October 9, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday October 9, 2017

Route 5 property owner will pursue plaza development ‘aggressively’ as DOT work winds down in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — A staging area used by the state Department of Transportation to sort construction materials for the CTrail Hartford Line is expected to close in the next week, according to the property owner
Robert Mesite, who owns the 2.5-acre parcel next to Sonic on Route 5, said the DOT was supposed to end its lease on Oct. 1, but needed a two week extension.
DOT’s contractor, the Middlesex Corp., has restored the Sonic property back to its original condition, said DOT spokesman Judd Everhart.
“Middlesex still has additional work to do along Route 5 to remove the temporary driveway that they used to access that property,” Everhart said. “The work along Route 5 is scheduled to be complete next week.”
Mesite has plans to build a plaza on the site and said last month he has a standing offer with several companies, some banks and major retailers for the plaza.
“We are going to pursue it aggressively,” Mesite said Friday.
Traffic along that portion of Route 5 is particularly heavy because of the junctions with Route 15. In order to get approval for the Sonic, Mesite’s engineers had to produce complicated traffic plans that allowed for new signaling and a right turn only exit.
The DOT has been double tracking the rail line from New Haven to Springfield for two years to allow for 18 commuter trains a day to run from New Haven to Hartford, and 12 to Springfield.
The project has been delayed several times and the start date for the increased service has been pushed back from January 2018 to May 2018. Much of the delay was due to contract negotiations with Amtrak, owner of the rail line and equipment.
Amtrak will remain responsible for maintenance of the railroad infrastructure, including track signals, train dispatching, and right-of-way security. Amtrak’s existing service will not be altered by Hartford Line service. CTrail trains will operate together with Amtrak trains on the rail line.
The DOT selected TransitAmerica Services Inc. and Alternate Concepts Inc. to operate the CTrail Hartford Line in July after receiving a $41.8 million bid, the middle of five proposals, including one from Amtrak.
As part of the contract, TASI/ACI will be responsible for train stations and parking lots in Wallingford, Meriden and Berlin, as well as a 225-space parking garage at 24 Colony St. in Meriden. The parking lot in Wallingford has 223 spaces, while the Meriden lot has 66 spaces, and the Berlin lot 218 spaces. CLCIK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Norwich — The state Department of Transportation will hold a public informational meeting Thursday (Oct. 12) on a $2.6 million plan to replace a 104-year-old bridge on Route 97 over Cold Brook near the Sprague town line.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Norwich City Hall, although work on the bridge is not slated to be done until spring of 2020. Plans for the project will be available at the meeting.
State officials said the bridge, 12 feet long and 37 feet wide, must be replaced based on findings of a recent inspection that found the bridge to be in “serious condition,” with a wingwall leaning and undermined abutments.
The new bridge will be a three-sided rigid frame structure, and the roadway will be lowered slightly, improving sightlines for motorists, DOT officials said in a news release announcing the project.
During construction, the bridge will be closed in both directions for nine weeks, and alternating one-way traffic may be required for additional time both before and after the closure.
A 4.4-mile detour is planned during the bridge closure.
Cold Brook passes under Route 97 from Cote Pond and the Shetucket River north of Lillibridge Road in Norwich and just south of the Sprague town line.

CT's transportation infrastructure needs grow as funding ebbs

Q&A talks with Don Shubert of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, which recently released a report calling for greater investment in the state's transportation infrastructure.
Q. The Connecticut Construction Industries Association recently released a report criticizing plans by the legislature to cap annual transportation bonding at $700 million. How much should the state invest annually and where should that money be spent?
A. According to the existing plans and forecasts, bond authorizations are currently at $1.3 billion per year and are on track to increase up to nearly $1.5 billion annually in 2020. The state should be investing an average of $2 billion per year to sustain the current systems, and $3 billion annually to have a first-in-class transportation system, according to estimates prepared by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) for the Let's Go CT transportation investment initiative.
The money is going to have to be spent across all modes of transportation. A vast number of Connecticut's roads, bridges and transit systems are aging and operating over the designed capacity at the same time.
Q. If you were to prioritize CT's transportation infrastructure needs what are the most pressing needs?
A. Maintaining the current systems in a state of good repair is the best place to start and it has public support.
In 2014, DOT conducted a comprehensive survey of travelers in the state, which found that a higher percentage of the 1,000 participants favored maintaining highway infrastructure than any of the other 12 choices. The responses also favored keeping the transportation system in good order.
The challenges facing Connecticut's transportation network are numerous and significant.
For example, ConnDOT estimates that repairing or replacing four key rail bridges in the state will cost over $3 billion. The number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete roadway bridges in the state is well over the national average. And 57 percent of Connecticut's roadways eligible for federal aid are rated "not acceptable," the second highest percentage in all 50 states.
Q. The state will have fiscal constraints for years to come. How should the state raise additional revenues for transportation when the current funding sources will be severely constrained?
A. In the near future, the state will have to consider incorporating other revenue sources and innovative financing tools to sustain infrastructure investment.
In January of 2016, a panel of transportation experts in Connecticut issued a report that contained a menu of recommendations for funding sources. The list included traditional sources, such as motor vehicle receipts, taxes, permits, fees, gasoline tax and the sales tax. It also included other sources, such as tolling, advertising and value capture. There is no single source that can cover the entire program. It is going to take a combination of revenue streams to meet the state's future mobility needs.
Research shows broad support for raising transportation revenues. A recent survey conducted by HNTB found that 84 percent of Americans are willing to pay increases if the funds are guaranteed by law for use only toward infrastructure.
Q. The report talks about how fully funding transportation infrastructure would benefit Connecticut's key industries — healthcare/bioscience, insurance and financial services, advanced manufacturing, digital media, tourism and green technologies? How is that the case?
A. Transportation investment impacts these sectors in two ways. The first is through the actual construction activity itself — contractors, designers and others that work on these projects will increase their demand for inputs and materials. Their employees will also increase demand for general goods and services throughout the economy. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Hotel development next big investment for New Haven

NEW HAVEN — Unless you plan it in advance, it may be difficult to get a hotel room in the city.
That interest in New Haven for business or pleasure is something that puts smiles on the faces of personnel in the city’s economic development office as they track the numbers and guide the most recent proposals to add hotel rooms through the approval process.
The desire for extended-stay hotels is borne out in two plans, coming on the back of an upgraded New Haven Village Suites at Long Wharf.
There are numerous other inquiries the city hopes are more than aspirational, while slow progress is being made on a hotel for the Continuum of Care site on Route 34.
Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Economic Development Corp./REX, said statistics show room revenues and occupancy for the hotels here are up year over year.
“We are at a very strong demand,” Kozlowski said of the leisure side, as well as the corporate and meeting sectors, generated around Yale University, Yale New Haven Hospital, the Knights of Columbus and biotech businesses.
“We have a good balance. We are not like a lot of other hotels in the state where they are dependent on leisure travel or the business travelers. We are pretty consistent,” she said.
Busy days
Randy Salvatore first came to New Haven to construct the Novella apartments on Chapel Street and now is bringing housing to the Hill on property that had been fallow for decades and in his latest endeavor. But Salvatore also has jumped into the extended-stay hotel business.
Preliminary work already has begun on the 108-room hotel at the corner of Crown and High streets by Salvatore’s RMS Cos. He will pitch them to the academicians and researchers who currently can’t find accommodations within walking distance of Yale and the hospital.
In a hot market, he took over the approved project from Mod Equities and then tweaked it to appeal specifically to New Haven’s needs. He said he is interviewing a number of restaurants to locate at the hotel. Salvatore said he is not averse to also renting the rooms in a traditional hotel arrangement.
“It will be very fresh and different in terms of decor and the quality of the food offered. It will have extended-stay capability but the look and feel of a traditional hotel,” Salvatore said. CLICK TITLLE TO CONTINUE