May 13, 2019

CT Construction Digest Monday May 13, 2019


Benefits of Killingly Energy Center begin with jobs

The benefits of the proposed Killingly Energy Center are extensive and significant. They begin with local jobs and extend much further, providing not only the cleaner, more reliable and more affordable source of energy that Connecticut and the New England region so urgently needs, but reaching out across the community in a host of valuable ways.
The Killingly Energy Center (KEC) will be Killingly’s largest property taxpayer, totaling over $110 million to the Town of Killingly and the local fire district over 20 years, as well as a lump sum community environmental benefits payment of $5 million that the town can use for community projects and scholarships.
NTE, the developer and owner of KEC, will fund and construct all infrastructure improvements that are required, which will support Killingly’s future economic development needs by improving the community’s critical infrastructure, including replacing older natural gas pipelines, connecting neighboring water systems and enhancing existing roadways.
In fact, NTE is committed to investing $700 million in private funding to construct and operate the KEC. That is $700 million of out-of-state private capital, in a state anxious for new investment. Unlike businesses that so often seek to dip into state funds (taxpayers money), NTE is not looking for any state incentives or financing.
These substantial economic development benefits come without the need for major municipal services or new infrastructure. Nno new schools, hospitals, or roads, for example, need to be provided by local government.
Significantly, approximately 600 construction jobs will be created over the three-year construction period, along with about 20 full-time, well paying jobs once the facility is operational.
The construction jobs will be unionized, as reflected in a labor agreement, which means local construction workers will be working for area contractors on this project — making a living-wage, with benefits. The labor agreement will include hiring provisions for returning veterans, minorities, women and apprentices. It ensures that construction workers on the job will be local, well-paid and be able to re-invest their wages into the local economy.
In addition, the Building Trades are committed to working with Killingly’s Ellis Technical High School to provide its students with direct access and work opportunities on the construction of the Killingly Energy Center. Students will also have the opportunity to become enrolled in state certified apprentice programs with our 14 affiliated crafts.
The Killingly Energy Center will be one of the cleanest, most efficient natural gas power generation facilities in North America, utilizing state-of-the-art electric generation technology that will allow it to operate 25 percent more efficiently than the average electric generator in Connecticut. Plus, it will displace the operation of older, higher-emitting regional oil and coal-fired plants that would otherwise be needed to meet regional energy demand, thus improving overall air quality in Connecticut and New England. The KEC will also support the State of Connecticut’s compliance with the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008.
With up to 6,000 megawatts of older, dirtier and less efficient power generating units at risk of coming off line in the near future, and the continuing uncertainty surrounding Millstone’s future, the KEC will provide much-needed power to protect the reliability of the electric grid and to meet Connecticut’s, and the region’s, energy needs.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Connecticut already ranks second in the country in total energy price and expenditures. Only Hawaii has higher energy costs. The infrastructure investment by NTE will provide a necessary, new and cleaner source of energy at no risk or cost to Connecticut electric ratepayers. The KEC is not a rate-based facility, which means that Connecticut ratepayers will not see a rate increase with the addition of this new plant. Electricity customers will only pay for power they consume.
At every turn, the advantages of moving forward with the Killingly Energy Center are clear and compelling. It will bring Killingly in particular, as well as our state and region, an attractive and leading edge facility that will produce good jobs, clean energy, and a substantial array of short-term and long-term benefits that we all can take pride in.
Joseph Toner is President of the Greater Hartford-New Britain Building & Construction Trades Council, representing 5,000 unionized construction workers in Hartford County, Middlesex County, Windham County and Litchfield County.

Lamont Pushes Hard To Get Tolls Over Finish Line
HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Ned Lamont encouraged lawmakers negotiating a toll proposal to move forward with the legislation and get a vote.
“I’m ready for them to bring that out to the floor. Let’s get that to see the light of day and have a vote on it,” Lamont said.
However, Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, who co-chairs the Transportation Committee, said they’re not there yet. He said they’re still working on some details and “getting close.”
With less than four weeks left in the legislative session, Leone acknowledged the need to get it done sooner rather than later, but he doesn’t want to rush it. He said he would rather get it right and wait on a vote.
But Lamont, who has used all of his political capital on this proposal, is anxious for a vote. He said there’s very little left to negotiate and he’s ready for them to call the amendment.
“We’ve got a bill out there with a solution to our long-term transportation needs,” Lamont said.
The problem is most lawmakers haven’t seen it, which makes it difficult to get a vote count. Some lawmakers are refusing to commit to voting for something they have yet to read.
Lamont sought to offer lawmakers additional money in the short-term to help make sure the current transportation system doesn’t fall into a state of disrepair. He also sought to offer a compromise to having the full General Assembly vote on a toll plan, if it receives approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
“I heard you when you said that you wanted more line-of-sight into the state’s long-range transportation planning and development, which is why the bill creates a Connecticut Transportation Commission — a bipartisan group of legislators, commissioners and the treasurer, to review and approve DOT’s plan,” Lamont wrote in a letter to lawmakers Thursday. “And let’s harness the opportunity that short-term borrowing provides us, and invest $100 million in rail and transit across the state.”
Instead of the $250 million in general obligation bonds the bipartisan budget proposed in 2018, Lamont is looking to reduce that to $100 million.
“Tolls would be a standalone bill, but it doesn’t make sense to do tolls if we don’t do a short-term fix,” Leone said Thursday.
Lamont said the $100 million he wants to spend would be focused mainly on rail, such as Shoreline East and Metro-North.
“We want to get this going soon,” Lamont said. “But the real thing is how do you have a sustainable revenue stream to fix our transportation. Nobody has a better idea than tolling. If we borrow the money it’s 110 percent paid for by us. The 10 percent is the interest rate you’ll be paying every couple of years.
Lamont said Friday that the tolling proposal will still include 50 gantries on I-84, I-91, I-95 and Route 15. There were rumors that Lamont would take tolls off Route 15 to get more votes from lawmakers from Fairfield and New Haven County, but his staff insisted that’s not going to be part of the proposal.
Lamont said they are working on making sure they’re able to give a discount to working families and pre-load that onto their EZ-Pass.
“I also know that we need to do something to help families who are getting squeezed, which is why our bill allows for a monthly credit loaded on an EZ-Pass, as well as ways to load cash on the passes at local convenience stores,” Lamont said in his letter Thursday.
Lamont had the press conference Friday at the Hartford Regional Market near the Charter Oak Bridge interchange where traffic was crawling. He was surrounded by labor, business, and local elected officials who endorsed the concept of tolls.
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s still disappointed the governor remains unwilling to consider alternatives.
“The proposal outlined in Gov. Lamont’s letter today is the same ‘plan’ he has been talking about for months. It is a plan that is based on hypothetical sketch numbers, that has never been shared with the federal government, and that takes the full General Assembly out of the decision making when it comes to how tolls will actually impact our residents and local communities,” Fasano said. “Gov. Lamont’s proposal is a new tax not only on residents here and now, but on all future generations who will be paying tolls for years to come.”
Republicans have proposed using about $700 million a year, currently earmarked for other capital projects for transportation without borrowing more than $1.9 billion a year.

Ridgefield sewer plant renovation heads to public hearing
Macklin Reid
Renovation of the town’s District I wastewater treatment plant to meet tougher environmental standards — the linchpin of the $48 million sewer project approved by voters last November — will be the focus of a public hearing Tuesday.
The treatment plant off South Street serves the downtown and village area, and is beyond its 20-year life expectancy, according to Amy Siebert, chairwoman of the Water Pollution Control Authority, the agency that oversees the operation.
The plant will be modernized and upgraded, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the treated water that it releases into Great Swamp and the Norwalk River, leading eventually to Long Island Sound.
The hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the town hall annex.
The plant renovation is part of a larger plan that also involves closing the District II treatment plant near the intersection of Routes 7 and 35, and piping the effluent from District II to South Street for treatment at the upgraded District I plant.
The District I plant’s 1 million gallon capacity will increase — though this isn’t regarded as an expansion of overall capacity, since the additional 120,000 gallons per day is the capacity at the District II plant, which will be closed.
The District I plant renovation is the central aspect of the plan, expected to take up nearly $32 million of the entire sewer project’s $48 million anticipated cost. Phase II of the plan, included in the $48 million, includes building a pump station and pressured sewer line to carry wastewater from the commercial and multifamily development around the intersection of Routes 7 and 35 to South Street, where wastes from both sewer districts will be treated at the renovated District I plant.
That will allow the District II plant to be closed — saving the town the cost of upgrading that plant, and also saving money on operations.
With a number of municipalities seeking bids for sewer projects, Siebert admitted to being a little nervous about construction bids.
“We can only hope that we will get good results,” Siebert said. “Many wastewater utilities across the state are all bidding significant projects this spring season.”
“We have to have a contract awarded by July 1st,” added First Selectman Rudy Marconi, “and we’re on schedule to achieve that — assuming all the bids come in and we have a contract that’s acceptable.”
Awarding the contract by July 1 is important because the town is seeking grants that could reduce local taxpayers’ cost by some $11.5 million, but the project needs to meet the July 1 deadline to be eligible.
Getting the $11.5 million in grants would leave a projected $36.5 million in costs to be paid by the town, its taxpayers and sewer users. That cost would be financed through the Clean Water Fund at 2 percent interest, Marconi said.Projections are that about $8 million of the cost would be borne by general taxpayers — many with homes on septic systems —and the remainder would be covered by sewer users who more directly benefit. That repayment cost is to be covered largely through sewer use and hookup fees. Fees are expected to about double, although the increase would be phased in.
Plans for the South Street plant’s renovation project were formally accepted April 9 by the Planning and Zoning Commission and Inland Wetlands Board.

Eversource to begin upgrading grid in North-Oak area
Charles Paullin
NEW BRITAIN - The electric grid n the North-Oak area will be getting infrastructure upgrades from Eversource that will begin in a couple of weeks that will go on through the end of year.
Crews will replace poles with new, stronger ones that can better withstand the impact of storms, and will add new equipment that can provide a second path of electricity during a power outage, according to a release from the mayor’s office. The latter of the two will reduce the number of outages that residents experience.
“We are grateful to Eversource for continuing its commitment to improving the utility infrastructure here in our community,” Mayor Erin Stewart said in a release. “This initiative aligns with our SMART City work, in which we are utilizing the most recent technology and best practices to improve the wellbeing of our residents and businesses.”
Replacement of 363 poles and hardware is expected to begin on May 20, weather permitting, and depending on the completion of other ongoing projects, said Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross. The work will continue through December.
Other work includes the replacement of 183 transformers, 119 pole enforcements and adding “tree wire” to protect against animal and minor branch contact.
A planned power interruption will occur and residents will receive a letter or phone notification approximately three to five days before the work begins, the release said. Travel is expected to be impacted minimally and Eversource will ensure travel access to homes and businesses, as well as passage for emergency vehicles.
The work schedule is subject to change.
Anyone with questions regarding the project should contact Paul Lapia, Eversource construction representative, at 203-415-9709.

Lamont: $213M project will ease Hartford highway backups
Joe Cooper
Gov. Ned Lamont said work began this week on a $213 million state highway project aimed at easing congestion on an exit connecting Interstate 91 to the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford.
The state Department of Transportation earlier this week launched a "congestion-buster project" that will lead to the development of a new two-lane exit ramp from I-91 northbound to the Charter Oak Bridge, leading to Routes 5 and 15, and I-84. The project is slated for completion by summer 2022.
To accommodate construction of the new lanes, crews will need to widen northbound I-91 from exit 27 to exit 29 for approximately 5,700 feet to allow space for the additional travel lane.
That will also require the widening of the Charter Oak Bridge over Route 15, the Airport Road on-ramp and Airport Road, in addition to lowering the roads below all three bridges to provide space for overhead clearances.
Construction of a new two-lane exit also requires: construction of a new bridge; widening a piece of the northbound Charter Oak Bridge over I-91 to four northbound travel lanes; and the removal of the current single-lane ramp at exit 29.
The project also requires widening of northbound Route 15 to add an additional lane from the existing bridge to the Silver Lane underpass in East Hartford, and widening of the bridges hovering over Main Street and Silver Lane.
Other pavement and bridge improvements will be made, in addition to other upgrades for drainage systems and guide rails to meet current standards, state officials said.
Lamont on Friday said additional projects like this are needed in Connecticut to alleviate areas of traffic congestion.
A day earlier, the governor submitted a letter to the General Assembly urging them to work together on a solution to fix Connecticut's aging infrastructure through a comprehensive transportation bill.
"The people of Connecticut are sick and tired of sitting in traffic on outdated roadways that cannot handle the capacity of a 21st century transit system," he said. "Connecticut needs a long-term solution to fix the 30-year patchwork that has left our state with a gaping fiscal hole that needs to be fixed."