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CT Construction Digest Friday September 20, 2019

Bradley Airport eyes new explosive detection system facility; price tag could reach $50M
Sean Teehan
Bradley International Airport will soon enter the design phase of an up-to-$50 million project that will relocate the airport’s baggage explosive detection system from the lobby to a separate and newly built facility, with the goal of creating more space for an anticipated increase in passenger traffic.Currently, when passengers check bags at Bradley, airline ticket counter staff put a tag on the luggage, and then passengers bring it over to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) explosive detection machine, which is located in the airport’s lobby, said Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, which oversees Bradley.“What this will do is allow our passengers to walk directly up to the airline ticket counter and have the bag tagged and then have the airline ticket agent simply put the bag onto a conveyor belt that takes it to a remote location to undergo that screening,” Dillon said.That will open up space in the lobby to put in additional ticket counters, Dillon said. But since there isn’t any available space inside the terminal, the project will likely require construction of a structure outside the terminal to house the TSA machines. The project’s design phase, which is slated to begin at the end of October, should take about 14 months, Dillon said. Multinational engineering firm AECOM is contracted with Bradley for the design, Dillon said. It’s not clear how long construction would take, Dillon said, because they’ve yet to figure out exactly what needs to be built.CAA is seeking a grant from TSA to cover at least part of the cost, which could run up to $50 million, Dillon said.Ultimately, Dillon said, the project is another step toward facilitating an increasing number of passengers flying in and out of Bradley, an airport Dillon believes could one day handle 10 million passengers per year. Last year nearly 6.7 million passengers flew in and out of Bradley, which was up more than 12 percent from 2015, according to CAA data. So far this year the airport has handled more than 3.9 million passengers, 2.7 percent more than the same period last year.The explosive detection system is yet another infrastructure project at Bradley, as CAA looks to expand its facilities as much as possible, while putting off construction of an additional terminal, Dillon said.In July, Bradley broke ground on a $210 million ground transportation center, which will co-locate all rental-car companies at the airport, eliminating the need for shuttle service from the airport to rental agencies’ off-site locations. It will include 830 parking spaces for rental cars. CAA officials expect that new facility will open in 2022.

 

Key Connecticut officials meeting with feds on transportation funding

With huge opposition blocking highway tolls this year, top Connecticut officials will be meeting Friday with federal transportation representatives to explore ways to fund highway and railroad improvements without significant tolling.
 The meeting was arranged due to detailed work by Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, who headed to Washington this summer to talk to the Trump administration and seek new funding to fix the state’s aging infrastructure. As a result, federal officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau will speak with Drajewicz, top legislators and state transportation officials at the state Department of Transportation in Newington.
 
The federal bureau specializes in providing financial assistance, including grants, bonds and low-interest loans, to state and local governments for transportation projects.
“We’re trying to go at this at the most thoughtful and collaborative way,” said Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont.
Lamont, who met earlier in Washington with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, is not expected to attend Friday’s briefing.
At the same time, Lamont’s transportation team is still studying the possibility of erecting tolls on bridges with the money raised dedicated to repairs on each specific bridge. Lamont said that concept is still at the early stages.
“We’re just getting started on those discussions,” he said.
 
 
Rep. John Frey of Ridgefield, one of the longest-serving House Republicans, said the Lamont administration is heading in the right direction with Friday’s meeting to seek federal funding.
“I’m glad they’re exploring that,” he said. “It’s kind of a shame we didn’t do that in the past. He seems to be talking less about tolls lately and finding other ways to do it, which is good.”
The Lamont administration has been studying multiple avenues to come up with solutions. Drajewicz said he has been talking to transportation officials in other states, including Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Illinois and Texas, all of which have highway tolls in some form.
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 During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Lamont repeatedly said that he favored tolls only on trucks. But he changed his position this year when he unveiled a plan for tolls on both trucks and cars. His plan called for about 50 overhead gantries to electronically charge drivers as they drove on four major highways: I-95, I-91, I-84 and Route 15, which includes the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways.
 One plan drafted by the Lamont administration set toll rates at 4.4 cents per mile at peak hours and 3.5 cents at off-peak times. Those figures included discounts that motorists would receive by purchasing a Connecticut E-ZPass and being frequent commuters. Low-income drivers would receive additional discounts and all rates would be frozen for the first three years. Trucks would pay a higher rate. That plan would have raised about $800 million a year for transportation upgrades.
 
East Haddam Swing Bridge work may affect traffic Sept. 26
EAST HADDAM — Motorists traveling through town next week may experience delays due to preliminary rehabilitation work taking place on the Swing Bridge, which runs over the Connecticut River.
Staff from the state Department of Transportation will perform project scoping for upcoming bridge repairs Sept. 26. This work, along Route 82 eastbound and westbound, also known as Bridge Road, will involve studies and monitoring of the bridge for future construction, according to a press release from state Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex.
The work is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Motorists should expect alternating traffic control on Route 82 on that day between Main Street and Bridge Road. Traffic control personnel and signing patterns will help guide motorists through the work zone, the release said.
Modifications or extensions to the schedule may become necessary in the event of weather delays or other possible changes. For information, contact the DOT Office of Communications at 860-594-3062.
 
NEW BRITAIN - Brilliant lights shone against New Britain’s night sky Thursday night when the city’s new Beehive Bridge lit up for the first time at a dedication ceremony that attracted a large crowd.
The bridge had been deemed “The Impossible Bridge” by many of the key players involved with its design and construction, but the five-year process ultimately became a story of success. Mayor Erin Stewart said to see the bridge finally completed and the crowds coming out to support the city was monumental.
“To build a project of this magnitude was no easy feat,” she said. “It took many, many worker bees to take a dream and make it into a reality. It’s a very humbling feeling.”
The $7.4 million project is part of the city’s Complete Streets Master Plan, with roughly $2 million of the money coming from the city and over $5 million from state and federal grants. The master plan is aimed at creating a better-connected and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly downtown, as well as infrastructure that eases traffic.
Since the bridge is a main thoroughfare connecting the city’s downtown, the Little Poland neighborhood and New Brite Plaza and nearby businesses, the renovations became a priority for the city. The bridge is also a nod to the city’s seal, which features a beehive, bees, and a motto that translates from Latin as “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.”
Pete Rappoccio, owner and founder of Sign Pro and one of the many collaborators for the project, said it was a surreal and emotional moment to see the bridge come into being.
“Things are never impossible in New Britain,” he said. “Now every time I turn that corner and drive onto the bridge, I smile and I cry. I love this city and if there’s anything I can do to help it, I will do it.”
The structure is eye-catching and inspired by the flight and dance of the honeybee. The railing’s diamond-shaped metal frames are infilled with translucent polycarbonate panels in golden hues, reminiscent of a honeycomb. Four bee sculptures bookend the bridge and at night, they glow with internal LED illumination. Another beehive sculpture, a tribute to New Britain’s city seal, anchors the center of the bridge.
Marissa Mead, director of art for Svigals + Partners, which designed the railings and several sculptures, said it was very satisfying to see what they have been imagining in their minds turning into something real.
“It feels amazing seeing all the people here admiring the final product,” she said.
Renovations were not just limited to the design elements that mimic a beehive, the project also involved a long list of street improvements, including widening the sidewalks from 8 feet to 20 feet for better pedestrian access, decorative streetscape elements, art features, and the creation of two pocket parks on the north side of the bridge.
In addition to the façade improvements, the project also replaced the railroad crossing at the Columbus Boulevard intersection and the traffic signals on East Main Street. The intersection of East Main Street went through reconstruction and the sidewalks from Main Street to Lafayette Street were replaced.
Mark Moriarty, the city’s director of public works, took a moment to thank all those who were involved with the project.
“We really did the impossible and I can’t overstress how people really stepped up to meet challenges in order to make the bridge happen,” he said. “It was a risky project because it was different, but we did it.”

Developer to renew permit for long-vacant site, former felt factory in Unionville

The developer looking to build hundreds of apartments next to Union School is applying to renew the site’s special permit for another two years.
Middletown-based developer Centerplan Development Company originally received a special permit in 2015 to build a $60 million, 268-unit apartment complex at 19 Perry St. A felt factory sat at the site, which is immediately next door to Union School, until the factory closed in the 1980s.
When the town’s planning and zoning commission initially approved the project in November 2015, commission members cited a number of concerns that residents raised about the Old Mill Commons complex, including increased traffic and safety worries for the students at Union School.
Residents also fretted that the complex would not fit with the town’s character, commission members said at the time.
But since 2015, Centerplan hasn’t broken ground on the site or made any tangible progress, according to town planner Mark DeVoe.
However, the developer did renew its permit in 2017, just as it’s hoping to do now. The special permit expands the site’s zoning use to include residential uses.
DeVoe said that Centerplan’s application hasn’t changed since 2015, which makes it extremely likely that the Planning and Zoning Committee will approve the renewal.
“It’s very difficult to deny an application that you’ve already approved when there’s been no changes,” DeVoe said.
DeVoe said that the developer’s renewal application was “pretty basic,” and gave no hint as to why the site has sat untouched or when Centerplan might break ground.
“It’s anyone’s guess,” DeVoe said.
Centerplan representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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 Meanwhile, Centerplan has been embroiled in a controversy in Hartford. The developer was hired to construct Dunkin’ Donuts Park, but was then fired and ordered to pay $39 million to a middle-man insurance company.
A lawyer representing the company in Farmington told the town in 2016 that the delay on the Old Mill Commons project was unrelated to the issues at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
At the time, the lawyer — Christian Hoheb — said that the team was “still very excited about this project.”
A public hearing for Centerplan’s special permit renewal was continued from previous Planning and Zoning Commission meetings. The next hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at town hall.

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