August 8, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday August 8, 2018

Connecticut's infrastructure ranked as one of the worst in U.S.

A recent study ranking the worst state infrastructures in the country has been released, and Connecticut is on a rocky road.
CNBC's study says Connecticut has the fourth worst infrastructure in the United States.  The website tagged the state with a D grade after putting up a score of 150 out of a possible 400 points.
The study based its rankings on four criteria: the percentage of deficient bridges, the percentage of roads in poor or mediocre condition, the average commuting time to work, and the cost to update the water system over 20 years. Those four indicators were then compiled into a score and overall letter grade.
According to the study's findings, Connecticut has the second highest percentage of roads considered poor or mediocre in the country, with 73 percent of roads receiving that label. Only Illinois' roads are considered worse.
Governor Dannel Malloy announced cuts to $4.3 billion in planned transportation projects earlier this year due to the state's deficit problems, and the state Bond Commission recently approved his request to provide funding for studies on reintroducing tolls to state highways as a way to pay for infrastructure projects.
CNBC reported that Connecticut's neighbor to the east – Rhode Island – has the worst overall infrastructure in the country. Despite having fewer than 800 bridges in the small state, more than 23 percent of those bridges were not found to be structurally sound. New York was found to have the longest commute times in the country. The study finds that, on average, it takes over 33 minutes for commuters to navigate New York's infamous congested roads.
Click through the slideshow above to see the other states with poor infrastructures.  

City officials, community sign one of the last beams for hospital building (WITH VIDEO)

BRISTOL - Standing on a construction site filled with dirt and gravel, with the skeleton of a three-story building as a backdrop, Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt Barwis spoke Tuesday of his expectations for the hospital’s new Ambulatory Care Center.
Barwis said he sees the building on the corner of Main Street and Riverside Avenue filled at this time next year with physicians, staff and patients - marking one of the first steps in the city’s planned downtown revitalization.
“All along we have said we see this building serving as a springboard for future development on the former downtown mall site,” Barwis said at Tuesday’s ceremonial event, during which hospital leaders, state and city officials, and community members signed one of the final beams for the second floor of the 60,000-square-foot Ambulatory Care Center.
“I drive past this property every morning on the way to work,” Barwis continued, with about 100 onlookers from the hospital, the community and the media listening. “A couple of weeks ago, when the steel started going up, I looked over and I think that was probably the first time - you know, you could see drawings all day long - but the first time I realized what impact this building is going to have in the city, and it’s going to long outlast me and my life.”
The Ambulatory Care Center, which is slated for completion next spring, will house a number of sub-specialties, including cardiology, neurology, orthopedics and rheumatology, as well as space for laboratory and physical and occupational therapy services.
Barwis hinted that the Ambulatory Care Center, construction of which began in the spring, may not be the only building hospital officials erect on the site that sat vacant for years.
“If the past is any indication of the future, we do have space, ultimately, to construct another building next to it sometime,” Barwis said. “I’m really hopeful and excited that we can get to that point in a very short term.”
Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said the completion of the construction will eventually lead to the filling of the other parcels at the corners of the old mall site.
“We have some interest, and we also have some flutterings in some of these other vacant retail spaces that have been sitting here for far too long,” Zoppo-Sassu said.
“It is a pleasure to be here for a number of reasons, but the most important one is the fact that this is a critical turning point for our community,” the mayor said. “Today, I think that we’re at the precipice of a very exciting future for downtown where we can let go of the post office, let go of the retail and talk about what Bristol’s going to be for the future generations.”
Although the project, announced in 2015, has had its setbacks, officials representing the hospital and the developer acknowledged that all parties involved, including city leaders, worked very hard to get a deal done that would benefit everyone involved.
Richard Rendina, chairman and CEO of the project’s developer, Florida-based Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, compared the process to a puzzle.
“Every deal has its own nuances,” Rendina said. “I like to compare it to a jigsaw puzzle. Right when you think you’ve got the puzzle put together, one of the pieces changes shape and you’ve got to figure out how to put it all back together again. That, for sure, happened on this project, like it does on many others.”
It took “a lot of hard work and dedication” to get this done, Rendina continued.
In addition to having benefits for the city’s downtown, Barwis said the new building has helped the hospital in physician recruitment, which he callled very competitive in Connecticut.
“In terms of recruitment, we’ve actually had quite a few physicians in this last recruitment cycle that kind of focused on the fact that we were going to have this exciting new facility to work in, and I think it’s helped us significantly,” Barwis said.
According to representatives from Rendina, the steel structure should be done by the end of August. The next step will be decking and slabs for the first and second floors.

Markley files lawsuit to block Malloy’s toll study

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to commission a $10 million analysis on restoring tolls to Connecticut’s highways continues to provide fodder for this year’s state elections.
Sen. Joe Markley of Southington, one of three Republicans battling for the nomination for lieutenant governor, announced Tuesday he is seeking a court injunction to stop the study of an electronic tolling system.
But regardless of what happens with Markley’s filing in Hartford Superior Court, the study’s fate likely rests with Connecticut’s next governor and the 2019 General Assembly.
That’s because Malloy — who is not seeking re-election and whose term expires on Jan. 9 — has said most of the $10 million wouldn’t be spent until after he has left office. The governor said last month, when the State Bond Commission approved financing for the study, that it would take an estimated nine months to select a consultant to perform the work.
Given that timetable, Malloy said only a small fraction of the funds would be spent before his term ends, specifically to advertise that the Department of Transportation is accepting bids on the analysis project.
Still, Markley said Tuesday that he believes the governor has overstepped his authority.
“It’s up to the General Assembly to authorize expenditures,” Markley said.  “Governor Malloy does not have legitimate authority to borrow $10 million to conduct a study the legislature did not approve.  It’s not just a reckless waste of money now — it sets a precedent for future executive overreach. Even by Dan Malloy’s standards, this is an arrogant abuse of power, coming at the expense of Connecticut’s citizens and laws.”
Attorney General George Jepsen, who like Malloy is a Democrat, said last month that the governor has authority to commission the study, using already granted legislative approval to finance transportation-related projects.
Malloy has insisted throughout his second term that Connecticut cannot finance a major rebuilding of its aging, overcrowded transportation infrastructure without a new, significant long-term revenue source.
Key highway projects tentatively scheduled to begin or expand with the next five years — including replacement of the elevated section of Interstate 84, renovations to the “mixmaster’ junction of I-84 and Route 8 in Waterbury and widening of portions of Interstate 95 — would fall into fiscal limbo, according to the Malloy administration.
Republican legislators have been unanimous in their opposition to tolls. The GOP has countered that Connecticut must better prioritize its transportation program and borrowing in general to free up more dollars for infrastructure improvements. The governor and some of his fellow Democrats in the legislature counter this would barely provide enough resources for basic maintenance and would leave nothing to enhance and modernize highways, bridges and railways.
The House Republican Caucus tried in late July to petition the legislature into special session to enact a measure prohibiting the Department of Transportation from commissioning the study.
That petition drive failed when Democrats in both chambers, as well as Senate Republicans, declined to sign the petitions.
The administration did not comment Tuesday immediately after Markley announced his push for a court injunction.
“I worry that some in modern-day Connecticut are subscribing to their own know-nothing philosophy,” the governor said after the bond commission approved the $10 million in financing on July 25, adding that his successor and the 2019 legislature will need all available data about tolls to avert a looming transportation crisis. “They’re choosing to reject new information, to decide proactively to know less, to limit the scope of their options before even fully understanding what those options truly are.”
Connecticut has not collected tolls on its highways since April 1989, when the last toll was removed from the Charter Oak Bridge. Between 1985 and 1988 Connecticut also had removed eight toll plazas spread across I-95 and I-395 as well as tolls on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways.

$41.25 million on the ballot in Torrington

TORRINGTON – Voters will choose a candidate for governor and other state and federal offices in November, but they also will decide on four referendums totaling $41.25 million, most of which will go toward paving the city’s crumbling roads.
The City Council and Board of Finance on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve four resolutions that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The $38 million road repavement resolution would finance bond payments over 15 years to help fix roads long plagued by potholes, crumbling asphalt, bumps and cracks. That funding also would upgrade sidewalks, the Bogue Road bridge and drainage work in the city.
In addition, the city is asking for $1 million to build a new animal control facility on Bogue Road, with Litchfield and Goshen each picking up a quarter of the cost. Other resolutions would pay for new windows and a new roof at Torrington Middle School for $1.4 million, with the state picking up $490,000 of the cost, and $850,000 for public building improvements.
These four separate referendums loom as the city’s debt service heads toward a drop from $2.9 million in 2019-20 to $1.5 million in 2020-21.
From that point, debt for the city’s major updates of the wastewater treatment facility will be phased in with three separate loans of $17 million. On Monday, the City Council voted to approve the $54 million bid for that project from C.H. Nickerson of Torrington. The sewer project upgrade will not be part of the November referendum because voters already approved it, but it will have an impact on the city’s debt service.
If approved, the $38 million pavement project would be issued at $7.1 million each over five years. In the first year, $2.5 million of the $38 million will be issued specifically to replace the Bogue Road bridge.
The city has 163 miles of roads and the public works department has seen the pool of money to maintain the roads decrease through the years. Meanwhile, the cost of fixing the roads has increased. Over two decades, the price for a ton of asphalt has jumped from $36 to $86. Municipal funding for repairing roads fluctuated from a total of $1.25 million in 2003 to $2.49 million in 2015.
For the current fiscal year, which began July 1, the city has $1.7 million available for roadwork; of that amount, $954,000 will come from the city’s general fund.
City residents would see the largest increase in the payments for the bonds in fiscal year 2023-24, when the combined tax rate on all of the debt will increase to 3.82 mills. That figure is currently 1.88 mills.
The city will have the benefit of an increase in tax revenue from properties that will see their tax abatements end. The biggest parcel is Keystone at Newbury, which is having its 7-year tax abatement phased out beginning this fiscal year, when it is taxed on an assessment of $5 million. By fiscal year 2022-2023, the senior living facility on Litchfield Street will be taxed on an assessment of $16.8 million. Other properties that will be due for phaseouts beginning that fiscal year are FuelCell Energy and Bicron.