March 28, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday 18 2018, 2018


Transportation Campaign Links

'Toll Trolls' Take Over Capitol as Toll Debate Continues

Seventy-two “toll trolls” were scattered along the lawn of the Connecticut State Capitol Tuesday morning.
The green trolls, each holding a sign resembling an exit on a highway, represented a possible location for a toll along Connecticut highways based on a 3-year-old study commissioned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
The Yankee Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Connecticut, arranged the display.
“We’re here to say not one cent more in taxes on the people of Connecticut,” said Carol Platt Liebau, president of the Yankee Institute.
Platt Liebau said Connecticut taxpayers have been asked to provide too much already in the state Connecticut when it comes to property taxes, fees, and the income tax. Her group said lawmakers need to make other changes to state spending and borrowing before they enact any kind of toll collecting mechanism on the state’s highways.
“People in Connecticut say, we’ve already paid for these roads and again and again politicians have raided the special transportation fund and used that money for other things.”
The Yankee Institute acknowledges that infrastructure repairs are necessary, but does not provide an alternative to tolls, something Rep. Tony Guerrera, the loudest voice on the issue, points out. Well how do you want to pay for our infrastructure, then?” asked Guerrera, (D – Rocky Hill), who chairs the Transportation Committee in the General Assembly.
Gov. Dannel Malloy advocated for providing new revenue to the Special Transportation Fund by installing electronic tolls by 2023, which he estimates could bring in as much as $600 billion to $800 billion in new revenues.
Guerrera said it only makes sense to collect fees from drivers who currently get free rides through the state.
“Do you think it’s fair that out of state drivers come through our state and don’t pay a dime toward our infrastructure? While we travel through the entire northeast corridor and we have to pay? Give me a plan that’s better than what I’m predicting, here.”
The Transportation Committee approved a bill earlier this session that would order the Department of Transportation to return to the General Assembly in 2019 the results of a study that would identify where the toll collections would take place, how much they would cost, and what kinds of discounts Connecticut residents could expect.

Toll Trolls Crashed By Transportation Committee Chairman

HARTFORD, CT — The Yankee Institute placed 72 cardboard trolls on the front lawn of the state Capitol Tuesday to raise public awareness about the potential number of electronic toll gantries that could be installed on Connecticut’s highways.
“We’re here to say not one cent more on the people of Connecticut,” Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau said. Rep. Antonio Guerrera, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, crashed the press conference to say that there’s no proposal to install 72 toll gantries. “I understand that it’s an inconvenient truth,” Platt Liebau said. “Especially now that the taxpayers of Connecticut have said they don’t want to be taxed simply because they’re driving to work.”
She said the number came from the 2015 CDM Smith report for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“It would make Connecticut the most tolled state in the country,” she added.
Guerrera said the legislation that passed the committee would require the Transportation Commissioner to study where the tolls should be placed on Interstates 84, 91, and 95, in addition to the Merritt Parkway and the Wilbur Cross.
It also asks the commissioner to look at how much the state should charge and what tax credits can be given to Connecticut residents.
The proposal may have another round of legislative approvals or it will be deemed approved 30 days after the start of the next legislative session.
Guerrera said after that if tolls are eventually approved then they have to come back and lower the gas tax by 5 cents.
Platt Liebau said Connecticut’s gas tax is the sixth highest in the county. And while she would like to see it lowered, she’s doubtful it would happen Guerrera said if tolls isn’t the answer than they need to come up with a way to pay for Connecticut’s crumbling infrastructure.
“How do we pay for it?” Guerrera said.
Platt Liebau said they can’t throw good money after bad. They have to come up with a better plan.
“It’s time for the politicians of Connecticut before they demand one cent more of our money to start getting at the structural costs that make Connecticut the sixth highest gas tax and the highest administrative cost per mile to build highways,” Platt Liebau said. 

WESTBROOK — Construction soon will start on a project to replace 2,000 feet of aging water main along South Main Street, Connecticut Water Co. officials said Tuesday.The company is spending $700,000 on the main replacement project, which is scheduled to begin sometime next week. The project is expected to be completed by early July, Dan Meaney, a spokesman for the Clinton-based utility, said.
The main that is being replaced was installed more than 89 years ago, according to Craig Patla, the company’s vice president of service delivery.“This project will improve reliability of water service, enhance water quality and supply more water to hydrants along the road,” Patla said in a statement.
The project is being done through the company’s Water Infrastructure and Conservation Adjustment program, he said. Through the program, the company may charge customers a small surcharge on their bills for projects to invest in replacing aging water mains or for conservation-related projects Connecticut Water has invested more than $139 million and replaced more than 118 miles of water main with an average age of 76 years, since the program began in 2007.
Connecticut Water has 1,600 miles of water main across the state. nIn addition to the Westbrook project, the utility is doing water main replacement projects in Deep River and Old Saybrook. Connecticut Water has 17 construction projects currently underway.
Work hours for the majority of the project in Westbrook will be from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Construction at the intersections with Boston Post Road will be done between 7 and 8 p.m., as directed by the state of Transportation.
Customers will be contacted directly by Connecticut Water with additional information on the project and advance notice will be given before any planned service interruptions related to the water main replacement. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

New AG opinion a blow to tribes’ East Windsor casino

Attorney General George Jepsen strongly warned the legislature Tuesday against allowing the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to jointly develop a casino in East Windsor without the approval of the U.S. Interior Department, a condition of the 2017 law permitting the project to compete with MGM Springfield.
The opinion is likely to be the final blow in this legislative session to any hopes by the tribes to circumvent the requirement for Interior Department approval.
In a formal opinion sought by House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Jepsen said his office still views approval by the Interior Department of amendments to the state’s gaming compacts and memoranda of understanding with the tribes as necessary to guarantee the new project would not jeopardize Connecticut’s existing revenue-sharing arrangement with them.
“Our view of the risks of proceeding without federal approval of the amendments is unchanged. Indeed, subsequent events and actions of Interior only reaffirm our view that approval of the amendments is highly recommended to protect the State’s interests under the Compacts and the MOUs,” Jepsen wrote.
The tribes now pay the state 25 percent of the gross slots revenue at their two separately owned and operated casinos, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, under deals that give the two federally recognized tribes exclusive casino gaming rights in Connecticut. That is expected to produce at least $260 million this year.
The Interior Department has refused to accept or reject proposed amendments to the gaming agreements, blocking construction of the jointly owned casino on a hillside overlooking I-91 between Hartford and Springfield. The state and tribes are suing the Interior Department over its refusal to act.
“To take action on the assumption that the State and Tribes will succeed in the ongoing litigation would be highly imprudent,” Jepsen wrote.
The tribes and MGM Resorts International have been engaged in a fierce lobbying war in Connecticut for nearly three years. MGM is intent on blocking the East Windsor facility, which was proposed after Massachusetts granted MGM a license to develop a $960 million casino resort over the state line in Springfield.
The East Windsor casino was meant to blunt the loss of market share to MGM Springfield, which is expected to open this fall. Massachusetts also has authorized a second casino in Everett, Mass., just north of Boston. The two projects, plus new competition in Rhode Island and New York, are expected to drive down the slots revenue paid to Connecticut.
MGM, a gaming giant based in Nevada, opened a new front in the casino wars last year, proposing a casino resort in Bridgeport. Expansion outside East Windsor would require the passage of new legislation that would end the state’s exclusivity deal with the tribal casinos and the revenue sharing. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


CT Construction Digest March 28, 2018

Two Options Emerge For New Train, Bus Stations In Downtown Hartford

 Two options emerged Tuesday for relocating downtown Hartford’s train and bus stations — both of them north of Asylum Avenue — as part of the massive, I-84 reconstruction project planned for the city.
Both options involve the stretch of land west of Union Station extending to the corporate offices of The Hartford Financial Services Group.
The options locate the train station just to the west of the new highway, which would be lowered in the reconstruction. But the options differ on the placement of a combined bus station and parking garage. One places it just to the west of the lowered highway, while the other locates it above the highway. The state Department of Transportation and the city of Hartford Tuesday recommended the option that did not include building above the highway. The option, they said, would be less expensive and does not raise potential concerns for security. Construction of the train, bus and parking venues also could get going earlier in the reconstruction project.
Aaron Gill, chairman of the Frog Hollow Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, said it is unlikely that a private developer would tackle such a project in a city the size of Hartford.
“If the DOT doesn’t construct over that space, it is wasted,” Gill said. “Nothing is going to go there. Where the land immediately adjacent to it, that’s in the heart of downtown, what will now be next to a great transportation hub, it is going to be very valuable land.”
Rich Armstrong, the DOT’s principal engineer overseeing the I-84 project, said after the meeting that “some very valuable points were brought up, but I am very concerned about the costs.”
The option recommended by the state and city is now estimated to cost $120 million but that could rise. The DOT will now calculate the potential cost of building over the highway and report back to the committee.
The new train and bus stations are needed because plans for lowering I-84 to slightly below grade requires shifting it to the west. Such a dramatic change requires moving the path of the train tracks to the west of the lowered highway. A new use would be found for the historic Union Station, built in 1889.
The transportation center is part of a sweeping plan to lower a 2-mile stretch of the aging, I-84 elevated highway as it passes through the city. The plan also has the potential to dramatically reshape the area around the 129-year-old train station and west of Bushnell Park, now a desolate jumble of concrete highway support columns and ramps.
The entire I-84 project is expected to cost between $4.3 billion and $5.3 billion and would be paid for by a combination of state and federal funding.
The future of the project is still far from certain because funding must be secured. If funding comes to fruition, construction could begin in the early to mid-2020s, Armstrong said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Widening of Rt. 34 and Derby-Milford Road starts this weekend

DERBY — Construction to widen the road at the intersection of Route 34 and Derby-Milford Road, which has been the scene of numerous rear-end crashes over the years, is slated to get underway after April 1, likely next week.
The project has been in the design phase for the past few years, and several public hearings have since taken place to discuss the operational improvements to the roadway.
DOT spokesperson Kevin Nursick said improvements consist of widening Derby-Milford Road (near Greco & Haines) to accommodate a three-lane approach to Route 34, a two-lane approach from Sentinel Hill Road and construction of an exclusive right-turn lane from Route 34 to Derby-Milford Road.
The improvements, according to Nursick, are geared to reduce congestion and improve the overall operation and safety of the busy intersection. A minor retaining wall will also be built for roadway support on the southeastern side of the intersection.
Other improvements included in the project are modifying the turn radius for right turning vehicles from Route 34 onto Derby-Milford Road, signal improvements at the intersection to accommodate the two new left turn lanes on Derby-Milford Road, replacing the existing guiderail on Derby-Milford Road to meet current standards and possible removal of some vegetation to improve sight lines at the intersection, according to Nursick.
The state DOT awarded the project to NJR Construction, LLC, of Torrington, earlier this month in the amount of $1.8 million. The project is being funded 80/20 with federal and state funding, and is slated to be completed by November 30.
Mayor Richard Dziekan said Tuesday the project is a welcome addition to the congested and accident-prone intersection.
“First and foremost, it allows for a safer passage through town and into the gateway to New Haven and Milford and all points east,” said Dziekan. “As a former accident reconstructionist and knowing that the area is a weak zone, it will markedly improve the aesthetics and service which are always relevant and gratifying to the public. The improvements to Route 34 will be a welcome enhancement to future business owners looking for a positive location with limitless access for their customer base.”
DOT said motorists should be aware of the following lane closures during the construction period:
Route 34: During the allowable periods, the contractor shall maintain and protect a minimum of one lane of traffic in each direction not less than 11 feet. For turn lanes, 10 feet shall be maintained for a minimum of 150 feet.
Derby-Milford Road and Sentinel Hill Road: During the allowable periods, the contractor shall maintain and protect at least an alternating one-way traffic operation, not less than 12 feet in width. The length of alternating traffic operation shall not exceed 300 feet.
The contractor shall maintain access to and egress from all commercial and residential driveways throughout the project limits.

Stamford bridge project to shut Atlantic Street next year

By Angela Carella
STAMFORD — Beginning next February, a key portion of Atlantic Street will be closed for six months, creating traffic chaos in one of the busiest spots in the city.
The state Department of Transportation is replacing the old railroad bridge that passes over Atlantic Street near South State Street, a choke point for motorists headed to and from the train station, Interstate 95, the downtown, the South End and Shippan.
From February to June 2019, Atlantic Street will be shut down at the railroad bridge, said Judd Everhart, spokesman for the DOT.
Motorists will be directed to a changing series of detours through a congested area that includes Henry Street, Dock Street, Canal Street, Guernsey Avenue, North State Street, South State Street and lower Washington Boulevard.
Between June and September 2019, the Atlantic Street closure will be extended just beyond the bridge to the north and the south, Everhart said. A portion of South State Street also will be closed.
The area will be least accessible for the nine days between the weekend preceding the July 4, 2019 holiday, which falls on a Thursday, and the following weekend, Everhart said. During that time, the new bridge, which will be prefabricated, will be wheeled in and installed in portions as the old one is demolished.
The method, Accelerated Bridge Construction, allows for replacement in a fraction of the time required using traditional methods, according to the DOT’s consulting engineers.
Another element of the project has already eased traffic near the old railroad bridge, said James Travers, chief of the Stamford Transportation Bureau. In the first phase, which started in 2016, the DOT reconstructed the exit 8 northbound ramp of I-95 so it crosses over Atlantic Street and no longer dumps traffic at the bridge.
“Now traffic is coming off exit 8 and going on South State Street but missing Atlantic Street,” Travers said. “If the plan were to have been to do this with the old exit 8 ramp in place, things would be worse. But we are seeing a significant reduction in traffic in the Atlantic Street corridor since the relocation of the ramp. That being said, any time you take a road out of commission, it will create a level of confusion.”
Easier access
The ramp work — which includes widening the intersection of South State and Canal streets to five lanes — is set to be finished in June, just in time for the bridge work to accelerate, said Kevin Conroy, an engineer with Haks Engineering, the company managing the bridge replacement for the DOT. Conroy ran a public-information meeting last Thursday at the Stamford Government Center, but no one from the public attended except a representative of the Downtown Special Services District. More meetings will be scheduled in the coming months, Conroy said.
The bridge portion of the project will include widening Atlantic Street to three lanes in each direction, and lowering it to allow the standard clearance of 14 feet, 6 inches under the railroad bridge, Conroy said. As it is, many trucks cannot pass beneath it.
After the bridge foundations are rebuilt and infrastructure work is complete, the new bridge, which will be constructed off-site, will be delivered in six pieces, Conroy said. Each piece has two railroad tracks, he said.
Crews will work 24/7 during the week of July 4, 2019, a time chosen by Metro-North Railroad officials because train ridership is low, said Brett Stark, project manager and principal with BL Companies, a Hartford firm acting as a DOT consultant on the project.
Track added
At the train station, a dedicated track will be added to the branch line that serves the stations at Glenbrook, Springdale, New Canaan and Danbury. The local train now has to share a track with trains running between New York and New Haven, Stark said.
“That track will be freed up to handle just through-traffic,” he said.
The track work will begin after the new bridge is installed and will not affect road traffic.
The bridge work, which will begin this summer, will take more than a year to complete, but it would have taken five or six years using traditional methods, Stark said.
Besides that, the contractor, Halmar International of New York, will be motivated to keep to the schedule, he said.
 “If the contractor is able to get Atlantic Street open sooner, he can earn incentive payments from the state,” Stark said. “And there are heavy penalties if he fails to open it on time.”
Historic stone
City officials ensured a historic element of the old railroad bridge will be preserved. It was built with Portland brownstones from a quarry in upstate Connecticut that was known for its quality. The brownstones were used in landmark buildings in New York, Boston, Chicago and other cities in the late 1800s.
Before the project began, the Board of Representatives passed a resolution saying the brownstones must be returned to the city to be used for “public projects and beautification around Stamford.”
The projects to improve the exit 8 ramp and replace the railroad bridge are expected to cost a total of $100 million to $120 million. They are entirely state funded, Everhart said. Everything should be complete by summer 2020.
For motorists, the learning curve begins next February, when Atlantic Street closes, Travers said.
 “The most challenging time is when it first gets closed,” he said. “After that, people will begin to understand which way to go.”

March 27, 2018

CT Construction Digest Tuesday March 27, 2018

SoNo Collection construction proceeds with North Water Street overpass next

NORWALK — Work on The SoNo collection this spring will focus on remaining steel construction, finishing the garage structure either side of North Water Street, and crossing over the street itself.
“Bringing the large steel beams across North Water Street will be a major milestone,” said Douglas T. Adams, senior director with mall developer General Growth Properties. “We are pushing to stay on track for the reopening of North Water Street but it will take us a few weeks to determine the full impact of the four nor’easter storms on that schedule.”
May 15 remains the target date for reopening the roadway, which was closed between West Avenue and the Metro-North Railroad Danbury Line tracks Jan. 24 to allow construction of an overpass that will connect the two portions of The SoNo Collection.
A temporary detour road was built to connect Pine Street Extension and North Water Street. Motorists also may continue to use Ann and Marshall streets.
City and GGP officials say they’ve coordinated the road closure so as not to interfere with the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s work on Ann Street. The DOT expects two approximately 50-day closures of Ann Street — one this spring, the other in the fall — to replace the superstructure of the railroad bridge over the street. That work is part of preliminary track-and-signal upgrades related the replacement of the Walk Bridge replacement that is expected to begin in 2019.
GGP broke ground last summer on the nearly million-square-foot upscale shopping center, which will be anchored by a Bloomingdale’s store on the south side of North Water Street, a Nordstrom store to the north, and 80 to 100 smaller retailers and public realm space in between on the dozen-acre site off West Avenue and Interstate 95.
The Chicago-based mall developer hired VCC-USA, a national firm, and Connecticut-based KBE Building Corp. as its general contractors for the project. Construction proceeded through the winter months with concrete and steel framework going up.
On Monday, construction crews worked on the ground and high above the site, with workers perched atop beams with welding equipment in hand. The pillars that will carry the overpass are in place. Four enormous cranes with booms towering several hundred feet are in place at strategic locations across the construction site.
On any given day, several hundred construction workers are employed. That number will climb to about 400 by early May, according to Adams.
GGP has described the mall construction as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation in Norwalk. The company projects 2,200 construction jobs over the 30-month construction period and 2,485 full-time jobs once the mall opens in October 2019. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

The Haven upscale outlet mall is alive and moving forward in West Haven, developer says

WEST HAVEN — The Haven upscale outlet mall project is alive and moving forward, although an executive for the developer acknowledged it is taking longer than expected to complete the site acquisition.“I think you can say we’re still very committed to the project,” said Matt Armstrong, executive vice president of The Haven Group LLC.
“A lot of the leasing challenges are behind us,” he said. “It’s been a long process but it’s been a fair process. I think we’ve been very fair to the city and all the property owners.
“As you know, it took us longer than expected to get the real estate locked up,” Anderson said. “We’re just finishing that up. We have two tenants who are vacating next month.”
He was referring to holdouts Nick’s Luncheonette at 423 First Ave. and members of the McGinnity family, both of which ultimately settled with the developer but are still occupying property on First Avenue.
Nick’s owner Nick Milas has said that his final move-out date is now April 10. He has said that he was looking at the former Pizza Hut on Sawmill Road as one possible new location, but has yet to confirm that or any other location.
 The owners of a third holdout property, S & S Mini Mart Citgo at Elm Street and First Avenue, now may or may not have to move, depending on the final plan, Armstrong said.
“We don’t know yet,” Armstrong said. In addition, “As with every project, we are working on leasing, and leasing is going well — and we have to hit a threshold,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know where we are exactly on that, but we’re getting very close. When we hit that threshold, you’re going to start seeing some site work.”
Armstrong agreed to discuss the status of the project amid widespread local speculation that it was either stalled or dead. Mayor Nancy Rossi, who took office in December, is among those who have suggested that it was stalled.
“I wouldn’t say it’s stalled,” said Armstrong, who is based in Greenwich, with another partner, Ty Miller, based in Dallas. “I would say it’s in pre-leasing.
“This one clearly has taken a long time, but it’s been the result of the real estate,” Armstrong said. “It’s taken a long time for us to reach agreement with 56 property owners.”He also acknowledged that the transfer of the city-owned Bayview Park — which was developed in part with federal funds and consequently needed federal approval to be sold for development — was an issue “only in that it has taken a little bit longer” than expected. “But I do believe that we’ll have that parcel resolved in the next 60 days,” he said. The speculation has been fueled both by the length of time that has passed and the fact that “Coming Soon — The Haven” banners on temporary fencing around part of the site along Main Street and First Avenue recently were removed.
That’s where demolition of four vacant houses took place just before last September’s Democratic primary, in which current Mayor Nancy Rossi defeated former Mayor Ed O’Brien.“I had some temporary fencing removed last week and people saw that as us just packing up and leaving. But it wasn’t,” Armstrong said. “We had some issues where the temporary fencing kept falling down,” and in addition, the demolition behind it was complete “and it was just a flat, empty lot,” he said.
Rossisaid she does not consider it stalled now. “I consider it was a stalled project until I got in and we got involved,” Rossi said. One problem her administration has been involved in resolving is the status of Bayview Park, where “restrictions had to be lifted,” she said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

March 26, 2018

CT Construction Digest Monday March 26, 2018

I-84 firm’s past tarnished
Low bidder for Mixmaster was contractor on troubled I-95 job

WATERBURY – The low bidder on a $155 million bridge rehabilitation project slated to begin in May has a checkered history in Connecticut.
The state Department of Transportation went out to bid for the project, which involves rehabilitating 10 bridges that comprise the Mixmaster, a massive structure where Interstate 84 and Route 8 intersect in downtown Waterbury. A temporary Route 8 bypass will allow the highway to stay open during construction.
Six companies placed bids on the project, with the lowest coming from Walsh Construction Co., which is based in Chicago and has offices across the nation.
Walsh’s bid of $152.96 million is 1.74 percent lower than the next lowest bid, which was placed by a Torrington-based joint venture.
The DOT is reviewing the bids and is scheduled to award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder on April 6. Most likely, the contract will go to Walsh Construction.
Walsh was the lead contractor working on the Moses Wheeler Bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Housatonic River between Milford and Stratford. The $166.48 million project, which took place from 2009 to 2016, involved expanding an existing bridge and adding shoulders.
After four serious safety incidents occurred during a six-month period, the DOT forced Walsh to stop working on the project and submit a corrective action plan. In a letter dated April 16, 2012, Mark Rolfe, the district engineer, said the incidents were “indicative of a systematic problem and a weakness in the Walsh/PCL safety program.”
The bridge was built in a joint venture between Walsh and PCL Civil Constructors, but Walsh was the primary entity. Rolfe suspended Walsh and PCL from the project for seven days after two cranes tipped over, a 40-foot rebar cage collapsed and poor-quality fill undermined part of the highway. A worker suffered injuries in one of the crane collapses.
“We were sufficiently concerned that we called for a safety stand-down,” Rolfe said Thursday. He is now the chief engineer for the DOT and oversees all design and construction projects.
Walsh apologized for the incidents and blamed them on having “the wrong people” in several key positions. The joint venture made personnel changes, hired an outside safety expert and required workers to undergo additional training. The companies initiated several safety campaigns, including “stop and fix it” and “safety happens every minute of every day.”
After work resumed on April 23, 2012, there were no other incidents of the magnitude of the four that resulted in the suspension, Rolfe said.
Walsh remains eligible to enter into state DOT contracts, and it successfully completed work on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven.
Rolfe said he’s satisfied the company is capable and competent based on how it responded to the Moses Wheeler issues.
“I believe the largest contributing factor to the incidents was a general lack of safety awareness,” Rolfe said. “They were saying the right things, but weren’t doing the right things. I think the proof (of their competence) is that subsequent to the safety stand-down, their record improved markedly.

DOT’s revised project would mean big changes for Route 9, downtown Middletown

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on proposed improvements to Route 9 and Main Street. This first article will explore the state’s proposal. The second portion, to run in Tuesday’s paper, will explore public reaction to the plan.
MIDDLETOWN — State transportation engineers outlined plans this week for a three-phase, $70.75 million project centered on the removal of two traffic signals on Route 9, which, they said, would increase safety, alleviate congestion and improve access to downtown.
Eighty percent of the costs would be borne by the federal government and 20 percent by the state.
Construction would take place in three phases, beginning in 2019: Sidewalk bump-outs, or curb extensions (the shortest portion of the project), would take place from spring to fall of 2019; intersection improvements would be made from the summer 2019 to fall of 2020; and the removal of lights, summer 2020 to fall 2022. The nearly three-and-a-half-hour session was held Thursday night at the Middletown High School auditorium and attended by about 120 people, among them residents, business owners, concerned citizens and officials.
The proposal was modified following public input at a hearing in July 2016, during with the DOT presented a design to remove the traffic signals on Route 9 by elevating the southbound direction in two locations: the intersection of Hartford Avenue and Route 9 as well as Washington Street and Route 9, according to the DOT.
The public voiced two main concerns at the time:
The effect of the additional traffic on Main Street, despite the operational benefits of the proposed bump-outs (sidewalk extensions to lessen the time needed for pedestrians to cross). The view obstruction of the Connecticut River by the southern elevated section of Route 9 south.
Construction would affect Route 66 (Washington Street), Route 17 (at Hartford Avenue), Main Street, and Route 9 north and south entering and exiting the city. Two other projects, part of the overall plan, will be addressed at a later time, said William W. Britnell, the principal engineer, who presented the main part of the program Thursday.
The Route 17 on ramp to Route 9 has encountered some complications with the Arrigoni Bridge and the proposed pedestrian bridge across Route 9 is still in the works.
There is a steep financial impact caused by traffic tie-ups during peak travel hours and the high number of crashes in the affected areas, according to Britnell.
The most recent statistics, from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2017, show there were 528 collisions, which caused 121 injuries, including a single fatality, on state roads within the project limits of all three projects, according to the DOT. “When we talk about number of crashes, people’s eyes glaze over. You don’t really appreciate what that means: 528 crashes amounts to an economic burden of $3 million a year just for crashes,” Britnell said. “That’s 1 million person hours of delay annually — people sitting in traffic — and $42 million a year. That’s just the peak hours of Monday through Friday.
“You can imagine that economic cost is actually much, much higher than that.”
 Combined, the economic burden is $45 million annually.
 Also, getting into and out of the city has become a headache for many motorists, who prefer to avoid the area altogether and shop or eat in other towns.
“There are lots of people who quite honestly avoid Middletown because of the lights on Route 9, the congestion on Route 9,” Britnell said. If you have a choice to go to Middletown, a lot of people choose to go somewhere else,” Bricknell said. State findings show potential visitors bypass the city, he said.
“These queues are not just people going to the beach or down to Essex. About 1 out of every 4 or 5 vehicles is trying to get into Middletown. They’re trying to get to your stores, they’re residents trying to get home.” Changes would significantly affect a number of commuting times during peak use hours by motorists, engineers said.
Locally, those traveling on Route 9 south toward Portland via the Arrigoni Bridge would half their travel time: from an average of 24 minutes to 12. Motorists on 9 north going to Route 66 west would be minimally affected, according to the plan.
Cars driving on Route 66 west would go from an 8-minute commute to a 5-minute one, those going east on 66 toward the Arrigoni Bridge would go from 11 minutes to 6, and motorists traveling from the bridge to 66 west would save 4 minutes: from a 7-minute travel time to 3.
On Route 9 south, commute time would go from 8 to 3 minutes, and heading north, motorists would save a full 10 minutes: from 13 to 3 minutes.
In the North End, the Miller and Bridge street neighborhood, closed off to local traffic years ago, has only been accessible by an exit off Route 9 south.
The proposal is to take Route 9 south and raise it up and over the ramp coming out of Hartford Avenue: “a simple up-and-over bridge,” Britnell said.
Now, access is very dangerous from a fast-moving highway, where drivers have to take a right-hand turn into the isolated neighborhood. “I don’t think I have to tell anybody that. It’s an undesirable situation,” he said. “They’re not supposed to turn left into Miller Street. I’ve seen people do it.”
At the last informational meeting, city officials brought up the fact that school buses have to turn on and off that street onto a busy highway.  The solution is to reopen the now fenced-off railroad crossing on Portland Street. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plans for Coast Guard museum pedestrian bridge move forward

New London — The nonprofit organization spearheading the $100 million National Coast Guard Museum is seeking State Bond Commission approval of $1.8 million to continue work on a pedestrian bridge downtown.
While the state already has committed up to $20 million for the bridge, the money is being requested incrementally as the project progresses, said Dick Grahn, president and chief executive officer of the National Coast Guard Museum Association Inc.
About $500,000 was used for what Grahn described as predesign activities: the hiring of an architect, along with some engineering, environmental and survey work being completed in conjunction with the overall design of the museum.
The latest request will pay for development of schematic designs and “help get us to a shovel-ready status over the next year or 18 months or so,” Grahn said.
The bridge eventually will span Water Street and the Amtrak railway line and connect the city-owned parking garage with the train station platform and another location convenient to both the museum and Cross Sound Ferry. It will include stairways and elevators in several locations.
“Things are moving along rapidly,” Grahn said.
Grahn said it is a complicated process, since local, state and federal regulations must be followed during the design and construction of both the bridge and museum. It also is key for the pedestrian bridge design to be developed in conjunction with the museum itself.
Boston-based architectural firm Payette is designing both the 54,000-square-foot museum and the bridge. The Coast Guard is now in the process of publishing its request for proposals for the museum exhibit designer for the interior.
Bob Ross, executive director for the state's Office of Military Affairs, said the fact the architect is designing both will ensure a seamless connection of the separate but interconnected projects. He expects it also will save money.
Ross said the project tentatively is scheduled to break ground in 2021, though that is subject to change.
Simultaneous to the bond commission request is a proposed bill referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Revenue and Bonding to secure legislative approval of bonds in an amount not to exceed $20 million over a period.
State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the bill he introduced would help codify the commitment made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy with other state agencies to southeastern Connecticut.
“With the governor’s term coming to an end, I want to get continuity. I thought it would be a good idea to get it on the list,” Formica said.
Whether it will be necessary is unclear.
In 2014, a memorandum of agreement was signed by the state, New London, the Coast Guard and the National Coast Guard Museum Association that includes the state financial commitment.
“The State of Connecticut will pursue a funding commitment of an amount not to exceed $20 million for development and construction of the Museum, which in part will support construction of a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks for access to the Museum Parcel and the Cross Sound Ferry terminal,” the agreement reads.
It goes on to say the money would be released to the museum foundation through an agreement with the state Department of Economic and Community Development. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plan And Zoning Commission Rejects Plans For South Glastonbury Gravel Operation

The town plan and zoning commission on Thursday unanimously rejected a farmer’s plan to remove 110,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel from a South Glastonbury farm using thousands of trucks traveling through neighborhoods and along narrow back roads.
William Dufford, a lifetime farmer and construction company owner, was seeking a special permit to remove the material from an existing gravel operation along Dug Road, one of the town’s oldest streets that has changed little since the town was developed.
But dozens of residents along Dug Road and Duffords Landing opposed the project, saying they were concerned about the potential danger of the truck traffic and the dust and noise from vehicles that would make as many as 12,000 trips to extract the material. The gravel operation has been in use for the past decade.
Skip Kamis, a builder and Dug Road resident, said that since the gravel pit was first worked the area been transformed into a neighborhood populated by young families and children “who only wish to live in peace and safety.”
“It is obviously dangerous,” he said. “and blatantly unfair. I look to you as a commission not to endanger and burden the residents of Dug Road. Please do not vote to direct thousands of large trucks through our neighborhood.”
The proposal originally called for the trucks to go through Duffords Landing, a development directly south of Dug Road. But Dufford could not get the proper easements to allow the truck traffic. So that meant more years of truck traffic along Dug Road, something the commission decided was unfair to residents who have endured the traffic for years already.
“The suggestion was to go to Duffords Landing because it was equitable,” commissioner Keith S. Shaw said, “because it was too much of a burden to continue on Dug Road and the people had enough for 8-10 years.”
Beth Ann Dufford Couture, Dufford’s daughter, said the gravel operation is being done to transform the property into more farm fields. She said tha tthe operation isn’t a “get rich quick scheme” and that the trucks have had a spotless safety record over the past 10 years.
“Dug Road is a public road and our farm is able to use it as much as any resident,” she said.
“It’s ultimately a balance,” added Dufford’s attorney Meghan Hope. “It’s a balance between a property owner’s right to use their property … and the impact on neighbors. … Is it less than ideal? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it unsafe.”
But, in the end, the commission sided with the residents and, as commissioner Raymond Hassett said, the “public health, safety and general welfare of the community.”
“I don’t think it is appropriate for us … to simply disregard the testimony from the community,” he said. “I believe this is a case where we need to look at the general welfare and promote safety.”
“It’s crazy to continue to take trucks down Dug Road,” commission Chairwoman Sharon Purtill added. “This has been very difficult. … We have to take the fact that we’ve had dozens and dozens of residents come out here and say the same things over and over again about how narrow the road is and how difficult it is.”

March 23, 2018

CT Construction Digest Friday March 23, 2018

A vote of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee yesterday March 22 brought Connecticut drivers one step closer to encountering tolls on our roadways. After a relatively short debate, the Committee voted out a bill, (HB 5391), which requires the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to study and make recommendations on the implementation of tolls. These recommendations would then have to be adopted by the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee in the 2019 legislative session. The recommendations would become law if neither chamber votes upon them (in 2019).

House Bill 5391 – An Act Concerning Transportation Infrastructure passed by a narrow margin.
The bill mandates that DOT’s review must include:

• Implementation of tolls on I-95, I-84, I-91 and the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways.

• Identify specific locations of the tolling gantries, toll rates and discounts for CT residents.

• Estimates for capital and operating costs of the tolling system.

• Preparation and submission of a proposal for legislative approval.

Once the legislative proposal is submitted; then

• The Transportation Committee must convene a public hearing and hold a vote on the proposal.

• The proposal may be approved or rejected by a majority of either chamber of the General Assembly.

• The proposal is deemed approved if neither chamber votes upon it within 30 days of receipt (this facet of the bill proved controversial during the committee debate).

HB 5391 also makes the following changes:

• Reduces the motor fuel tax by one cent over a five (5) year period, beginning in the fiscal year after toll collections begin, and revenue reaches two (2) times the estimated debt service payments.

This is the one that we have been talking about for the immedidatse fix to jump start projects and prevent bus and rail fare increases.

Accelerates the transfer to the Special Transportation Fund of sales tax from motor vehicles in FY 19 instead of FY21 (retains the 5 year phase in, but it commences now in 2019 rather than in 2021).

Highway tolls move forward after committee vote

By Bill Cummings
A plan to place tolls on the state’s highways moved a step forward Thursday when a key legislative committee voted to send several bills to the House and Senate for debate.
The General Assembly’s Transportation Committee approved legislation to place tolls on interstates 95, 91, 84 and the Merritt Parkway. One bill requires a study and a formal proposal by the state Department of Transportation, and then a second vote by the Legislature next year, before tolls are authorized.“We need to do something here,” said state Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Wethersfield, a committee co-chairman and sponsor of the so-called “two-step” toll bill.
“This bill gives the opportunity for the next General Assembly to look at it and put something in place,” Guerrera said. “That’s all this bill does. We need some sustainable revenue and this is one way.”Another bill authorizes DOT to implement tolls and set rates, while a third establishes a new Connecticut Transportation Authority to put tolls in place.
Support and opposition for tolling followed party lines, with Democrats in favor of at least moving the issue to the House and Senate while Republicans were opposed. State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said tolls are just an unwanted tax. “This is another layer of taxation,” she said, adding states with tolls don’t have as many taxes as Connecticut.
“Those states don’t have an income tax and a property tax on cars, and a tax on pensions on social security,” Boucher said. “They added tolling to augment taxes they don’t have and Connecticut does.”
Other legislators have lamented that tolls could cost commuters hundreds of dollars a month and that motorists would be tempted to find routes around tolling spots and in the process clog local roads.
A bill that sought to give the Legislature the final decision over raising Metro-North fares tied 18-18, so it did not pass the committee.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, a toll opponent, said she didn’t vote for any of the toll bills because none spelled out a specific tolling plan.
“While all four bills we voted on generally favor tolls as a concept, they contain no details,” Lavielle said. “None of them tells us how much tolls would cost to implement, how many tolls there would be, how much revenue they would bring in, or how much they would cost drivers every day.”
State Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, said at least the two-step bill will eventually provide the information necessary to make a decision on tolls.
“I’ve said I would support tolls if it reduces the gas tax and this sort of does that,” Martin said, referring to a provision that reduces the tax under certain conditions. “I’m encouraged we are looking to get the information,” Martin said. “We need the cost and how much revenue it’s going to generate. The gas tax is diminishing.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Democratic majority leadership have endorsed tolls as a solution to replenishing the state’s Special Transportation Fund, which is expected to be insolvent by 2020. The looming deficit is mostly due to declining revenue from the state’s gas tax as more fuel-efficient vehicles hit the roads.
Malloy earlier this year canceled $4.3 billion in planned highway projects because the state had run out of money. Metro-North fares are set to increase and service reduced as a result of the money crunch. Supporters say tolls — estimated to be worth upward of $800 million in revenue a year — would restore the canceled highway projects and eliminate the need to hike Metro-North fares and reduce weekend service on the branch lines One of the bills, submitted by Malloy, increases the gas tax by 7 cents a gallon over the next four years, and slaps a new tax on car sales and a $3 fee on new tires. Malloy called passage of the toll bills a “positive step” toward restoring transportation funding and needed repair projects. “Let’s be clear: Without new revenue, we will be forced to delay or cancel billions of dollars of projects in every town in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “These projects aren’t optional; they are critical to ensuring our roads, bridges, tunnels and rails remain in a state of good repair.” Malloy said the state will be forced to increase fares and reduce services on Metro-North, Shore Line East and CTtransit. “While our neighboring states have made significant transportation investments, Connecticut has fallen short, and it has harmed our economy,” Malloy said. State Rep. Jonathan Stienberg, D-Westport, who voted for the various toll bills, agreed the state needs new transportation revenue. “We are in crisis and on the brink of bad outcomes if we don’t repair roads and bridges,” Steinberg said. “In Fairfield County, we lose economic value every day because people are stuck in traffic. This is something we are going to do sooner or later. We have our heads in the sand.”

Tolls clear one legislative committee, but fate remains in doubt

The legislature's Transportation Committee narrowly passed a bill Thursday that could establish tolls on Connecticut highways — but the measure's ultimate fate remained uncertain.
Advocates of the bill conceded opposition to tolls remains strong in the full House and Senate and that some legislators on the fence could be reluctant to back tolls in a state election year.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, has said the chamber will vote this year on a measure to establish tolls.
"We'll have a (House) vote on it, and we'll have to see," Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, the House chair of the Transportation Committee said, declining to predict whether it would pass there, or in the Senate.
The legislature is narrowly divided in both chambers. Democrats hold an 80-71 edge in House while the Senate is split 18-18.
The Democrat-controlled Transportation Committee passed the bill in a 19-16 vote along party lines.
The bill would require the Department of Transportation to study how to establish tolling on Interstates 84, 91 and 95, and on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways. The department also would assess where toll gantries should be located, how much revenue would be raised from the system, and what types of discounts might be offered to Connecticut residents.
Guerrera, one of the legislature's most ardent supporters of tolls to finance a major rebuilding of the transportation infrastructure, said the measure could end a lot of confusion.
"This will start the process," Guerrera said. "This will answer a lot of questions."
The bill also would allow the legislature 30 days to act upon the report after receiving it during the 2019 General Assembly session. But if the House and Senate did not reject the DOT's plan, the restoration of tolling would be deemed approved.
"I find that very objectionable," said Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, who opposed the bill. "We're leaving open the possibility this could happen by default? … This involves one of the biggest expenditures in state history."
Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, another opponent of tolls, called the measure unnecessary, adding that the DOT could study tolls without a legislative mandate.
Lavielle said the public would immediately assume adoption of this bill would ensure the establishment of tolls — even with the 30-day window for lawmakers to reject any DOT plan. "I do not want to mislead people," she said.
Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton, Senate GOP chair of transportation, argued Connecticut's economy simply can't bear tolls right now.
"Connecticut is in a very different financial position than other states," she said. "We haven't recovered from the last recession."
But Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said Connecticut's aging, crowded transportation infrastructure is hindering economic growth, and that won't change unless the state finances a major rebuilding of infrastructure.
"I submit we have our heads in the sand," he said.
Steinberg and Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, also warned lawmakers not to underestimate the repairs Connecticut's roads and bridges need.
Osten also noted the retail gasoline tax has been set at 25 cents per gallon since 1997.
"If people think a quarter today is the same thing it was in 1997, they ought to look in their pocket," she said.
"We need to do something here," Guerrera added. "… That's what this is all about, making the quality of life for the people in this state better."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned Wall Street investors, the business community and the legislature in November that Connecticut's transportation program is on the brink of a crisis.
Absent more funding, the state would need to scrap some rail services, drive up fares, suspend 40 percent of planned capital projects, including major highway projects such as rebuilding the Hartford viaduct, to remain solvent over the next five years, the administration says.
The governor asked legislators in February to add seven cents to Connecticut's 25-cents-per-gallon retail gasoline tax, and to order electronic tolling on highways. The latter, if approved, probably would not yield major revenue until the 2021-22 fiscal year, the administration says.
"This is a positive step forward as we work to ensure the long-term stability of the Special Transportation Fund," Malloy said after Thursday's meeting. "Let's be clear: Without new revenue, we will be forced to delay or cancel billions of dollars of projects in every town in Connecticut. These projects aren't optional, they are critical to ensuring our roads, bridges, tunnels, and rails remain in a state of good repair. In addition, we will be forced to once again increase fares and reduce services on MetroNorth, Shore Line East, and CT transit."
The bill approved in committee Thursday also includes a provision to bolster the Special Transportation Fund in the short-term.
The legislature already has approved a plan to gradually transfer sales tax receipts from new car purchases from the budget's general fund and into the transportation fund between now and 2021.
This would accelerate that plan, adding an extra $9 million to transportation this fiscal year and an extra $67 million in 2018-19.

PHOTOS: The renovations of Platt High School in Meriden

Here’s a gallery of photos looking back at the renovations of Platt High School in Meriden. Work was completed for the 2017-18 school year.

Bid waiver sought for Wallingford sewer plant project

By Matthew Zabierek, 
WALLINGFORD — Town utility officials are asking the Town Council to approve a bid waiver for the design phase of a $47 million project to meet stricter state limits on phosphorus discharge in wastewater.
The bid waiver would allow the Water and Sewer Division to enter into contract negotiations with AECOM, an engineering consulting firm, for design services for the state-mandated upgrades at the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
Wallingford is one of several municipalities undertaking upgrades to limits enacted by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The town already contracted with AECOM for the first phase of the project, a facility plan that examined the current wastewater facility and made recommendations for upgrades. The town is now looking to retain AECOM to design the upgrades in the facility plan before pursuing a construction contract.
The council is expected to vote on the bid waiver Tuesday.
The bid waiver is needed to keep the town on schedule to enter into a construction contract for the project by July 1, 2019, utilities officials said. The town must meet the July 2019 deadline to be eligible for the maximum amount of grant funding for the project, which is currently estimated to cost $47 million in total.
Without the bid waiver, the town has “zero” chance of meeting the deadline for maximum grant funding, Neil Amwake, general manager of the Water and Sewer Division, said during a Public Utilities Commission meeting last week.
If the deadline is met, municipalities are eligible to receive a grant reimbursing up to 50 percent of the cost for some aspects of the project. If the deadline is not met, they are eligible for only 30 percent reimbursement, which, in Wallingford’s case, would be a difference of several million dollars.
The Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted this week to endorse the bid waiver, which now needs Town Council approval.
Amwake said in a memo, dated March 19, that AECOM has maintained a “positive working relationship” with Wallingford through the planning phase. He also noted DEEP encourages municipalities to “continue working with the same engineering consulting firm for the planning, design and construction phases of a project.”
Public Utilities Director Richard Hendershot said the town’s purchasing agent reviewed the bid waiver request and “has stated that he finds it to be reasonable and appropriate.”

New London plans upgrades at Water Street parking garage
By Greg Smith   Day staff writer

Authority will start a series of maintenance and improvement projects Monday at the city-owned Water Street parking garage.
The $125,000 worth of work will include not only repairs to the parking structure’s stairwells but modernization of the entrances and exits, with installation of updated control systems that will accept credit cards.
Parking Director Carey Redd said the new control system will allow, after state approval, the garage entrance on Atlantic Street to be turned into an exit to help move along traffic during peak summer days when nearly the entire garage empties onto Water Street.
Much of the summer traffic is related to the increasing number of patrons of Cross Sound Ferry, which had its highest volume of service in 2017, with 1.4 million overall passengers, according to a recent grant application.
Carey called Cross Sound a solid partner and a “driving economic force” for the city. In addition to Cross Sound, Carey said the city also is looking ahead to construction of the $100 million National Coast Guard Museum across the street and planning for the traffic that will come with it.
Carey is hosting a tour of the garage this week with people involved with the Coast Guard project in anticipation of construction of a $20 million pedestrian bridge that will shuttle foot traffic over Water Street. A timeline for that project has not yet been announced.
The city continues to pursue funding for a $13 million to $15 million garage expansion project that would boost the number of parking spaces by 400. The garage now can accommodate 995 vehicles. The city’s first attempt at accessing funding for the project through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was unsuccessful.
Work is expected to start on Monday and will continue until mid-May. The garage’s Atlantic Street entrance will be closed during repairs. The Water Street entrance will remain open.

March 22, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday March 22, 2018

Torrington residents still oppose sewer line approval; mayor pushes back against critics

TORRINGTON — Raymond Bottass, a Torrington native, spent a portion of his day off on the streetcorner near City Hall, airhorn in hand, with a sign that read “Impeach Mayor Carbone.”
Bottass, along with his wife, Carol, are protesting the recent decision to approve a sewer pipeline connecting the Woodridge Lake housing development in Goshen to the Torrington system, which is to run through part of the watershed area for the Allen Dam reservoir.
“It was a 3-2 vote, and as a taxpayer ... I don’t believe it should be up to the six people who were there,” said Raymond Bottass. “I disapprove of everything that was there. ... I believe it was already a done deal (before the vote).”
Botass said he’s worked in construction since he was 18. He said during his time in construction, he always found leaks in sewer pipes being disconnected, and believes the Woodridge Lake line eventually will fail.“It doesn’t seem to bother them. They have no conscience about it,” he said. “I’m totally against it.”
He said he was told that the mayor in Torrington cannot be impeached, but he wanted to be out there anyway. He and his wife said they’d be back on Saturday.
“It makes a difference because people are noticing,” said Raymond Bottass. “I’m doing this for a cause. ... I lived in this town all my life.”
Mayor Elinor Carbone was appointed by the people, “and this is what we get out of it,” he said.
Carol Bottass said she hopes the protest will prompt the sewer decision to be changed.
“It’s almost like nobody cares about us (the people),” she said. “I’m really, really scared. I hope that this does not go through.”
Later, Carbone pushed back vehemently against the idea that the vote had been predetermined — except for council member Paul Cavagnero, who she said clearly had made up his mind beforehand, reflected in his remarks at meetings ahead of the vote and a “Protect Our Water Supply” sign on his lawn.
She cited an obligation to the public, the board and her personal code to adhere to an appropriate process.
“This was not a done deal,” said Carbone. “I can tell you with absolute confidence and absolute certainty that this was not a done deal before the vote.”
Online chatter to the contrary — “all that moaning out there on Facebook” — was false, she said, referring to numerous comments about the vote posted on Torrington Facebook pages.
 She invited the public to come take a look at the litany of documentation — in “four-inch-thick” binders, in her estimation — that council members had reviewed before the vote.
Residents to date had not done that, by and large, she said — instead, they received letters from the Torrington Water Co. indicating that the project was harmful to their health and urging them to speak out against it.
Carbone noted that the Department of Public Health, including Public Health Section Chief Lori Mathieu, charged with protecting drinking water, had instituted a series of conditions to mitigate the risk for the project — including requiring Woodridge Lake to purchase pollution insurance and run spill drills — then testified that it was appropriate to move forward.
Carbone noted that the Department of Public Health, including Public Health Section Chief Lori Mathieu, charged with protecting drinking water, had instituted a series of conditions to mitigate the risk for the project — including requiring Woodridge Lake to purchase pollution insurance and run spill drills — then testified that it was appropriate to move forward. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Labor offers harsh critique of CEO-led commission's report

Matt Pilon
A group of Connecticut labor leaders on Tuesday released a 15-page analysis lambasting the recent recommendations of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.
The report, released ahead of a multi-committee hearing on the commission's findings scheduled for Friday, compares the commission's executive-heavy membership to arrogant college freshmen who come home after a semester and think they have all the answers to the world's problems.
"The Commission's report is multi-colored and slick -- looking like a stock prospectus for a 'can't lose purchase opportunity,' " the analysis says.
Labor leaders assigned a "C-" grade to the commission's findings about the state's economic and fiscal situation and an "F" to its list recommendations.
Though union leaders agree with the commission on raising the state's minimum wage and implementing highway tolls, they've bristled in particular at the commission's calls to change union bargaining, including a recommendation to remove fringe benefits from the collective bargaining process between state government and unions.
Unions think the commission overstepped its legislative charge by delving into labor benefit issues.
They argue that Connecticut cannot be compared to surrounding states that do not bargain fringe benefits, such as New York and Massachusetts, because those states have constitutional or court precedent protections that protect employees from unilateral changes by state government.
"The Commission would leave state employee retirement benefits up to unilateral employer whim. An employee could work 35 years for the state, accepting that a substantial part of his or her promised compensation is a decent retirement when he or she is too old to continue working, and have that promise revoked a day before retirement," the analysis states.
The analysis is also critical of the commission's labeling of the teacher retirement system as unsustainable, arguing that the state has failed to fully fund the pension system, while teachers have paid their share.
Commission co-chairs Robert Patricelli and James Smith released a statement Wednesday on the labor analysis:
"We are disappointed public sector labor leaders are taking this aggressively negative position. The Commission report has received endorsements and constructive response from a wide range of people and organizations in Connecticut including the CT Conference of Municipalities, the CT Realtors Association, the CT Construction Industries Association, and Governor Malloy."
Labor leaders signing the analysis include Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO; Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4; Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut; Thomas Bontly, president of UConn-AAUP; and Dan Livingston, chief negotiator of SEBAC.

CT economist: No recession lurking

Gregory Seay
The prospect for Connecticut's and the U.S. economies lapsing into recession anytime soon are remote, but new trade tariffs, a jittery stock market, plus this state's stubborn job recovery and population loss, could impact both down the road, an economist says.
"The good news: A U.S. recession is still unlikely over the near term,'' said New Haven economist Don Klepper-Smith, who is an adviser to Farmington Bank, noting the current recovery is into its ninth year.
Addressing a remote webinar audience Wednesday during Farmington Bank's quarterly economic outlook, the chief economist at DataCore Partners LLC said he expects a modest U.S. recovery to continue at least through the first half of this year.
"The bottom line is the odds of a recession over the next 18 months is one in three,'' Klepper-Smith said.
He pointed to Connecticut's sluggish efforts to regain the 119,000 jobs it lost in the Great Recession, 2008-2009. So far, based on state labor department unemployment and job-growth data as of January, Connecticut has regained just 77 percent of those lost jobs, the economist said. By comparison, most other New England states have recovered at least all of their lost jobs, with several regaining double and triple their jobs deficits.
Connecticut's slow job growth, combined with a rollicking stock market that at times has many feeling less wealthy, and slow overall gains in take-home pay, Klepper-Smith said, are ganging up to make consumers less confident about their own finances, let alone the economy.
The result, he said, is that Farmington Bank's "business barometer,'' which tracks employment, consumer spending and related indices, has turned negative.
"Consumers really have a difficult time feeling this is a recovery,'' Klepper-Smith said.
For the rest of this year, he said he expects inflation to stay close to the 2017 rate of 2.1 percent. The 30-year mortgage rate, despite expectations for the Federal Reserve to hike the discount rate at least three times this year, starting as early as Wednesday, will end this year at around 4.25 percent to 4.5 percent.


March 21, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday March 21, 2018

State Looks at Tolls to Raise Highway Infrastructure Funds
Emily Buenzle - CEG Web Editor

Improving the nation's infrastructure will always come at a cost. States are looking at options for raising funds — and while plans of raised gas taxes have been surfacing, one state is exploring electronic tolling.
After a 1983 crash at toll booths in Stratford, Conn., killed seven, the state opted to take out all of its toll plazas. Connecticut has been relying on the federal government to help it pick up the tab for maintenance of its interstate roads, but with the state's Special Transportation Fund dwindling, Gov. Daniel P. Malloy is looking into a safer, updated tolling option, Connecticut Magazine reported.
How It Works
With electronic tolling, vehicles drive under toll gantries, which are equipped with cameras and computers to read the drivers' E-ZPasses or license plates. Those in support of the move say this method will generate more revenue than the current 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax that the Special Transportation Fund has been relying on. What's more, the tolling price would fluctuate with road congestion, with a higher price for those travelling during rush hour, Connecticut Magazine reported.
According to Connecticut DOT Commissioner, James Redeker, this move could bring in up to $750 million annually. Installing the system across state roadways would likely cost between $450 million and $635 million, Connecticut DOT said.
Redeker said that state experts believe it should be about four or five years before the approval and installation process are in place and the state starts to benefit from the funds. Redeker also said that federal approval for such a system could take about a year.
Jim Cameron, a state commuter rail advocate, said he thinks the tolls gantries should be placed all across Connecticut, Connecticut Magazine reported.
“Where they get placed is up for grabs,” he said. “It has been proposed to toll 95, 84 and 91 but also the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways. But I would say the fairest way is to distribute tolls across the state so no one part is paying and another getting a free ride. If you drive on our roads, you're going to pay a toll for their upkeep.
“Driving is not free. It may be low cost, but it's not free. And the gas tax is not enough to pay for the maintenance of [Connecticut] roads and bridges. Motorists must pay their fair share to keep mass transit affordable.”
Cameron also pointed out the fact that tolls would help combat the gas tax funds lost from electric vehicles.
“So the guy driving a Tesla, why is he getting a free ride?” Cameron said. “Why isn't he contributing to the maintenance of the roads? That's where tolls come in.”
According to Gov. Malloy and other advocates for the tolling system, out-of-state drivers get to use these highways, but don't contribute to their upkeep, placing the burden of maintenance and upkeep entirely on in-state drivers, Connecticut Magazine reported.
But not everyone agrees with the move. State Sen. Toni Boucher said these tolls wouldn't be fair for commuters who must drive in rush-hour.
“Tolls only capture those people who have to go through them,” Boucher said. “They hurt those that can least afford to pay them. I'm opposed to tolls unless they cut the gas tax and other taxes. Tolls could cost $60 a week to some people. Between Greenwich and New Haven there would be around 12 tolls on I-95. Not that you have to stop, but every time you go through one you would be assessed another toll.”
Others have raised concerns over whether the tolls would impact the amount of federal funding the state receives. But DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said this would not be an issue, Connecticut Magazine reported.
“There is no connection between the amount of federal dollars Connecticut receives every year and tolls or the lack thereof,” Everhart said. “Bringing back tolls would have no impact on the amount of federal money coming to Connecticut.”

Vehicle Weight Restrictions in Place for Cribari Bridge Due to Structural Deterioration
The state is limiting the weight of vehicles that can cross the 133-year-old William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge in Westport because of structural deterioration, and that will prohibit some emergency vehicles from crossing the truss bridge, according to Westport officials.
Westport officials said the Connecticut Department of Transportation notified them Monday that only vehicles weighing less than 40,000 pounds, or 20 tons, will be permitted on the state-owned and maintained bridge, which goes over the Saugatuck River.
“(R)esidents should be aware that this limitation does not impact a majority of the vehicles that cross the Cribari Bridge, including school buses,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said in a news released.
Marpe said some emergency vehicles and town public works vehicles that exceed the weight limit will have to take the Post Road or Interstate 95 to provide service to the west side of the Saugatuck River.
“I have been conferring with Fire Chief Robert Yost, who assures me that public safety will not be compromised as a result of this re-routing. While there may be a slightly increased response time, it will remain within the Federal safety parameters for effective emergency management,” Marpe said in a statement.
Westport officials said the notification from the state DOT says the decision to impose the restrictions was the “result of the ongoing structural engineering evaluation and inspection of the load capacity of the 19th Century truss bridge.”
They said the bridge has an overall rating of poor and the weight restriction is mandated based on “the structural deterioration of the pier piles and pile bracing structure.”
They said the DOT is evaluating measures to take to eliminate this restriction and the department is in the preliminary engineering study phase for the bridge to determine a scope of rehabilitation work required going forward.
Westport officials said the trusses are being checked for load carrying capacity to determine whether more immediate repair is needed.
The bridge, which was completed in 1884, is now named in honor of William F. “Crowbar” Cribari, a World War II veteran born in 1918 who was a Westport Police officer and often directed traffic through the heart of the Saugatuck section of Westport and across the Bridge Street Bridge, which is now named for him. He died in 2007 at the age of 88, according to the DOT.

Ground broken for Derby’s Payden Park and Field House

By Michael P. Mayko
DERBY — Derby has a new athletics angel.
It was 1999 when Andy Cota said the first discussion about improving the city’s sports facilities came up.“All the politicians, all the chairmen, all of the people on the boards tried for years and years to move forward with the project,” recalled Cota, the former police chief who nows heads Parks and Recreation. Instead, it lingered until 2013, when Superintendent of Schools Matthew Conway arrived. Conway, a former state representative, was able to secure $2.9 million in state funding. But that was only enough to build a field for track meets and line the football field with artificial turf. The old single story clubhouse —the one former Corporation Counsel Jamie Cohen says looks the same as when he was a student 53 years ago— remained. That last stumbling block to improvement changed slightly more than a year ago with a chance phone call from an alumna with the interest and money to help things along Joan Payden, chief executive officer, president and founder of Payden and Rygel, a $110 billion asset management firm with offices in the U.S. and overseas, was speaking with High School Principal Martin Pascale After learning that the clubhouse was dropped from the project, Payden opened her checkbook—first for $2 million for the clubhouse then another $2 million for the entire project which includes a new baseball and girl’s softball field.
On Monday, the city broke ground on the state-of-the art J.R. Payden Field House set on a hill between the football and new baseball field.
The field house is named for Joseph R. Payden, Payden’s father and a 1915 Derby High baseball player and valedictorian. After high school, the senior Payden graduated from Yale, flew missions in World War I for the Royal Flying Corps and became CEO of Union Carbide Java in Indonesia.
Nearly 60 people watched as Conway, Cota, State Reps. Linda Gentile and Themis Klarides and others put shovels figuratively into dirt.“My father was an only child,” said Joan Payden, hooked up via statellite from her Los Angeles office. “The high school meant a great deal to him.”
Designed by Peter de Bretteville the field house will stand two stories with outside porches allowing views of the baseball field on one side and the football field on the other. Inside will be the traditional locker rooms and offices laong with a banquet hall and memorabilia room.“You have no idea what this means to me,” Joan Payden said. “My only regret is I’m 3,000 miles away.”
Payden, who said she will be in Derby in few months, has kept on top of the project through her cousin, Meg Lampazzi of Oxford.“I don’t think I’ve met a group of people that came together that are dedicated ... bright ... committed ...You are top on my list,” Payden said. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve really ever done in my life... Now when is the building going to get built?”Conway said the old clubhouse will be demolished in May. Renovation of the football field and construction of a track field will follow.“The football field should be ready by Sept. 28,” Conway said.
Meanwhile, construction of the field house, baseball and softball field should begin around the same time and be completed next year There’s a certain blood that flows through this community,” said Cota. “One phone call ... and Joan Payden opened her heart up to us.”

DOT To Present Updated Route 9 Plans Thursday In Middletown

The state Department of Transportation has adjusted its proposal to remove the dreaded traffic lights on Route 9 in Middletown, and is presenting the plans to the public Thursday night.
Modifications include an off-ramp onto Rapallo Avenue in the North End and eliminating one of two proposed elevated highway sections that would have blocked some views of the river.
The DOT first announced the Route 9 project in June 2016 as a way to make the highway safer and reduce congestion. The plan has long included removal of two sets of traffic lights on Route 9 that force 65-mph traffic to come to a standstill.
Residents can learn more about the plans at an informational meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at Middletown High School, 200 LaRosa Lane. DOT Principal Engineer William Britnell said the design will cut down substantially on the traffic backups that occur on downtown Middletown’s streets.
State and local officials have been discussing removal of the Route 9 traffic lights for years, but the latest effort appears to be the best hope yet of addressing the long-standing nuisance.
Under DOT’s proposal, access to Main Street from Route 9 south will be at Hartford Avenue and the existing Exit 14 onto deKoven Drive.
From the northbound lanes, drivers will access Main Street via the new off-ramp onto Rapallo Avenue
Drivers will be able to enter Route 9 north from a reconfigured intersection at Hartford Avenue, and will be able to head south from deKoven Drive near Washington Street and from Hartford Avenue.
“This is really all a result of just listening to what people had to say and addressing those concerns,” Britnell said.The plan includes a host of changes to Main Street intersections that are intended to make vehicle and pedestrian travel easier. Washington and Main and St. John’s Square in the North End would be reconfigured.
“It’s just very difficult to get through there, and for people who want to run a business in that area Route 9 is one of the only ways to get there,” Britnell said. “It’s really a regional impact beyond Middletown, but Middletown sees a lot of benefits, right now people just are not able to easily get into and out of the city.”
The plan also reinstates a local access to Miller and Bridge streets through a closed-off railroad crossing that can be reconfigured, Britnell said. Residents who live on those two streets have to cross Route 9 as the only access to their neighborhood.
“One of the things that really scared us is when we heard about and saw school buses coming out of Miller Street,” he said.
Mayor Daniel Drew said DOT’s new plan is a vast improvement from the first presentation in 2016.
“The plan they are presenting to the public this week is a direct result of the commentary they’ve received from the public since the summer of 2016,” Drew said.
Changes to traffic patterns that reduce congestion on Route 9 and in the city’s commercial core will benefit commuters and city residents, Drew said.
“In the long term this is going to help the business community, allow us to continue to grow and improve our quality of life,” Drew said.
One group of business leaders, the Downtown Business District, remains skeptical of the plans. Diane Gervais, owner of Amato’s Toy & Hobby, said the organization’s board believes the plan improves traffic flow on Route 9 at the expense of Main Street merchants.
“The proposal to alter Main Street and the North End to accommodate the removal of the lights on Route 9 puts an unfair burden on the businesses and residents of Middletown,” Gervais said in a statement. “Both the construction period and the final product would do substantial damage to the access to our downtown, with negative effects for our business owners and the livelihoods of our employees, as well as our ability to contribute to our town's grand list and property taxes.”
The Downtown Business District is an independent business group separate from the local chamber of commerce. Gervais said the group is worried the Route 9 changes will increase gridlock on Main Street as people try to get through the downtown area.
But Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh said the majority of business owners are receptive to the plan because it addresses the troublesome traffic lights.
“This chamber has always been in support of the lights being removed from Route 9 and maintaining access to downtown,” McHugh said.
He said DOT has been “exceptional” in responding to questions from city residents and business owners. The plans will continue to improve as the state collects more feedback, he said.
Britnell said on DOT’s current schedule, Main Street work could start in 2019, and construction on Route 9 could start in 2020.
A project description and renderings are available at