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CT Construction Digest Wednesday September 18, 2019

Feds to brief legislators on transportation funding alternatives

With a briefing by federal transportation finance officials, the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont is expected to give lawmakers a glimpse Friday of potential ways the state might fund a 10-year transportation infrastructure plan without significant highway tolls.
Officials from the Build America Bureau of the U.S. Department of Transportation are coming to Hartford to privately brief lawmakers on the transportation-finance alternatives that the Lamont administration has been exploring since running into a dead end on its tolls plan.
The Lamont administration has been working on CT2030, a list of highway and rail improvements that could upgrade aging infrastructure and shorten commutes.
“I think we’re going to be ready to roll that out in next two weeks,” Lamont said Monday.
The governor said the goal is to make the case for projects that can make a material improvement in the lives of commuters over the next decade and also improve the state’s business climate. As an example, he mentioned a recently completed widening of I-84 outside Waterbury that eliminated a bottleneck and sped up rush-hour traffic.
“I’m trying to show people comprehensively that we can speed up a few of these bottlenecks over the next 10 years, dramatically make a difference in that mom or dad’s commute to the office, to go pick up their child, what that means in terms of business,” Lamont said. “And then how we can responsibly pay for it.”
In visits over the summer to Washington, the governor’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, has explored whether it would make sense to seek credit assistance from two programs Connecticut has not used, at least not in recent years: TIFIA, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, and RRIF, the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program.
Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director, said some of the federal programs offer loans at rates unavailable to the state in the bond markets.
“We’re looking for an informative session,” Drajewicz said Monday. “It’s an opportunity for legislators to ask questions.”House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he is eager to see what alternatives to tolls and bonding might be available after fruitless talks about tolls at the end of the regular legislative session in June.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d want to talk about transportation ever again.”

Sewer pump station hearing moved to Oct. 2
Macklin Reid
Digging up nearly three miles of streets is an unavoidable part of the plan.
Closing and demolition of the District Two sewage treatment plant on Route 7 and the piping of that wastewater for treatment at the soon-to-be renovated District One sewer plant on South Street will be up for comment at a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the town hall annex off Prospect Street by Yanity gym.
The hearing had been one of three on the agenda of a meeting scheduled for Sept. 24, but was rescheduled after a failure by the applicant to notify all neighbors within 100 feet at least 10 days before the hearing.
The sewer project is being proposed by the town Water Pollution Control Authority, and is the second phase of the $48 million plan approved by voters last November, to replace aging equipment and improve the town’s sewage treatment capabilities — under pressure from upgraded treatment standards from the state and federal governments.
The first phase of the project — a major reconstruction of the District One sewer plant off South Street — was approved by the commission in late May.The second phase of the project is on Tuesday night’s agenda and involves the building of a new pump station and a 2.7-mile pipeline to bring wastewater or “effluent” from Sewer District Two — consisting mostly of commercial properties around the intersection of Route 7 and Route 35 — to the District One Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) on South Street.
The planned route of the pipe is described in the application from AECOM, the sewer consulting firm that works with the town.
“...The Sewer District Two flows that were previously conveyed from the existing pump station to the Route 7 WWTF will be conveyed to the South Street WWTF through a new 14,150-foot-long, eight-inch diameter force main,” AECOM says in the application. “The route of the force main will be along Route 7 to Haviland Road, to Limekiln Road, to Lee Road, to Farmingville Road, to Ligi’s Way, and finally to South Street.”
The pipe’s path south on Route 7 will be repaved for half the highway’s width, and the local roads that are dug up along the route will be completely repaved.
A schedule provided as part of the application envisions the project going out to bid in the fall of 2020, and construction running from January 2021 to March 2022.
The application and paperwork related to the plans are available for inspection in the planning and zoning office at the town hall annex, open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The parties proposing a remaking of State Pier made a case Tuesday night for a major public-private investment in the state-owned facility spurred in large part by the emerging offshore wind industry but maintained that they also envision a broad range of cargo coming in to the pier.
For months, the Connecticut Port Authority, pier operator Gateway and Danish wind giant Ørsted and Eversource have privately negotiated how they would like to invest $93 million in both private and public money into State Pier. The first public unveiling of what they are proposing drew hundreds of people to the Holiday Inn in New London.
"We're coming to you today not with a deal ready to sign, but rather with a deal that has been negotiated to a great degree, but is still ready and willing and able for your meaningful feedback," said David Kooris, acting chair of the port authority's board and deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
Before the deal is signed, Gov. Ned Lamont's administration will review it, and the port authority's full board must approve it, Kooris said, but emphasized in an interview earlier in the day that time is of the essence.
"We're in a 45-day window at best," Kooris said. "We need to decide if this is going to work."
The major aspects of the proposal include filling in the area between the two existing piers at State Pier to provide additional laydown area, add heavy lift capability, which would allow for heavier cargos to be brought in, and maintain rail access.
Kooris said years of studies on State Pier, including one done in 2011 for the state Department of Transportation, back up what is being proposed. The studies, he said, also have underscored the necessity of private partners to share in the costs of upgrades and to ensure the pier's maximum use once those upgrades are completed.
"We've had a blueprint for what the state should do, but we didn't yet have the partnership identified to share cost and increase utilization and then along comes offshore wind," he said.
In June 2018, state regulators selected Block Island Wind Farm developer Deepwater Wind to bring offshore wind power to Connecticut. Several months later, Deepwater was acquired by Ørsted, which is now in a partnership with Eversource to develop a wind farm in federal waters about 65 miles off the coast of New London.
The original plan was for New London to be a staging area for the assembly of the offshore substation, the electricity hub for the turbines, and secondary steel fabrication, such as welding ladders and rails. Now the vision is for New London to become an assembly and installation hub for offshore wind projects in Connecticut and other Northeast states, Kooris said.Across the Northeast there's the potential marketplace for 20 gigawatts of offshore wind generation in the "near to midterm," Kooris said, the equivalent of 40 natural gas power plants.
New London is well positioned to take advantage of these projects due to its geographic location, direct access to open ocean, the lack of height constraints from bridges, and the manufacturing base that already exists in the area, officials have said.
Kooris said the expectation is the offshore wind industry will greatly increase the number of vessels coming into New London, which currently averages about 23 port calls annually. That could increase to up to 80 vessels when offshore wind campaigns are in full swing. During those times, State Pier will be solely used by the offshore wind industry, Kooris said, but the parties are all committed to bringing in cargo in between and during lulls in that activity.
The increased activity would result in more revenue for the port authority, and for New London, which gets a share of the port authority's revenue from the pier.
New London Mayor Michael Passero said the city welcomes the $93 million investment being proposed for the pier but said he is continuing to negotiate to ensure the city gets an equitable share of the revenue generated from the port.
In addition to the revenue from the port authority, the city also receives about $125,000 annually in payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, funds. Deepwater had committed $750,000 annually over at least a two-year period, a commitment Ørsted is upholding, which, combined with the other revenue, amounts to about $1 million, roughly the equivalent to the tax value of the property.
The upgrades to State Pier would need to be completed by April 2022 based on the timeline Ørsted and Eversource have committed to for their offshore wind project, Kooris said.
Of the $93 million project, $57 million would come from private money, with the opportunity for more funding with each milestone achieved, including an additional $10 million for timely completion of the project. The remainder of the money would come from the port authority, which in addition to State Pier revenue also receives about $400,000 in state appropriations annually.

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