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CT Construction Digest Friday August 23, 2019

Blue Back Square-style development coming to Newington? Maybe
Greg Bordonaro
The Newington Planning and Zoning Commission has approved regulations  to allow for a Blue Back Square-type development near the site of a proposed train station on Cedar Street.
The commission Aug. 14 approved a zoning code for a Transit Village Design District that covers approximately 64 acres near the proposed train station at 565 Cedar St. The 70-plus page code would allow for a mixed-use development, including retail, offices, civic uses and apartments.
The south and north zones would differ in character, with the south zone being primarily residential and the north zone, which would be adjacent to the rail station, being higher density to accommodate retail, offices, civic uses and apartments.
The code aims to create a walkable, bikeable, livable, community, so big box stores and larger office buildings wouldn’t be allowed, the plan said.
Newington Economic Development Director Andrew Brecher said any future development would be similar to Blue Back Square but much larger with more of a village feel.
“The regulations make it possible to build a transformative development creating new neighborhoods and while being totally distinct and still be compatible with what we all know and love about Newington,” Brecher told P&Z officials during a July 10 meeting. “It offers developers great flexibility and design, but in exchange for a massive amount of regulation. I believe that trade-off will be no problem because there is a lot of money to be made. I project that over the next 20 years you could achieve full build out of all of the 64 acres, and the value of that would approach half-a-billion-dollars.”
However, he noted there are only a handful of companies that would be impacted, including Sousa Corp. and Beacon Industries, which are currently located on Cedar St.
A developer would also have to demolish everything on-site.
Actual development of the area, however, would be years away as funding for new Hartford Line train stations in Newington and other towns remains uncertain.
Currently, the Hartford Line, which debuted last year connecting passengers from New Haven to Springfield, has nine stations but four more are still planned in Newington, North Haven, West Hartford and Enfield.
Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said DOT is programming $42 million in fiscal year 2023 for the construction of a new Hartford Line station in Newington.  However, the availability of those funds, along with funding for other planned enhancements to the Hartford Line, is dependent on the details and approval of a transportation bond package, which has not yet been finalized.
In addition to the rail station, DOT also needs to make additional improvements to the line including double tracking the line.
The Newington project would also depend on some federal funding, Brecher said.
The last passenger rail station in Newington closed in 1959.
TOD dreams
Towns are interested in having their own station to leverage transit-oriented development.
Among the towns that have benefited from the presence of a train station is Berlin. A development team there is proposing to  redevelop a four-acre parcel near the Berlin train station fronting Farmington Avenue into an $18 million mixed-use village, with 76 apartments and 19,000 square feet of medical office and commercial space.
Investments in new mixed-use developments around existing or proposed Hartford Line rail stations totaled approximately $430 million as of April, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Study Ranks Every State’s Highway System, Finds Road Conditions Worsening In Important Categories
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After decades of incremental progress in several key categories, Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report finds the nation’s highway conditions are deteriorating, especially in a group of problem-plagued states struggling to repair deficient bridges, maintain Interstate pavement and reduce urban traffic congestion.
“In looking at the nation’s highway system as a whole, there was a decades-long trend of incremental improvement in most key categories, but the overall condition of the highway system has worsened in recent years,” says Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation. “This year we see some improvement on structurally deficient bridges, but pavement conditions on rural and urban highways are declining, the rise in traffic fatalities is worrying, and we aren’t making needed progress on traffic congestion in our major cities.”
The 24th Annual Highway Report, based on data that states submitted to the federal government, ranks each state’s highway system in 13 categories, including traffic fatalities, pavement condition, congestion, spending per mile, administrative costs and more. This edition of the Annual Highway Report uses state-submitted highway data from 2016, the most recent year with complete figures currently available, along with traffic congestion and bridge data from 2017.
North Dakota ranks first in the Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings of state highway systems for the second year in a row. North Dakota’s rural and urban Interstate pavement conditions both rank in the top 10 and the state has kept its per-mile costs down.  Virginia jumps an impressive 25 spots in the rankings—from 27th overall in the previous report—into second-place in performance and cost-effectiveness.  Missouri, Maine and Kentucky round out the top five states.
The state highway systems in New Jersey (50th), Alaska (49th), Rhode Island (48th), Hawaii (47th), Massachusetts (46th) and New York (45th) rank at the bottom of the nation in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Despite spending more money per mile than any other state, New Jersey has the worst urban traffic congestion and among the worst urban Interstate pavement conditions in the country. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
 
Hartford — Environmental and labor leaders, along with competing international and American energy companies, say they are excited for the state's first bidding war dedicated to offshore wind power.
Announced on Monday, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's request for proposals seeks offers of up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms and calls on developers to meet a host of benchmarks when it comes to planning, labor and minimizing potential impacts to wildlife and the commercial fishing industry.
The request for proposals comes as the state is already slated to receive 300 megawatts from Ørsted-Eversource's Revolution Wind farm in federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard by 2023, and after lawmakers and environmental groups successfully pushed this spring for a bigger offshore wind procurement by 2030. The bids are due on Sept. 30.
"It's terrific to have this out and have it up to 2,000 megawatts," said John Humphries, executive director of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. "It moves the industry forward here in Connecticut, and the fact that we've got strong labor and environmental provisions really sets a standard for the industry nationwide."
DEEP said Monday that it had received more than 50 comments on its mid-July draft request for proposals, followed by 100 comments and emails to DEEP's Commission on Environmental Standards, producing multiple changes enhancing the final requirements for bidders.
"Offshore wind has the potential to significantly reduce the electric grid's dependence on fossil fuels, improve grid reliability in the winter, and advance clean energy jobs ... all while helping Connecticut achieve critical climate goals," DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said in a statement.
Developers' bids must contain an "environmental and fisheries mitigation plan," including coordination with stakeholders, pre-construction and risk assessment plans, reporting schedules, mitigating risks to fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles, and birds and bats.
Noise from construction equipment and shipping potentially could disturb whales and other species, making them go into deeper waters or change their movement patterns. But several scientists and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management say offshore wind has not harmed marine life, and note that projects' mitigation plans will include seasonal restrictions to protect marine life.
Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney for Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, called offshore wind, "if reasonably sited and operated," an "exciting new opportunity for Connecticut's energy future."
"On balance, the environmental and fisheries mitigation recommendations were well done and relatively comprehensive," he said. "However, we will be watching closely how DEEP utilizes and enforces those recommendations."
Rothenberger said it was disappointing the final request for proposals did not require developers to establish an "environmental mitigation fund" to offset potential environmental and commercial impacts. But it did mention it would consider such funds "a qualitative measure for assessing the relative strength of proposals ... we are hopeful that proposals will include this element in order to be more competitive in the selection process," he said.
The request for proposals says bidders must not pay less than the prevailing wage for laborers, workmen and mechanics, and must "engage in a good faith negotiation of a project labor agreement." It also requires bidders to follow decommission plans outlined by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Bidders must submit at least one bid for 400 megawatts, but DEEP encouraged them "to provide multiple bids with sizing options greater than and less than 400 megawatts to provide the selection team" with greater options.
'Very necessary project'
In the comments leading up to the final request for proposals, multiple offshore wind developers argued DEEP's draft request for proposals and the Commission on Environmental Standards' recommendations were duplicative of federal permitting requirements and would add significant costs. The commercial fishing industry, meanwhile, suggested a host of plans and data collection, and urged developers to provide exact numbers and locations of proposed turbines, "a commitment to avoid locating turbines in areas near sensitive fish habitats" and plans to coordinate with the industry to minimize interference with fishing gear.
According to DEEP, the request for proposals also "aligns with a similar offshore wind solicitation run by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, enhancing competition and urgency as the Production Tax Credit that benefits wind production sunsets at the end of the year."
Offshore wind companies, including Ørsted-Eversource and Vineyard Wind, a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, expressed enthusiasm about Connecticut's push toward wind energy.
"The opportunities for offshore wind to transform Connecticut's energy economy are immense, and Ørsted and Eversource commend the state for its aggressive offshore procurement goals," Ørsted and Eversource said in a statement Thursday. "While we don't comment on active bids, we are excited to bring our Revolution Wind project to Connecticut, which will deliver significant economic development opportunities and help the state achieve its clean energy goals."
Ørsted and Eversource are negotiating with state officials and the Connecticut Port Authority to finalize a $93 million public-private investment into New London State Pier to assist with offshore wind development. Recent leadership shakeups at the port authority have not impacted negotiations, the companies and port officials said recently.
Erich Stephens, chief development officer of Vineyard Wind — which previously proposed to help establish an offshore wind hub in Bridgeport — said, "We're excited by the RFP and look forward to submitting a bid that positions Connecticut to be a real leader in offshore wind, an industry that has the potential to benefit ratepayers and create jobs for generations to come."
State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said the Commission on Environmental Standards helped pave the way for better protections for the maritime, commercial fishing and aquatic industries.
"The fishing industry is right to be concerned and we want to make sure we're doing the right thing to protect the grounds and mitigate impacts," Formica, whose family owns Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme, said Thursday.
Formica and other lawmakers long pushed for market changes designed to help keep Millstone Power Station operational while also calling on larger procurements of offshore wind.
"The first step was securing the base load to give us the opportunity to do more renewables," Formica said, calling offshore wind a "very necessary project in terms of energy generation and as we make it into the next decade, the economy and jobs, not only for New London but for all of Connecticut."
Offshore wind prices have dropped significantly since Deepwater Wind built the Block Island Wind Farm, which delivered power at 24 cents per kilowatt hour in its first year of operation with a 3.5 percent annual escalator built into the contract. Ørsted bought Deepwater Wind last year for about $500 million.
Vineyard Wind's 800-megawatt offshore project — recently hit with delays after the federal government called for further environmental review — will sell power to three Massachusetts utilities at a fixed rate of 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour, according to EcoRI News. In Rhode Island, which will receive 400 megawatts from Revolution Wind, National Grid will pay 9.84 cents per kilowatt hour for 20 years.
State-regulated utilities Eversource and United Illuminating will buy electricity produced at Revolution Wind and deliver it to Connecticut consumers, but the proposed price per kilowatt hour — which is fixed, unlike the Block Island Wind Farm — remains undisclosed while under review by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

$14 million North Haven Police Department renovation complete
Clare Dignan
NORTH HAVEN — The Police Department has welcomed its members back home.
Construction on the building at 8 Linsley St. is finished and the department is fully operational in the renovated building.
The renovation of the building cost about $14 million and a new townwide communications project, which included a network built in to the school district, cost roughly $4 million.
A new building would have cost roughly $30 million, First Selectman Michael J. Freda said.
The building had aged so significantly that the communications system was outdated and available work space was shrinking.
“People may not realize how the old police department was in such poor condition,” Freda said. “The jail cells were antiquated. Some of the urinals were leaking over the IT department. There was remediation that needed to be done. We couldn’t have North Haven’s police officers in an environment like that.”
The old building didn’t meet current design standards and space needs for the department, according to an analysis in early 2016 by Capital Studio Architects LLC.
“We grew out of the old building,” Deputy Chief Kevin Glenn said.
The men’s and women’s locker rooms already were full and the officers’ workspaces were small. By 2030, Capital Studio Architects estimated the department would have even more officers and civilian employees.
The renovation will meet the department’s needs for the next 30 years, according to the architectural analysis.
The renovation included an 11,000-square-foot addition that has provided much-needed work space for officers and a holding facility it didn’t have before.
Along with the addition, the original footprint of the building is more efficient than before, Glenn said.
“The space we have is utilized so much better,” he said.
The public lobby has been redone to include a window for information and dispatch and another window for records, which used to be on the second floor without easy public access.
“It’s definitely been designed to give the public greater access and our employees a better work environment,” Glenn said.
Just past the lobby is a new interview room where officers can take someone reporting sensitive information so they don’t have to do it in the lobby, or anyone can meet with an officer, Glenn said.
Officers also have new locker spaces that can fit their patrol bags, and a lounge area to eat meals or rest in the event they work extra-long shifts responding to an emergency, Glenn said.
Former Police Chief James DiCarlo, who worked in the old building for 38 years, said he was in the old building during the blizzard in 1978 and Hurricane Gloria.
“When you work on events like that, you don’t go home for 12-16 hours so that place is your home,” he said. “To have a place like that, it’s just a great facility and it makes an employee feel better about your job.”
Upstairs, all the supervisors and patrol supervisors have their own workspace and the detective division is in a new office wing.
“The space is definitely appreciated,” Glenn said. “It’s a better environment for us.”
A new temporary holding area will allow officers the ability to can process information, interview suspects and take mugshots.
The building also has been made ADA compliant, including handicap-accessible cells.
The renovation has done a lot to improve the spirit of the department, too, Glenn said. During design and construction, architects worked on creating a pleasant atmosphere for employees and for anyone visiting the department to make a report, get fingerprinted, obtain records or anything else, he said.
Additionally, the department’s technology all has been brought up to date, Glenn said. “This is the state-of-the-art in the state when it comes to safety of the officers and civilians and technology,” he said.
As the department acquired new technology systems through the years, they were disjointed and sometimes in separate areas, such as the body camera server, which was in the Annex building across the street, Glenn said. The centralized location provides security and convenience for the technicians, he said.
The building “served the town very well during my tenure,” Freda said. “But they made the right decision to plan for the future.”

Report: Potholes linger in CT’s road upkeep
Gregory Seay
onnecticut made slight improvements in highway and bridge investments and road safety, barely ahead of New York and Massachusetts, but still ranks near bottom among states in per-capita allocations for roadway upkeep, a new ranking says.
The Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles libertarian think tank, Thursday released its 24th Annual Highway Report, ranking Connecticut 44th in highway performance and cost-effectiveness.
Connecticut ranked 46th overall in Reason’s 2018 highway report.
The foundation says its reports are based on data that states submit to the federal government. The latest report is largely based off data submitted in 2016.
In safety and performance categories, Connecticut ranks 11th in overall fatality rate, 24th in structurally deficient bridges, 30th in traffic congestion, 18th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 42nd in rural Interstate pavement condition, the Reason report stated.
On spending, Connecticut ranks 46th in total spending per mile ($209,157) and 47th in capital and bridge costs per mile ($96,956).
“To make larger advances in the rankings, Connecticut needs to reduce traffic congestion and get more out of its spending by improving pavement condition on rural highways and arterials or reduce its per-mile costs,’’ the report states.
Despite its relatively small highway system -- it is the nation’s 44th-largest -- Connecticut sits in the bottom five in three of Reason’s spending-per-mile categories (total spending per mile, capital and bridge costs per mile and administrative costs per mile)..
Connecticut’s overall highway performance was just ahead of New York (45th) and Massachusetts (46th) but worse than New Hampshire (24th), said Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason’s assistant transportation director and the highway report’s lead author.

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