October 31, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday October 31, 2017

Portland breaks ground on 2.3-mile Airline Trail slated to open in spring

PORTLAND — The town held a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday to mark the beginning of construction on the first phase of the Portland Air Line Trail: a 2.3-mile section of a linear park route for recreational use.
The trail will eventually connect to the Connecticut Air Line State Park Trail that runs from East Hampton to Putnam, and, ultimately, the town hopes to take the trail to downtown Portland, the Arrigoni Bridge and Middletown, according to a press release.
The section of the trail to be constructed runs 2.3 miles from Depot Hill Road to the YMCA Camp Ingersoll property with a trail head parking area on the former Keegan property off Middle Haddam Road. Dichello Construction will be doing trail work under the direction of Jacobson Engineering and town officials, the release continued. Construction should be completed and the trail opened for public use by spring.
The ceremony included representatives from various organizations that have supported or been involved in the project’s development: Jamie Lintner from Eversource Energy, who provided a lease for the land; Tom Tyler, state parks director for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, who provided grant funding for construction; state Rep. Christie Carpino, who provided legislative support; Portland First Selectwoman Susan Bransfield, who directed the town’s involvement for the Board of Selectmen; and Rosario Rizzo and Louis Pear, cochairs of the Portland Air Line Trail Steering Committee who oversaw development of the trail.
The first phase will be constructed on land used by the Air Line railroad that ran between New York and Boston between 1873 and 1955, according to the release. The Connecticut portion of the railroad east of Portland ceased operations in 1968, the tracks were abandoned, and the land between East Hampton and Massachusetts was purchased by the state for recreational use.
Since then, it has been gradually developed into the current Air Line State Park Trail. Due to a lack of interest at the time, the land in Portland was sold to private property owners, including CL&P, now Eversource Energy, the release continued.
In 2013, John Hall and John Shafer, members of the Jonah Center in Middletown, initiated an effort to develop the trail in Portland. This led to the formation of a town steering committee initially led by Shafer and later led by Rizzo and Pear. Working with town leaders, including Bransfield, and former town planner, Deana Rhodes, the committee was able to successfully negotiate a lease agreement with Eversource Energy to use a 2.3-mile portion of their land for trail use (referred to as “Phase 1”), according to the statement.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut regulators approve sale of water utility

As expected, Connecticut regulators approved Aquarion Water’s $1.7 billion sale to Eversource Energy, combining the largest energy and water companies in the state even as Eversource revealed plans to increase electricity rates beginning next May.
Eversource is paying $880 million in cash and assuming another $795 million in Aquarion debt to acquire the water company from Macquarie, with Aquarion’s assets valued at $1.1 billion as of March. Under CEO Chuck Firlotte, Aquarion generated revenue of $181 million last year from its Connecticut operations, and profits of $39.7 million. In Connecticut, the company serves some 625,000 customers.
“I think local ownership really means a lot,” said Lee Olivier, executive vice president of Eversource, during a July conference call with investment analysts. “If you look at the rationale for the sale of the company, it was strictly related to a fund that Macquarie had that … needed to be dissolved, and that could have gone in a lot of different directions. So having local ownership where we expect to keep the existing operations pretty much in place — as I said, we’re not in the water business. They have a great track record for operations.”
Eversource’s larger scale — it earned $950 million last year — will allow Aquarion to borrow at better interest rates to ultimately benefit customers, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority ruled Friday, having signaled plans in mid-October not to oppose the deal. Aquarion recently won PURA approval to raise rates slightly to cover upcoming work on water systems in several local municipalities.
Last week, Eversource filed notice itself of plans to raise Connecticut rates 6.8 percent on average, following the expiration of a four-year freeze on rates as a result of its 2012 merger with Massachusetts-based NStar. The hike would result in an additional $337 million in revenue for Eversource over three years.
Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross told Hearst Connecticut Media last week that the main driver behind the increase is for improvements to the company’s electricity grid, to include stronger poles and wires. An overnight storm knocked out power Monday morning for large numbers of Eversource customers, with between 20 percent and 30 percent of Eversource customers in Bethel, Ridgefield and Westport waking up to blackouts.

Springfield vs. East Windsor: MGM is winning

It is stunning, really, that more than a month has gone by since a letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior threw into question whether the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indians can build the casino in East Windsor approved by the General Assembly, and Attorney General George Jepsen has yet to weigh in on the legal controversy.
Jepsen says he has no official opinion because no one with the authority to ask for one has, including the governor or legislative leaders.
Jepsen seems to be dodging a pressing issue of the day. Would the attorney general need someone to ask for an opinion whether to evacuate the building, if the fire alarms were sounding?
At the very least, if he really thinks he can't freelance, he should suggest to someone that they ask. It is his job to provide some clarity about the new casino law, which already has gone up on the rocks and appears to be headed to court.
Never mind an official opinion. How about some simple legal guidance?
And why has no one asked for that official opinion, since the prevailing interpretations of the Department of the Interior letter, from opposing sides of the issue, could not be more divergent.
A lot is at stake here, not the least of which are the thousands of casino jobs lawmakers said they were trying to preserve with the creation of an East Windsor casino.
Don't any of them wonder where it all stands, curious enough to ask the attorney general for some insight? After all, they failed to heed his advice suggesting they were heading into murky legal waters when they approved East Windsor in the first place.
Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, now a hired legal gun for MGM, which is trying to stop the East Windsor plan, as it finishes its own casino in Springfield, Mass., wrote Jepsen on Sept. 17. He said in the letter that the Department of the Interior failed to approve an amendment to the tribes' gaming compact with the state that would ensure the tribes keep paying the state a share of reservation gambling, even if the East Windsor facility were to open.
Interior approval of the amendment to the gaming compact is specifically required in the law establishing the East Windsor casino.
"The letters explicitly state that Interior is acting to 'maintain the status quo,'" Salazar wrote. "It therefore necessarily follows that by 'maintaining the status quo,' Interior is withholding express or implicit approval." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Options Emerge For New Hartford Train Station As Part Of I-84 Reconstruction

Five options for a new train station in Hartford that would be built as part of the I-84 reconstruction project are in contention to replace the 128-year-old Union Station.
All five are located atop Asylum Hill. Three options are north of Asylum Avenue, just to the west of the existing highway overpass. And two are to the south of Asylum, on the corner of Broad Street and Farmington Avenue. State and city planners expect a selection will be made by early next year — but construction would still be years away, part of the much larger reconstruction project expected to cost $3 billion to $5 billion.
A new, combined train station and bus depot is needed because the reconstruction calls for lowering the aging elevated highway just slightly below grade and shifting it to the west. Such a dramatic change requires moving the path of the train tracks to the west of the new highway. The options were unveiled Monday at the latest in a series of I-84 project workshops seeking comments from the public. Officials cautioned that the drawings were still in the early stages and would be reworked in the coming weeks.
The options to the north of Asylum Avenue include:
“Asylum Plaza” that would include a pedestrian plaza between the new train station and Asylum Avenue. A bus depot and parking garage would be located about 100 feet to the north.
A second option combines the train station, bus depot and parking garage in the same area but brings the station closer to Asylum Avenue.
A third option places the train station farther west but essentially separates the train station from the bus depot and the parking garage. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CEO Finds Robotic Solution to Industry Labor Shortage

Steve Muck, CEO and chairman of Pennsylvania-based Brayman Construction Corp., has joined forces with Jeremy Searock, former technical program manager of Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, to find a robotics-based solution for the labor shortage in the construction industry.
The pair created Advanced Construction Robotics Inc., whose first product, a rebar-tying robot named Tybot, is market-ready, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. For Muck, the idea for a rebar-tying robot stemmed from the fact that contractors have a tough time finding crews to do the work on bridge projects each summer. Muck said that often, it's the same crew moving from job to job, performing the same work, which can lead to slow-downs and even delays.
“This was the problem that was at the forefront of my mind,” said Muck. “The process of finding workers has become more and more difficult in the last 10 years.”
How It Works
Tybot performs work across a frame that can expand 140 ft., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. A robotic arm ties the rebars together where they intersect, and only needs one worker to supervise the process. The company believes Tybot could slash the labor hours required for such a project in half. What's more, Tybot can work round the clock, if necessary.
“[Tybot] both speeds up the work and reduces the number of people to do it,” Muck said. “This is the construction industry looking to the robotics industry for a solution to a business problem.”
What's more, Muck said Tybot can also reduce the injuries workers get while tying the rebar by hand.
Test Run
Brayman Construction recently used Tybot in a bridge-building project in Beaver County, Pa. According to Jim Foringer, acting executive of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's District 11, the robot seems to be an encouraging tool, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“A lot of this will take the human error and human judgment out of the work, said Foringer. “The more efficient a contractor can be, that con only benefit the agency.”
The company expects to start selling the robots in the spring of 2018, and while there is no word yet on the price of the product, Muck did say that the cost was “in the sweet spot” for make it worthwhile for contractors, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

October 27, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday October 27, 2017

Stamford’s transitway gets final touches amid delays, congestion

STAMFORD — As workers scurried to finish the last bit of paving on Myrtle Avenue at East Main Street, Mayor David Martin stood at the opposite end of the corridor snipping a bright red ribbon with gold-colored scissors, marking the overall completion of the urban transitway’s second phase following two years of delays.
The $52 million project was approved in July 2013 to create a four-lane roadway on Myrtle Avenue between Elm and East Main streets, which would allow for easier passage between the Stamford Transportation Center and U.S. Route 1 on the east side.
“This is a crucial project that we have in the City of Stamford,” Martin said during the ceremony. “It connects our train station all the way through the east side, and I’m just so happy that we’re finally getting it done and getting it open. Quite frankly, I didn’t think we would actually get it done at this point in time, but we were able to work things out and get it done.”
Despite Thursday’s celebration, the project is not yet 100 percent complete, according to the mayor’s office.
The last of the paving will be finished Friday, the mayor’s office said, while landscaping, the marking of crosswalks and other checklist items are slated for completion in the coming months.
Originally expected to take two years to complete, the project has faced multiple delays due to weather and the discovery of old buried infrastructure such as trolley tracks, train tracks and water lines.
Kathryn Emmett, director of legal affairs, in July had attributed much of the delay to the relocation of utility poles and underground equipment taking longer than anticipated. Design changes made by the state during the course of the project were also a factor, she said.
The delays occurred despite efforts to avoid problems that arose during the first phase of the project under former Mayor Michael Pavia’s administration.
That first phase, which cost $65 million, was completed in 2012 and created a commuter pathway between Elm and Atlantic streets. It came in $5.3 million over budget and more that a year behind schedule. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Officials celebrate Zbikowski Park renovation

BRISTOL -- Many city, community and state officials gathered Wednesday morning for a ribbon cutting celebrating the Bristol Housing Authority's newly renovated Zbikowski Park.
Zbikowski Park is a 90-unit affordable housing community managed by the BHA that recently received an $11.5 million renovation. It was one of the projects completed under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s $30 Million housing initiative.
The renovations were focused on cost effectiveness and environmental sustainability. They included new energy-efficient kitchen appliances and heating systems, 24-hour maintenance services and an off-street parking.
Before the ribbon cutting, many officials shared their thought about the project. Mitzy Rowe, CEO of BHA explained, the housing project was made possible through construction and permanent mortgage loans through the sale of tax exempt bonds issued by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority.
The project is “improving the lives of residents by boosting their odds for success” and helping resident become “fiscally responsible and self sufficient,” Rowe said. She noted that the project would not have been possible without a collaborative effort from BHA staff, the CHFA, and city, state and community officials.
Director of Multifamily Housing Asset Management at the CHFA, Lynn Koroser-Crane, said, “The CHFA is very proud to be a partner in this. With the issuance of over $3million in tax credits and an additional $3 million in tax exempt bond financing.”
Koroser-Crane continued, “This project together combines over $11 million in financing and subsidies and energy rebates. We think by bringing together seasoned development team … The housing authority was able to actually fill the role of the developer and be very successful.”
“”Without Gov. Malloy’s commitment to affordable housing, in particular this state’s sponsored public housing and the work that the Department of Housing in particular, as well as HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development], none of this would be possible,” Koroser-Crane added.
State representative for Bristol, Whit Betts also recognized the renovations as a collaborative effort that shows “when people work together, how much accomplishment can be done.”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Millstone bill passes House, goes to governor

After blocking similar bills over two years, the House of Representatives voted 75 to 66 for final passage Thursday of a measure variously derided as a windfall for a major energy company and praised as a responsible first step toward stabilizing the finances of Connecticut’s last nuclear plants.
Passage came on a dramatic note, with a half-dozen legislators scanning the tally board before casting their decisive votes in favor. A shift of just five would have turned the win for Millstone into a 71-to-70 loss.
The bill would permit, not require, state energy officials to change the rules for how Dominion Energy sells electricity from its nuclear plant, Millstone, whose profits have eroded as energy prices have been depressed by competition from electricity generated by relatively cheap and plentiful natural gas.
If deemed in the public interest after completing a market study already underway, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority could allow Millstone to compete in a more favorable market, against solar, wind and hydro power, that commands higher prices.
Millstone could sell up to three-quarters of its output in competition with the other zero-carbon sources of electricity under the bill.
Undisputed is that the nuclear industry is under distress, prompting the premature retirement of nuclear plants across the U.S., a loss of what environmentalists and others view as an important bridge to an era when renewable energy can produce a larger share of electricity.
“We are in a transition period,” said Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, the co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and lead House sponsor of the bill.
Millstone produces nearly all of Connecticut’s zero-carbon energy, and its loss would jeopardize the state’s ability to meet its long-term goals for reducing carbon emissions. But the questions of how soon Millstone will become unprofitable and what the relief will cost ratepayers and the developing solar and wind-power industries have been bitterly contested at the state Capitol.
“It’s win-win,” said Rep. Kathleen M. McCarty, R-Waterford, who represents most of Waterford, the home of Millstone. “It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the environment.”
But opponents questioned the timing, urging colleagues to delay action until completion of the market study in February, when lawmakers are to return for their 2018 session.
“Does Millstone actually need the money?” asked Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, an opponent.
Attempts to amend the bill and return it to the Senate failed by wide margins. One amendment would have required any decision by DEEP and PURA to change market rules to be reviewed next year by the General Assembly.
A majority of Democrats opposed the bill; A majority of Republicans supported it.
“On behalf of the 1,500 women and men working at Millstone power station, Dominion Energy thanks the General Assembly for giving Millstone an opportunity to participate in a clean-energy procurement process if state regulators determine our bid benefits customers,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, the chairman and CEO of Dominion. “We are grateful to the Malloy administration for its work in negotiating the current form of the legislation.“
The House Democratic leadership killed the Senate’s first two Millstone bills in the 2016 and 2017 regular sessions by refusing to call votes on measures opposed by Dominion’s competitors and some environmental and consumer groups, such as the Connecticut Citizen Action Group and AARP. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

After 117-day marathon, Senate passes bipartisan budget

A newly united Senate took a major step early Thursday toward ending Connecticut's nearly 17-week budget impasse, overwhelmingly adopting a $41.3 billion, two-year plan that closes huge deficits without raising income or sales tax rates, imposes modest cuts on local aid, and provides emergency assistance to keep Hartford out of bankruptcy.
By a veto-proof margin of 33 to 3, the Senate approved the budget after a collegial and self-congratulary three-hour debate that ended with hugs, fist bumps and hand shakes just before 2 a.m. Seventeen of 18 Democrats and 16 of 18 Republicans voted to send the bill to the House, which is scheduled to debate it later Thursday.
The surprisingly strong vote, coupled with the expectation of a similarly strong margin in the House, set the stage for a decision by Malloy to accept the compromise or risk a veto override that could color his last year in office.
He declined to speculate Wednesday morning on whether he would sign or veto a budget he had not seen. A copy was not provided to his office until mid-afternoon.
The budget relies on tax and fee hikes worth roughly $500 million per year for the biennium. It also would raid more $175 million from energy conservation funds — which largely are supported by surcharges on consumers' utility bills — and would offer Connecticut's seventh amnesty program for tax delinquents since 1990.
The bipartisan deal cuts deeply into operating funds for the University of Connecticut — but not as severely as a Republican-crafted budget would have one month ago.
But it does not rely on shifting a portion of skyrocketing teacher pension contributions onto cities and towns.
And it authorizes $80 million in borrowing across four years to assist homeowners dealing with crumbling concrete foundations.
"There really is, I think, a sense of extraordinarily significant achievement in what we've been able to reach together," Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said of the past three weeks of bipartisan negotiations that produced the latest budget deal. "There is so much in this bill that points us int he right direction."
"There is something in this budget for many people to dislike," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. But "we can go back to our constituents and say 'we listened. … And we continue to fund the areas we believe are right, are just, and continue to make the state a better state."
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven praised lawmakers from both parties for setting aside partisan differences and saying, "Connecticut comes first. What is important is there was courage to bring the budget to life."
Republicans Joe Markley of Southington and Len Suzio of Meriden voted against the budget. Sen. Gary Winfield of New Haven cast the lone dissenting Democratic vote. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Study: Connecticut employers absorb record insurance hikes

As Connecticut employers ready to crack open their health plans next week for open enrollment, a new study shows they paid a record increase in premiums to secure insurance for their workers.
United Benefit Advisors, whose affiliates include 360 Corporate Benefit Advisors in Fairfield, calculated a startling 24 percent increase this year in Connecticut renewal rates for employer-based health coverage, nearly four times the average bump nationally, with employers in the state paying an additional $655 this year on average.
New York employers also saw a large increase of 14 percent, amounting to an extra $712 on average.
In its own study of insurance premiums nationally, the New York City-based Commonwealth Fund estimated at $18,270 the average cost in 2015 of a family health insurance policy in Connecticut, with employers on the hook for all but $5,500 in contributions from worker paychecks, and families facing average deductibles of more than $1,700 before insurance kicks in.
“The drivers of increasing rates continue to be rising medical and pharmaceutical costs and the increased utilization of those services,” stated Katharine Wade, Connecticut insurance commissioner, in an email response to a Hearst Connecticut Media query Thursday. “In addition, actual claims experience is coming in higher than what carriers anticipated.”
On Tuesday, Wade’s department approved a 14.6 percent increase on average for Anthem’s large group plans in Connecticut, below the 16.4 percent increase the Indianapolis-based company had requested, with the department disagreeing with the company’s calculation of inflation for future medical and pharmacy costs.
Anthem had more than 920,000 Connecticut residents enrolled in large-group indemnity and HMO plans in 2016, according to an annual “report card” issued this month by the Connecticut Insurance Department.
Another 95,000 people who enroll in Anthem’s small-group or individual plans will see even larger increases next year — 25.4 percent for small groups and 31.7 percent for individuals, the latter the highest single hike for any single category of coverage by a Connecticut carrier.  CLCIKTITLE TO CONTINUE

New Hampshire residents, students petition Yale to get out of Hydro-Quebec pipeline deal

NEW HAVEN — Dozens of students and a contingent from New Hampshire marched to Yale University’s investment office Thursday to protest its connection to the Northern Pass Transmission line project that they said will have “devastating environmental and social consequences” for that state.
A small contingent presented a petition signed by almost 400 people — the majority of them residents of the area in New Hampshire that will be impacted by Eversource Energy’s Hydro-Quebec 192-mile transmission line.
It was only recently that the residents realized that Yale, as Bayroot LLC, had leased 24 miles of timberland it owns for a right of way to Eversource. It is a small portion of the 125,000 acres of timberland in New Hampshire that is part of the university’s endowment investment.
“The 192-mile Northern Pass will disrupt some of the most remote and undeveloped areas in New England,” the petition reads. No one from the investment office would meet with the small contingent who wanted to present the petition in person, but Yale personnel in the vestibule of the building at 55 Whitney Ave. promised to deliver it to the right office.
The university in June, and again on Thursday, issued a statement through Yale spokesman Tom Conroy to respond to the criticism.
It said Yale contracted with Wagner Forest Management to manage the property, and Wagner in 2012 decided to lease it to the developer of the Northern Pass project.
It said investors “such as Yale typically invest with managers through partnership arrangements that limit the investors’ ability to control decisions from both a legal and best practices perspective.”
It continued that Wagner Forest Management did not have the ability to terminate the option to renew under the terms of the lease and the developer has already extended that lease to 2110.
The petition from Yale students and union members, but mainly New Hampshire residents, said “the university’s statement attempts to shirk Yale’s clear responsibility.”
“Yale University is 98.9 percent owner of Bayroot LLC, which has leased 24 miles of the proposed route to the developers. Yale owns this land and cannot shield itself from the consequences of this investment by hiding behind decisions of a contracted invesment manager,” the petition reads. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


October 26, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday October 26, 2017

After 117-day marathon, Senate passes bipartisan budget

A newly united Senate took a major step early Thursday toward ending Connecticut’s nearly 17-week budget impasse, overwhelmingly adopting a $41.3 billion, two-year plan that closes huge deficits without raising income or sales tax rates, imposes modest cuts on local aid, and provides emergency assistance to keep Hartford out of bankruptcy.
By a veto-proof margin of 33 to 3, the Senate approved the budget after a collegial and self-congratulary three-hour debate that ended with hugs, fist bumps and hand shakes just before 2 a.m. Seventeen of 18 Democrats and 16 of 18 Republicans voted to send the bill to the House, which is scheduled to debate it later Thursday.
The surprisingly strong vote, coupled with the expectation of a similarly strong margin in the House, set the stage for a decision by Malloy to accept the compromise or risk a veto override that could color his last year in office.
He declined to speculate Wednesday morning on whether he would sign or veto a budget he had not seen. A copy was not provided to his office until mid-afternoon.
The budget relies on tax and fee hikes worth roughly $500 million per year for the biennium. It also would raid more $175 million from energy conservation funds — which largely are supported by surcharges on consumers’ utility bills — and would offer Connecticut’s seventh amnesty program for tax delinquents since 1990.
The bipartisan deal cuts deeply into operating funds for the University of Connecticut — but not as severely as a Republican-crafted budget would have one month ago.
But it does not rely on shifting a portion of skyrocketing teacher pension contributions onto cities and towns.
And it authorizes $80 million in borrowing across four years to assist homeowners dealing with crumbling concrete foundations.
“There really is, I think, a sense of extraordinarily significant achievement in what we’ve been able to reach together,” Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said of the past three weeks of bipartisan negotiations that produced the latest budget deal. “There is so much in this bill that points us int he right direction.” There is something in this budget for many people to dislike,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. But “we can go back to our constituents and say ‘we listened. … And we continue to fund the areas we believe are right, are just, and continue to make the state a better state.”
Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven praised lawmakers from both parties for setting aside partisan differences and saying, “Connecticut comes first. What is important is there was courage to bring the budget to life.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Funds for XL Center, crumbling foundations in $3.5B bond package

When it voted to adopt a new two-year state budget early Thursday morning, the Senate also endorsed a $3.5 billion, two-year bond package.
Legislators authorized new borrowing to assist homeowners in eastern Connecticut with crumbling foundations, to upgrade the XL Center in Hartford and to complement a new taxing arrangement with the state’s hospital industry.
The budget and bond package, which passed 33-3 in the Senate and is expected to be considered later Thursday in the House, also features a cap on borrowing.
The new budget would create a special fund to provide loans to homeowners in eastern Connecticut struggling with crumbling, concrete foundations.
And the bond package authorizes $20 million in borrowing in this fiscal year, and in each of the next three, to support that program.
A key part of Hartford’s efforts to make the capital city more vibrant, planned renovations to the XL Center would receive $40 million this fiscal year in state bonding.
And to get the hospitals to support a $344 million annual tax hike on the industry, Connecticut lawmakers pledged to increase annual payments back to the industry by $365.5 million — with $20 million of that coming in the form of state bonding this fiscal year and next.
State government still would come out ahead in the deal, by about $137 million per year, because those payments to hospitals would leverage a huge increase in federal Medicaid reimbursements.
The new bond cap would limit both the State Bond Commission’s authority to approve general obligation borrowing as well as the state’s ability to issue this type of bonds on Wall Street.
General obligation bonds are repaid with resources from the state budget’s General Fund. This fund includes income, sales and corporation tax receipts, funds generated by several other minor taxes, gaming proceeds, several categories of federal grants, and revenues from various fees. Those funds are used for municipal school construction, many capital projects at public colleges and universities, state building maintenance and renovations, open space and farmland preservation, and various smaller projects.
The bulk of transportation improvements are financed with a different type of bonding and paid off with fuel tax receipts. They are not covered by this cap.
The commission cannot approve more than $2 billion in borrowing per year beginning immediately.
Starting in July 2018, the cap prevents the state from issuing more than $1.9 billion in general obligation bonds.
These cap limits would be adjusted annually to reflect inflation.
Borrowing for capital programs at the University of Connecticut and the Board of Regents for Higher Education also are not covered by the cap. The regents oversee the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, which includes the four regional state universities and 12 community colleges.
The bond package authorized $200 million in borrowing both in this fiscal year and in 2018-19 to support capital programs at UConn. Another $100 million was authorized in the first year and $133 million in the second for the Board of Regents’ system.

Stamford urban transitway completes second phase

STAMFORD — Marking the overall completion of the Stamford Urban Transitway’s second phase, Mayor David Martin and other city officials will cut a ribbon Thursday morning on the east side.
The $52 million project was approved in July 2013 to create a four-lane roadway on Myrtle Avenue between Elm and East Main streets, which would allow for easier passage between the busy Stamford Transportation Center and U.S. Route 1 on the east side.
Originally expected to take two years to complete, the project has faced multiple delays due to weather and the discovery of old buried infrastructure such as trolley tracks, train tracks and water lines.
Kathryn Emmett, director of legal affairs, in July had attributed much of the delay to the relocation of utility poles and underground equipment taking longer than anticipated. Design changes made by the state during the course of the project were also a factor, she said.
The delays occurred despite the Pavia administration’s effort to avoid the problems that arose during the first phase of the transitway project.
That phase, which cost $65 million, was completed in 2012 and created a commuter pathway between Elm and Atlantic streets. It came in $5.3 million over budget and more that a year behind schedule.
Throughout this phase, the project has faced some pushback from businesses along Myrtle Avenue and a portion of East Main Street. The main complaint stems from the city’s controversial decision to eliminate street parking along the affected section of East Main Street due to a lack of space.
Other complaints centered around traffic congestion on Myrtle Avenue causing significant delays and deterring patrons from venturing into the area.
Ground will be broken Thursday in East Hartford for a $105 million outlet-mall development in the shadow of Pratt & Whitney Co.
Officials from Illinois-based Horizon Group Properties Inc., the town of East Hartford and other local and state dignitaries are slated to attend the 11 a.m. groundbreaking for The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field.
When completed in Nov. 2018, the first phase will include some 70 fashion and lifestyle retail stores occupying 282,000 square feet of leasable space, Horizon officials said.

XL Center slated for $40M; headed to sales block

Hartford's XL Center got mixed treatment in the bipartisan budget overwhelmingly passed by the state Senate early Thursday.
The Senate approved $40 million in bonded funds to renovate the XL Center, as part of a larger bond package that also provides financial support to eastern Connecticut homeowners hit hard by crumbling concrete foundations, according to the CT Mirror.
But the $41 billion budget also requires the city of Hartford to put the aging building up for sale, budget documents show.
The goal would be to sell it to a private developer. A request for proposals must go out no later than June 30, 2019, budget documents show. Officials have said previously that it would be difficult to find a buyer for the more than four-decade-old arena, which has consistently lost money in recent years and faces intense competition for events from the two Connecticut casinos. The opening of the Springfield MGM Casino in 2018, will only add to the competition.
The one year, $40 million investment is far less than the two-year, $125 million Gov. Dannel P. Malloy previously called for, and the $115 million that existed in previous budget plans.
The $40 million, according to budget documents, can be used for renovations and capital improvements, including the acquisition of nearby real estate, budget documents show.
The Capital Region Development Authority, which oversees the XL Center, has recommend the state invest $250 million to completely renovate the arena.
The budget also eliminates the admissions tax exemption for events at the XL Center and Dunkin' Donuts Park in Hartford along with Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport and New Britain Stadium.
That will subject those venues to a 10 percent admissions tax.

Ground-breaking ceremony for new Q House in New Haven slated for Nov. 4

NEW HAVEN — Mayor Toni Harp and Alder Jeanette Morrison, D-22, are inviting the public to the new Dixwell Community Q House groundbreaking ceremony next month near the former facility’s site.
According to a release from the Board of Alders, Harp and Morrison join the Q House Building Committee for aground-breaking ceremony at 10:45 a.m. Nov. 4 at 197 Dixwell Ave., the site of the former Q House building.
Morrison serves as co-chairwoman of the center’s building committee. Officials are hoping the new Q House will be completed by spring 2019. The facility will be 50,126 square feet.
“We are all thrilled that a new Q House will soon rise again to serve as a great community hub,” Morrison said in the release. “It will once again be a wonderful resource of education, health, social and recreational opportunities for all city residents and their families.”
Officials unveiled renderings and signs for the Q House in August. The community center’s development stretches back years, with the project receiving more than $15 million in state funds since 2014. The original Q House closed in 2003. The original facility was demolished in January.
The new facility will include the Stetson Branch Library, a cultural museum, health center, a full gym, a multi-purpose space and the Dixwell-Newhallville senior center.
After the original Q House opened in 1924, it became a cornerstone of the community. It was known as an outlet for social activity and a thriving community place, according to the release.
A commemorative brick program for the new Q House is being established.
The program, “Buy A Brick, Build A Legacy,” according to the release, it will allow supporters of the new Q House a chance to “purchase a brick” for the Q House Endowment. The contributions will help fund “vital programs and services.”  CLCIK TITLE TO CONTINUE

FHWA Awards Millions to Explore New Ways to Pay for Highways

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced $15.5 million in Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) grants to six states that are exploring new ways to fund highway and bridge projects. Alternatives to conventional financing are seen as imperative, FHWA officials said, due to the Highway Trust Fund's gradual inability to keep pace with increasing construction and repair costs nationwide.
“To ensure the U.S. road system is the best in the world, we can no longer rely solely on the federal gas tax and the Highway Trust Fund,” said Acting FHWA Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson. “New sources of funding for the design, construction and repair of our nation's roadways have never been more necessary, and these grants will help open the door to new financial innovations.”
The STSFA grants fund projects to test the design, implementation and acceptance of user-based alternative revenue tools. FHWA officials selected seven proposals from six states – California, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Washington and Oregon.
The seven projects will investigate and evaluate various user-based approaches to raising revenue, including on-board vehicle technologies to charge drivers based on miles traveled and multi-state or regional approaches to road user charges. They will address common challenges involved with implementing user-based fees such as public acceptance, privacy protection, equity and geographic diversity. The projects will also evaluate the reliability and security of the technologies available to implement mileage-based fees. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Towantic alarm to sound Friday, but it’s only a drill

OXFORD – An alarm will sound at Towantic Energy Center under construction on Woodruff Hill Road at noon this Friday, but neighborhood residents should not feel any fear or need to evacuate.
Competitive Power Ventures informed First Selectman George R. Temple of the upcoming test and Temple said the town would make robocalls to inform the public ahead of time.
An unannounced alarm test startled neighbors on the morning of Oct. 11 and Gary Lambert, president and chief executive officer of CPV, responded to a letter from the first selectman apologizing, and promising it would not happen again. He said he would give advance notice and left Temple his direct contact information.


October 25, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday October 25, 2017

Atlantic Street construction drains residents of sleep

STAMFORD — Brianna de Moll prepared for a restful night of sleep last Wednesday at her Atlantic St. apartment like anyone else would. She fluffed her pillows, spread out her blanket and closed her eyes.
It would have been normal, had she not been sleeping in a bathtub.
De Moll, 27, laid down her couch cushions in the tub in an effort to reclaim as many hours of sleep as she could, but to no avail. De Moll and her neighbors at 101 Atlantic St. have been losing sleep for nearly two weeks to the sound of late night construction outside of their windows. It often starts around 9:30 p.m. but becomes increasingly disruptive until even past 2 a.m, she said.
De Moll resorted to sleeping in her bathroom that night because it is located in the back of her apartment, further from the noise. It didn’t help.
“I’ve been getting less than three hours of sleep every night,” she said.
Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the drilling is “very loud” and that she wishes the city notified them beforehand.
Crews have been working at Atlantic St. between Bank and Broad Streets to put in new drainage pipes and a new manhole because a building on the southeast corner is flooding, according to Ted Jankowski, the city director of public safety, health and welfare.
Construction takes place at night for safety reasons, he said.
He also indicated that the late-night construction was approved by two noise waivers signed by the Health and Engineering Departments. The first was for work from Oct. 15-20. The second was for work from Oct. 19-26. “No parking” signs on parking meters in the area have the dates 10-15 to 10-17 scribbled out, replaced with 10-23 to 10-27.
The drainage phase of the project is hoped to be completed after night work on Wednesday. Paving and milling is to tentatively start on Oct. 31 and completed on Nov. 3.
This means de Moll and her neighbors will experience late-night noise for more than another week. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut budget impasse blamed for loss of 7,900 jobs

HARTFORD - There's growing concern that Connecticut's economy already has taken a hit from the protracted state budget impasse, which legislators hope they're close to finally ending in the coming days.
Connecticut economist Pete Gioia said new labor statistics show the state lost 7,900 during the last three months, the same period as the after-innings budget negotiations. That's meant most of the job gains from earlier in the year have been erased.
“I think that this should set off some alarm bells with our policymakers and tell them the economy and job recovery is job one,” he said.
Democratic and Republican legislative leaders announced early Tuesday they had reached an agreement on details of a proposed two-year budget. Rank-and-file lawmakers were slated to learn more about the plan later in the day during closed-door meetings. The proposal also needs to be presented to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been skeptical about whether he'll be able to sign the deal into law.
Connecticut has been without a two-year budget since the fiscal year began July 1. Malloy has been using his limited executive spending authority to run the state.
Malloy said he agrees with Gioia that the impasse has taken its toll on the jobless numbers. He said the construction industry has complained that there isn't a bigger pipeline of state-funded projects.
“They're having to make decisions about whether they retain employees or whether they let them go, particularly as they approach the end of the building season,” Malloy said of the state's construction industry. “This has an effect, and I think it already has had an effect, quite frankly.”
Malloy said Connecticut also hasn't been able to replace large numbers of its workers who've left state service, further adding to the job loss numbers.
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said his organization has seen a slow-down in projects. He said it's “hard to put a finger on what's causing it,” but acknowledges the state's budget woes could be partly to blame. He notes how the state Department of Transportation scaled back road pavement work earlier in the year when initial state budget proposals were released.
“It's a funny situation right now,” he said. “When you see the state's construction go down during the busy season, that might be an indication of a much larger problem around the state.”
Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, said municipalities, including Plainfield and Prospect, have delayed road projects due to the budget impasse, concerned about when or if the state might release grant funds. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Windsor Locks Officials Break Ground On Complete Streets Project

First Selectman Chris Kervick and town and state officials kicked off the Main Street - Complete Streets Project, with a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 13.
The first phase of the project will realign the sidewalk between Spring and Church streets.
The new sidewalk will be farther back from Main Street, tracing a safer and wider path by the shops and apartments at Waterside Village, according to Kervick. The project will incorporate reclaimed railroad tracks, a nod to Windsor Locks' industrial past.
The major portion of the project is funded by a $3 million Complete Street Grant. State funding will cover most of the construction costs.
The initial phase will reverse the order of the current configuration, with the shop's parking lot closer to Main Street, a landscaped area and, finally, the wider sidewalk. Pedestrians will stroll on the shop side once construction is completed.
The ceremony was brief, as crews readied to pour concrete for the sidewalks. Preliminary work began a few days before.
"This will become the main public right of way. There will be no sidewalk out in the road," Kervick said.
He added the shops and apartments are consistent with his vision for reviving Main Street, which was basically raised in the 1970s. His plans call for mixed-use or residential over retail establishments."We can't move the buildings to the street. Eventually, we're going to move the street to the building," he said. Kervick has spoken with potential developers over the past few months, but nothing is solid at this point. He expects the Complete Streets Project will generate interest from developers. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Op-Ed: John Larson's Tunnel Undermines A Real Project

It is alarming to read of U.S. Rep. John Larson's far-fetched I-84 and I-91 tunnel project — particularly because he appears to be deliberately positioning it to displace the I-84 viaduct project, a real project with 10 years of work behind it, a lot of people rooting for it and a possible construction start within two to five years.
Many of us organized in 2006 after reading a state Department of Transportation-commissioned report on the deteriorating condition of the Aetna viaduct, the two-mile stretch of highway west of downtown Hartford. By 2010, the Hub of Hartford report, commissioned by the city of Hartford and the Capitol Region Council of Governments, had become the basis for the current DOT design and engineering work.
The DOT began work in 2012, and we community activists became part of its Public Advisory Committee — a 52-member body representing neighborhoods, corporations, federal, state and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, highway users and others. Remarkably, this cumbersome group has achieved consensus so far, despite lively debate. This is in part due to DOT's outstanding public-involvement process, for which the agency should receive a national award.
The committee has become educated in the costs and difficult choices that a redesign of a major urban highway poses — because the new plans correct so many of the egregious errors of the original Aetna viaduct design. The new plans bury the highway and the rail line at the key location where they cross Asylum Avenue, eliminating on- and off-ramps and liberating 20 acres there and another 20 acres at Sisson Avenue — land that can go back to the city's tax base. CLICK TITLETO CONTINUE


October 24, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday October 24, 2017

Lawmakers finally reach budget deal

HARTFORD — After a marathon session of shuttle diplomacy in Capitol meeting rooms that started Monday afternoon, Connecticut’s 116-day budget impasse finally ended at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, when legislative leaders agreed they have a deal that can be voted on later in the week.
Emerging from a House Democratic caucus meeting room that had been the site of off-and-on talks for most of the month, the leaders capped their attempt to flesh out the budget framework that was agreed upon in principle last week.
While leaders were reticent to discuss specifics, pending further discussions with rank-and-file lawmakers, they agreed that major issues that had already been reported, including a 45-cent additional tax on cigarettes; a tougher cap on annual spending increases; and the use of energy funds paid by natural gas and electricity customers will remain in the two-year, $41-billion plan.
The state has been without a budget since the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and the state has been run under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive orders since then. A Republican budget that passed last month with the support of three Senate Democrats and five in the House, was successfully vetoed by Malloy.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the second year of the biennium was brought into balance by “a variety of measures and compromises.”
“This really has been a historic moment in the state of Connecticut,” said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin. “Something that people have told me for many years they wanted to see happen, that both parties come together, compromise for the good of the state. This is a proud moment for the state and for me personally.”
“This did take a lot of time and I think patience is going to prove to be a reward in this budget,” said Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. “We’ve talked about a lot of things we never talked about before. I think it’s a budget that isn’t just a budget to get past the two years. It is a budget that has sound policy, which means it is a supportive document that can carry on with the message for years to come.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said that lawmakers were competing against Malloy’s order, which would have sharply cut back spending and municipal aid. “When you have a governor that is not being helpful and a governor that is not working with us, and a govenror that is trying to scare everybody in this state, it is not about working with the bipartisan budget that passed, it was about working from the executive orders, and we had to make sure that those draconian cuts did not continue to go through and continue to hurt our cities and towns, our children, our elderly, et cetera.”
“We came out together, we stayed together, we worked together very hard and we have a product that with final caucus approval, we will vote on over the next few days that I think will make the people of the state of Connecticut proud,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “That’s not to say that there aren’t difficult decisions or hard choices, but I think people will be glad that we have a budget, that we’re going to move forward and we’re doing it in a bipartisan fashion.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter said that most of the last two days was spent “arguing over very small line items,” because the leaders wanted to get details correct. “When the final product comes out for people to look at, it’s important to realize that everything in there is related to something else,” Looney said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Deeply affordable development in Stamford a new model for housing

STAMFORD — A new downtown development will provide affordable housing for 125 people who earn less than a third of the area’s median income, helping to alleviate the persistent problem of family homelessness in the region.
Inspirica, the largest provider of homeless services in lower Fairfield County, broke ground Monday at 72 Franklin St., a development the nonprofit says is a new kind of venture that will supply “deeply affordable housing” without government subsidies used for construction or rent, helping to keep costs low and the project self-sustaining, officials said.
“Despite its resurgent economy, Stamford continues to experience stubborn homelessness,” Inspirica CEO Jason Shaplen said. “This may seem counterintuitive in one of the wealthier areas in the nation.”
Most affordable housing is for people earning around half of the median area income, Shaplen said. Deeply affordable housing, aimed at the impoverished or homeless, is for those earning 25 to 35 percent. The median area income determined by the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority is $142,800 for a family of four in Stamford.
“Seventy-two Franklin ... fills this devastating gap in the spectrum of housing,” said Shaplen, who noted the city is part of the nation’s fifth-most expensive housing market referred to as the Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford metro region.
The 47,000-square-foot building will have 26 studio apartments, 17 two-bedroom apartments, 10 three-bedroom apartments and a day care operated by Children’s Learning Centers with six classrooms for 48 infants and toddlers.
More than 80 percent of the units will be for those earning less than 30 percent of the area median income. Rents are expected to be $470 for studios, $700 for two-bedrooms and $830 for three-bedrooms, about one third of the market rate. Government vouchers will not be accepted so tenants will be paying rent out of pocket. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
NEW YORK — Amazon will be sorting through 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico that are hoping to land the company's second headquarters and the investment it'll bring.
The online had retailer kicked off its hunt for a second home base in September, promising 50,000 new jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Proposals were due last week, and Amazon made clear that tax breaks and grants would be a big factor in deciding what entry prevails.
Amazon.com Inc. did not specify which cities or metro areas applied, but many of the location have made their interest public. The company said Monday the proposals came from 43 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, as well as three Mexican states and six Canadian provinces.
In a tweet, the company said it was "excited to review each of them."
Besides looking for financial incentives, Amazon had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.
But that didn't stop some apparent long shots from applying. A bid came from Alaska, according to Amazon, though the entire state has a population below a million.
"Most of the 238 probably lack some of those big-city advantages," said Jed Kolko, the chief economist at job site Indeed. But most places probably could not pass up the chance of getting 50,000 jobs, "even if the odds of winning are low," he said.
Although generous tax breaks and other incentives can erode a city's tax base, Amazon's headquarters could draw even more tech businesses along with their well-educated, highly paid employees.
In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has endorsed Newark's bid, saying the state and the city are planning nearly $7 billion in tax breaks. Detroit bid organizers have said its proposal offers Amazon the unique chance to set up shop in both the U.S. and Canada. Missouri officials proposed an innovation corridor between Kansas City and St. Louis rather than a single location.
The seven U.S. states that Amazon said did not apply were: Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Ex-Dunkin' Donuts Park Developer Robert Landino Says He's Not Under Investigation

Robert Landino, CEO of a former developer of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, says he and his company are not under federal investigation in connection to the baseball stadium’s construction.
“My counsel has informed me that the United States Attorney’s Office has advised him that there is no investigation of me or my companies,” Landino, of Centerplan Construction Co., said in an email.
In February, The Courant reported that FBI investigators were contacting people with ties to, or knowledge of, the long-delayed $71 million ballpark project.
According to sources, investigators were collecting information on expenditures of public funds toward the completion CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Woodbury intersection under construction

WOODBURY – Contractors are at work improving the dangerous intersection of Middle Quarter Road and Sherman Hill Road.
S&S Asphalt Paving is reconfiguring the intersection. The area will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thursday, accoridng to the public works department. Drivers are advised to take an alternate route.
Public Works Director Rich Lamothe has said it’s “a very bad intersection,” because of the way the roads intersect, the lines of sight and the speed at which vehicles travel down Sherman Hill, also known as Route 64.
Plans include squaring off the angles at which the roads meet so drivers must almost come to a complete stop to turn left when coming down Sherman Hill Road. Currently, they can maneuver the turn, which is about a 45-degree angle, at high rates of speed coming down the hill.

October 23, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday October 23, 2017

Getting There: State budget crisis stalls transportation improvements

“Why don’t they build a monorail down the middle of I-95?”
So began the latest in a series of well-intentioned emails I regularly receive from readers, anxious to offer what seem like smart solutions to our transportation crisis in Connecticut.
Why no monorail?
Because we don’t have the money.
So let me ask — and answer — a few questions:
Why do we issue 20-year bonds to pay for highway repaving that, at best, will last 15 years?
 Why does 40 percent of the state’s Department of Transportation’s annual budget pay for debt service on old bonds instead of buying new trains?
Because we don’t have the money.
In China, they spend 10 percent of their GDP on infrastructure. In the U.S., it’s more like 2 percent. Why the underinvestment? Because we are paying so much to play catchup on the lack of savings in previous decades for things like pensions for state worker and teachers. In other words, we don’t have money for new trains — let alone a monorail — because we’re stuck paying the bills passed down to us that our parents didn’t pay. But nobody in Hartford has the guts to tell you that truth.
But objective experts who follow the budget process for a living have some ominous warnings:
The state has authorized $3 billion in transportation bonds we can’t even issue because we don’t have the money to pay for them.
We are in so much debt that some towns have been forced to issue bonds (IOUs) to pay for snow removal.
The state has issued bonds to make payments on other bonds — like taking out a second mortgage to pay your first.
Connecticut’s debt now adds up to $14,800 for every man, woman and child in the state. That compares to a national average of $4,300 in other states.
We have a $6 billion “balloon payment” upcoming on the underfunded teachers’ pension, and we don’t have the money. Yet, pandering politicians now give teacher retirees a 25 percent state income tax exemption on their pensions — soon to rise to 50 percent. Why? The average teacher pension in Connecticut is $59,700.
Pensions and medical care for teachers and state employees plus debt service will soon be 60 percent of the state’s budget.
Experts say it will soon be legally and mathematically impossible NOT to raise taxes in Connecticut. The latest deal with state workers promises no layoffs for four years and declaring bankruptcy is not legally possible.
So you wonder why our roads are potholed, our rails so rickety and our airports so poorly ranked? It’s because we don’t have the money.
The economic piggy bank known as Fairfield County still provides 40 percent of all the income taxes in this state, but it’s no longer growing by double-digits like previous years. A handful of billionaires in Greenwich and New Canaan could throw us into chaos if they all decided to pull up stakes and move elsewhere. And if train service on Metro-North gets much worse, they’ll have even more incentive to leave.
Yet, our elected officials in Hartford continue to lie to us about what’s coming, more concerned with their re-election by not being seen as raising taxes than telling us that Armageddon is just around the corner. CLCIK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Centre Square marketing effort ready to step up

BRISTOL - As the city continues to develop an access road serving Centre Square, it is gearing up to market the site to developers.
“Now, we want to get the word out about our downtown incentives,” said Justin Malley, executive director of the Bristol Development Authority. “We want to be able to reach a variety of audiences for this - from larger-scale developers to small mom-and-pop business owners. Our goal is to market the site to a variety of potential end users.”
The project started at the beginning of the month. So far, the city has excavated to begin installing sewers and storm drainage, said City Engineer Ray Rogozinski. He added that most of the material excavated will be removed.
“We are progressing on schedule,” Rogozinski said, adding that the road is expected to be finished next spring.
Centre Square Access Road will run 900 feet, from the corner of North Main and Laurel streets in front of City Hall to Riverside Avenue. The project includes lights, landscaping, granite curbs and trees.
The road is estimated to cost $2.5 million and will serve the new Bristol Hospital Ambulatory Care Center and future development on the north side of the lot.
It will also provide access to future development on the corner of North Main Street and Riverside Avenue. Rogozinski said the city has been in contact with developers interested in that parcel.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Legality of little known Meriden road questioned after development proposed

MERIDEN — “City street” might not be the first thing to come to mind driving by the little-known extension of Murdock Avenue off Ives Avenue. Grass and trees have conquered the pavement and aside from vehicles used by the abutting Ives farm, cars have not frequented the road in decades.
The city’s law department is looking into the legal status of road, which appears on maps and property deeds, and has put Plimpton and Hills Corporation’s application to construct a 20,000-square-foot warehouse temporarily on hold. The plumbing, heating and HVAC company hopes to build a warehouse and showroom alongside its offices at 300 Research Parkway. The extension of Murdock runs through the area proposed for the building.
The Ives family owns the farm at 1 Ives Avenue behind 300 Research Parkway and believes the warehouse would violate the city’s zoning laws because the section of Murdock Avenue is still a legal city street. “The road is a public road. It belongs to the people of Meriden. Do they have the right to give it away just to build a warehouse?” said Amy Ives.Attorney Thomas Luby, who is representing the Ives family, sent a 9-page letter requesting the Planning Commission deny Plimpton and Hills’ application because the construction calls for the warehouse to be built over the road. Even if the road were legally discontinued, Luby said the family will still retain the right to pass through Murdock Avenue between Pomeroy Avenue and Research Parkway.
“Once a roadway is accepted as a city street, it is of no significance that the roadway is seldom used,” Luby writes in the letter. “The site plan application proposes a manner of development which is a legal impossibility; the applicant simply does not have the right to build the warehouse/distribution structure in the middle of the street and right of way.”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
WALLINGFORD — Eversource Energy continues to install gas line on Route 68 after recently wrapping up work at the busy Route 150 intersection.
The $14 million project, which began in June, involves installing more than 17 miles of pipeline in Wallingford and Middletown.
On Thursday, Eversource crews continued work on a two-mile section of Route 68 between Research Parkway and Tilcon Connecticut, Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-November.
In August, a section of Route 68 leading up to Route 5 was closed for two days to accommodate construction.The first phase of the project, which involved the installation of 5.6 miles of gas line on Route 68 from Wallingford to the Durham town line, will be completed by the end of November. Next year, crews will install eight miles of gas line on Route 17 in Middletown south to the Route 68 intersection in Durham. Both segments will be connected in 2019.
“This will allow natural gas to flow between the communities, ensuring that gas is available when customers need it,” Eversource said in a statement. “Linking the two communities also offers potential access to natural gas in nearby areas where the clean and efficient fuel has not been an option.”
The Route 150 and Route 68 intersection was also recently widened by creating a three-lane approach, with a dedicated left-turn lane, a straight lane and a dedicated right-turn lane.
Town Engineer Rob Baltramaitis said the three lanes have helped alleviate congestion at certain points of the day
BERLIN — Environmental crews are working to remove debris at the site of the old train station as construction on the new station continues nearby.
“We’re deciding whether we’re going to open a section” of the new station’s platform, which extends into a portion of the former station’s property, said John Bernick, assistant rail administrator for the state Department of Transportation.
In August, DOT said the new station in Berlin is “likely” to open in January. 
Bernick said Thursday the extension of the new platform cannot be completed until the old station, leased by Amtrak to DOT, is completely demolished. Temperature sensitive concrete work may also now be delayed until the spring.Crews began final cleanup of the site Thursday nearly a year after the station was destroyed by a fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Asbestos was detected by environmental crews contracted by DOT.
Steve Waznia, town fire marshal, was on site Thursday and said the contamination needs to be contained and removed before further cleanup can occur. “They need to take care of that first,” he said.
Bernick said crews had anticipated hazardous materials due to the age of the building.
“These are normal things we encounter,” he said.
Any salvageable materials, included in a list within the demolition contract, will be saved and discussed with the town.
DOT met with the town last week to discuss plans going forward.
“The town has a number of different plans and initiatives they are pursuing,” Bernick said.
Interim Town Manager Jack Healy was not immediately available for comment.
Completion of cleanup is expected to take a few more weeks.]
PLAINVILLE — Over 150 people crowded into the cafeteria at Plainville High School to learn about the new preferred route to close the gap in the Farmington Canal Trail at the Plainville-Southington line.
“I’m all for it,” said Joyce Fritz, a Plainville resident, during the Wednesday night session.
 Fritz biked to the meeting using marked street paths throughout town. She is part of a local group of cyclists out who travel on the Farmington Canal Trail.
The Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) has been looking at options to close the 4-mile trail gap since last summer. Choices were narrowed down to one preferred route that is mostly off road and starts on Northwest Drive.Previously the route was proposed to go through Peron Road and Tomasso Nature Park. Under the revised plan, the trail passes through the western edge of the Carling Technologies property behind Peron Road.
“I really don’t want to see that go behind our backyards,” said Robert Balkow, a Peron Road resident. 
He spoke at a Town Council meeting this week along with several other residents opposing a route through Peron Road or Pierce Street.
Most councilors said they were in favor of closing the gap, but wanted more information before making a final decision .
“I think we do need to have more input,” said councilor Scott Saunders.
During Wednesday’s meeting at the high school, potential trail liability and maintenance issues were raised by residents.
“Maintenance would be an agreement between the town and DOT,” said Tim Malone, principal planner for CRCOG.
Close to 100 percent of the trail is proposed to be off-road in wooded areas and on side street paths. There is a possibility some sections could be on-road initially depending on funding for off-road construction.
“All alignments are preliminary,” Malone said. “We will continue to refine it once selected.”
He said if approved by the town, the trail could ultimately take four years to complete. Funding will be explored as the project moves forward.
Greater Hartford's competitive bid for Amazon's second headquarters touts its value as an affordable, talent-filled transportation hub that boasts both a sustainability plan and nearby international airport -- two of the online retail giant's key requirements.
The cities of East Hartford and Hartford -- the latter of which has been open about its fiscal challenges and the possibility of filing for bankruptcy -- have teamed up in a bid to land Amazon's second headquarters, dubbed HQ2.
They, with the help of state officials, officially submitted their application Thursday, which was the deadline established by Amazon. Stamford also submitted a state-sanctioned application. With Amazon's second headquarters located in either Hartford or Stamford, Connecticut would see a $500 billion increase in its GDP over the next quarter-century, state officials said.
The state has set up websites pitching both the Hartford and Stamford regions. Greater Hartford is described as both an "eclectic" and "charming" destination -- deemed one of only 19 "Knowledge Capitals" worldwide by the Brookings Institution -- that offers "a larger labor force than many other metro areas, one of the highest academic concentrations in the nation, and a cost of living 15 percent to 50 percent below other Northeast cities."
"We're inviting Amazon to reinvent with us – to create a campus bridging both banks of the historic Connecticut River, and to be part of our great city's revival," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin via email. "But beyond the attractiveness of the site itself, the real power of our application is the strength of our region."
Specifics in the application sent to Amazon Thursday by the state of Connecticut on behalf of the city include developable site availability both east and west of the Connecticut River, spanning downtown Hartford and East Hartford.
The application also highlights the region's array of colleges and universities, the CTfastrak rapid transit bus system and walkable bike friendly neighborhoods. A Hartford Climate Stewardship Initiative is a climate action plan focused on energy, food, landscape, transportation, waste and water needs.
In September, Amazon announced plans to open a second company headquarters in North America to complement its headquarters in Seattle. Cities across the country are competing as Amazon expects to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow the site to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.
Competing cities had until Thursday to submit confidential applications to Amazon.

Hartford Will Seek Proposals For Land Around Ballpark In Next Few Weeks

The city is moving swiftly to seek new proposals for the property around Dunkin’ Donuts Park, just weeks after it fired the original developer of the ballpark from other projects in the Downtown North neighborhood.
With the ballpark coming off a successful first season of minor league baseball, Hartford planners envision a combination of residential and retail development on the 16 acres surrounding the ballpark, now a sea of parking lots and a vacant, bunker-like former bank data-processing center. Sean Fitzpatrick, the city’s director of development services, said that the city will seek proposals beginning in early November, and that he expects prospective developers will have three months to submit their ideas.
“We are fairly agnostic as to whether it is three developers, one developer. We really want to see what the market comes up with,” Fitzpatrick said. “There may be some other things that we haven’t thought of. There may be other entertainment uses that someone would come up with.” Mayor Luke Bronin has told The Courant that Hartford already received several inquiries from interested developers, though he has declined to name them.
When the city agreed to finance the $71 million Dunkin’ Donuts Park, development around the ballpark was considered a crucial part of the plan to generate much-needed tax revenue for the city.
Fitzpatrick acknowledged that the process could be complicated by a “legal overhang” involving the development partners that originally were hired to build both the stadium and redevelop the surrounding neighborhood.
The developers have sued the city for wrongful termination from the ballpark project, claiming the city made dozens of changes that caused the developers to miss the deadlines.
Raymond A. Garcia, a lawyer for Centerplan, has said he and his clients don’t think the city will be able to justify the most recent firing.
Garcia declined comment Friday on the move by the city to seek new proposals for the neighborhood project.
Fitizpatrick said the city would cast a wide net, not only regionally but in the New York and Boston development circles. The city also is talking to landowners just outside the Downtown North area. There are wide expanses of land along Market Street, for example, that often have been mentioned as prime areas for redevelopment.
Fitzpatrick said the city could “put people together and see what we could make happen.”
Even with an expected legal challenge, it is important for the city to begin marketing the properties, Fitzpatrick said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

What Lies Beneath: Cities With the Best—and Worst—Infrastructure

Savvy home buyers know that when they check out a home, they need to look at the fundamentals. Is the foundation sagging? Is there a whiff of rot in the basement? How old is the roof? Hey, is that a water stain spreading on the bedroom ceiling? All of these could hint at big trouble, and bigger expenses, up ahead.
But most people don't extend that nuts-and-bolts approach to the infrastructure around the house. And yet: How the heck are you going to get to work, or to the grocery store? Is the water drinkable? Are potholes turning into sinkholes, prompting desperate cries of "What the hell happened to my home investment?"
Highways and sewers and electrical grids—oh my! They're hardly scintillating topics for dinner-party conversation, but they're essential to everyday life. And to the future value of your home.
But here's the harsh truth: Infrastructure in the United States is a stark tale of haves and have-nots. Some cities have pristine and modern systems, investing deeply in future projects; others seem to be decomposing from within. The realtor.com® data team set out to separate the best from the rest.
For a seemingly snooze-worthy subject, infrastructure improvement has gotten plenty of attention lately. President Trump used the subject for sure-fire "stand-up-and-cheer" moments at his campaign trail rallies, as he promised to rebuild aging city systems. So far, little has come from his $1 trillion national infrastructure improvement plan, which was billed as relying on public-private partnerships.
But there's plenty of stuff happening—or in some cases, not happening—on a local level.
“Cities that keep up with infrastructure needs are a big step ahead in attracting home buyers,” says Scott Muldavin, chair of the Counselors of Real Estate, a Chicago-based industry group. The home buyers, he says, "want short commutes, transit options, and quality roads. Time is money, and being near good infrastructure improves home value.”
Employers, too, are clamoring for locations in markets with first-class infrastructure. Good luck competing for the second Amazon headquarters without an airport that doesn’t have direct flights to Seattle! CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Amtrak: Sandy Tunnel Repairs May Begin in 2025, Cost $1B

Construction work on a critical project to repair damage from superstorm Sandy in East River tunnels used mostly by the Long Island Rail Road may not begin until 2025 — 13 years after the structures were deluged with 14 million gallons of corrosive saltwater.
The work, once expected to begin by 2019, now will cost more than $1 billion — three times original estimates, according to Amtrak. It will also require the LIRR to operate without one of four East River tunnels, or tubes, linking Long Island to Penn Station for up to four years — twice as long as originally estimated, Amtrak officials said Oct. 19.
Even years after water flooded the tunnels in October 2012, residual chemicals continue to eat away at their structure, experts have said.
Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), after being briefed by Amtrak officials on the plan, called the developments “extremely troubling.” He said waiting more than a dozen years after Sandy to repair the damage could significantly worsen LIRR service disruptions caused by problems in the tunnels — disruptions that have increased 72 percent since the storm, according to a state comptroller's report in April.
Problems with the East River tunnels were responsible for nearly one-fifth of all the LIRR's increase in delays, cancellations and terminations since 2011, the report said.
“Being stuck in a tunnel is not something that we can take lightly. And unfortunately, that's what riders are going to be increasingly looking at,” said Kaminsky, who intends to call for a public hearing to discuss the tunnel-repair project. “It is not an acceptable plan.”
In 2014, Amtrak announced its plan to address Sandy's toll on the tunnels, including from chlorides and sulfates in the floodwaters that “caused and continues to cause damage to the tunnel structures,” according to a report issued by HNTB Corp., a Kansas City, Missouri, construction engineering consultant hired by Amtrak.
Amtrak, using HNTB's projections, said the repairs, which largely entailed addressing deep cracks and holes in concrete structures, would cost about $330 million and would necessitate taking each of the two affected tunnels out of service for a year at a time.
Amtrak officials said Oct. 19 that the consultants' report did not factor in the condition of other components of the tunnels, included aging electrical wires and signal systems. So Amtrak has opted for a “full reconstruction” of the tunnels — a complex project that requires years of design work and other preparations. That includes fortifying the other two CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


October 19, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday October 19, 2017

Wethersfield Town Council Approves Tax Abatement For Long Vacant Fun Zone Property

he town council has approved a $1.4 million tax abatement to aid a developer looking to build apartments on the Silas Deane Highway.
The former Fun Zone property at 1178 Silas Deane Highway, which has been vacant for 20 years, was earmarked in the town’s master plan for redevelopment.
“We were looking for a high profile project and this couldn’t be any more high profile,” Town Planner Peter Gillespie said. “It satisfies a housing demand in the community. It takes a blighted property and converts it into a positive, tax generating property.”
The six-year tax abatement was approved 8-0 by the council Monday night, with Councilman Mike Hurley abstaining.
With the abatement in place, Lexington Partners LLC will build 111 market rate apartments, plus restaurant space on the first floor. Apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units.
“The Borden”, as the building will be known, is expected to draw younger residents to Wethersfield and drive up the town’s grand list once the tax abatement period ends.
“When it comes online, it will be in the top five taxpayers in town,” Gillespie said. “It immediately goes to the top.”
During construction, the developer will pay taxes on the property. According to documents filed with the town, Lexington Partners expects to start construction next month.
During public comment before Monday’s town council meeting, many residents expressed approval of the project.
“I’m support of the Borden project and the tax abatement we’re talking about,” resident Steve Walsh said. “At first blush, it doesn’t appear that there’d be an additional cost, it’ll grow the grand list.”
Resident Tom Mazzarella, who is running for town council on the Republican slate in November, said he wasn’t sure the town should be forfeiting tax revenue during difficult budget times.
“Can we really afford to give up this kind of revenue when we don’t know if we’ll be able to meet out obligations?” he asked. “I would suggest you reject this proposal and renegotiate a better deal for the Wethersfield residents.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Conn. Regulators Probe Gas Price Manipulation Accusations

Connecticut regulators are investigating practices by the state’s two dominant gas and electric utilities following accusations that gas deliveries were manipulated to create shortages, causing higher prices and costing New England electricity consumers $3.6 billion over three years.
The two utilities, Eversource and Avangrid, deny the allegations. An executive of Eversource said the report furthers environmentalists’ efforts to halt gas pipeline construction.
Researchers Levi Marks, Charles F. Mason, Kristina Mohlin and Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins wrote in a 74-page paper that they found “strong evidence” the gas and electricity utilities “regularly restricted capacity to the region by scheduling deliveries without actually flowing gas.”
Marks, Mason and Zaragoza-Watkins are university researchers, and Mohlin is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund.
They wrote that “unusual scheduling practices” tied up capacity that should have been released or would have otherwise been made available to other shippers.
“Instead, significant quantities of pipeline capacity went unutilized on many of the coldest days of the year, pushing up the price of gas,” they said. “This behavior blocks other firms from utilizing pipeline capacity, which artificially limits gas supply to the region and drives up gas and electricity prices.”
James Daly, vice president of energy supply at Eversource, said the analysis is “completely wrong.”
N. Jonathan Peress, senior director of energy market policy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority made the right decision to explore the increasing interaction between gas and electricity markets.
Regulators will review the gas supply portfolio and forecasting, deliveries and other practices of Connecticut’s local distribution companies “in the context of the growing dependency of the electric grid on natural gas resources.”
Avangrid said its “obligation and requirement as a regulated local gas distribution company” is to provide a reliable source of gas service to customers during the most extreme weather conditions. It said it has not benefited financially by “any movement in the wholesale electricity pricing market in New England.”
State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz said Tuesday that she will participate in the review.
“While we are generally confident that our markets function as intended, claims of this magnitude must be thoroughly investigated to ensure consumer confidence in the bills they pay,” she said.
The four researchers, discussing gas-price spikes, cited the winter of 2013-14, when temperatures plunged as a result of the so-called “polar vortex,” a blast of Arctic air that drifted south, enveloping the mid-Atlantic and New England states. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE