December 21, 2018

CT Construction Digest Friday December 21, 2018

Lamont to name former Metro-North president to lead DOT

Gov.-elect Ned Lamont has recruited Joseph J. Giulietti, the former president of Metro-North, the commuter railroad that is Connecticut’s vital economic link to New York City, to be his commissioner of transportation, according to multiple sources.
With his key State Capitol staff in place, Lamont is now turning to naming agency heads, relying on national recruiting and local connections to help find executives who can help the new administration grow a state economy that has recently showed signs of strength.
Lamont, sources say, sees hiring Giulietti as a coup that places a well-regarded mass-transit executive in charge of transportation and signals to Fairfield County commuters that easing their commute as an economic development tool is a priority.
Giulietti retired last year at age 65 as the president of Metro-North, one of the nation’s busiest commuter rail systems, connecting 124 stations along 384 miles of track in New Haven and Fairfield counties in Connecticut and seven counties in New York. The New Haven line into Manhattan is one of three east of the Hudson River operating out of Grand Central Station in New York City.
He was widely praised for his management of a railroad that had been cited for safety deficiencies by federal railroad officials before his arrival. He began his career at Metro-North in 1983, departing in 1998 to run the Tri-Rail system in southern Florida. 
He returned to Metro-North as its leader in early 2014, not long after four passengers were killed in a crash on the Hudson Line train near Spuyten-Duyvil.
Not long after his arrival, he and other transit leaders visited Hartford to accept a public dressing down from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and acknowledge that a spate of accidents and service interruptions are symptomatic of problems deep within the commuter railroad.
“It’s not by coincidence. There’s something going in the organization,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, the chairman and chief executive of the railroad’s parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “There are management and cultural issues, and I think we’ll find those, and we’ll root them out.”|

Demolition of Mills apartments in Meriden to be completed by late January
Jeniece Roman
MERIDEN — City officials say the demolition on the Mills Memorial Apartments is scheduled to be completed one month later than originally planned due to the discovery of additional asbestos in September.
The $3 million demolition of the low-income housing complex, located at 40 Cedar St., was slated to be completed by the end of the year. Now, city officials say the project will continue into January.
City Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said in September the initial cost estimate of the demolition project rose by more than $110,000 following the discovery of more asbestos. It is not known if that number has since changed.
“(Tuesday) they knocked down the last wing of the Mill building on Pratt Street,” Meriden Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Cappelletti said. “By the end of January everything will be gone.”
Cappelletti said the delays will not push back the construction of Meriden Commons II, a mixed-income housing and commercial development that will replace the Mills. Work is on schedule to be completed late next year.
The demolition of the 1960s low-income housing project required that all 144 families be relocated, a task finally completed last winter. The Meriden Housing Authority turned the property over to the city as part of a flood control project which entails further uncovering Harbor Brook and extending the Meriden Green to Cedar Street.
In exchange, the city gave the housing authority a parcel on State and Mill streets to build Meriden Commons I and II.

DeFazio Looks Ahead to Infrastructure Bill, National VMT Pilot
With the political winds on Capitol Hill due to shift in 2019, key Congressional Democrats are already looking ahead to a year in which they hope to pass a major infrastructure bill, introduce a national vehicle miles travelled (VMT) pilot, and connect a national infrastructure program to the fight against climate change.
Separate news reports over the last couple of weeks have had incoming House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) discussing what it would take to finalize a bipartisan bill, and expressing support for a VMT study. As well, ranking minority member Representative Sam Graves has indicated his willingness to look into a VMT pilot.
And in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warns that if the White House wants the 60 votes he'll need to adopt an infrastructure program, the plan will have to include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change impacts.
Infrastructure Bill Would Be a Win for All
At an event in Washington, DC earlier this month, DeFazio said his party would be prepared to work with the Trump White House on wide-ranging infrastructure legislation, even if it gave a Republican administration a win. "Infrastructure is to the benefit of all the people in the United States of America, Democrat, Republican, independent," he said.
DeFazio's audacious goal is to get a House infrastructure bill done in the first six months of 2019, and he said he hoped the Senate "can act a little more expeditiously than usual." But getting the plan paid for will need Trump's help, he added, "because we're going to have to do some revenues, and we're going to need him to show people that it's okay to do a little bit of revenues."
Meanwhile, Politico Morning Transportation reports that DeFazio is interested in a national VMT pilot with congestion pricing, based on positive experience in his home state. "You shouldn't charge a farmer who has to travel 20 miles to the feed store the same per mile fee as someone who jumps on 205 in Portland and causes a backup," he said. He also acknowledged the privacy concerns that still surround VMT programs, stressing that the pilot would allow participating drivers to opt in voluntarily.
Linking Infrastructure and Climate
While DeFazio mapped out early elements of his agenda for House T&I, Schumer was out with a stark message for the White House: Even though Republicans hold a simple majority in the Senate, legislation generally needs 60 votes to pass, and Democrats' support for an infrastructure bill will depend on how well it addresses the global climate emergency.
"Now that Democrats will soon control one branch of Congress, President Trump is again signaling that infrastructure could be an area of compromise," Schumer writes. "We agree, but if the president wanted to earn Democratic support in the Senate, any infrastructure bill would have to include policies and funding that help transition our country to a clean energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change."
Schumer sees the 116th Congress as an "extraordinary opportunity" for Democrats to force action on the climate crisis. "Not only will House Democrats have the power to propose, debate and pass progressive legislation on the subject, but Senate Democrats will have substantial leverage, as well," due to the 60-vote threshold required for a filibuster-proof majority.
"Truthfully, infrastructure investment has been a priority for Democrats for decades," he writes, but there are specific priorities the Senate minority will be looking for in any White House bill.
"We should make massive investments in renewable-energy infrastructure, especially in exciting new technologies such as battery storage. We also must make our infrastructure more climate-resilient."
"No doubt, a single infrastructure bill alone will not solve our climate problem," Schumer acknowledges. "But it is an important and necessary first step to include at least some, if not many, of these ideas. Without them, Trump should not count on Democratic support in the Senate."

Connecticut regulators approve contracts for renewable energy projects
Luther Turmelle
NEW BRITAIN — State utility regulators have given final approval of five long-term power purchase contracts that will provide Connecticut with 252 megawatts of renewable energy.
The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved the contracts late Wednesday. The 20-year contracts with Eversource Energy and United Illuminating include the state’s first-ever offshore wind power procurement as well as four fuel-cell projects.
The projects approved by PURA will produce enough power to account for 4.6 percent of Connecticut’s annual power consumption.
The so-called Revolution Wind project will produce 200 megawatts of electricity from a wind farm that will be built in federal waters about halfway between Montauk, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard. That’s enough electricity to power 100,000 Connecticut homes
Offshore construction of the Revolution Wind project will begin in 2022, It will begin operating a year later, according to officials with Orsted US Offshore Wind, which is building the project.
Jeffrey Grybowski, co-chief executive officer of Orsted US Offshore Wind, said approval of the contracts for the project makes Connecticut “an important player in America’s offshore wind industry.“We’re ready to make major investments in our local workforce and in the Port of New London to ramp up this project,” Grybowski said in a statement.The company has committed to investing at least $15 million in the Port of New London so that substantial aspects of the Revolution Wind project can be constructed in that city. Orsted US Offshore Wind also plans to open a development office in New London and use a Connecticut-based boat builder to construct one for the project’s crew transfer vessels. Overall, the project is expected to create more than 1,400 direct, indirect and induced jobs, according to company officials.
The four fuel cell projects comprise the remaining 52 megawatts of the long-term contracts that were approved. One of the projects will be located in Derby. All of the projects selected to receive long-term power contracts came out of a request for proposals issued by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection earlier this year.

December 20, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday December 20, 2018

Housing plans to upgrade prime property in downtown New Haven
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — Development of more housing in the city continues unabated, with two market rate plans submitted for downtown as well as a modernized, low-income complex in the Dwight neighborhood and more apartments for the Hill.
There was high praise from the City Plan Commission for all four plans, but one has stalled until at least next month over an easement problem that the parties were told to work out between themselves.
The total number of apartments between the four plans is 290 units, with all but the Hill project approved Wednesday night The two downtown projects will fill in spaces in the center of the commercial district that is expected to have a positive impact on attracting additional retail and improving the aesthetics of Chapel, State and Center streets.
The largest is a seven-floor, 120-unit apartment complex with a roof deck at 842 and 848 Chapel St. owned by Mid Block Development LLC, partners of which are Paul Denz and Chris Vigilante.
It will feature a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units that Denz said will be less expensive than other units downtown by being slightly smaller and with fewer amenities.
The whole complex is 120,000 square feet with a two level garage; one level in the basement and the other on the first floor. The entrance and exit from the garage is off Center Street; it accommodates 55 vehicles and has 45 bike spaces.
It will feature 66 studio apartments, up to 450 square feet; 41 one-bedroom units, five of them with dens, bringing them up to around 750 square feet; 13 2-bedrooms at approximately 1,200 square feet in size.
Denz said the main amenity is downtown New Haven itself with its many restaurants, gyms and coffee shops.
He expects to have everything in order by the spring with construction starting then and continuing for a year. The architect is Kenneth Boroson.
To complete the project, a small piece of land, owned by the city is being sold to the developers. Staging for the construction will be on an adjacent lot at the corner of Chapel and Orange streets, also owned by Denz, who plans to eventually put 40 apartments on that site.
He was particularly upbeat about an upgrade in commercial tenants for the block of Chapel to Church street with a vacancy in a few days when Foot Locker’s lease is up. He said he believes that Dollar Tree store will also be leaving in another year and his proposed apartment building will feature a retail space.

“We are going to have great retail all the way down the street from Dollar Tree to the corner. When I said I thought this project was transformative, I really believe that with brand new buildings, and we can reface the Foot Locker building, and we are going to come back to the corner property shortly ... But with all of that, with new retail, we believe that we could probably activate that whole block,” Denz said.
The complex would fill a gaping hole on Chapel and Center streets caused by a fire in 2007 that led to multiple lawsuits between the city and Denz.
Around the corner at 294-302 State St., 60 residential units will be erected using modular construction on what is now a parking lot near the corner of Chapel Street.
This project by Joseph Cohen of Downtown East LLC will feature not only studios, one- and two-bedroom units, but ten 3-bedroom apartments and ten 4-bedroom units, which is a first for downtown.
Both the State Street and Chapel Street plans are touted as transit-oriented developments given how close they are the the State Street Station as well Union Station.
The low-income project will raze the current deteriorated Antillean Estates at 206 Day St., a cooperative that went bankrupt, and replace it with 31 new units that will be available to the same tenants when it is finished, if they desire.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm and I think the community is very excited about the project,” attorney James Segaloff said.
The four-story building will have five one-bedroom apartments; 11 two-bedrooms; 14 three-bedrooms; and one four-bedroom apartment. Carabetta Construction, which runs Bella Vista senior housing in the city, will purchase the property if it is successful in winning state housing support for low-income units. Their first application was turned down.
Last month the project was granted zoning relief, receiving a special exception to permit a Planned Development Unit in an RM-2 District. There will be 35 parking spaces and more open space than previously at the site.
Architect Henry Schadler said they broke up the facade with different materials “so it doesn’t look like an army barracks.”
There will be brick and plank siding and each unit will have its own washer and dryer. The design was approved by the New Haven Historic District Commission. Construction is expected to take 18 months.The last project is conversion of an Armstrong Rubber Co. property at 69-75 Daggett St. into 80 apartments near Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale Medical School, and is being pitched as housing for medical students and staff.
It had a revised parking plan from an earlier iteration approved by the commission in 2017. There will now be 46 spaces in the basement and a courtyard where there was parking.
THe project was seen as a good reuse of a deteriorating property in the Hill. It will feature studios, one-, two- and some 3-bedroom units.
“We feel this is the best version for use of the site. It will be a great asset for the neighborhood,” attorney Miguel Almodovar told the commissioners. The architect is Sam Gardner. He explained to them his plan to raise the roof at certain points to reach the right height for occupancy.
The plans have been recommended for approval, which includes a special permit needed for residences in a light industrial zone, and for the new site plan.
The process came to a halt however, when attorney Elliot Kaiman, representing Yale New Haven Medical Center, objected to the proposal, claiming an easement issue had never been settled. The center owns two abutting properties on the corner.
Almodovar, who represented the developer, Sidre LLC, said the plans had been revised to make the easement question for egress moot. Annoyed City Plan staff and commission members said they could not move forward until those questions were resolved.
Isaac Koren, the director of operations for the project, commented after the meeting.
“It is just a stunt, quite frankly. Yale, unfortunately exerting Yale muscle. There is absolutely nothing nefarious about this and this just wasn’t the forum to get into it,” Koren said.
He said they had not come to any agreement with Yale. “There was absolutely nothing finalized and we thought rather than continue negotiation with Yale, we went and we did our plans in order to eliminate the issue of the easement altogether. That’s it,” Koren said.
As for his company, Koren said he was in “joint venture,” Koren said. “We are partners for now,” he said, with an earlier developer.

 Dan Haar: Lamont transition group calls for tolling authority, broad tolls
A passel of progressive ideas came out of Gov.-elect Ned Lamont’s working group on transportation Wednesday morning and along with them, the group called for a “tolling authority” in Lamont’s first six months in office — with highway tolls on all cars and trucks.
That adds pressure on Lamont, who has repeatedly said he wants to see tolling on long-haul trucks only, and said that again Wednesday.
Everyone in the group agreed on the need for tolls except one: New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who cast the sole vote against broad tolling, sources said. Stewart was not at the meeting at Bradley International Airport where the group presented its ideas.
The group didn’t offer any specifics. It called for a possible increase in the gasoline tax, without numbers. The tax is about 50 cents a gallon including a 25 cent levy plus a wholesale charge.
“We have to fix our roads,” said James Travers, bureau chief for transportation, traffic and parking for the city of Stamford, a member of the transition group for transportation. “Our investment in roadways is beyond anything that can be sustained with existing revenues.”
“We have been lucky that we haven’t has a Mianus River Bridge collapse,” Travers said, referring to the Interstate 95 bridge collapse that killed three in 1983.
Later in the day, Lamont said a tolling authority “sounds like another piece of bureaucracy, I don’t think we need that right now. I think they can do that at DOT.”
He also said he opposes increasing gasoline taxes. He stopped short of vowing to veto a broad tolling bill, but added, “That’s their recommendation, the legislature will have some thoughts on this but my thought is what I told people for six months. Let’s start with tractor-trailer trucks, I think I can get that passed.”
That would raise about $250 million a year when up and running, under Lamont’s plan — enough, he said, to get underway with bringing highways up to standards.
The tolls issue, along with gas taxes, will almost certainly wash over a broad and important discussion about ways to improve Connecticut’s public transit and transportation systems. Some of it, members of the working committee said, could save money in the long run and make the need for added revenues less severe.
Critics of tolls responded quickly, starting with Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, the Senate Republican leader. He issued a statement that covered many of the proposals by the 15 Lamont transition committees presenting their ideas this week.
“I’m trying very hard to give Gov.-elect Lamont the benefit of the doubt and not rush to judgment,” Fasano said in the written release. “However, the policy proposals that have emerged from many of his transition team meetings, including today’s proposal to toll all cars and increase the gas tax, are extremely concerning. These ideas look like Dan Malloy 2.0 and then some. They include massive tax increases, massive increases in spending and massive new promises - at a time when our state cannot even uphold the promises we have already made to residents.”
“Oh, he’s a good man, he’s just joking around,” Lamont quipped later.
 The unfortunate result is that amid all this brinkmanship about tolls and taxes — obviously important — Connecticut will lose ground in its slow move toward creating rational transportation systems that help the economy.
For example, the committee called for speeding up the hiring process at the state Department of Transportation, where some 500 jobs are funded but not filled. That saves money in the short term but some experts believe the state would spend less on big transportation projects, and get them done faster, if it brought more design and engineering work back in-house to the DOT.
In a draft report that’s not yet public, the transportation group also named several innovations aimed at a greener system. That includes a strategic plan for transit-oriented development — the idea of coordinating zoning and other efforts around less energy-intensive ways of moving people around.
To that end, the committee called for a new “transportation systems working group” to help bubble up good ideas and to coordinate efforts across state agencies. For example, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection may work on land remediation at a place that could work for development that advances train transit along the Metro-North route — but there’s no formal way for those projects to align.
 That working group would also have a “business advisory subcommittee,” which could, in addition to offering ideas, help come up with private money.
And the group called for a quasi-public “Transit Corridor Development Authority” to help development along transit lines.
The group is dominated by municipal and transportation and union officials including co-chairmanKevin Dillon, head of the Connecticut Airport Authority. He spoke about expanding the reach of the Connecticut Aviation Authority, perhaps to include oversight of Tweed-New Haven Airport, the better to coordinate if Tweed were to expand commercial service.
But tolls and taxes will emerge as the hot-button issue and all the ideas about Connecticut finally joining the 21st century are destined to be lost in that din — unless they can happen at little or no cost. In philosophy, the group advances a central concept articulated by Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, who’s exiting the House after losing a bid for the state Senate.
“For every dollar that you spend on transportation infrastructure, the return to the economy is double that,” said Guerrera, a leading proponent of tolls.
 As Melissa Kaplan-Macey, co-chair of the group and a vice president and Connecticut director at the tri-state Regional Plan Association, put it, “All these great ideas, how are we going to pay for it?”

New gas pipelines: An expensive risk our ratepayers and environment can’t afford
hen gas pipeline explosions and fires killed one person, injured 25, and caused 0ver $800 million in property damage this September in Massachusetts, Connecticut state legislators called for an independent investigation to determine the extent of  leak-prone gas pipelines and to ensure we have appropriate inspection procedures to prevent a similar disaster from happening here.  These concerns are real and we must have answers.
We also need to ask ourselves if we need more gas pipelines at all,  and if so, who should pay for them?
Most Connecticut ratepayers would be surprised to learn that a Connecticut law, enacted in 2015, allows electric utilities like Eversource to construct expanded gas pipelines, and pass the costs to ratepayers — along with a healthy profit margin. When the tax was passed in 2015, only a handful of legislators raised concerns and voted against the legislation.
Connecticut residents currently pay the highest electric rates  among all 48 continental states, according to a report released recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The number one reason for these high rates is our region’s over-reliance on natural gas, according to the report.
As if that’s not bad enough, Eversource has been pushing to build more gas pipelines, including the Access Northeast Pipeline. This gigantic pipe, running through our state,  would cost approximately $6.6 billion, with about $2 billion coming from Connecticut ratepayers through future increases in our bills.  Despite the recent tragedy in Massachusetts, Eversource refuses to give up on expanded pipelines in Connecticut and surrounding states.  And three interstate gas pipeline expansions have already been completed in our state!
The evidence against the need for new fossil fuel pipelines is clear, according to many major studies. One report, released by Sierra Club Connecticut and CT Fund for the Environment,  conducted by Synapse Energy Economics,  shows conclusively that new natural gas pipelines are not needed in our state.
With demand for energy expected to be flat between now and 2030, the  The Synapse study found that New England’s use of natural gas will actually decrease by 41 percent from 2015 levels by 2030. That much gas is going to be forced out of the region due to the legal requirements for more renewable energy and less greenhouse gases. The study said, “even existing gas pipelines may operate under capacity.”
This may be why Eversource and others won’t invest their own money in building new pipelines. They want consumers to pay through a surcharge on their bills – a pipeline tax–  which has to be paid whether the pipelines are needed or not. The scheme was rejected by Massachusetts’ highest court and New Hampshire public utilities regulators. In its unanimous ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the pipeline tax would “re-expose ratepayers to the types of financial risks from which the Legislature sought to protect them.”
But here in Connecticut, the pipeline tax is alive and well.  During the last legislative session, renewable energy activists, legislators and leading environmental groups joined together to overturn the tax, but were unsuccessful.  Similar legislation is likely to be introduced when the legislature convenes a new session in January.
Instead of bowing to the pound-foolish and environmentally risky expediency of fossil fuels, it is time to push for more renewable energy to drive down our current dependence on natural gas.  Connecticut was recently rated fifth in the country for energy efficiency and ninth for its installed solar power. We are heading in the right direction and we can do even better.
Connecticut consumers do not need  higher energy bills. And our communities cannot afford the risk of more dangerous pipelines under and around our homes, schools and recreational areas.
State Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, and Martha Klein, Chair of Sierra Club Connecticut. Haddad was one of 11 members of the House of Representatives to oppose the Pipeline Tax (Public Act 15-107) becoming law in 2015.

Big changes contemplated for $46.2 million school construction plan in Waterbury
WATERBURY – City officials are strongly considering big changes to a $46.2 million renovation and expansion of Wendell Cross Elementary School, which was to begin in 2019.
In 2016, city officials approved a plan to renovate much of the existing school and add about 40,000 square feet of new space. It would turn a school designed for about 350 students through grade five into a building capable of housing 550 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade.
School Superintendent Verna D. Ruffin – who joined the district this year – isn’t sold on that plan, however.
And now officials are contemplating building an entirely new structure, and perhaps adding three classrooms per grade, rather than the original plan of two per grade.
During a forum for parents Tuesday at the school, Ruffin said some students currently have to go to other city schools, as Wendell Cross classrooms fill up.
“We don’t want to build a school and spend $46 million if it’s not adequate for the neighborhood,” Mayor Neil M. O’Leary said.

If the city decides to build an entirely new school, all students would move to temporary “swing space” at another site. Officials suggested this could avoid distraction and danger for students.
O’Leary said the city is contemplating using the closed St. Joseph Catholic School in the city’s Brooklyn neighborhood, or possibly the buildings that had housed the now closed St. Mary Catholic School (next to Saint Mary’s Hospital).
The St. Joseph School building had previously housed public school students before the shuttered Duggan Elementary School was renovated and reopened. O’Leary said the city is seeking estimates to get St. Joseph back into shape, and there may be state money available.
Two architectural firms vying for the Wendell Cross project have advised entirely new construction would better serve the district, O’Leary said. If there’s no expansion in scope, an entirely modern school could cost very near the $46.2 million already approved, said the mayor.
Officials have asked the design firms to present three scenarios: the project as originally envisioned; a new school for 550 students with two classes per grade; and a new school with three classrooms per grade, O’Leary said.
Big questions remain. City officials want estimates of cost and construction time. They also want to know whether the state would honor its prior pledge of 78.6 percent reimbursement if the project changes dramatically. And they question whether the city would have to get back in line with other municipalities seeking state grants for school construction projects.
The city has until October to begin work under the original approval by the state’s General Assembly. O’Leary promised that will happen.
“If we have to pay an extra 10 percent, I think we are all in agreement this school is needed,” O’Leary said. “And whichever version we’ve decided upon, we are going to go forward.”

December 19, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wedneday December 19, 2018

Hotel plan approved for former Hale Mill in Yantic
Claire Bessette
Norwich — Plans by a New York developer to convert the historic granite Hale Mill in Yantic into a 151-room hotel with a pool, restaurant, business center and outdoor amenities, including tennis courts, basketball courts and a playground, received unanimous approval Tuesday after enthusiastic support from neighbors and city officials.
Mill Development LLC of Woodside, N.Y., which purchased the mill for $826,000 on June 1, submitted plans for the hotel this fall.
With Tuesday’s approval by the Commission on the City Plan, project owners Gadi Ben Hamo and Meyir Chitrit said they will “definitely” begin construction in spring. Project architect Michael Weisbrod of Crosskey Architects said the group plans to submit applications for federal historic preservation tax credits within the next few weeks.
Project officials stressed the plan to restore as much of the granite and masonry building as possible but said new portions — including a connector between the main mill to an original boiler room and a covered front entrance for patrons — will be distinctly new but with accents that invoke the historic character of the building, Weisbrod said.
Weisbrod projected an image of an early 19th century postcard of the mill showing a belfry atop the tall stair tower. Weisbrod said the plan is to replicate the belfry as close to the original design as possible.
Inside, historic stairways will be retained and highlighted, and photos of the old mill and “lots and lots of artifacts” from the mill will be on display, Hamo said. Hamo said he hopes to reach out to an art school to help design artwork to complement the historic features and artifacts inside the building. The group has contacted members of the Yantic Fire Engine Co. across the street — whose building is made of the same granite — for historic photos and information.
The granite mill was built in 1865 to replace an earlier wooden mill that burned down, city Historian Dale Plummer told the commission in a letter submitted Tuesday. The mill produced woolen flannel in its heyday. Plummer said the building wouldn’t be suited for modern industrial uses, but a conversion into a hotel, with emphasis on historic preservation of the original structure, would be welcome.
Hamo and Chitrit said the hotel will be a boutique hotel under the chain IHG, which owns several hotel brands, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, but likely would be named Hale Mill Inn.
Hamo and Chitrit said the hotel will be marketed for young travelers, either heading to the region’s casinos or escaping for weekend getaways.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Hamo said. “We want the young people to bring life to this place.”
Several members of the neighboring Grace Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the project during Tuesday’s public hearing. John Baldwin, senior warden of the church, said the 1902 current church building was built on land donated by the mill owners. The church, the mill and the Yantic fire station, he said, “are intertwined in this whole area.”
Norwich Public Works Director Ryan Thompson added the city to the mix, telling the planning commission that the department has been working diligently to restore the historic Sunnyside Bridge, an arched stone bridge over the Yantic River, in the village.
“I’m happy to see it,” Thompson said of the hotel project, “as a resident and as Public Works director.”

Plans move forward for new Milford PD; mayor proposes expanding current building
MILFORD — Plans are moving forward for a new police station on the Boston Post Road even though Mayor Ben Blake said this week he still wants to consider revamping the current police station.
A design for a new Milford Police Station is near completed, and both the police chief and building committee chairman think a new police station is definitely the way to go.
Still, Blake said he is not completely sold on the idea of a new station.
Last January, city leaders voted to buy about six acres of land on the Boston Post Road for $4.5 million for a new Milford police station. The site is roughly across the street from the Planet Fitness gym. It is the same area where a new Big Y grocery store was recently announced.
The current police station was built in 1978 at 430 Boston Post Road, and police and other city officials have said it was too small and obsolete from day one. An expanded police station has been in the city’s capital improvement plan since 1998.
“All available space has been utilized to the point where we are using external storage space for recovered property as well as off-site space for task force and special operation initiatives,” a proposal included in a previous year’s capital improvement plan said.
Police Chief Keith Mello has for a number of years painted a picture of a police station designed just before the world and policing evolved.
Today there are more female officers than in the past, there is a computer forensics area in need of a lab, and there is a juvenile justice bill that requires juveniles be held separately from adults — issues that make the current building obsolete.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to the chief.
Mello also noted that the combined police, fire and EMS dispatch center at the Milford Police Department requires more space: Police and fire dispatch were once separate.
City officials have said that they would eventually sell the current police station property to help pay some of the cost for the new one. The new site is close enough to the current station that the communication tower will not have to be moved, and that would have cost at least $1 million, city officials said.
The current police station is about 43,000 square feet, plus another 4,000-square-foot garage. The chief said the proposed station is now planned at 62,000 square feet, plus another 14,000-square-foot garage and outbuilding.
“It’s likely that this will be the last police department ever built” for Milford, Mello said, adding that if more space is ever needed in the future, there is room to expand.
Kaestle Boos out of New Britain is doing the design work; the contractor is Downes Construction, also out of New Britain.
Police Commission Chairman Rich Smith estimates construction costs will be $30 million to $33 million, and said that because of trade tensions with China and increased tariffs, construction costs could go up dramatically if the city waits too long to start construction.
“The sooner the cheaper,” Smith said.
 Smith said a lot of work has gone into the design phase.
Our most critical challenge was to ensure we did not deliver a station that did not fully meet the current and future needs of our police department,” Smith said.
“Unfortunately, when the Milford police force moved into the current location back in 1979, the building was already too small. Our committee recognized if we are to build, it needed to be done right, with an understanding that this facility would need to meet our city’s needs and the needs of our police department for generations,” he said.He said the building committee has delivered a detailed design document and is preparing to move on to final design and construction planning.
Smith said the building committee explored all options regarding upgrading or adding onto the existing police station and said there is not a configuration that works in that location.
Mayor Blake said this week, however, that it might be possible to expand the current police station toward the Public Works Department, which is behind the police station.
The design for the new police station is “bigger than what we budgeted,” Blake said, adding, “We are still considering both options” — meaning building new or renovating the current building.
Blake said the land that the city bought last year on the Boston Post Road is worth considerably more today than it was a year ago, and if the city doesn’t use it for a police station it can sell the land for a profit. He said he’s gotten calls from prospective buyers.
Smith said the building committee plans to meet with the mayor soon and hopes to reach a consensus. If a design is finalized for a new police station, and the city agrees that is the way to go, the plans will have to go to the aldermen for bonding approval.Mello said that once construction starts on a new police station, it would take about 20 months to build.

December 17, 2018

CT Construction Digest Monday December 17, 2018

Waterbury Building Trades Donates $1,000 to Center for Human Development
David C. Dal ZinWATERBURY – The Waterbury Building Trades Council unanimously voted to cancel their annual Christmas luncheon and instead donate their $1,000 budget for the event to the Center for Human Development Hospitality Center in Waterbury.
The CHD Hospitality Center provides an array of services to help the city’s homeless, which includes a respite from cold weather, laundry, and showers. The Center also offers a number of in-kind services from local providers such as medical, legal, housing, employment, mental health, substance abuse, clothing, counseling, training, and more.
“This is an important service for Waterbury’s homeless population because it allows those without homes to have a place to go when they can’t be in a shelter,” said Nate Brown, President of the Waterbury Building Trades Council. “The Hospitality Center also provides those in need a chance at secure housing, job training, and more.”
The Waterbury Building Trades Council is made up of 16 local building trades unions in the greater Waterbury area and has approximately 3,500 members.
“Our Council decided that instead of hosting our annual Christmas luncheon, why not do something to help those in need in Waterbury,” said Brown. “Despite having relatively low unemployment, we know that there are still lots of people who are struggling. We hope that this donation can be at least a small part of making a difference in the lives of those who need it most.”

Newington residents hopeful committee acts on asphalt plant issues
Erica Drzewiecki
NEWINGTON – People living and working in the northeastern section of town are hoping a new committee and a new year will finally bring some peace to their neighborhood.
The town of Newington’s Balf Committee was recently renewed to oversee operations at Tilcon Connecticut’s Balf Co. Neighbors of the asphalt plant would like to see a decrease in noise, dust and blasting and have put their faith in committee members.
“It’s like fighting a windmill; we just keep going around and around again,” said Alex Kosovskiy, owner of Lada Motors at 426 Hartford Ave., right around the corner from Balf.
The Town Council just passed a resolution setting defined terms for existing committee members, and is expected to fill three vacant spots in the next few months. They also plan to meet more frequently next year.
“I think this has been a long time coming,” Mayor Roy Zartarian pointed out. “I’m glad to see we’re acting on this.”
Councilors Chris Miner and Gail Budrejko will continue to serve on the committee at least until their Council terms are up in November 2019
“Prior to my time on the committee it met once a year,” Budrejko said. “This year business owner concerns generated a special meeting over the summer.”
The committee met again for its regular meeting in October. Members decided to begin keeping a laundry list of complaints, to be circulated between all parties involved.
“The main thing is to get the communication better coordinated,” Budrejko explained.
Kosovskiy claims blasting has caused cracks in his building and vehicles in his lot get coated with a layer of gray dust when the plant is in full operation, usually spring through fall.
Since opening 11 years ago, he has brought his grievances to town and state officials, from the Central CT Health District to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, even Newington Fire Marshal Chris Schroeder.
Balf Co. leaders say they have invested at least half-a-million dollars in new equipment to address issues cited by different people over the years. Procedures to mitigate dust production have also been implemented.
Kosovskiy has attended committee meetings along with Frank and John Capalbo, owners of C&C Motors next door.
The Capalbos emigrated to the U.S. from Italy before opening their auto shop at 416 Hartford Ave. 42 years ago. Their issues with Balf have been going on for decades.
“It’s not getting any better,” John said. “If they cannot control an operation maybe they should shut down.”
All three mechanics have suggested the plant be moved to the parent company’s New Britain site, out of the vicinity of a residential neighborhood. A supplier of concrete, asphalt and stone and leader in bridge and road construction, Tilcon CT owns and operates 23 locations around the state.
Newington resident Mary Udice was just re-appointed as an alternate to the Balf Committee. At the October meeting, she shared her latest experience living close by the plant.
“There was a recent blast that really shook the house,” Udice reported. “Normally I don’t feel them. When we first moved in back in 1992, I felt a lot more from the blasting.”
Committee meetings have yet to be scheduled for 2019.
Half of Norwalk’s small bridges rated bridges subpar
Robert Koch
NORWALK — The Norwalk Department of Public Works is ramping up its attention toward the city’s smallest bridges.
The Norwalk Common Council this month approved the department’s request to hire Freeman Companies, a land development, engineering design and construction services firm with offices in Hartford, to inspect, evaluate and put forward recommendations for 26 local bridges measuring 20 feet or less in length. The cost of the work is not to exceed $251,200.
“They’re still critical to the city’s infrastructure as far as mobility, safety,” said Lisa Burns, principal engineer at the Public Works Department. “They carry the same concerns, big or small
The Connecticut Department of Transportation completed field screening of municipal bridges measuring 20 feet or less in span length and rated the structures in two categories — “Satisfactory or Better” or “Fair or Worse” - wrote DOT Manager of Bridges Theodore H. Nezames in an Aug. 2 letter to Mayor Harry W. Rilling
Rated as “Fair or Worse” in Norwalk were the following small bridges: Park Street over Betts Brook Pond, Rowayton Avenue over Keelers Brook, West Cedar Street over Keelers Brook, Primrose Court over Keelers Brook, Grist Mill Road over stream, Wall Street over Betts Pond Brook, Brookhill Lane over Woods Pond Brook, Wilson Avenue over stream, Scribner Avenue over Keelers Brook, Bonnybrook Road over Holy Ghost Fathers Brook, Bonnybrook Trail over Holy Ghost Fathers Brook, Geneva Road over street, and Comstock Hill Avenue over Hams Pond Brook, according to the letterPaul L. Sotnik, senior civil engineer at the Norwalk Department of Public Works, said the letter stems from a 2016 “high-level field screening” of the bridges.
“It’s not much detail in 2016,” Sotnik said. “The previous screening that they had done with high-level detail was 1991 so what we ended up doing is when we received the letter and notifications, we said we need to put out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to do that inspection.”
The bridges in question span streams, culverts and box culverts in some cases. Asked if they are in danger of failing, he said, “Probably not, but we want to make sure we’ve got them inspected and that’s why we’re doing this.”
Ten engineering firms responded to the city’s request. Freeman Companies was among three firms short-listed by a review panel to receive the contract.Under Tuesday’s approval, Freeman Companies will, among other things, inspect and evaluate the structures of all 26 bridges measuring 20 feet or less in length, perform material testing, scour analysis and scour mitigation, and hold a public information meeting with its findings and recommendations.
Sotnik anticipates the company will start work early next year and issues its report no later than April.Finding money outside the city’s budget to pay for any repairs recommended in the report is another matter.“We’d have to check and see if there’s anything out there,” said Sotnik regarding potential state and federal funds. “Right now, we’re not necessarily sure of anything, but we will try and look for any kind of funding that we can get to obviously reduce the cost to the taxpayers in Norwalk.”DOT spokesman Kevin J. Nursick said the department inspects state- and town-owned bridges measuring more than 20 feet in length.
“Town-owned bridges under 20 feet are town responsibility, and always have been,” Nursick wrote in an email Friday. “We have had programs in the past to ‘screen’ the aforementioned (and shared our findings with the towns) to get a better grasp of what unaccounted for structures and their conditions are out there, but we have never had the primary, accountable responsibility of inspecting their (town-owned) under-20 (foot) bridges.”
The bridge evaluation comes as the DOT prepares to replace the Walk Bridge over the Norwalk River and several other rail bridges at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion.

Blue-collar worker shortage turns U.S. labor market on its head
Rich Miller, Bloomberg
A surprise shortage of blue-collar workers is changing the contours of the U.S. labor market, boosting their pay, narrowing wage inequality and drawing more women into those jobs.
The shortfall is being driven by a shrinking supply of manual and low-pay service workers as the labor force becomes more educated and less willing to take on such jobs, according to a new Conference Board study.
"The divergence between blue-collar and white-collar supply is going to persist and even become bigger through 2030," Gad Levanon, chief economist for North America at the New York-based research group and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview.
That is likely to keep upward pressure on labor costs in such industries as construction, transportation and accommodation and food services. It also has implications for inflation and for the Federal Reserve as Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues try to sustain the 9-[1/2]-year-old expansion without overheating the economy. Unemployment at 3.7 percent is the lowest since 1969 and running well below Fed estimates for its long-run sustainable rate.
"The acute shortage of talent in the blue collar space is very, very pronounced," said Peter Quigley, executive vice president at Kelly Services Inc., a staffing company with branches in all 50 states.
Manufacturers and other companies with physically demanding jobs are finding it tough to fill those positions when baby boomers retire. "It's harder and harder to attract younger people into those jobs, either because they're pursuing education alternatives or the stigma associated with light industrial work," Quigley said.
The supply of lower-skilled workers is also being squeezed by growth in the number of Americans who've claimed disability benefits and dropped out of the labor force. Exacerbated by the opioid epidemic, that's much more concentrated in the population without a bachelor's degree, the Conference Board report says.
Tighter restrictions on immigration are also playing a role and will continue to do so in the future, said Moody's Analytics's Chief Economist Mark Zandi. Many of those foreign workers are lower-skilled and in industries such as construction and farming.
Automation and off-shoring were widely expected to devastate demand for industrial workers and depress their pay, especially when compared with their more educated counterparts. But that hasn't happened, at least so far, according to the Conference Board: Blue collar and low-pay services jobs have grown as rapidly as total employment since the economy began recovering in June 2009.
For much of this expansion, manufacturers and other companies have been slow to ramp up capital spending and step up automation, opting instead to take on more workers to meet rising demand for their products and services.
That's been reflected in the slow growth of productivity: Output per hour worked has risen at an annual average rate of 1.2 percent since the recession ended in June 2009, well below the 2.2 percent post World War II pace.
Companies may also be approaching the limits of how much of their operations they're willing or able to outsource. "We're probably in the third and maybe fourth cycle of outsourcing," Quigley said. "Most of the large companies, if they were going to outsource, they've already done it."
The combination of surprisingly robust demand for blue-collar workers and their limited supply is forcing companies to increase pay at the bottom end of the scale. Minimum wage increases have also helped those less well-off.
That's helping to reverse the decades-long trend toward greater wage inequality, according to Levanon, who co-wrote the report with economist Frank Steemers.
Besides granting bigger wage increases, companies are getting creative in offering other perks to employees, including more breaks, re-jigged work schedules and greater flexibility for working parents, Quigley said.
The improved packages look to be attracting more women into blue collar jobs. "It helps remove some of the inhibitions or reluctance" some women may have in taking those positions, Levanon said.
The increase in female participation is particularly evident in the transportation sector, where demand for workers has taken off because of the growth of online shopping. "It's probably ground zero for labor shortages," Levanon said.
"Lower income workers are doing better," Moody's Zandi said. "The balance of power has shifted from employers to employees."

Redeker oversees completion of long-awaited Hartford Line
Sean Teehan
For Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker, 2018 marked the culmination of a nearly decade-long effort to reestablish rail service between Hartford and Springfield, Mass.
"The Hartford Line, I helped write the grant in 2009," Redeker recalled. "To see it open in 2018 — and … we've exceeded our ridership forecast for the first year in just the first couple of months, it's another extraordinary success story."
DOT ridership data seems to show pent-up demand for rail service since the $769 million CTrail Hartford Line began shuttling passengers in mid-June. Between June and October, rail ridership in the state increased from just over 100,000 passengers in 2017 to well over 220,000 in 2018, according to the state DOT. That's not including at least 10,000 CTrail ticket holders who had to ride Amtrak shuttle busses in September and October, due to over demand.
In addition to healthy ridership, Redeker said he thinks the Hartford Line will continue to spark transit-oriented development, pointing to housing projects in places like Meridan as demonstrative of transportation's importance to economic growth.
"If you're going to fix the economy, you're going to have to improve rail service, improve bus service, and you're going to have to get rid of congestion on highways," Redeker said. "Before the Hartford Line opened, we documented $400 million of transit-oriented development projects in that corridor, and that's before it opened."
There were challenges in 2018. Early in the year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy put on hold more than 400 DOT projects worth close to $4.25 billion, citing revenue shortfalls in the state's Special Transportation Fund. The halt ended at the end of the legislative session, when lawmakers transferred tax revenue funds for transportation use in fiscal 2019.
That action stabilized the transportation fund for the next few years, but it's unclear what will happen after that.
What did become clear toward the end of 2018 is voter support of transportation funding. The state electorate in November approved a "lockbox" measure that requires all money in the transportation fund to be spent on transportation-related uses.
The DOT also proposed to increase spending on infrastructure projects in a five-year, $12.1 billion capital spending plan released in November. The plan, which basically serves as a DOT wishlist, would be a steep increase over what was actually spent during the previous half-decade — about $7.7 billion.
Redeker said completing the projects necessary to improve highways and bridges would require a spending increase of about 50 percent. He identified tolls as one possible revenue generator.
DOT officials in November released a tolling study conducted by engineering consultants CDM Smith that said installing 82 toll gantries across the state could generate $1 billion in annual revenue.
Going into 2019, Redeker, whose future as DOT commissioner under Gov.-elect Ned Lamont remains uncertain, said he hopes to continue progress on highway and bridge projects with the intent of spurring economic growth.
"It's a long-term strategy," Redeker said. "You've got to spend money to get money."

December 14, 2018

CT Construction Digest Friday December 14,, 2018

Manafort Brothers Inc. donate 102 new bicycles
Karla Santos
PLAINVILLE – Manafort Brothers Inc. decided to help put a smile on the face of less fortunate children by donating 102 new bicycles to the United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program on Thursday in honor of the company’s 100th anniversary year.
Members of the Marine Corps League and Marine Corps Reserve were on board at the event, picking up the toys and bikes and loading them into the trucks for later distribution.
James Morris, John Lynch and Fred McGoldaick are Marine Corps veterans who said they were happy to help and hoped to put a smile on the children receiving the donations.
“If one kid has a great Christmas in my opinion the program is worth everything,” Lynch said.
“It’s a worthwhile project, something you put your heart into,” Morris added.
Staff sergeant Christopher Anders, of the Marine Corps Reserve, the group in charge of distributing the toys to different agencies, said he has been participating in the bike drive for two years.
“I feel great, it’s good to give to less fortunate children and I like working with the different agencies also to help donate all this toys to the children,” Anders said.
Since 1997, Manafort Brothers’ employees have hosted a companywide Toys for Tots collection. In 2007, the company’s employees started to donate bikes in addition to the smaller gifts.
Jesse Garuti, Manafort Brothers’ senior project manager, said that the bike donations started with a couple of ironworkers that decided that they were going to donate a bike instead of a smaller gift.
“The next year we realized that it was a pretty cool gesture,” Garuti said. “A couple of us in the office collected some money together and we went and purchased about four bikes. It was just a departmental thing.”
Every year the bike donations became more popular as more employees were willing to contribute.
“In an annual basis we were donating probably around 40 bikes, it was different every year,” Garuti said.
Because of the company’s anniversary, donations of 100 bikes for 100 children were encouraged.
“Everybody in the company put in some level of a monetary donation to contribute to it and where we fell short, the business picked up the difference to contribute the 100 bikes,” Garuti said.
Some corporate sponsors also contributed to the cause, and with a few last minute donations, 102 bikes were collected.
“It’s a great thing; the generosity of the employees of this company amazes me every year,” Garuti said. “They really show their commitment to the marines program, it’s a fantastic team.”
To learn more about the Manafort Brothers visit

SHU adds space for outside entrepreneurs to classroom building
Jordan Grice
Sacred Heart University’s plans for the former General Electric headquarters are going beyond molding college students.
The Fairfield-based university announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with Verizon and Alley to develop a new co-working space at its new west campus at 3135 Easton Turnpike.
The space will offer private office space, hot desks, meeting and conference room space, events, recruiting services, marketing services and programming services to students and the start-up community — local entrepreneurs, corporations and other organizations.
Members will have fee-based access to the university’s labs and facilities that include computer, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, engineering/design, gaming, finance and motion-capture labs, as well as a makerspace and production studios
SHU will establish a Student Concierge Service that members can use to connect with University programs, internships, recruiting, events, speaker sessions, office hours and mentoring.
The 11,000 square-foot co-working space will be on the second floor of the west building, which was the focus of SHU’s summer-long redevelopment efforts which gutted the first and second floors for classrooms, leisure space and more.
“This is exactly the kind of innovative and entrepreneurial platform that Connecticut desperately needs, and we’re delighted to be hosting it on our campus, working collaboratively with Verizon and Alley,” said SHU president John Petilo in a press release.
Following the GE’s 2016 departure for Boston, Sacred Heart purchased the three-building campus for $31.5 million. The 66-acre property, once home to the global company, opened at the start of the fall semester as a modern hub for a series of departments, but now school officials are looking to appeal to the startup community.
The co-working space will be the latest addition to the building which already features 14 state-of-the-art classrooms and six computer rooms, a food court and leisure space on the first floor.
The space will debute in late spring along with a batch of classrooms and labs for SHU’s engineering department and college of business.
“We are always looking for opportunities for our students to have an experiential and applied learning and offer opportunities for them to do research and development,” said SHU provost Reupendra Paliwal, who said the space will benefit both students and startups involved.
“Having this co-working space in and around where our business and engineering students and faculty are going to be is a benefit to both sides,” Paliwal said.
 SHU will provide a fully furnished and equipped facility and will dedicate resources from faculty and staff to build programming that will connect the innovation community to the school’s curriculum.
“Being housed in an academic institution gives access to the faculty, students and all the labs. Especially for entrepreneurs who are starting up, they don’t have all the resources,” Paliwal said. “They’ll have all the access to the labs and students there, so it makes it easy to get started on something without too much of an investment.”
As part of the venture, Alley, which operates co-working spaces nationwide, will oversee marketing and advertising to develop a community of members, manage member experience and help coordinate events and programs.
“Fairfield County has several corporations and businesses that stand to benefit from the work that will be done here, not to mention its ideal location between New York City and Boston,” said Jason Saltzman, CEO of Alley, in a press release. “We’re helping to create a startup mindset and environment that will provide members much-needed access to corporate resources typically unavailable to small businesses, from key relationship introductions to cutting-edge technology.”

Orsted, Eversource tout proposal, plans for New London
Benjamin Kail
New London — When Orsted built the world's first offshore wind farm in 1991, the turbines generated less than half a megawatt of electricity and stood 115 feet tall with a 115-foot rotor diameter.
In the Orsted-Eversource joint proposal to deliver the state about 800 megawatts from an offshore wind farm in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard, roughly 100 8-megawatt turbines could tower more than 600 feet above the water — double the height of the Statue of Liberty — with a 538-foot rotor diameter. If the state selects the proposal in its zero-carbon electricity auction, Orsted might consider an even larger, 10-megawatt turbine still in development.
"For one increment the rotor diameter expands, it expands the energy production three times," Ryan Chaytors, an Orsted project development manager, told a packed Holiday Inn conference room during a Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut breakfast on Wednesday. "You're able to extract more energy out of the wind with a larger machine, which allows you to provide a lower-cost product to the market."
The shift in technology and scale has helped drive down offshore wind production costs more than 60 percent over the past six years in Europe, Chaytors said. In the U.S., increased scale and ramped-up competition have driven costs down, as well. And Chaytors argued that with no fuel costs compared to gas or oil or other fossil fuels, offshore wind faces no price fluctuation, saving ratepayers over the long term.
In Massachusetts, Vineyard Wind's 800-megawatt offshore project will deliver power at a fixed rate of 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, almost three times cheaper than the defunct Cape Wind project from more than a decade ago. Orsted's and Eversource's proposed electricity rate remains undisclosed to the public while state regulators consider the proposal.
The Block Island Wind Farm delivered power at more than 24 cents per kilowatt hour in its first year of operation, with a 3.5 percent annual escalator built into the contract. Officials at Deepwater Wind — which recently was acquired by Orsted — said their winning proposal to deliver 200 megawatts of electricity to Connecticut from a wind farm south of Martha's Vineyard would see dramatically lower, fixed rates in contracts still being hammered out with Eversource and National Grid. That project should be operational by 2023.
The Orsted-Eversource project, called Constitution Wind, also will be operational by 2023 if picked among the 100-plus submissions in the state's zero-carbon electricity auction. The wind farm would inject power into the New England grid through a submerged export cable connecting at Brayton Point in Somerville, Mass., the site of a former coal-fired power plant.
"It's very exciting. It's a whole new frontier," said Dennis Galvam, outreach planning for strategic projects manager at Eversource. "It's something that's been tried and has worked but we need to do it here."
Orsted says the project could power more than 600,000 homes and create 1,400 direct and indirect jobs. Orsted pledged a $25 million fund to spur growth in the local economy and to support skills training and environmental stewardship programs. Orsted also confirmed it would maintain Deepwater Wind's $15 million commitment to upgrade New London State Pier.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection expects to pick winning proposals by the end of the year.
Questions from the crowd, which included politicians, labor representatives, environmental advocates, business leaders, educators and energy consultants, focused on costs, environmental impacts and potential economic growth.
Focusing on job creation, John Humphries of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs said he is hopeful Orsted considers gravity-based foundations that could be constructed in Connecticut, as opposed to monopiles built in Europe or steel jackets made in the southern states along the Gulf of Mexico. Chaytors said that, based on the size of the project, monopiles or jackets were the only foundations under consideration.
Big bet on New London
On top of competing with other low- and zero-carbon energy producers in the state auction, Orsted is making a big bet on New London as a long-term investment and economic development opportunity.
The company has teamed up with Gateway Terminal, which is vying to run State Pier — a facility Orsted says could become a hub for upcoming offshore wind projects along the East Coast over at least the next decade.
"We are looking at New London State Pier as being a world-class installation harbor for offshore wind projects coming down the pike," Chaytors said. "We plan to be here a long time. There's an opportunity for continual developments. We're not talking about a two- or three-year period. This could be 15 to 20 years."
Even if the Constitution Wind project is not selected in the zero-carbon auction, Chaytors said the demand for offshore wind is so great that New London — with no overhead restrictions, skilled and unskilled laborers, situated near a host of upcoming projects — remains a big draw.
"There's roughly 10 gigawatts of capacity" being procured by Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island, he said. "This facility could support the buildout of them all. We've seen this happen in other markets. As the demand builds out, you see supply chain and manufacturers will start to get attracted to this location and actually build their facilities close, as opposed to places in Europe or South America."
Chaytors noted that if the Connecticut Port Authority picks Gateway Terminal to run the port, Orsted will lease space and help transform it into an attractive hub for the supply chain and manufacturers. Existing port operations would not cease and could eventually expand, he said.
"We're not commandeering the port," he said. "We're not looking to close down the harbor to anybody but offshore wind. That's not the way it works and not the way we want it."
Chaytors noted that when it comes to the environment, the wind farm's permitting process requires extensive surveys of avian migration patterns, seafloor species and habitats, and protections for the North Atlantic right whale and other marine life.
He also said that Orsted adjusted the entire layout of its lease area off Martha's Vineyard specifically to accommodate the east-west fishing patterns of fishermen in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts. The turbines initially were laid out to optimize energy production, but Orsted redesigned the layout to create about 1 nautical mile of space between turbine rows, allowing fishermen "to just continue transiting and fishing through the lease area," Chaytors said.
"We've heard a lot of positive feedback," he added. "We think that is a major, major concession but allows us to show we're not just saying, 'Give us feedback,' and then we push it aside. We will take it into account and, if possible, we will act on it."

December 13, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday December 13, 2018

Norwalk council extends bridge consultant’s contract, with conditions
Robert Koch    

Middlesex Construction workers drive pilings from a barge in the Norwalk River on Nov. 8 in preparation for the Walk Bridge replacement project in Norwalk. The state Department of Transportation will hold two-session public information meeting at Norwalk City Hall on Nov. 28 to update the public on the Walk Bridge replacement environmental impacts and mitigation, recently completed and upcoming construction activities and findings from the archeological excavation. | File Photo Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media / Norwalk Hour
NORWALK — The Norwalk Common Council on Tuesday extended Walk Bridge program manager Susan Prosi’s consulting contract with the city through mid-December 2019 after requiring that she provide quarterly reports and other information as requested.
In addition, any further contract extensions will be subject to council approval. 
The one-year renewal came after questions were raised about her diligence keeping some people — particularly Norwalk Harbor Commission and Shellfish Commission members — up to date on how the bridge replacement will impact Norwalk.

“We’ve talked about in committee about there’s no requirement for periodic reports,” said Council Minority Leader Douglas E. Hempstead, a District D Republican. “We thought the council was going to get like a quarterly report or something but when you read ... in here (the contract) there’s no requirements for reports.”

On Dec. 12, 2017, the council hired Prosi, former senior transportation manager for the South Western Regional Planning Agency, as Norwalk’s program manager for the Walk Bridge project. She was to serve as the point of contact between stakeholders, the city and various departments, and be responsible for developing priorities and advocating on the city’s behalf.
Prosi has worked in the Department of Public Works Office but reported to the Mayor’s Office. Her consulting fee has been $100 per hour for an average of 20 hours per week of work.
Speaking to the council Tuesday, Prosi said she’s attended more than 160 meetings concerning the bridge replacement and approximately 230 meetings with Laoise King, the mayor’s chief of staff. The consultant said she’s worked with Lockwood-Mathews Mansion and Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, among others, regarding mitigating the impacts of the project.
“We’d like to get as many improvements undertaken by the state as possible,” Prosi said. “If we can’t avoid the negative impacts, we are looking for ways to mitigate them and to advance enhancements, and the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion is one of the enhancements.”
Prosi noted that the state plans to replace the mansion’s historic fencing as one mitigation measure in the bridge replacement program.

Council President Thomas E. Livingston, a District E Democrat, noted Prosi has been on the job for year.
“By all accounts, it’s working,” Livingston said. “If it doesn’t work, we have a 30-day termination provision so we can terminate it (the contract) at any time.”
Livingston said Prosi has agreed to make a a full presentation on her work to the full council.
“At that point, I’d like to solicit input as to what topics we’d like to cover,” Livingston said.
 For the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission and Shellfish Commission, the harbor is foremost. Harbor Commission Vice Chairman John C. Romano, speaking on behalf of both commissions, asked the council to table action on the contract extension pending answers to questions.
“How does Ms. Prosi determine the city’s needs and interests when she’s interacting with the DOT and Eversource? How does Ms. Prosi intend to treat the recommendations of the harbor and the shellfish commissions? What does she intend to do to help the harbor and shellfish commissions, overall?” Romano asked. “Her contract should be renewed but not until these questions are satisfactory answered, because we need that interaction.”
The Connecticut Department of Transportation plans to begin replacing the 122-year-old Walk Bridge, which carries Amtrak and Metro-North Railroad trains over the Norwalk River, in late 2019 and take four to five years to complete the work. Track-and-signal upgrades are already underway on both sides of the bridge.

Designs unveiled for consolidated middle school in Groton
Kimberly Drelich 
 This rendering of the proposed consolidated middle school from the northeast shows the gymnasium in the foreground and the academic wing in the background. It also shows the bus loop and main entrance at second-floor level for events. (Courtesy of The S/L/A/M Collaborative)
Groton — Architects this week unveiled design plans for the approximately 155,000-square-foot new consolidated middle school proposed at the former Merritt Farm property near Fitch High School.
Superintendent Michael Graner said the Permanent School Building Committee and a group of educators, from teachers to administrators of both middle schools, worked hard with the architects to ensure the design for the new middle school meets the needs of both the arts and humanities program currently at Cutler Arts and Humanities Magnet Middle School and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program at West Side STEM Magnet Middle School.
At a Board of Education Committee of the Whole special meeting Monday, also attended by members of the Town Council and the Permanent School Building Committee, representatives from The S/L/A/M Collaborative, the architecture firm, and Arcadis, a design and consultancy firm which is assisting the town with the school projects, gave a presentation on the plans that the Board of Education is slated to vote on next month.  
"We’re really happy this middle school will become a part of the Fitch campus and really allow you to share resources between those two very important schools in your district," said Amy Samuelson, senior associate at The S/L/A/M Collaborative, as she pointed out the site of the future middle school on the corner of Fort Hill and Groton Long Point Roads.
The proposed middle school building nestles down into the hillside, so the second floor serves as the building entrance on the east side, while the lower level floor is the building entrance from the west side, she said. They are connected by a main concourse.
Samuelson said two entrances are proposed for the site. One will be through the Fitch High School parking lot, a configuration that allows for the potential sharing of buses. Buses will enter through the high school driveway and proceed to the middle school site and pull up at the entrance at the second floor of the middle school building.
For the second entrance to the site, drivers will proceed a little way up through the shared driveway with Ella T. Grasso Technical High School and then take a route up to the new middle school site, she said. Parents will be directed from the Fort Hill Road entrance and will drop off at the lower level entrance to the school.
The site will include a full-size field for athletic events, a smaller field and a softball field, Samuelson said.
The building calls for an academic wing, along with features such as makerspace and engineering labs for STEM programs, spaces for art, graphic arts and A/V production, a black-box theater that can be configured in different ways to accommodate performance and seating needs, a cafeteria space developed "as the heart of the building," a library/media center with flexible furniture and acoustic ceiling clouds, and a physical education department that includes a movement studio, fitness room and full-size gymnasium, according to the presentation.  Superintendent Michael Graner said Fitch students will be able to use the black-box theater, while middle school students may want to use the high school's theater.
Samuelson said the interior of the building will be set up with a warm wood tone and neutral colors for the floors and walls of the building, with splashes of color. Each floor will have a representative color that will make it easy for people getting on and off the elevator or the stairs to identify the floor.
Assistant Superintendent Susan Austin said students from West Side STEM Magnet Middle School are working on designing a STEM outdoor classroom space.
After the presentation, architects provided answers to questions they were asked, including explaining the building's security features and that there is room for expansion if the town's middle school student population increases in the future.
The Board of Education is anticipated to continue discussions on the plans on Dec. 17 and vote on them on Jan. 7.
Permanent School Building Committee Chairman Bob Austin-LaFrance said the project is within budget and on schedule. After the Board of Education approves the plans, the committee then would certify to the town that the plans meet the educational specifications no later than Jan. 10. A meeting with the state for final plan review is slated for Jan. 15.
"We expect to hear back from the state no later than the 25th of January, and if that’s the case, then we’ll be able to go out to bid as soon as we get that word from the state," Austin-LaFrance said. He added that the building was designed to be as flexible and usable as possible within budget.
The initial work with site preparation is slated to begin in mid-March, and the school is anticipated to be completed by July of 2020 for opening in the fall of 2020, Graner said.

December 12, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday December 12, 2018

Best K-12 Education: Orville H. Platt High School Additions and Renovations
Orville H. Platt High School Additions and Renovations
Torrington, Conn.
Best Project
Owners: City of Meriden
Owners Representative: Arcadis
Design Firm: Antinozzi Associates
Construction Manager: O&G Industries Inc.
Civil Engineer: Stantec Consulting
Structural Engineer: Thomas A. Torrenti P.C.
MEP Engineer: Altieri Sebor Wieber Consulting Engineers
Architectural Design Consultant: ArchiChord LLC
Subcontractors: Construction Services of New England and DesignRI LLC (Pool); Eastern Energy Services (Plumbing)
This $110-million, four-year project built and renovated some 265,000 sq ft of a high school without disrupting school operations. The work was finished on time and under budget despite a three-month delay due to rebidding the project.
O&G Industries says the work was rebid in response to a mechanical, electrical and plumbing system redesign to bring the project cost in alignment with its budget. But O&G says using the Last Planner System for Lean schedule management helped the team achieve detailed preplanning with stakeholders. It also helped remove potential obstacles that could have delayed construction of the school, which has an enrollment of 1,100.
Building a rooftop chase—a 700-ft-long utility corridor for housing four miles of piping and wiring—was the first large technical challenge of the project’s first phase, the team says. Thanks to extensive coordination with the school, strategic scheduling and cooperation with contractors, it was completed without interruption and on time.
Construction of the two-story, 2,400-sq-ft media center, entirely cantilevered off the northwest corner of the building, created one of the school’s most striking features. It required some bridge construction strategies, including heavy structural foundations and fully welded trusses and bracing connected to oversize concrete foundations.
The project also improved the school’s energy performance by achieving 24.5% better energy efficiency than code, reducing potable water usage by 30% and recycling and salvaging 50% of construction and demolition debris. “It was pretty rigorous execution of the project,” one judge noted.
Renovation of the pool included converting its filtering system to a saltwater/UV light system to eliminate chlorine. By using returns from the school’s heating system to warm the water, the team says the school is able to conserve energy.
The 950-ft auditorium required high-level craftsmanship to achieve the designed aesthetic, including corrugated metal wall panels and custom architectural woodwork at multiple angles. The auditorium’s lighting and sound systems received upgrades too.
Students interested in learning about careers in construction benefited from an award-winning program that included education, site tours and demos. The educational program was conceived of by the project manager and developed jointly with faculty.
In coordinating mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection, the use of building information modeling linked to the Trimble BPS System provided extreme accuracy and reduced errors in placement to a fraction of a percent.
Trades were able to site and install anchors and components before concrete floors were cast. Traditional methods would have required crews to drill 9,000 holes overhead through decking and concrete in a time-consuming process. By using the BIM and GPS positioning, crews could walk the metal floor and roof decking to pinpoint where holes needed to be made. Despite the large scale of the project, the team says there were less than 100 minor close-out items on the punch list.

The road ahead: leaders discuss transportation progress, challenges
Skyler Frazer
NEW BRITAIN – Transit in the state has improved over the last decade, but the legislature and Governor-elect Ned Lamont have more work to do if Connecticut wants to continue making strides in transportation.
That was the sentiment at City Hall on Tuesday when transportation experts and other stakeholders in the state met to discuss the Connecticut’s transit system and the challenges ahead.
“The priority for the last decade has been expansion and really about significant investment and enlargement of the transit network,” said Richard Andreski, the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Bureau Chief of Public Transportation.
Andreski said the expansion of the Hartford and New Haven rail lines and CTfastrak are examples of this expansion.
“The dividends of those investments are just beginning to pay off. We’ve seen economic development popping up all across the Hartford line and also here in New Britain,” Andreski said.
Speaking specifically of New Britain, executive director of the New Britain Downtown District Gerry Amodio talked about the challenges with transit-oriented development. Amodio shared the story of New Britain being divided into sections in the 1970s with the construction of Route 72 and Route 9. Decades later, the city is still coming to terms with the facelift the downtown area has received. Amodio compared the city to a living organism, and living bodies can’t function the same after parts have been ripped from them.
“When you look at the area and you look at New Britain and you say ‘wow, why do we struggle,’ well, I think if you take out your liver and your gallbladder and you rearrange all your organs, you’d struggle too,” Amodio said.
CT DOT announced in August that CTfastrak carried its 10 millionth ride. As opposed to nationwide, where public transportation ridership has remained flat, Connecticut saw an increase in ridership last year.
Mayor Erin Stewart, who has been a big supporter of CTfastrak, said the bus system has faced some unfounded criticism and many people rely on it for commuting to work, for shopping or simply for easy access to Hartford. The downtown hub has also helped the city receive funding and support for several downtown projects, like the Beehive Bridge project and the recently finished rotary on Bank Street.
“We’ve got hundreds, thousands of people that use it on a daily basis, and our downtown is transforming because of it,” Stewart said. “To have this connector, to have mass-transit back in downtown really allowed us a lot of opportunities for business and housing.”
Going forward, there are challenges facing the state in regards to transportation. State funding and federal funding are always big topics of discussion around budget season, and 2019 is no exception.
Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said his group is constantly monitoring transportation-related bills at the federal level. Specifically, Shubert is monitoring President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan and how it would affect transportation investments at a statewide level.
“We’re watching it all unfold,” Shubert said. “If we don’t see an infrastructure bill this year (2019), as far as transportation advocates are concerned, we’re going to have our hands full in Washington next year during an election year.”
Further, technology and new businesses are disrupting common forms of transit. CT DOT has already rolled out a few new ways to make payments and is working on ways to make it easier to plan trips using the rail or bus system. Andreski said that this year, for the first time ever, ridership on rideshare companies Uber and Lyft will exceed ridership on public buses nationally.
“As we look to the future it’s about partnerships, it’s about technology and it’s about really being flexible with how we provide service,” Andreski said.
Karen Burnaska from Transit for CT and Mary Tomolonius from the Connecticut Association for Community Transportation organized and moderated the event.
In near unanimous support, the state Bond Commission on Tuesday morning greenlit dozens of projects worth tens of millions of dollars, mainly geared toward transportation and economic-development initiatives.
The 50-minute special meeting was likely the last chaired by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is nearing the end of his two-term governorship. Gov.-elect Ned Lamont will assume Malloy's seat Jan. 9.
Malloy thanked the 10-member commission for its service during his tenure, and lauded the group's ability to unanimously agree on what he estimated was 98 percent of the borrowing requests acted on by the commission over that time.
"The state has made significant investments in its future. Its infrastructure is in far better shape than it was, although it has a long way to go, partially in the area of transportation," Malloy said during the meeting held at the state legislative office building. "Our schools are stronger, our universities are in better shape than they were, our economic-development efforts have led to more private-sector jobs than in any time in our history."
The largest approval on Tuesday was a $91.6 million request from the Connecticut Department of Transportation for various projects. That includes $78 million for improvements along Interstate 84 and more than $13.6 million for urban bikeway, pedestrian connectivity, trails and other programs.
Other borrowing requests approved included $3.7 million in funding for improvements to New London's State Pier, more than $1 million for economic-development projects in Hartford overseen by quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) and nearly $515,000 for body cameras and storage devices for several local police departments.
The commission also approved $21.1 million, requested by the Office of Policy and Management, for urban development projects for economic development, transportation, public safety, social services and environmental protection reasons.
Also, the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection will receive $13.5 million to replace and upgrade its radio communication systems. The state Department of Education will also be alloted $3.8 million for improvements to buildings and grounds, and replacement of equipment and technology, at all regional vocational-technical schools.
Hartford-based kitchen cabinet and countertop retailer Express Kitchens will receive a $3 million loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to purchase new equipment and for leasehold improvements to support the company's expansion. With the funding, the company said it will retain 134 jobs and create up to 226 new jobs within seven years.
Other DECD approved requests include:
  • $10 million to provide a loan to employment search giant Indeed for expansion operations in Stamford that will create 500 new jobs.
  • $6 million to help Cromwell's GKN Aerospace Services Structures expand and retain and create 263 jobs over the next six years.
  • $5 million to support grants and loans for the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund.
  • $5 million for the state Department of Labor's new apprenticeship program.
  • $5 million to provide a loan to Meriden manufacturer Accel International Holding Inc. for its expansion into a second location in Cheshire. The company has agreed to retain 108 jobs and create another 115 positions over three years.
  • $2 million to provide a loan to aerospace manufacturer Habco Industries LLC for machinery and equipment purchases and expansion in Glastonbury. Hacbo will retain 55 jobs and and create 47 new positions within five years.
CRDA approved projects include:
  • $521,000 to finance housing and community development projects in Hartford, including the Downtown North redevelopment near Dunkin' Donuts Park and redeveloping two blighted buildings on Lawrence Street.
  • $275,000 to support renovations and improvements of Hartford's Connecticut Convention Center and Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
  • $300,000 to support renovations and improvements at the Hartford Regional Market.
Bond Commission member Sen. John Fonfara, a Democrat from Hartford, praised the Democratic governor's service in addition to the commission's five outgoing members: Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody A. Currey; Longtime State Treasurer Denise L. Nappier; Attorney General George Jepsen; Republican Sen. L. Scott Frantz; and Ben Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management.
Click here to view all of the approved projects

Public hearing Tuesday night on proposed changes to MDC, DEEP Clean Water Project
Metropolitan District will hold a public hearing Tuesday night before the agency submits four proposals to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Clean Water Project upgrades.
The Clean Water Project is a large-scale project intended to stop millions of gallons of polluted storm water and untreated sewage from being flushed into the Connecticut River and down to the Long Island Sound. During large storms, rainwater overwhelms Hartford’s drains and sewage treatment facilities, meaning contaminated water floods directly into streams and the river.
The MDC provides updates to the DEEP every five years.

Tuesday’s public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the MDC Training Center, 125 Maxim Road. The MDC is to submit it’s plans to the DEEP by Dec. 31, according to a MDC spokesperson.
The four proposals are:

Maintain the plan proposed and approved by DEEP in 2014.
The MDC continues work on the south Hartford conveyance tunnel and completes a north Hartford tunnel by 2032. The cost for the north Hartford conveyance tunnel is estimated at about $100 million, according to MDC CEO Scott Jellison.
The MDC begins work on roughly $450 million in sewer system separation work around the district and complete it over the next 40 years. Under this proposal, MDC customers foot the bill.
Build the north tunnel and get the $450 million in upgrades completed by 2032.
The MDC completes the north Hartford conveyance tunnel project and $450 million in sewer system separation work throughout the district by 2032. Under this proposal, MDC customers foot the bill.
Jellison said this proposal would “cripple” MDC communities because of four intense years of construction.
Sewer separation projects and a smaller north tunnel.
The MDC would begin sewer separation projects immediately in the northern part of Hartford, costing about $350 million.
The MDC would do $450 million in sewer separation work around the district over the next 40 years and build a smaller north tunnel. The MDC would not begin working on the north tunnel until the south tunnel is paid off — which is expected in 2038, Jellison said. Under this proposal, MDC customers foot the bill.
Sewer separation projects, a smaller north tunnel, DEEP agrees to grant and loan eligibility.
The MDC would begin about $350 million in sewer separation work on the northern part of Hartford as well as $450 million for sewer separation work and a smaller northern tunnel.The MDC would not begin working on the north tunnel until the south tunnel is paid off — which is expected in 2038.Under the proposal, the MDC would look to receive state and federal grant funding to help offset about half of the costs associated with the project, Jellison said.

$60 million garage at Union Station in New Haven out of sync with city’s needs
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — Thanks, but no thanks.
That was the attitude of Development Commission members Tuesday, who said the $60 million second garage at Union Station is out of sync with the city’s real needs and transportation options.
The state Department of Transportation had a public hearing of sorts Tuesday, with state officials available in the waiting room of the station to talk to the commuting public about the proposed garage, but with no formal presentation.
It was designed to catch the early commuters starting at 6 to 9 a.m. and residents on the way home from 5 to 9 p.m.“The rationale for the garage is so outdated,” Pedro Soto, chairman of the Development Commission, said Monday morning.
Anstress Farwell, head of the New Haven Urban Design League, questioned the use of $60 million in state funds that could be put to better use in New Haven.
Soto said when the discussion for the second garage commenced two decades ago, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum was still standing, the Hartford rail line did not exist and the area was seen as undevelopable, all of which has changed.
The proposal is for a seven-level parking garage on a surface lot next to the current garage lot that now provides room for 260 vehicles. The new garage would be connected to the existing garage with a pedestrian lobby area, as well as a drive connection.
It would have 1,015 spaces, for a net gain of 688 parking spaces, given that some spaces will be lost on the first level, as well as all of those on the surface lot.
Soto and Mayor Toni Harp questioned what the long-term need for a garage will be and the extent to which the West Haven train station parking lot is blunting the need for parking at Union Station.
Back at the train station, Henry Dynia stopped by to talk to the DOT officials.
“I’m really surprised. All the things that people complained about, didn’t get addressed,” he said, after looking at a summary of the changes.
More than 30 commuters had stopped to talk by 6:15 p.m., John Wyskiel, program engineer for the project, said, and their responses were different than those made at the Development Commission meeting.
“We’ve seen the majority of the commuters who came through here are happy to see more parking,” Chris Bonsignore, principal engineer for facility design at the DOT, said.
Wyskiel said one woman remarked that she had been looking at that surface parking lot for 25 years. “Finally a garage on that lot,” was her observation, he said.
Another commuter gave him a run down of his typical morning.“He said they come here early in the morning, the garage is full. They go to West Haven, that is full. They go to Stratford. They chase the train down the line,” Bonsignore said. “Several commuters say this is fantastic — that is the word they used — that we are providing additional parking here at this location.”
Wyskiel said a cyclist was “excited” about the number of bicycle spaces planned for the new garage — 240 — which doubles the current number. They will also be protected from the elements.
 Ryan O’Hara’s concerns were closer to the those expressed by the development officials.
“It is a lot of money to spend on a parking garage that might be needed today and may not be needed ten years from now. With floor to ceiling heights of only 8 feet, the structure can’t be retrofitted for any other purpose, at least it is not designed that way,” O’Hara said.
Harp wants to have a “refresher discussion” with state officials on the garage and on the lease which only extends the city’s management role for two more years. New Haven would like to purchase the current garage and get a 30-year lease to run the station as it previously had.
The mayor said the opening of the successful rail line to Hartford and Springfield and other stations has cut into the need for commuters to come to New Haven. She said the current garage is now 94 per cent used on a daily basis and seldom runs out of space.
 “Travel patterns have changed. Fewer people will be driving in the future,” Harp said. She said the state should be looking ahead for the next 30 years and what the demand will be then.
Commuters now also can park on the site of the long-stalled development proposal for the former Coliseum site, which might get a new shot at actually happening with Spinnaker, a Norwalk developer interesting in becoming a partner with LiveWorkLearnPlay.
Soto said in the meantime, the parking needs of Union Station continue to be met.
“The garage is a throwback to when Union Station was the only option,” Soto said. He said if you planned as if the surface land didn’t exist, you would find a solution.
“I just think it is such backward thinking. No one wants it (the garage) in this form, except the one organization that has control over it and is not answerable to anyone,” Soto said of the DOT.
Acting Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscitelli said the city didn’t get the full set of plans for the revised garage — which is 60 percent designed — until Friday. The updated plan was first announced at a Nov. 14 commuter council meeting.
Soto said unfortunately, “there is an institutional imperative that once a project gets going,” there is a push to complete it.
Farwell said when the state issued an environmental impact evaluation a year-and-a-half ago, it failed to consider several things it was obligated to.She said the revised design modified it slightly, but it does not address the traffic concerns that a new garage will generate on Union Avenue, something the police department pointed out.Farwell said the $60 million in public funds essentially will serve some 1,000 commuters. Given the traffic on Interstate 95 and Interstate 91, taking 1,000 cars off the road is “de minimous,” she said.She said Union Avenue is not safe for cyclists and needs an infrastructure upgrade because of flooding problems. It is also a site where more than 1,000 apartments are planned.
She said the $60 million could help with critical needs of New Haven such as converting one-way streets to two-way, while upgrading State Street to reclaim land for development. Farwell said the state should bring in someone to build an office building on the surface lot, something that would bring tax revenue.“We don’t have much land and every piece we have — if we are not putting it to productive use — we continue to be beggars to the state,” Farwell said.
Piscitelli said the economic development department is “heavily influenced by the reports that came out over the weekend on climate change and recognizing that we do need to change,” in terms of car dependency.He said it is getting more aggressive on lowering the need for parking for development projects. In addition to the increased use of the Hartford rail line, he pointed to the use of shared car services such as Uber and Lyft as part of the transportation mix.Harp agreed on the upswing in new transportation modalities. “It is really a different world we are now part of.” She said the automobile-driven economy might not exist in 15 years.

Groton voters approve updated plan to build new elementary schools
Groton — Voters at a referendum on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an updated school plan that will allow the town to build two new elementary schools for the same amount as a plan to renovate buildings would have cost.
The vote came down to 1,092 in favor, 239 opposed.
"We're delighted," Superintendent Michael Graner said Tuesday evening after the results came in.
Graner said Groton now has the opportunity to have brand-new elementary schools, whereas in 2016 the town thought it would get renovated schools, which still would have been an improvement. But he said the excitement reached a whole new level last year when school officials realized that the town could build new buildings at the same price as a renovation project — and got approval from the state to proceed.
In 2016, voters endorsed the $184.5 million Groton 2020 plan that called for building a new consolidated middle school on the former Merritt Farm property by Fitch High School and renovating the existing middle schools into "as new" elementary schools, with $100 million in state reimbursement.
The state later changed its guidelines and said it would consider approving the same reimbursement for the construction of new elementary schools, if the town proved new construction was more cost efficient than renovations, Graner said in an interview last month.
The new construction of elementary schools ended up being more cost-efficient, so the state gave the town the go-ahead, he said. The town then needed approval from voters to revise the 2016 proposal to allow for the construction of new elementary schools. There was no change to the plan to build a new consolidated middle school.
Graner said building two new elementary school buildings on the sites of the existing middle schools would be more cost-efficient than converting the existing middle school buildings into elementary schools. The conversion projects would have required significant alterations to prepare the buildings for young students while the new buildings will be longer-lasting. They will also incorporate modern technology and be energy-efficient, he said.
Adrian Johnson was among the voters who supported the updated plan on Tuesday.
"I have three school-age children and I think that strong schools are going to support the town," Johnson said.
"I'm supporting the new buildings because by looking at the cost to renovate, I believe it's cheaper to go with new buildings and have energy-efficient technology," said another voter, Silvio Querido.
Architects now have the green light to continue work on designing brand-new elementary schools, Graner said. The new elementary schools are expected to be ready for the fall of 2021.

Waterbury businesses await return of customers as I-84 project nears finish
WATERBURY – Construction crews, rows of bright orange traffic cones and colossal traffic jams aren’t all that disappeared when the majority of the I-84 widening project wrapped up in late October.
Businesses peppering Reidville Drive and Plank Road, who weathered years of road closures and congestion, report their missing customers have yet to return.
“We’re just trying to figure out how to get people out there to realize it’s not that bad, because most of the construction’s gone, but they’ve been avoiding the area for almost three years,” said Stewart Rosen, owner of Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe at 540 Plank Road.
Nardelli’s has been hit particularly hard: Rosen said sales have been down 25 to 30 percent since construction started and the anticipated post-project boom he anticipated hasn’t materialized. It’s cost him over $100,000 in gross sales per year.
Rosen was joined by Marco and Anthony Nardelli, the store’s franchisers, at his restaurant on a recent Wednesday afternoon shortly before 1 p.m., where the dining room, which would have been packed for lunch once upon a time, was mostly empty. Depressed sales have forced Rosen to shrink his staff from 15 to 11.
“I don’t think there’s any complaints on how they handled the construction, because everything went very smoothly,” said Marco Nardelli. “It’s actually better than before they started.”
The $330 million I-84 construction project began in April 2015. It’s major objective was to add a third lane on either side of the highway to alleviate congestion on a 2.7-mile stretch of highway through the city that had become notorious for traffic jams. Construction crews also removed an S-curve and upgraded bridges. walls, utilities and local roads. Minor construction is expected to continue through August 2019. The Waterbury stretch of I-84 carries on average 130,000 vehicles on weekdays.
At Brooklyn Bakery, at 464 Reidville Drive, across the highway from Nardelli’s, it was a road paving the day before Thanksgiving that hurt their bottom line the most.
“That really cut us down,” said co-owner Sarah Velez. “We’re glad they’re going to be done by Christmas.”
She said she isn’t sure how the construction affected overall sales at her bakery since it opened shortly before construction began. She said her customer base has managed to grow over the years despite the road work.
Sal Ergin, co-owner of Sultan’s Turkish Cuisine at 586 Plank Road, said his sales have been down 15 percent.
“It’s going to take another six months, I’m thinking, until the business gets back to where it was,” he said.
Frankies Hot Dogs, where the smell of sauerkraut, mustard and boiling potatoes hangs heavy, appears to have been mostly spared.
“We have some really loyal customers from the general area,” said owner Tom Martelli. “But of course it’s hurting everyone. It’s not that we’re not feeling it.”
Mack Demac, chief of staff for Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary, said the city has already experienced grand list growth from the construction project.
“Since the start of construction we’ve seen great new development in the form of Texas Roadhouse, Ideal Fish, CarMax,” he said. “Now upon completion we’re excited for Hoffman Auto.”
Hoffman Auto, a BMW dealership, surprised the city of Watertown by announcing it was leaving its longtime home for the Reidville Drive area.
Demac said development projects have been proposed nearby, including a Holiday Inn Express on Chase Parkway overlooking the highway.