on.
"We cannot risk 2017 being played on the road, and we're not going to," McEacharn said that day. "The only thing that can happen here, if this stadium is not done, is baseball will not come to Hartford."
Nearly a year later, Dunkin' Donuts Park is up and running in spectacular form. McEacharn reminisced about the tough times and reiterated that the Eastern League was prepared to move the Yard Goats out of Hartford if the stadium was not ready.
"I can't go into too much detail, due to confidentiality and sensitive things," McEacharn said. "The solution was a far-reaching option with no assurance that it would have happened. But it would have involved vacating Hartford on a permanent basis and going somewhere else and establishing an Eastern League franchise there. It was a last option. We had to do anything short of shooting your foot off to be sure that team had a home."
After initially being excited about the stadium project, McEacharn said the Eastern League first became aware of the construction problems in August 2015.
"There were a lot of warning signs. We always knew it was going to be a challenge, but at that time we began to focus in on whether there would be enough time to complete it," McEacharn said. "At that point, there were questions asked, concerns raised and addressed. There were no allegations. There was no jumping up and down. We just pointed out what we felt we inconsistencies with the schedule we'd been provided. We were concerned about bad weather with the winter approaching. I started coming down on a fairly regular basis and each time it became apparent that there were serious problems due to the continual revision of schedules. You could see we were falling further behind and this was even before the economic issues became apparent." Before baseball's winter meetings in 2015, McEacharn traveled to Hartford to get a sense for himself where the project stood.
"I had a heart-to-heart with all of the parties," McEacharn said. "The stories were so off the wall. And they insisted on telling us that everything was still fine, no problem. That's when I knew we were dead in the water. They weren't being realistic. I was thinking, 'Just look around, guys.' Then the bombshell of the economic shortcomings came down. They didn't tell us that at that meeting, either." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Proposed developer for New Haven’s Strong School under scrutiny 

NEW HAVEN >> Same project. Same questions. Same criticism. The Fair Haven community was back this week to respond specifically to whether a proposed developer who wants to remake the Strong School has the financials and track record to pull it off.
The conclusion of a report given to the Select Review Committee for the Strong School by concerned citizens, who did their own vetting, was that David Lazarus of the Park Lane Group, in partnership with Maynard Road Corp., was wanting on both counts.Contributing to the report were a developer, a former banker and an architect, who referenced specific pages in the documents submitted by Lazarus.Several of the estimated 60 people who attended the meeting were reached for comment Thursday.
“Their financial proforma was not compiled to a point where you could make a knowledgable decision to move forward on the project. It is important to have all the figures before you make a decision. There is not enough there,” David Hunter, president and CEO of the nearby Mary Wade Home, said. Hunter, who has been involved in expansion projects at Mary Wade and redevelopment of surrounding homes in Fair Haven, said gettng the paperwork together in a timely manner for tax credits and grants, as planned by Lararus, can be “very challenging” to keep the development moving forward. Hunter pointed to a project in Bristol where Park Lane and Maynard Road signed a deal in 2015, according to news reports, to renovate two schools with completion set for 2016. The community report said at this point it appears construction remains in the early stages.  It added that the project seems to be a much better deal for Lazarus than the Strong School and asks, if it is delayed, whether that also would happen to the Strong School plan. Crystal Manning, who lives near Strong School, said the Bristol proposal is listed as an example of work they have done similar to the plan for Strong “It doesn’t count as experience unless you have already done it,” Manning said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

DOT values expertise over price in rail competition

Connecticut rejected the lowest of five bidders for the contract to operate train service on the new Hartford Line, instead picking the overall top scorer in a ranking system that valued expertise and experience over price, according to scoring sheets released Thursday by the Department of Transportation.
A joint venture of TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts, which was named Monday as the system operator, bid $41.7 million to launch and operate the system for five years. Its price was $10 million more than the lowest of five bidders, but nearly $4 million cheaper than the runner-up in overall scoring, Amtrak.
Five DOT employees with backgrounds ranging from finance to transit operations scored the presentations of the five competitors, awarding a series of numeric scores on technical criteria that counted for 60 percent of the overall score. The other 40 percent was based on pricing submitted in sealed bids not opened until the technical assessments were complete.
“We didn’t want the other evaluations to be swayed by price,” said Richard Andreski, the public transit chief and one of the five judges.
The bidders were judged on factors such as mobilization, which is the process of ramping up a new rail line, the expertise of the management team that would oversee the Hartford Line, and the experience of the companies and their employees in launching and operating a new rail service.
“The split between pricing and technical assessment was a judgment call. While price is important, we didn’t want it to be the primary factor,” Andreski said. “You end up getting what you pay for.”
While Amtrak is the better-known brand, TransAmerica Services is the largest private operator of passenger rail.
The DOT released the scoring sheets at the close of business Thursday after a review by lawyers, and Andreski answered questions about them in a telephone interview Thursday evening. CT Mirror requested them Monday afternoon after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and DOT officials announced the winner of the selection process at a train station in Walingford.
The names of the judges were redacted from the documents, but Andreski acknowledged he was one of the five. Three of the five judges gave their top scores to TASI/ACI, as the joint venture is known in DOT documents. The other two judges ranked it second. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 27, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday July 27, 2017

State energy plan calls for more renewables

Perhaps the biggest energy question in Connecticut at the moment is what will happen to its massive nuclear generator – Dominion-owned Millstone Power Station.
What, if anything, state energy policy experts think should be done to help the plant, which has said it is struggling against low natural gas prices, is not answered in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES), a draft of which the agency unveiled Wednesday.
Gov. Dannel Malloy issued an executive order this week instructing DEEP to assess the economic viability of Millstone's reactors a task that may involve a reluctant Dominion opening its books, perhaps behind closed doors, to regulators.
DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee said Wednesday that the Millstone evaluation will be one of his agency's biggest projects over the coming months, as the report is due Feb. 1, in time for the 2018 legislative session.
"We assembled a team to get started yesterday," said Klee, who called on Millstone and other energy sector players to work cooperatively with DEEP during the process.
Millstone lobbied hard for legislative action in the recently concluded session, but ultimately could not get a bill through the House that would have instructed utilities to purchase a sizable amount of nuclear power directly through a bidding process. The company has said it still hopes for legislative action in a special session, though DEEP's analysis won't be ready by then.
Dominion faces opposition from fossil fuel generators and others who argued the bill would lead to higher utility bills in a state that already has the highest energy prices in the country.
RPS growth
While the nuclear question remains on the table, the new CES plan, which DEEP will finalize after a public comment period, weighs in on many other areas of consequence in the energy sector.
One of the main goals of the CES is to help Connecticut meet its lofty emissions-reduction pledges, which call for an 80 percent reduction below 2001 emissions levels by 2050.
A major change in the CES, should the legislature agree to pass it into law, would be to increase the so-called renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires utilities and electricity suppliers to purchase a steadily increasing amount of electricity from various renewable sources. Those source can range from solar, wind and fuel cells to landfill methane, geothermal and waste incineration.
Ratepayers pay a premium for the right to use cleaner energy in the place of fossil fuel generation. DEEP estimates that the annual net cost of the RPS program will approach $400 million in the years ahead. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Public Hearing On New Town Hall Plans Scheduled For August

The town council took the next step toward a new town hall by setting a public hearing date for early August on the proposed $28.8 million project.
The public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 and will allow residents to comment on the project before the council votes to send the plans to referendum.
"We are on the move. It's been a heck of a ride and I think both sides of the table have worked together to make this happen," Mayor Roy Zartarian said.
At a meeting last month, the town council heard preliminary plans for the new building design.
According to the plan, board of education offices will be on the third floor with government and human services offices on the second floor. Town council chambers, community television and the Transition Academy will occupy the first floor.
Architect Tom Arcari said plans for the community center space include two full-sized basketball courts, locker rooms, a kitchen, a multipurpose room and craft rooms. The plan also includes more storage space and a discrete entrance for human services.
"We anticipate the new building would be a 100-year building. We think it'll meet all the programmatic needs for a long time," Arcari said.
If approved by voters at a November referendum, the new building would be in the upper town hall parking lot. During construction no town offices would be moved, saving the town $2 million, and the old building would be demolished upon completion of the new facility. The project was originally billed for $29.5 million, but the price tag decreased to $28.8 million thanks to an extra bonding item that was mistakenly included in the total. The use of some capital improvement funds earmarked for the renovation project also brought down the cost. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Reluctant states raise gas taxes to repair roads

WASHINGTON Motorists don't like to pay more at the pump, and lawmakers worry that if they raise taxes on gasoline, they'll be voted out of office. But states rely on those taxes to build and maintain roads and bridges. With revenue lagging, those structures have been falling into disrepair in many places.
Despite the tough politics, 26 states have raised taxes on motor fuels in the past four years. The eight states that raised taxes this year include Tennessee and South Carolina, deep red states dominated by fiscal conservatives.
"We've seen more bipartisan agreement on raising gas taxes than almost any other tax out there," said Jared Walczak, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.
Lawmakers say the sorry condition of their state's roads and bridges compelled them to act. "The deterioration of the infrastructure, particularly the highways, in South Carolina was the impetus," House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, a Republican, said of the law he shepherded through the Legislature. More than half the roads in South Carolina are in poor condition, according to the state Transportation Department.
Gas tax deals are often crafted to reassure voters that their money will be spent wisely. South Carolina and Oregon's latest laws changed some of the rules governing their transportation commissions. California referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would guarantee new revenue raised by certain taxes on fuel and vehicle license fees will be spent on transportation.
And in South Carolina, Tennessee and New Jersey which raised gas taxes last year getting conservative lawmakers to vote for raising the gas tax required simultaneously cutting other taxes that fund general operations.
The gas tax increases typically involve a few more cents a gallon over several years. That's enough to raise some of the funding needed to take on each state's backlog of maintenance and expansion projects, but not enough to eliminate them entirely. South Carolina's law is projected to raise about $180 million in its first year, with annual revenue increasing to over $700 million by 2024, for instance, while the Transportation Department says it would need $11 billion to repair every substandard road in the state.
The federal government helps states pay for some highway projects and other transportation costs. But the federal gas tax hasn't been raised in over 20 years. And while President Donald Trump has talked about investing $1 trillion in infrastructure, states are unlikely to get an influx of new cash anytime soon. Trump's proposed budget would cut funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation including to some programs that make grants to states and an infrastructure bill is currently low on Congress' list of priorities.
States are also grappling with the fact that today's cars and trucks can drive for longer distances on less fuel, and a small but growing number of vehicles don't run on gasoline at all. The eight states that raised the gas tax this year also raised some other vehicle fees and imposed others, including new $100-$150 registration fees for electric vehicles.
Spending on highways and transit has fallen over the past 15 years across all levels of government, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew also funds Stateline). State funding fell by 15 percent between 2002 and 2012 as more fuel-efficient cars hit the road and gas taxes in many states failed to keep pace with inflation. Meanwhile, transportation construction costs rose.
The result: a more than $800 billion backlog of highway and bridge projects across the country, according to the American Society for Civil Engineers. One in 5 miles of highway is in poor condition, according to the professional association's latest report. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Branford River boat launch to reopen Saturday after delays, cost overruns

BRANFORD >> The Branford River State Boat Launch will reopen for use Saturday after being closed for nearly a year.
The new launch area now includes a two-lane ramp with concrete pavers, a regraded parking lot, a paved turning area and an ADA-accessible floating dock system for the safe launching and retrieval of boats.The launch had been closed for ongoing renovations, but upgrades were only supposed to take four months.The initial renovations were completed relatively on the planned schedule, after the ramp was closed last July, Eric Ott, director of the engineering and support services division at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said. But in fall, during the final stages of work, inspectors noticed the base of the launch had moved due to settling in the soil underneath the launch where it was anchored.
According to a report completed by Triton Environmental Inc., the interlocking blocks at the base of the ramp separated from the concrete ramp panels by approximately two feet. This would be a safety risk for boaters as their trailers likely would get stuck at low tide, unable to get back out, Ott said.Even though the soil tests prior to the renovations showed the soil would not be ideal for the project, Ott said, the engineers and designers decided to proceed with the initial project anyway. They had not expected the soils to be quite as bad, he said. Ott said it is now believed that the weak soils contributed to the movement and separation at the base of the ramp. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

There is action near the station as development ramps up

Nearly two decades ago, when he was a Meriden city councilman, Mike Rohde went to a program at Yale on transit-oriented development, or TOD, the notion of building homes and businesses around transit stops.
There he heard officials from shoreline towns talk about the importance of housing near their railroad stations, something that “was not on the radar screen” at home because nearly everyone in the central Connecticut corridor commuted by car, he recalled in a recent interview.
He also learned that Meriden would be an ideal site for TOD.
Rohde would go on to become mayor of the Silver City from 2008 to 2013, and help usher in one of the most ambitious TOD projects in the state. And Meriden is not alone.
Dozens of communities — Windsor, Windsor Locks, Wallingford, Branford, Stamford, Norwalk, New Britain, Westport and others — have TOD studies or projects underway.
Officials hope the trend toward TOD will lessen traffic congestion, reduce pollution and create dense and lively town centers that can attract bright young workers, the ones the General Electrics and Aetnas say they want.
“Transit-oriented development is key to our state’s economic future,” said Garrett Eucalitto, under-secretary for transportation, conservation and development at the state’s Office of Policy and Management.
But this being Connecticut, where land use decisions are made locally, in each of the state’s 169 cities and towns, progress on TOD is moving unevenly. Some towns embrace it; some don’t.
Streetcar suburbs
The idea of settlement around transportation nodes is hardly new; much of civilization grew around ports and inland trade routes. In this country, the first wave of suburbanization was along streetcar lines out of older cities. Hartford at peak had 150 miles of trolley lines to its “streetcar suburbs.”
The coming of the automobile radically changed this semi-orderly growth pattern, especially in the years after World War II. With jobs, cars and VA mortgages, families — well, mostly white families — could live anywhere, and millions did, leaving cities and moving to new housing tracts in the suburbs. Most lived happily ever after.
But by the 1990s or thereabouts came a belated realization of a downside to the age of suburban sprawl. Acre after acre of subdivisions and strip malls promoted driving and thus fuel consumption and pollution; diminished open lands; demanded more infrastructure; increased the cost of services; isolated the poor and elderly; and limited housing variety. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 26, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Connecticut construction jobs up slightly over past year

Twenty-five states, including Connecticut, saw construction jobs increase between May and June, according to data released recently by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Over the year ending in June, the state gained 1,500 jobs, a 2.5 percent increase.
California added the most jobs during the past year with 45,500, followed by Florida (32,400), Louisiana (15,600), Texas (14,400) and Oregon (11,200).
The data showed job gain and loss from June 2016 to April, May and June of this year.
Between June 2016 and April 2017, Connecticut picked up 2,800 construction jobs. From April to May it lost 500 jobs, but gained 200 in June.
Association officials said the small number of states adding workers in the latest month may indicate a shortage of qualified job seekers, rather than a slowdown in demand for construction.
“Contractors in most of the country say they have plenty of projects booked and would like to hire more workers if they could find them, so it is likely that some states with monthly employment declines have a shortage of workers available to hire rather than a slowdown in work,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. “Given the low unemployment rate in most states, other industries are competing hard for workers, making it difficult for contractors to find new construction workers, let alone experienced ones.”
The association also urged Washington officials to help address growing labor shortages in the construction industry by taking steps to expand training opportunities for students and young adults.
Examples include expanding investments in secondary career and technical education, making it easier to establish apprenticeship training programs in all market types and allowing for more charter schools and career academies that focus on construction skills.
“The need for more craft workers in fields like construction is growing every month,” Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the association, said. “There is a correspondingly urgent need to put in place measures that can expand training opportunities for people considering careers in construction.”

Malloy orders viability study of Millstone

Waterford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed an executive order Tuesday that tasks state agencies with studying the "current and projected economic viability for the continued operation of" the Millstone Power Station.
A resource assessment is necessary for Connecticut to decide if — and how — it should take action to support nuclear power facilities and other emissions-free energy sources, the order states.
“Connecticut has become a leader in building a 21st century approach to energy, and we must not stop,” Malloy said in a statement. “We are deploying more renewable power resources and energy efficiency measures, while pursuing new, clean technologies such as battery storage and fuel cells."
"And in order for our state to have an efficient and comprehensive approach in how our energy future should be advanced, we must objectively and thoroughly review and evaluate the relevant information and market conditions of the Millstone facility and the sustainability of legacy zero-carbon generation in the context of reducing costs for consumers and moving our clean energy strategy forward,” he said.
The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority are slated to present the results of the study to the governor and the General Assembly by Feb. 1, 2018.
The executive order follows Dominion Energy's announcement in June that the company is proceeding with a "strategic assessment" of its plans for Millstone, after legislation it had sought failed in the General Assembly. The House did not move forward with legislation, passed in the Senate, that would have enabled the state to review nuclear power plants and then determine if a competitive procurement process for nuclear power should begin.
Dominion said Tuesday that it will continue its "strategic assessment" of Millstone and make a "business decision," regardless of the study announced on Tuesday.
“Dominion appreciates the Governor’s leadership in helping to ensure Millstone continues to provide critical energy, environmental and economic benefits for Connecticut," Paul Koonce, the CEO of Dominion Energy Power Generation Group, said in a statement. "However, the time for a study without action has passed."
"We remain committed to working with the Governor and legislative leaders this special session to find a solution that benefits Connecticut and ensures Millstone’s viability," he added. "We have now been engaged with Connecticut leaders for more than 21 months on this issue. Without action this year, the prospects for continued operation of Millstone diminish."
Koonce referenced that Dominion had engaged with numerous parties for 18 months about the viability of a nuclear power station in Wisconsin, without coming to an agreement. Dominion then "made a business decision to close the plant." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Why did New England’s largest electric utility diversify into water?

Eversource Energy's acquisition of Bridgeport-based Aquarion Water Co. will merge New England's largest energy company with the region's largest private water company, serving almost 4 million customers in three states.
The $1.68 billion deal is the first acquisition of a U.S. water company by a large electric utility in recent memory, analysts say, though it's too soon to predict whether it will be a trend.
"One deal doesn't make a trend," said Travis Miller, an analyst with Morningstar Inc.
Such deals are rare because most water companies (about 85 percent) are owned by governments or quasi-public entities, like Greater Hartford's Metropolitan District Commission, which means they don't trade hands very often, said Neil Kalton, managing director of utilities equity research at Wells Fargo Securities.
Aquarion for the last decade has been owned by New York-based Macquarie Infrastructure Corp., which operates and invests in infrastructure companies.
Some analysts suspect Eversource found the deal appealing because of the synergies between the two companies.Others have said it's simply a good business decision that will diversify Eversource's holdings and offset potential regulatory challenges its facing with other projects.
"Electric demand is experiencing some pressures that could slow growth opportunities, so we have seen utilities increasingly look for growth in their gas operations, and Eversource might be trying to find that growth in the water business as well," said Miller, who added that Eversource is trying to get a few gas pipeline projects off the ground, but has faced hurdles doing so. For example, Access Northeast, which would expand the Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline in New England and add liquified natural gas facilities, has faced consumer resistance and legal barriers.
Differing views
Research analysts who follow Eversource have various opinions on the main driver of the acquisition.
Miller said the deal is an opportunity to "drive synergies that benefit customers and shareholders."
The ability to serve a greater number of customers with a minimal capital investment is a huge benefit and there aren't a lot of intrinsic differences between the water company and the gas and electricity company, he said.
"They're very similar businesses in terms of managing and operating," Miller said.
The merger will give Eversource water customers in places where it has control over electricity and gas supply. Such overlapping service territories can often lead to cost savings and other strategic planning options, he said.
Kalton said the merger had less to do with leveraging synergies. While the combination could help lower financing costs and allow sharing between departments, a "unique set of circumstances"simply made it a good business decision, he said.
Kalton said Aquarion happened to be up for sale, and in Eversource's backyard, at a time when the electric utility needed to replace revenues from assets it is planning to sell in New Hampshire. Kalton said Eversource has to sell a coal power plant in New Hampshire, which was producing $30 million a year in earnings; buying Aquarion will replace those lost revenues.
"Eversource was looking for some earnings, it was plugging a hole," Kalton said.
Kalton pointed out that this is a fairly small acquisition for Eversource, as Aquarion will represent about 3 to 4 percent of Eversource's annual earnings going forward. "Honestly, it took a lot of investors by surprise," Kalton said. "Eversource had not telegraphed a pivot into water at all." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Construction Of House Street, Hebron Avenue Roundabout Postponed To 2018

The construction of a roundabout at the House Street and Hebron Avenue intersection has been postponed to 2018.
The town was hoping to begin construction on the intersection shortly after the roundabout at Hebron Avenue and New London Turnpike was substantially completed. But delays in the design process led to the postponement of the second roundabout construction.
"Despite best efforts to finalize the design and complete state and federal review and approval process, construction this year is not reasonably possible," Town Manager Richard J. Johnson said. "It was optimistic and maybe a little ambitious to complete this this summer. We were maybe a little overambitious.
"But this is a challenging project," he added. "It takes time to do it and do it well. We want the best final project we can get."
Johnson noted he is hoping to get authorization from the state Department of Transportation to bid the project in November. Construction would then begin in spring 2018. The repaving of the stretch of Hebron Avenue between Sycamore Street and Main Street would be put off until the completion of both roundabouts.
This is the second postponement of a major construction project in town this summer. Officials have also delayed the construction of a new multiuse trail between House Street and Western Boulevard to 2018.
Last year, the town received a $1.6 million grant from the state Department of Transportation to install a roundabout at the intersection of House Street and Hebron Avenue — one of two proposed along a stretch of Hebron Avenue from the Route 2 off-ramp west into the town center. Town and state officials hope the roundabouts will ease traffic congestion and reduce accidents along the mile-long stretch.
In addition to the grant, the town received $275,000 from Continental Properties, developers of One Glastonbury Place on the northern corner of House Street and Hebron Avenue. The developer is well into construction on the 145-unit rental apartment community. The money was given to the town to help pay for the roundabout. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

West Haven Council approves sale of Allingtown parking lot to developer

WEST HAVEN >> The City Council approved the sale of 9,024 square feet of the Louis Piantino Allingtown Branch Library’s parking lot in a split vote Monday night, giving developer David Beckerman’s Acorn Group property he says he needs for one of the two additional mixed-use apartment and commercial buildings he wants to build.
The buildings — like The Atwood, a nearly-complete 67-unit, four-story, 90,150-square-foot apartment and commercial building on the former site of Carroll Cut-Rate Furniture — would change the face of the center of Allingtown, which is along Route 1 just down the road from University of New Haven in the north end of town,
According to the developer’s website, “The Park View” would be built opposite the Allingtown Green along what now is Cellini Place, offering 62 apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail space. In a rendering on the Acorn website, Cellini Place looks as if it would be abandoned and paved over. “The Forest” would be built on the former site of the demolished Forest Theater at the main intersection of the Boston Post Road, Campbell Avenue and Forest Road, with an additional 50 apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space.The three buildings would collectively be known as “University Commons.” The council’s approval of the parking lot sale, by a 7-1 vote with two abstentions, came over opposition from West Haven Black Coalition President Carroll Brown, who had sent a letter to council members, and Democratic mayoral challenger Nancy Rossi, who spoke earlier during the meeting’s public comment session.
Allingtown City Council member Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5, voted against the sale, while Council Chairman Jim O’Brien, D-6, in whose district the property is, was among those voting for it. Council members David Riccio, R-At Large, and David Russell, D-7, both abstained.“We’re on our way,” said Beckerman, who attended along with Acorn Group Vice President Gary Letendre and attorney Mark Sklarz. They left after the proposed sale cleared the council’s Finance Committee by a unanimous vote with Riccio abstaining. The sale was for $106,000. The Atwood is under construction on the Boston Post Road between Taft Avenue and Atwood Place, just east of the major intersection of Route 1, Campbell Avenue and Forest Road. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut DOT Reveals Track Laying Machine

The Connecticut Department of Transportation revealed its track laying machine July 25, which will help increase train service in the region.
Crews were working in Berlin, Conn. on Tuesday laying down rail. The track laying machine made that work faster, cheaper and easier. Though it may look like it's moving slowly, it can lay down up to a mile of track per day. Crews will lay track to Newington, Conn.
“It's one of the only places in the country building a brand new railroad like this so it's exciting to be here and to see this coming to closure,” said Connecticut DOT Commissioner James Redeker.
Rocks, called ballast, were put down first so the area was ready for the track laying machine to come through. It lifts up the rail track, puts down concrete ties, aligns the track on them and pins it in place, laying the foundation of an easier commute.
The machine is being used to double-track portions of the Hartford commuter rail line, which will increase service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. The new commuter rail line service between these cities will be launching next May.
This is good news for passengers, since it will mean more than double the number of round trips than what's currently offered. It will also mean faster service and more frequent trains.
“This will be a high speed service. We've designed this and we can run up to 110 miles an hour so it'll be a really quick trip for people,” said Redeker.
The companies that will operate and manage the service will be a joint venture between TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts.
However, before the trains run there is still work to be done.
“Once we complete this stretch of the tie installation we still need to surface, adjust the rail, complete the signal system, cut overs,” said Tim Sullivan, Capital Construction senior manager.
This is the second season this machine has been used in Connecticut.
Improvements have already been made to the infrastructure. Crews have rebuilt tracks and fixed bridges.


July 25, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday July 25, 2017

Joint venture to operate new commuter rail line, Malloy announces in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Monday that TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts will jointly operate the CTrail Hartford Line, which is expected to provide more frequent service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.
Appearing at the train station under construction on North Cherry Street, Malloy also announced Monday afternoon that the start date of the CTrail Hartford Line has been pushed back from January to May in order to accommodate the installation of a second track between Hartford and Windsor.
“Creating the Hartford Line is just one part of our efforts toward building a best-in-class transportation system for Connecticut residents that drives growth, attracts businesses, and stimulates job creation, all while improving the overall quality of life for our residents,” Malloy said. “For the sake of our economy and our future, we cannot sit and let our infrastructure deteriorate.”
The state Department of Transportation conducted a bid process and cost-benefit analysis before selecting TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts.The two companies currently serve about 57 million riders and provide 318,000 trips annually across the country. Combined, they have provided services for 20 rail clients, including 11 train service startups.
The companies have operations and maintenance experience and commuter rail contracts in San Francisco, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Denver, Boston and New Jersey, as well as light rail, heavy rail and streetcar contracts throughout the country, according to Malloy.
 Amtrak owns the line and will remain responsible for maintenance, including track signals, train dispatching and security.
“We look forward to working with our partners at CTDOT and Amtrak to ensure a seamless launch and provide the more frequent, convenient and faster rail service that riders in this corridor want and deserve,” Scott Perry, president of the TransitAmerica and Alternate Concepts joint venture, said in a statement.
“Amtrak looks forward to working with CTDOT’s new commuter service provider as we continue to operate the state’s intercity services on Amtrak’s New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Line,” said Michael DeCataldo, Amtrak’s vice president of operations for the east region.
When the Hartford Line service launches, a total of 17 round-trip trains between New Haven and Hartford will operate each weekday, with 12 of those round-trip trains continuing to Springfield. On weekends, a total of 13 round-trip trains will operate between New Haven and Hartford, with nine continuing to Springfield. Train schedules and additional service information will be announced later this year. Officials said the high-speed rail can take commuters from New Haven to Springfield in 81 minutes, or 10 percent faster than current rail speeds. The trains can travel as fast as 110 mph.
Monday’s announcement also signaled the launch of DOT’s marketing plan to sell the increased commuter rail service to state residents. Officials are meeting with interested parties and local businesses to develop a marketing strategy similar to the CTfastrak bus line roll out several years ago. It took 90 days to develop a strategy after the CTfastrak service announcement. Officials hope to have a Hartford Line marketing plan sooner. They anticipate 750,000 annual riders.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
On July 19, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a historic $5.6 billion transformation of the Long Island Rail Road to strengthen the region's transportation infrastructure and usher in a new era of economic growth. After 70 years of stagnation, all 100 transformative LIRR capital projects are moving forward, including the main line third track, double track, Jamaica Station reconstruction, 39 renovated Long Island Rail Road stations and grade crossing eliminations — modernizing transportation across the region to provide a modern system for Long Island.
The $5.6 billion transformation is part of New York's $100 billion infrastructure program, the largest in the nation. A central component of this plan is building a new Hudson Tunnel between New York and New Jersey and rehabilitating the existing tubes.
The Gateway project will connect travelers from across the Northeast corridor and bring riders into the heart of the system. This critical project is complemented by the development of the new Penn-Farley Complex, featuring the new Moynihan Train Hall, a $1.6 billion, 255,000 sq. ft. facility which is expected to open in 2020. The Penn-Farley Complex also includes the newly opened West End Concourse, which enables LIRR commuters to board trains without entering Penn. Additionally, the transformative East Side Access project will create the first direct LIRR service to the east side and increase capacity to and from Manhattan.
“With the complete transformation of the Long Island Railroad, New York is recapturing the bold ambition that made our infrastructure the envy of the nation and building for the future. The LIRR is the backbone of the region's economy, and the strength and resiliency of Long Island requires bold, transformative investments to bolster our transportation network,” Cuomo said. “From the previously unthinkable third track and second track projects to state-of-the-art technology and signal upgrades, we are daring to imagine better and delivering for the people of New York once again.”
Long Island Rail Road-specific components include the following:
Main Line Third Track
The $2 billion LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track to 9.8 mi. along the congested main line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, and eliminate all seven street-level grade crossings within the project corridor. With 40 percent of LIRR passengers going through the main line, and the project corridor's critical central position in the LIRR system, delays in the project corridor have rippled across the entire LIRR and impacted thousands of commuters.
At the governor's direction and after 70 years of stagnation, the state, MTA, local officials and Long Island communities are moving forward on this $2 billion project. The transformative new plan differs significantly from past proposals. The plan takes no residential properties; eliminates seven street-level grade crossings; and widens or increases the height of seven bridges across the line to prevent bridge strikes. Additionally, five new energy-efficient parking facilities with the capacity for 3,500 vehicles are being built in coordination with the Villages of Mineola and Westbury and the Town of Oyster Bay. The facilities will include local on-site management offices.
As part of the transformative third track project, the state is undertaking a comprehensive noise abatement program — replacing all tracks and building the new third track with advanced dampening technology. The project includes sound-reducing walls along nearly 6 mi. of residential neighborhoods along the main line, and features architectural treatments to complement the surrounding environments. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 24, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday July 24, 2017

Construction of road through Centre Square could start in October

BRISTOL - The City of Bristol is aiming to begin construction in early October of a road that will run through Centre Square and connect Riverside Avenue and Laurel Street.
A site plan is also being worked on for the new Bristol Hospital Ambulatory Care Center.
Executive Director of the Bristol Development Authority Justin Malley explained that Milone & MacBroom of Cheshire has engineers working on the road that any entities that find their way to Centre Square will use.
“They will layout the plan for the roadway, and then the construction documents have to be approved by the city. And then there will be a bid for construction companies for the initial roadway through the site,” Malley said.
Bristol Public Works Director Walter Veselka explained the roadway construction that is currently under design by Milone & MacBroom will go to bid in the middle of August. He added that the bid will close Sept. 5, but the plan could also possibly change.
“When the bids are made, then the project goes to City Council to be awarded,” said Veselka. “We hope the road is under construction in October, but work won’t begin until the site plan is approved. Work should be done through winter and finish in the spring. The funding is in place, so when the design is acceptable then it can go out for bid.”
As the site plan for the roadway is being finalized before it is approved, the site plan for the new Bristol Hospital Ambulatory Care Center in downtown is in the same situation.
“Rendina had preliminary meetings with the city planner and are in the city planning process,” Veselka said. “The hospital construction and roadway can be done at the same time.”
Malley explained that Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, the hospital developer based in Florida, has signed the contract and are working on the site plan with the city planner “based on what they showed up in the renderings, then they can get engineers and architects involved.”
“They started the site plan for approval, and it’s set to be approved by the end of the month,” said Director of Public Relations at Bristol Hospital Chris Boyle.

Feds release rail plan, rethinking Connecticut

PHILADELPHIA >> Federal officials are rethinking a plan to build new high-speed railroad tracks through parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island after complaints that the project would devastate neighborhoods, marshlands and tourist attractions.
The Federal Railroad Administration dropped the proposed bypass Wednesday as it moves forward with a $120 billion to $150 billion plan for rebuilding the congested Northeast Corridor, between Boston and Washington, D.C., over the next 30 years.Instead, the agency said it will continue to study options for more track capacity and faster service in the 100-mile stretch from New Haven to Providence, Rhode Island, and that it’s seeking public input.None of the tracks, stations or other infrastructure detailed in the FRA’s plan for the 500-mile corridor will be built without the support and agreement of state leaders, project manager Rebecca Reyes-Alicea said. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat, credited local opposition for forcing the FRA to retreat on the Connecticut and Rhode Island bypass. He called the notion of tracks running through historic Old Lyme and other communities along Connecticut’s southeastern shore “misguided,” poorly conceived” and “untethered from reality.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who declared the project “dead on arrival” when it was proposed last December, called the FRA’s reversal a “victory for common sense.” The Connecticut Democrat disputed the need for further study. He called the bypass a “non-starter” and said “not a single penny nor minute of effort” should be spent on it.Kim Coulter, an owner of the family-run Stoney Hill Cattle Farm in Charlestown, Rhode Island, said she’s glad the FRA heeded residents’ concerns that the now-shelved project would cut across conservation lands and sacred tribal burial grounds.“They heard us,” Coulter said. “They knew that we were concerned. They knew that we weren’t happy.” The FRA’s plan calls for enhancing capacity, performance and reliability on the corridor, which handles about 2,200 trains and 750,000 passengers each day on commuter and intercity trains. It includes plans for updating infrastructure, adding more trains to accommodate an expected ridership surge and building new tracks allowing speeds of up to 220 mph in some places. The next steps will be deciding how the plan will be implemented and how it will be funded, all while making sure construction doesn’t hamper day-to-day operations, Reyes-Alicea said.“That’s one of the greatest challenges,” she said.The FRA estimates rebuilding the Northeast Corridor would cut travel times between Washington and New York by 35 minutes, to about 2 hours and 10 minutes, on the fastest trains and save 45 minutes to an hour on trips between Boston and New York, which now take close to 4 hours.Work has already begun on some projects incorporated into the FRA’s plan. They include a project to build new, expanded tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, so far pegged to cost $12.9 billion, and a project to replace a 143-year-old tunnel in Baltimore. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Concept revealed for new East Hampton town hall/police station

EAST HAMPTON >> The committee working on the proposed new town hall/police station has released an architectural rendering of the building.The rendering was prepared by Marc A. Moura, a senior associate and director of design for the firm of Amenta/Emma.
Moura unveiled the rendering earlier this week for members of the Town Hall Facilities Committee. It shows a classic New England building faced in brick with two gabled roofs. The proposed town hall is two stories tall and contains approximately 20,000 square feet. That portion of the building is flanked on one side by a one-story community room and on the other by a one-story police station. The new police station would contain approximately 10,000 square feet — nearly triple the size of the current police headquarters. But it is still less space than a number of police professionals indicated privately would be sufficient for the inevitable expansion of the department.Both the police station and the community room have flat roofs, which became a subject of concern and discussion for several members of the nine-member committee. Three urged gable roofs be added to the two side buildings.Moura sought to defuse the issue by saying the roofs will be pitched to allow for runoff. But even as that discussion continued, Glenn Gollenberg, the chairman of the committee — and an architect himself (he designed the renovation of the high school) — encouraged his fellow committee members not to lose sight of the bigger picture.The town has been discussing construction of a new town hall/police station with greater or lesser levels of commitment since 1982. The establishment of the committee and now the creation of a rendering of a new building presents the most significant effort in the past 35 years.The committee is scheduled to present the drawing to the Town Council Tuesday. At the same time, having formally accepted the proposed design, a cost estimator who works for Amenta/Emma will review the design to get a clearer sense of the projected cost of the building. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Rocky Hill Hampton Inn breaks ground

A $7.1 million Hampton Inn and Suites is being built in Rocky Hill.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was scheduled to join Mayor Claudia Baio and other dignitaries to break ground Friday for the 90-room hotel at 685 Cromwell Ave.
The approximately 58,000-square-foot Hampton Inn, officials said, will feature the latest guest technology, including digital-key check in, and amenities, including an indoor saline pool, outdoor patio with fireplace, and meeting space.
It will employ 25 to 30 workers.
Lotus Hospitality Inc., Berlin owner/operator of several Connecticut hotels in the greater Hartford and New Haven areas, is the developer. Lotus' portfolio includes the Comfort Inn and Suites and EconoLodge, both in East Hartford.
HBT Architects of Rochester, N.Y., is designer.
BBL Construction Services, of Albany, N.Y., is general contractor.

July 21, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday July 21, 2017

14 Wallingford roads to be repaved by September

WALLINGFORD — Public works will pave 14 town roads this summer to repair cracking and other issues as part of the town’s annual road paving program.
The paving will begin in the coming weeks and is expected to be finished by September, Public Works Director Henry McCully said.
Scheduled to be paved are Town Farm Road, Laura Lane, McKenzie Avenue, Simpson Avenue, Mohawk Drive, Osage Drive, Bristol Street, Bolton Street, Ridgecrest Road, Shire Drive. Portions of Ward Street, Wall Street, Schoolhouse Road and Long Hill Road will also be paved. McCully said the list is subject to change. The department paves around 15 town roads each summer using money allocated in the town’s capital and non-recurring budget. The 2017-18 budget includes just over $1 million for the road paving program this year. “If you don’t keep putting money into the roads, you’re never going to catch up,” McCully said. “You have to be committed to the paving every year or the roads are just going to fall apart.”
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said maintaining town roads is “one of the basic elemental services that local government offers.”
“That’s one of the very visible and tangible uses for tax money,” he said.
McCully said the roads are selected each year based on surface conditions and the amount of traffic on the roads. The department also refers to a study performed by the engineering department a few years ago as a guide when deciding which roads to improve each year, McCully added.
“We try to spread it out throughout the town, not just in one concentrated area,” he said. “We have a lot of roads. It’s difficult to keep people happy all the time.”
Public Works is responsible for maintenance of roughly 630 roads in town. Crews start repairs by shaving a few inches off the surface before laying new asphalt down. McCully said asphalt used today does not last as long because it contains less oil due to environmental concerns.
Paving is expected to be completed by September. McCully said it’s ideal to finish the work before the school year starts.
On a warm July afternoon, Gampel Pavilion's basketball court is a construction site.
The hardwood floor is covered with layers of tarpaulin, and workers are repairing triangular roof tiles at two stations. Some are stripping the outer skin on tiles; others are wrapping tiles with new material.
About 130 feet above, sunlight peaks through a hole in the ceiling where a tile has been removed. And workers are occasionally seen through the triangle as they move on the outside roof.
Without the banners hanging on the walls, it would be hard to identify the venue as UConn's basketball home. But four months before the season, there's a continuous flow of work inside the 27-year-old building.
"This is definitely an interesting project," said Louis
Gaedt, the construction engineer with UConn's Planning, Design and Construction department.
How's this for interesting: A puzzle of 2,093 tiles are being removed, repaired and wrapped with a new outer skin before being re-secured in the exact spot on the ceiling. Gaskets are being replaced, and the seams are being sealed, one by one.
And along the way, there are code updates being completed, such as electrical improvements. The $10 million project began with preparation work in May, when the bleachers were folded and removed as soon as graduation was complete.
The crew of about 40 is expected to complete the job in late October, with time to spare before the start of the basketball season. When fans file into the building for the first game, they will notice the change — the repaired tiles are bright and white, a stunning contrast to the stained and flaking shell on the tiles seen in recent years. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and tribal leaders signed documents Thursday amending Connecticut’s relationship with its two federally recognized tribes, another step toward allowing them to jointly develop a casino in the Hartford suburb of East Windsor, as authorized in legislation approved last month by the General Assembly.
Amendments revising the tribal compacts now go to the legislature and then to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has informally indicated it would approve the terms of the tribes’ first casino off tribal lands, a facility intended to blunt the impact of a competing casino MGM Resorts International is building over the state line in Springfield.
The last official word before construction, however, is likely to come from a U.S. District Court judge: MGM vows to seek an injunction, claiming that the law granting exclusive rights to the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations violates the equal protection and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A previous suit was dismissed as premature.“We continue to believe that the process put in place by the legislature and signed today by the governor violates both the Connecticut and U.S. Constitutions. As such, we will continue to pursue all legal remedies,” said Uri Clinton, the senior vice president and legal counsel at MGM.
Kevin Brown, the Mohegan tribal chairman, said MGM’s threat is nothing new, and the tribes successfully made their case for a new casino to the governor and legislature “under the shadow of litigation.”
Malloy announced he had signed revisions to the state’s tribal compacts at a ceremonial signing of the casino law in the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol, surrounded by officials from the tribes and East Windsor, and legislators and union members who fought for passage. He signed the actual bill into law on June 27.
The governor played a pivotal role in passage of the casino law, dropping his neutrality in an interview with CT Mirror on May 19. At the time, MGM was lobbying lawmakers to reject the tribes’ proposal and instead permit an open competition for the right to develop a casino in Fairfield County, tapping the New York City market.
Malloy effectively killed the MGM alternative by saying the only casino bill he would sign was one that respected the state’s exclusivity agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations. Under the deal, the tribes pay the state 25 percent of the gross slots revenue at their casinos, Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


July 20, 2017

CT Construction Digest July 20, 2017

Large turnout for downtown Meriden job fair

MERIDEN — A line wrapped around the Silver City Ballroom on Colony Street Wednesday as dozens of candidates waited for interviews and a chance to be hired for upcoming construction jobs downtown.
Haynes Construction hosted the job fair for local trade workers to interview with subcontractors selected to work on Meriden Commons I, a $14.5 million commercial and residential building at 177 State St. The project is being developed through a public-private partnership with the Meriden Housing Authority and Pennrose Properties and the Cloud Co.
Haynes is the general contractor. Markesse Farilien of Meriden said he has been looking for work for six months after receiving training in roofing and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification. Farilien is one of 16 tradespeople sent to the job fair after receiving training from the Construction Workforce Initiative 2, Inc. on Center Street in Meriden. “We’re excited about the opportunities and the wonderful construction coming to Meriden,” said Dominique Baez of Construction Workforce Initiative. “A lot of our folks are from Meriden.”
Officials from 20 subcontractors representing the plumbing, electrical, general construction, HVAC, roofing and painting trades were on hand inside the ballroom to meet with candidates.
Preference was given to qualified city residents, housing authority tenants, minorities, veterans and women. About 50 candidates were signed in within the first half hour.
“We’re hoping a lot of these people can fill a job if not with this project but any other jobs they might have in the state,” said Rosemary Davis of Haynes Construction.
Sanford Cloud of Cloud Company LLC, a financier on the project, was on hand to check in with the applicants and subcontractors.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” Cloud said. “This is what housing development is all about. Local residents have an opportunity to work.”
Stonington — The town is seeking permission from the Inland Wetlands Commission for a permit to replace the small Lantern Hill Road bridge in conjunction with the Town of Ledyard.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with the Town of Groton, it is also proceeding with some preliminary design work and permitting for the replacement of the closed North Stonington Road bridge in Old Mystic even though the Town of Groton has not approved its share of the funding for construction. The small bridge, just west of the Old Mystic fire department, spans the two towns.
The Lantern Hill Road bridge, which was built in 1950, is listed in fair condition, according to the town’s application for the permit. The state has agreed to fund about half of the $1.2 million project while Stonington and Ledyard will split the remaining $600,000.
The application states that rehabilitating the bridge is not viable due to its condition, concerns about scouring of the bridge and its narrow 17-foot width, which does not permit two-way traffic. The new span will be 26 feet wide.
Plans call for the bridge to be closed from April through November of 2018 for the work.
Town Engineer Scot Deledda said that the two towns are scheduled to meet with state transportation and environmental protection officials this week to discuss the final state permitting process.
The North Stonington Road bridge has been closed since the March flood of 2010. The replacement cost also is estimated at $1.2 million, with the state paying half, leaving Stonington and Groton to contribute $300,000 each. Stonington has appropriated its share but Groton, which is struggling with a massive decrease in proposed state aid and increased taxes, has not.
But Deledda and Town of Groton Public Works Director Gary Schneider said the two towns together have $90,000 in funds to go forward with completing the preliminary design and apply for the permits, which are valid for five years.
“We don’t want it to come to a screeching halt,” Deledda said. “It’s better to have the approved permits. That way, when the money is available, we can proceed.”
Deledda said that when people ask him about the delay in replacing the bridge, he points out that Stonington has supported the project. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Waterford develops plan for three-month closure of Jordan Cove Road

Waterford — A plan to rebuild the bridge over Jordan Cove also includes an evacuation plan for the people who live in the Millstone Point area of town and a new route for school buses.
The replacement of the bridge will take three months and is scheduled to begin Aug. 21. While it’s under construction, Jordan Cove Road — the primary exit route out of two small Millstone Point neighborhoods in the southernmost part of Waterford — will be closed, First Selectman Daniel Steward said.
During the three-month construction process, residents will need to use Gardiners Wood Road, which runs north to Rope Ferry Road from Jordan Cove Road, to enter and leave the neighborhood and reach I-95.
Town officials developed the plan — to be implemented in case of a flooding emergency in Millstone Point — in conjunction with the police, Dominion Energy and school district officials.
Because Gardiners Wood Road occasionally floods during heavy rainstorms, Steward said, the town also has worked with Dominion Energy to develop a second alternate route out of Millstone Point through roads on the Millstone Power Station property.
Town officials approved a $1.5 million appropriation to pay for the replacement of the bridge, which is more than 80 years old, this winter. Town officials approved the capital expenditure for repairs to the bridge in 2015.
A state grant through the Small Town Economic Assistance Program will cover 80 percent of the estimated $1.5 million construction cost.
A state Department of Transportation study found the Jordan Cove Road bridge to be in poor condition in 2006. The planned repairs include replacing the bridge’s superstructure, or the upper part of the bridge, repairing the wing walls and abutments, and replacing and repaving the roadway.
Massachusetts-based New England Infrastructure won the bid to reconstruct the bridge, Steward said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Winsted roads to be resurfaced under first phase of construction plan

WINSTED >> The town this week announced a list of roads that will receive repairs under the first phase of a larger plan.
According to the Department of Public Works, Hurlbut Street, East Lake Street, Meadow Street, Hubbard Street, John Street, Elm Street, Wheeler Street, Hinsdale Avenue and Spencer Street, from Hinsdale Avenue to Losaw Road, will be resurfaced.Work is expected to begin in mid-to-late August, according to the announcement, as part of the town’s road improvement plan for the year.Plans for future phases of the road improvement effort, Town Manager Robert Geiger said Tuesday, have not been determined yet, as the town is in the midst of contracting out the first phase of the project at this time. An ad-hoc committee will be formed to guide future steps in the project, Geiger said.
Geiger made improving town roads a major focus of the 2018 town budget, as he set aside $1.4 million in funding for such construction — up from $448,572 in the previous year.“A million four doesn’t go nearly far enough, but it’s going in the right direction,” said Geiger at the time.Lenard Engineering conducted an analysis of town roads for the Board of Selectmen, compiling a report that was submitted in July 2016.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE