ANSONIA The long-awaited makeover of Wakelee Avenue is just about ready to make its debut.
That’s according to Mayor David Cassetti, who, along with Public Works Superintendent Mike D’Alessio and staff from J. Iapaluccio Construction Inc., did a walk-through Monday of the “substantial completion” of the nearly mile-long road that spans from Derby to Seymour.
Cassetti said the contractor will finish up a final “punch list” of items to complete and then return in spring to do reseeding.
Cassetti noted once the city gets the green light from United Illuminating, the 119 new decorative lamp posts will be lit .
Reconstruction of the historic Wakelee Avenue got underway last April. The $5.2 million project is giving a long-overdue facelift to the heavily traveled road dotted with dozens of 1900-era homes and businesses.
Deteriorated sidewalks on both sides of the street were demolished and a new base with concrete and attractive brick crosswalks installed. Corners now have granite curb cuts for handicapped access.Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley was particularly excited about the finished product, as one of her first requests on the job from Cassetti was to secure grant money for the “Wake Up Wakelee” project.
“The project is close to completion. … The items left to complete are the installation of street signs and the installation of loop detectors and pedestrian push-buttons at the intersection with Jackson Street,” O’Mally said.
Cassetti said the project was worth the wait.“I think beyond looking visually attractive, the project was done within budget and finished early. All of that is good for the residents and good for the city,” he said.
O’Malley said the major renovation of the long-neglected road will be a big boost for the city.
DOT, Norwalk seek to keep road closures to minimum during Walk Bridge replacement
NORWALK — While the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s upcoming replacement of the Walk Bridge stands to disrupts traffic in Norwalk, it remains unclear how bad those disruptions will be.
The Norwalk Department of Public Works has set a bar for what will be tolerated when the bridge replacement gets under way late next year.“Alternating one-way traffic,” said Lisa Burns, principal engineer in the department. “That’s our minimum and that’s our minimum in our standards for the city, so we tell them they need to work around that.”
Her comments come at the recent public information meeting at the Walk Bridge Program Welcome Center. The presentation included a map of “preliminary detour routes” in three areas: North Water Street, Osborne Avenue and East Avenue.
As part of the meeting, DOT officials set up stations with display board on individuals aspects of the Walk Bridge Program, which also will replace the Fort Point and East Avenue bridges, and rehabilitate the Osborne Street Bridge used by Metro-North Railroad.
Eric Feldblum, a DOT project engineer, said the department will try to keep East Avenue open “as much as possible.”
“The only time we would really close East Avenue is if we’re actually lifting the bridge and putting it in place, or demoing it, because it’s a safety issue,” Feldblum said. “But that’s a very small (closure), like nightwork on the weekend.”
The same will apply to North Water Street, which he described as a “very busy road.”
“Our efforts are to keep it open, at least one lane at all times, as best as we can,” Feldblum said.
Statements like that haven’t allayed concerns about what will happen when construction starts. The DOT plans to begin the Walk Bridge replacement in late 2019 and take four to five years to complete the work.
On Saturday, disabled persons gathered in SoNo as part of walk organized by John Flynn and aimed at drawing attention to what the extensive construction will mean for people getting about Norwalk. Elizabeth Greenwood, who is disabled and relies upon Norwalk Transit District, was among those participating.“The purpose of the walk was to inform, educate and enlighten the community about what is occurring with the Walk Bridge, and especially the disabled community about what is occurring and how it’s going to affect them,” Greenwood said.
She predicts hardship for herself and others once work commences, based upon answers she’s received from various officials engaged in the project.“No one person has been consistent. If I had two people giving me the same answer, I’d feel more comfortable,” Greenwood said. “I feel I’m getting the runaround.”
Waterford RTM approves $15.8 million for new municipal complex
Waterford — The Representative Town Meeting on Monday voted to approve spending up to $16 million on a new municipal complex to house the town garage and offices, pushing forward a project that has been in the works for more than a decade.
The town plans to borrow up to $15 million to finance the bulk of the project, which includes a phased demolition of the dilapidated complex at 1000 Hartford Turnpike, environmental site remediation and construction of a new 61,780-square foot complex at the site.
The town will also use $800,000 from unassigned general fund balance to finance the project, which will create an improved garage, vehicle wash bays, maintenance bays and shops, and offices for Waterford Utilities Commission and the Department of Public Works.
The Municipal Complex Improvements Building Committee and other town boards have been reviewing and tweaking the plans for the last several months. In November, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen recommended that the RTM approve financing the project.
Several times in recent years, the town held off on renovation efforts as it prioritized construction on the town's schools. In the meantime, the complex has been plagued by oil leaks, safety issues and code violations that have been resolved through minor repairs.
On Monday evening, First Selectman Dan Steward said the town can begin signing project contracts in the coming weeks and will start demolition "as soon as we can."
“We spent $230 million on schools, but we have yet to spend much on our town facilities,” Steward said, noting there’d been no major renovations at the complex since the early 1990s.
Steward said the bonding would impact the tax rate at different amounts over the next two decades, but would not increase it beyond half a mill. The town increased taxes for the 2018-19 fiscal year by .39 mill, about a $52 increase over the previous year for taxpayers with homes assessed at the town’s median value of about $132,000.
While 19 RTM members voted in favor of the project, with one abstention, several officials called for more specific breakdowns of the project’s costs. The building committee said costs could be negotiated further with the contractor. The town could also apply for state grants that could decrease the impact on taxpayers.
Board of Finance Chairman Ronald Fedor called the project costs excessive.
“The complex has been built around the wants and the needs of the people involved and hasn’t been restricted by what the town can afford,” he said. “I’m extremely concerned the cost of the project exceeds the means of the town.”
Building committee member Cheryl Larder countered that the committee had revisited multiple space needs studies and “reduced any duplicable space between public works and the utility commission.”
Finance board member Bill Sheehan said the project has lain fallow due to previous school projects that came during times when construction was cheaper.
“I would not be happy working in the environment they’re working in,” Sheehan said. “It needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed now. When I looked at the price, I said ‘Yikes.’ But the cost is only going to go up. If we wait 20 years, we’ll look back and think it was a bargain.”
In late 2016, Glastonbury-based Anchor Engineering took over the project from a previous architect.
Town officials picked Torrington-based O&G Industries Inc. as the contractor for the project. O&G planning documents show the existing facility and operations must be maintained during demolition and construction, which will be broken into two or three phases. O&G estimated the project would take between about 21 and 25 months, but the contractor said it will work with the town to form a schedule and phasing plan that could accelerate the effort.
Previous estimates to renovate the existing structure were about $12 million, but officials said a new facility would cost roughly the same while fully removing about 8,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the site and providing better protection for dozens of Department of Public Works vehicles.
Work on the new Park Road off-ramp in West Hartford will reach an important milestone Friday
Mikaela Porter A new I-84 off-ramp is expected to open in West Hartford on Friday.
The new ramp’s completion is part of a roughly two-year, $6.8 million project to address congestion and improve safety. West Hartford Civil Engineer Greg Sommer said Friday marks a “major milestone for the project.”
Additionally, a new traffic light hanging over the new intersection will begin working Friday, Sommer said. Traffic cones or detours should be lifted by Friday.
On Thursday night and early Friday morning, motorists should be aware of temporary lane shifts and closures on I-84 east and west in the area of the Exit 43 ramps.
Over the winter, contractor Paramount Construction will demolish the existing off-ramp, Sommer said. Next spring, work will begin on the Trout Brook Drive and Park Road intersection.
Town officials have said the Park Road and I-84 intersection is one of the busiest interchanges in town, averaging 30,000 vehicles a day. Work started in September 2017 and is on schedule to be completed next fall.
Federal funds covered about 80 percent of the cost, with local and state funding contributing 10 percent.