August 13, 2019

CT Construction Digest Tuesday August 13, 2019

Larson Continues Push For Carbon Tax In Congress, Massive Tunnel In Hartford
Representative John Larson took to the banks of the Connecticut River Monday to promote federal legislation he said will strengthen roads and bridges while taxing polluters and providing rebates to American taxpayers.
Larson reintroduced his "America Wins Act" this August, which calls for a federal infrastructure investment of more than $1 trillion over the next decade.
He said the investments would be fully paid for by a tax on major energy companies, based on their carbon emissions.
"Infrastructure and the environment are neither Republican or Democrat. They’re American priorities," Larson said.
The First District Democratic Congressman introduced a similar bill last session, but it was never taken up in a then Republican-controlled House.
Democrats are now in the majority, but it's unclear what, if any, form the bill could take to find its way through a Republican controlled Senate.
Larson said his carbon tax idea would raise more than double the amount of money needed for his proposed ten-year investment. A spokesperson in his office said the bill works by taxing energy companies $52 for every ton of carbon emissions that will be released when that energy is used. When adjusting over time for inflation, it’s expected to raise an estimated $2.3 trillion over ten years.
"For decades our lack of planning on [infrastructure] has caused our environment and people to suffer," Larson said. "Across the country there are projects that can rectify this. The I-84/91 tunnel proposal is just one example."
In an op-ed released last year, Larson said it’s "time for the Hartford region to think big again," and said he supports reconstructing a controversial portion of I-84/91 as a tunnel.
Larson said the tunnel would reunite parts of Hartford currently bifurcated by a decades-old raised viaduct that cuts through the center of the city.
But as the CT Mirror noted, state traffic engineers have questioned the feasibility of the tunnel idea.
In addition to fixing roads and bridges, carbon-tax money from Larson’s federal proposal would also be spent on energy research, community support, and rebates to low-and-middle class Americans.
The bill now sits before several House committees.    

New Canaan gas expansion construction project schedule
Crews from Burns Construction have already started this weeks work on New Canaan, Connecticut's gas expansion construction project to install, and improve the town’s natural gas distribution system, and will continue construction on the project through Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, according to information from the town, and Eversource.
With what also began at 7 a.m. this morning, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, one crew is continuing gas main installation work on Old Stamford Road, from Old Studio to Oak Grove Place from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday. Affected streets are Old Stamford Road, Old Studio Road and Oak Grove Place, according to the information.

Newington roadway project proposal draws concerns over bike paths, parking
Erica Drzewiecki
NEWINGTON - A roadway project set to take place in town next summer drew support and faced criticism at a public information meeting last week.
Close to 50 residents gathered in the auditorium of the Newington Senior & Disabled Center to learn more about the Complete Streets project, planned for a 1.6-mile corridor. The project would begin where New Britain Avenue meets Maple Hill Avenue and run north, taking a right onto Robbins Avenue, crossing Willard Avenue and ending at Main Street.
Town Engineer Gary Fuerstenberg detailed improvements while attendees raised questions.
Along with road milling and resurfacing, plans also include the addition of a bicycle lane, and drainage, curb and sidewalk upgrades. Between Maple Hill and Willard avenue on Robbins Avenue, lanes will be reduced from the current four to two.
The town recently received a $2 million state grant to fund the project in its entirety. However, this corridor is in line for milling and overlay work with or without funding assistance, Fuerstenberg pointed out.
“If we take the do-nothing approach now then we’re going to have to rebuild the road at a much higher price in the near future,” he explained.
If the town has to do the work itself, there won’t be new curbs, sidewalks or drainage improvements, he added.
Many who attended the meeting live in homes along the corridor. Some are opposed to the bike lane and others simply hope the improvements will slow down drivers in the area.
A bone of contention among some is the fact that once construction is complete, on-street parking will be prohibited along Robbins Avenue.
“What about people who rely on on-street parking, because they have teenagers who are driving now?” asked Dana Havens.
Brothers Clarence and Gerry Cook raised the same concern in the hallway after leaving the meeting.
“There are 12 to 15 cars that park on Robbins Avenue every day,” Gerry said. “When this happens, where are they going to park? On side streets?”
Clarence objected to the bicycle lane.
“I don’t see a need for that,” he said. “We’ve got extra-wide sidewalks as it is. The amount of bikes that travel on there now, I don’t think it would warrant it.”
Nearby New Britain, West Hartford and Farmington are among nine towns in Connecticut that the League of American Bicyclists designated Bicycle-Friendly Communities. Each has trails or road lanes to accommodate bicyclists.
This could be the first of more bike lanes in Newington, Fuerstenberg said.
“Once we have established a bike network through Newington, I think it will be used not only by commuters but also more recreationally,” he said.
Courtney and David Gasior live in the neighborhood and happen to be bicyclists.
“I take my bike to West Hartford now,” David Gasior said. “If I could bike down to Mill Pond Park, I totally would.”
“The road work needs to be done anyway,” Courtney Gasior added. “Either we get a grant to pay for it or we pay for it.”
The couple said they came to the meeting because there was confusion on the ‘What’s Happening in Newington’ Facebook page.
“I think there are a lot of mistruths out there,” David Gasior pointed out. “We came to get the facts.”
After learning them, he is in favor of the project.
“I’m for it,” David Gasior said. “It needs to be done. It’s a no-brainer.”
The next step is for the town to hire a consultant to complete the design work before the project goes out to bid.

As road work plagues East Lyme drivers, officials plan for further delays, Route 1 closure
Mary Biekert
East Lyme — Town officials say they are working with the state Department of Transportation to mitigate expected traffic delays, as a Route 1 bridge replacement starts this week, and traffic backups have hit a high point near the Interstate 95 Exit 74 interchange while Costco developers rework on and off ramps.
Drivers have been taking back roads and alternate routes, including Route 1-Boston Post Road, to avoid the clogged area around Exit 74. But as a bridge between Lovers Lane and Heritage Road on Route 1 is set to be replaced, officials said they have prepared for further delays along the town’s main throughways, as well as on its series of collector roads.
The good news, according to Public Works Director Joe Bragaw, is that Exit 74 work should wind down by the end of this month in time for the bridge project to go into full swing after Labor Day.
Though the bridge project officially began Monday, according to a DOT announcement made last week warning of the replacement, planned road closures and alternating one-way traffic pattern with concrete barriers along Route 1 won’t go into full swing until after Labor Day, Bragaw said, helping alleviate expected traffic backups on the town’s busiest roads while Exit 74 changes are still underway.
The bridge will be closed completely for two weeks starting Oct. 14.
Both the Exit 74 and Route 1 road projects are not town projects.
“We were very particular with DOT and told them that they couldn't do the alternating one-way traffic until after Labor Day, until after summer traffic slows down,” said Bragaw. "They wanted to get going before that, but we said no way."
Bragaw has worked closely with the DOT project manager overseeing the work, Brent Church, to help plan for the projects, as well as worst-case scenarios. Church was not immediately available for comment before Monday’s deadline.
The ongoing Exit 74 work, which include changing on- and off-ramps both southbound and northbound, come as Costco plans to open its East Lyme store in the coming months. According to Costco’s plans, Bragaw said Exit 74 on and off ramps will be extended into a T configuration on a frontage road running by Pools Etc., allowing drivers coming off the interstate to either turn left toward Costco or right toward Route 161 after a stop light. The northbound on-ramp entrance is also being altered, Bragaw said.
Costco’s roadwork changes are not part of a more extensive Route 161 widening and Exit 74 bridge replacement project also being planned by DOT. Construction for that project is anticipated to begin in summer or fall 2021, and is expected to last approximately three to four years, said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick by email last month.
Bragaw said that besides limiting the duration of the Route 1 bridge project, DOT, in an effort to dissuade drivers from using Route 1, will set up several signs along I-95 — both in Old Lyme and throughout East Lyme — warning drivers to seek alternate routes and avoid driving on Route 1.
Route 1 will stay open for most of the project's duration with alternating one-way traffic patterns, while a total road closure will be limited to two weeks to avoid prolonged inconveniences for residents, Bragaw said.
Drivers during the road closure will need to use the town’s collector roads, including Lovers Lane, Dean Road and Society Road, to get from one side of town to the other. DOT will also provide a detour route, Bragaw said.
The Flanders Fire Department, located on Route 1 by East Lyme High School, has also worked on a coverage plan to keep its response times down while Route 1 is closed. Flanders Fire Chief Bill Rix said Monday that DOT will pay to have 24-hour fire and ambulance coverage on the western side of town where fire staff, a firetruck and an ambulance will be temporarily housed at the National Guard’s Stone Ranch Road facility to quickly respond to emergencies on that side of Route 1.
“Having fire engines and ambulances on both sides of the road closure will help us cut down on response times should an emergency happen,” Rix said. “This way, we won’t have to drive down and around I-95 to reach an emergency.”
The Flanders Fire Department will also be staffed around the clock during the two-week road closure, Rix said.
Though the roadwork is being staggered, both Rix and Bragaw acknowledged that traffic can’t ever be a perfect situation during construction — especially if an accident occurs along I-95. With that in mind, Rix said the fire department is already used to navigating bumper-to-bumper traffic along Route 1 when highway accidents do occur. He added that one-way traffic lights installed on Route 1 during construction can be controlled by oncoming firetrucks and ambulances during an emergency to turn the light red or green, as needed, allowing emergency vehicles to pass through the construction area without as much delay.
Still, Rix worried about drivers, especially truck drivers, ignoring road closure signs during anticipated traffic backups on the highway.
“It takes just one tractor trailer to ignore the road closure signs and we could have a big problem,” Rix said. “If the trailer traveled all the way down to the road closure, there would be no way for it to turn around. So there could be some big problems. We will see what happens.”