October 7, 2019

CT Construction Digest Monday October 7, 2019

Gov. Ned Lamont revamping transportation plan to unclog choke-points

Gov. Ned Lamont is preparing to unveil a revamped transportation plan in the coming weeks, outlining specific choke points that need to be fixed to help the state improve its problematic road system after his proposal for widespread tolls failed to gain traction among legislators.Lamont’s updated plan will also focus on alternative transportation financing from the federal government as he seeks to shave time off long commutes for workers and improve the state’s job outlook. Top legislators and representatives from the Lamont administration met with federal transportation officials recently to discuss low-interest loans available through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau.The new plan is being crafted because Lamont ran into a buzzsaw of opposition to his call for electronic tolls on major highways across the state. The plan stalled in the legislature as more than 100,000 Connecticut residents signed a petition against tolls.During a speech Friday to the state AFL-CIO union convention, Lamont called out some recalcitrant Democrats — asking what’s the point of being in the majority if they can’t pass tolls. Lamont said he is not giving up on tolls, even though some legislators have. The legislature did not vote on the issue during the regular session that ended in June, and no special sessions were called during the summer — despite Lamont making tolls one of the top priorities of his administration.“I think some of the Republicans want a political issue and not a solution,” Lamont said after his speech at Foxwoods Resort Casino. "And I think some of the Democrats just wish the whole issue would go away, and ‘as long as a bridge doesn’t fall on my watch, we can live to fight another day.' All I’m trying to say is nobody is working harder to work collaboratively with the Republicans than I am, and nobody is working harder to say: ‘Democrats, stand up. We can do this ourselves or we can do this with Republicans, but let’s do it.' "Lamont says his revised plan will provide examples of bottlenecks that need to be fixed in order to improve the transportation network. He cited the widening of I-84 leading to Waterbury that he says has improved commuting times leading into and away from the city "making such a humongous difference” for commuters. The administration says drivers save 22 minutes each way in the Waterbury area now when compared to the previous bottlenecks.“It focuses on the choke points that can greatly accelerate transportation that we can do on a reasonably timely basis,” Lamont said of his updated plan. “It talks about the fact that this is a historic period where we can get the lowest cost financing — either from the private markets or from the Trump DOT. It’s incredible to lose this unique opportunity to make a difference.”Making relatively minor changes in the system, he said, can make a major difference. Previous plans under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, for example, talked about widening vast stretches of I-95 that the Lamont administration says would be costly and time-consuming."We’ve got ... two exits on 95 down in Fairfield County — 20 minutes we can speed things up in both directions,” Lamont said. “Twenty minutes going down. Twenty minutes coming back. You don’t have put another lane on there. You don’t have to put a deck on there. It’s a matter of fixing a few exits.”Lamont is looking at specific, strategic, individual projects that he says will have an outsize impact on commutes. In Milford, for example, Lamont is calling for rebuilding exit ramps because drivers coming off I-95 must come to a sudden stop at traffic lights as soon as they exit the highway. That leads to backups and congestion.Deputy House Republican leader Vincent Candelora of North Branford said Republicans remain opposed to tolls but are in favor of transportation improvements."The important part of all this is we’re finally starting to see a plan,'' Candelora said of Lamont. “Before we can get behind a financing plan, you need to know what you’re buying. ... There’s been talk of a potential 10-year plan, but we haven’t seen it. We’ve heard nothing from his office.”Senate Republican leader Len Fasano said he still needs more details on the proposal, but he favors receiving federal funds for the projects at an interest rate of about 1.9 percent because that is “very cheap money’’ that had not been discussed by previous administrations.Republicans have been pushing their own plan, known as Prioritize Progress, that calls for a 30-year, $65 billion program that would rely on borrowing and federal funding.While looking at the task from different angles, Lamont’s transportation team is still studying the possibility of erecting tolls exclusively on bridges with the money raised dedicated to repairs on each specific bridge. The governor said that concept is still at the early stages. “We’re just getting started on those discussions,” he said recently.State transportation officials are studying making improvements to the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London and Groton on I-95 that could be paid with toll revenue, officials said. The money also could be used to fix exits and entrances leading to the bridge.

New Fairfield approves school building projects
Kendra Baker & Peter Yankowski
NEW FAIRFIELD —Voters gave the go-ahead for the town to build a new high school and expand the Meeting House Hill School at a cost of more than $113 million.
The referendum voting took place Saturday at the Meeting House Hill School gymnasium on Gillotti Road.“I’m thrilled, we are just so very excited that the community passed both school projects,” Superintendent Pat Consentino said Sunday. “I think it’s a real foundational start for building New Fairfield’s future”Voters approved funding the new high school with 2141 in favor and 1899 against.
Voting for the The Meeting House Hill School project was almost as evenly split, with 2133 in favor and 1893 against, according to the results posted on the town’s official Facebook page.
The $113.4 million school building plan, proposed by the Board of Education, calls for a $84.2 million new high school and a $29.2 million addition onto Meeting House Hill School.
Consentino said the new school buildings will help the town market itself to prospective families throughout Connecticut and nearby regions of New York.
She said the town would have had to spend a significant amount of money to renovate the schools anyways, and that building new schools will mean less disruption for students.
“This way it’s a much cleaner process, the kids stay where they are until the buildings are ready,” Consentino said.
The district applied for a state grant to cover part of the cost. School officials have said the existing high school and Consolidated School need millions of dollars worth of upgrades because they are in poor conditionThe new builds will mean higher taxes for New Fairfield residents, rising to nine percent over the next five years before decreasing, First Selectman Pat Del Monaco said Sunday morning.
She said repairing the buildings would cost more for residents because the state made it clear it would not pay to renovate the old school buildings, “but they will reimburse us for new buildings.”
“They didn’t feel the buildings were worth it,” Consentino said.
Del Monaco said she had two children who went through the old school buildings, and supports replacing the buildings.
“It is the least expensive option for our taxpayers, so I’m very pleased with the result,” Del Monaco said.
New Fairfield residents have had mixed reactions to the plans. Some felt the projects — which have been discussed since April — are being rushed, while others felt the schools are in urgent need of improvements.
The learning academy project will involve 44,000 square-feet of new construction, modifications to the Meeting House Hill School, replacement of the bus lot and demolition of the current Consolidated Elementary School.
The estimated cost of the learning academy project is $29,185,907. The town expects a 38 percent state reimbursement for the learning academy project, which will leave a $18,352,160 total cost to the town.
Work on the high school will involve 143,000 square-feet of new construction, field replacements, locker room renovations and Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.
The estimated cost of the high school project is $84,214,908. The town expects a 27.86 percent state reimbursement, which will leave a $61,638,572 total cost to the town.
The next step is for the town to issue requests for quotes and proposals for an architect, project manager, and construction manager. Del Monaco said the process of finding and approving a design will likely take about two years before the town can break ground on the new buildings.
Construction should take about three to four years, the First Selectman said.“We are really thankful to the community for trusting us and letting us move forward with this plan,” said Consentino.

Manafort Brothers in Plainville celebrates the completion of expansion
BRIAN M. JOHNSON
PLAINVILLE – Manafort Brothers celebrated the completion of a 4,800 square foot expansion Friday and were joined at their ribbon cutting by town, state and Chamber leaders who praised them for 100 years of dedication to the community.
Jim Manafort, president of the construction and demolition company at 414 New Britain Ave., said the addition will allow Manafort Brothers to have additional office space for employees who do work all over the state and country. With their 25,000 square foot building, Manafort Brothers represents one of Plainville’s largest taxpayers; they are consistently among the top 10 when the Grand List is released. Jim Manafort was joined by his brother David Manafort, his cousin Justin Manafort, his uncle John Manafort and his son Nick Manafort at the ribbon cutting. Afterwards, Manafort Brothers employees celebrated with an employee cook-out.
“It’s exciting to showcase our continued growth and expansion and our commitment to the community,” said Jim Manafort. “Plainville and New Britain have been good neighbors to us for 100 years, supporting us and working with us to help us continue to expand.”
Jim Manafort said Manafort Brothers had been drafting plans for the expansion two years ago and set to work on the physical additions starting last year.
Nick Manafort said he was proud to be part of the long legacy of the Manafort Brothers company.
“Our family has worked hard to get here and I hope that we will continue to move forward for another 100 years,” he said.
Jeff DiCosimo, chair of the Plainville Chamber of Commerce, said Manafort Brothers is a “great company.”
“They have done a lot for our community and it is great to see them expanding even more,” he said. “They have had quite the longevity in our town.”
State Rep. Bill Petit, who represents Plainville and New Britain, said it was “fabulous” to see Manafort Brothers expanding so they can continue to take on more jobs across the country.
“From a Plainville point of view, they are very generous and philanthropic,” he said. “They give money to hundreds of charities of all types.”
Town Manager Robert E. Lee said he was glad to see one of the town’s biggest taxpayers continuing to expand.
“They contribute a lot to our community and I’m glad to see them continue to grow,” he said. “They put a lot of hard work into this.”

Gateway excited to help transform State Pier into economic engine
James Dillman
While Gateway may be a recent addition to State Pier in New London, our roots in Connecticut run deep. We were founded in 1985 and have grown into the largest port operator in the state, handling nearly 90 percent of the dry and breakbulk cargo that moves through Connecticut's three deepwater ports. In addition to managing the New Haven and New London terminals, we own and operate a fleet of eight U.S. flagged Jones Act vessels which allow us to offer a wide range of shipping services to a national marine customer base. Our 100+ employees bring not only unrivaled expertise in operating ports in Connecticut, they also bring an entrepreneurial spirit that is critical to making new opportunities a reality, opportunities like the future of State Pier.
Everyone at Gateway is excited to be part of the team that will transform State Pier from an underutilized asset into an economic engine driving the growth of a major new industry based right here in New London. ├śrsted, a world leader in clean energy and Eversource, New England’s largest energy company, have formed a joint venture to invest billions of dollars in offshore wind project development with major operations taking place at State Pier in New London. To make this opportunity a reality, substantial infrastructure deficiencies at State Pier will need to be addressed at an estimated cost of $93 million. Fortunately, ├śrsted and Eversource have committed to paying more than 60 percent - $57.5 million – of the cost of these upgrades, with the State of Connecticut funding the remaining $35.5 million. This will call for a major construction effort, creating hundreds of good-paying jobs for the region’s residents. Once construction is completed, State Pier will benefit from significantly upgraded infrastructure, including an enhanced dock and bulkhead that will be able to accommodate three vessels simultaneously. On average, State Pier has handled less than 30 vessel calls each year. Thanks to these upgrades, State Pier will be poised to handle more than 100 vessel calls annually. These vessel calls translate directly into more activity and increased jobs at the pier.
An upgraded State Pier will be required for New London to capitalize on the offshore wind opportunity in the near term, and the primary use of the pier will be dedicated to fostering this new multi-billion-dollar industry. However, during periods where wind projects are not using State Pier, the facility will be marketed to conventional cargo customers to ensure maximum use of the pier. Once the construction of wind turbines is completed, State Pier and its significantly upgraded infrastructure will serve as a resource for conventional cargo for decades to come.
It is also important to clarify that the location where cargo is unloaded in the state is not up to Gateway, and the company doesn’t decide where ships dock. Shippers determine the most cost-effective way to get their cargo to its final destination, and Gateway’s rates for shippers are identical at both our New Haven and New London locations. We work with shippers from around the world to get their cargo to its destination, and are pleased when their deliveries are made in Connecticut, handled by Connecticut workers, rather than ports in Rhode Island, New York, or other nearby options. For more than three decades Gateway has played a central role in bringing cargo from across the globe to Connecticut. Gateway is honored to be able to play a role in helping a multi-billion-dollar renewable energy industry make New London its home, and we look forward to a bright future for State Pier, New London, and the entire state.