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
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
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
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.