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CT Construction Digest Friday November 8, 2019

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CT2030
For too long, Connecticut has relied on in-state taxes, fees and the state’s credit card to fund and finance investments in transportation infrastructure. CT2030 leverages new funding and financing sources as well as Connecticut DOT efficiencies to deliver the highest possible return on investment at the lowest possible cost to Connecticut residents. By bringing in out-of-state funding and pursuing smart federal financing opportunities, we can dramatically reduce the cost of projects to Connecticut taxpayers
CT2030 is a vital opportunity to put federal and other out-of-state revenue to work for Connecticut.

High level points

  • Historic investment in the state’s infrastructure that sends a message to the region and the country that the state is forward-thinking and open for business.
  • Unprecedented $5 Billion commitment to modernize Metro North, the most important commuter rail in the United States.
  • Non stop service from Waterbury to New York City 
  • Connects cities and towns in Lower Fairfield County to New York City like never before leading to increased property values and more attractive development and expansion opportunities. Makes places like Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk specifically part of the New York ecosystem.
  • Biggest investment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take cars off the road in the state’s history. Increased capacity on Metro North combined with targeted highway improvements means the state is making one of the biggest and most public commitments to the environment through transportation investment in the country.
  • Shores up the Special Transportation Fund beyond 2030, providing a reliable revenue stream and reducing the amount the state finances and borrows to pay for transportation infrastructure.
  • Protects the state’s annual $750 million in federal grants by getting the state’s transportation infrastructure to a state of good repair through the plans laid out in CT2030.
Quality of Life Improvements 

  • This group of projects is aimed at improving the lives of Connecticut residents. Rebuilt bridges, exits, intersections, and historic improvements in Metro North will take time of commutes, giving more time to Connecticut residents to be at home with loved ones rather than sitting in traffic.
  • With the completion of some projects, the state could provide up to an hour back to commuters per day, which approaches five hours per week that commuters won’t spend in their car or on a delayed train.
  • CT2030 is more time at home and less time getting to and from work. Less time waiting, more time working and spending time with loved ones.
  • This allows commuters on trains to use 4G and 5G data on their devices, keeping productivity going.
Economic Output
  • CT2030’s $21 Billion investment will result in 26,000 jobs per year over the Plan’s 10 years.
  • Jobs will come from the projects themselves, and as a result of the economic growth that will happen when we provide businesses and families with faster and safer transportation across the state.
  • CT2030’s $21 billion investment will result in approximately $40 billion of economic activity for Connecticut.
  • Spending on transportation is one of the most effective investments a state can make, as every dollar spent on improving transportation results in one-and-a-half to three times return in economic growth.
  • Any smart investor will tell you, invest your money where you can expect the greatest return on your dollars. Our transportation investments are the best and most cost-effective way to grow our economy and increase prosperity.
  • This group of 77 enhancements and dozens of other projects aimed at State of Good Repair for Connecticut’s infrastructure, it will keep the construction and engineering industries busy for years. That economic activity will help drive Connecticut’s economy.
  • By improving all segments of the state’s infrastructure, it provides predictability and reliability for employers. More people will be able to get to work more efficiently, reducing wasted times on congested commutes.
  • Improved infrastructure will lead to better opportunities for affordable housing and Transit Oriented Development.
Why user fees?

  • They collect funds from out of state vehicles which allows for specific projects to have direct funds to pay for completion. The revenue allows other funds to be spent on other projects. 
  • User fees provide a new revenue source which could be used to qualify for BAB TIFIA loans, providing a significantly less expensive option to taxpayers. Using GO authority is essentially borrowing to borrow.
  • Having cashflow to pay for projects now allows the projects to be done quicker. 
  • Gov. Lamont wants to avoid using the state’s credit card in an irresponsible way. This method provides a guarantee that these super-low interest loans will be paid back, and they keep the state’s debt at lower levels than through traditional transportation funding means.
Where are the discounts for CT residents?

  • 20 percent discount for all CT vehicles.
  • This is the least expensive and skinniest possible user fee program.
  • Goal was to provide the steepest discount to the most residents.
What are the prices?

  • Cars with CT transponders will pay $0.40 - $0.80 
  • Medium sized trucks with CT transponders will pay $1.00 - $2.00
  • Heavy trucks with CT transponders will pay $2.80 - $5.60
What happened to the income tax break for low income residents?

  • Under this proposal the user fee rates are the lowest possible rates while maintaining a responsible borrowing and financing level.
Can’t we just do all of this work without user fees?

  • The Wall Street Journal just spoke about Connecticut saying that a hole was dug for years and now the state is getting out of it and not digging any deeper. If you borrow to pay for CT2030, you are digging the hole deeper and deeper. The user fees act as the payback mechanism which is responsible and dedicated.
  • By utilizing the TIFIA and RRIF loan programs, these allow for the cheaper financing with the support of user fees. If you were to eliminate the user fee element of the financing, then the low-cost federal financing is no longer an option, changing the financing of the entire plan.
  • If Republicans or Tea Partiers have another idea on how to qualify for the federal financing with a different stream of revenue, the administration is all ears.
The legislature is terrible at keeping promises. What will stop you from just stealing this federal money to pay for other stuff? You stole $171 million from the STF to cover other expenses. Why is this any different?

  • This is different for multiple reasons. These loans are secured by the federal government and the Trump Administration requires an acceptable and approved payback mechanism. If the state changes that, sweeps funds, moves money around, that can put in jeopardy other federal transportation grants and funds the state qualifies for. It would be reckless and irresponsible for the legislature or governor to even consider such a concept. The Trump Administration is very clear on what Connecticut can and cannot spend Build America Bureau funding on. 
  • The state has never had an achievable vision like this before. This isn’t 50 years, 30 years, or 20 years. It’s 10 years and it’s spelled out how to pay for it. No administration has ever done this before in Connecticut’s history.
  • The administration also proposes locking in place the toll rates for a decade through a contract with the vendor operating the electronic user fee locations. This would be a proactive step to ensure there is predictability through CT2030.
A few months ago you were talking about the dire funding situation of the STF. Does this address that? What’s changed?

  • Nothing has changed. This is a different and innovative way to solve the state’s funding crisis. 
Why this list of projects?

  • These are projects that are already in the CTDOT pipeline. In some cases, most of the engineering and environmental work has been done. These are projects that will yield instant results for Connecticut residents.
  • In other instances, projects start with the initial work needed to get to the larger investment projects that will lead to the best results. For instance, a priority rail project is to replace the aging bridges on Metro North and the next project would be to improve the track itself. 
  • In the case of the SOGR projects, they have been identified as necessary to ensure the state receives its proper share of federal grants. A reduction or lack of commitment here could jeopardize the $750 million the state receives from Washington.
Is there room for compromise with CT2030?

  • This is precisely what compromise looks like, as a matter of fact. This is what collaboration, listening, and a willingness to negotiate looks like. 
  • The administration is the group that ha done all of the leg work here. The number of user fee projects is reduced, the kinds of projects are broadened, and the administration has backed off previous plans. THIS. IS. COMPROMISE.
  • It takes elements from Republican proposals of the past, and merges them with a scaled down version of the Lamont proposal from the Spring. This shows that the administration listened to criticism.
Why does this have to happen now? Can’t we wait until next year or 2021?

  • The time to act is right now. The budget is balanced and stable for the first time in years.
  • Credit and ratings agencies are giving Connecticut positive outlooks and commending the state on its efforts to stabilize it finances.
  • The state has to keep momentum going and have a plan in place for the next decade that keeps the state moving in the right direction.
Isn’t this just the GOP Prioritize Progress Plan with tolls?

  • This is a responsible financing and borrowing plan that relies on modest user fees to pay those loans back. Prioritize Progress essentially squeezed out any other bonding without a stream of revenue to pay for it. This abides by Gov. Lamont’s debt diet, while also providing reliable revenue.
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont’s fourth attempt at persuading Connecticut to adopt highway tolls won bipartisan compliments on Thursday for its comprehensive look at the potential for future highway, rail, bus and air travel to foster economic growth.
But he admitted that the 10-year, $20-billion plan hasn’t yet moved any Republicans to join him. And while Lamont would like the General Assembly to consider the plan in a special legislative session before the end of the year, the political reality is that it will likely enter the legislative process in February, when the House and Senate kick off their regular session.
Lamont conceded Thursday that he has weeks to sell the state on the latest iteration of a transit plan that began during his campaign for governor when he proposed trucks-only tolls. After his January inauguration, he pivoted to support as many as 80 tolls for all vehicles, then reduced the number down to 50 tolls later in the legislative session.
The new plan proposes 14 strategically placed toll locations on or near state bridges, with dedicated revenue streams to support rehabilitation work on each span. Lamont’s offering to sweeten the pot, by offering 5-percent of revenues flowing to the communities that host the highway tolls.
The massive transportation program includes $5 billion in major upgrades to the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, including a new, first-time direct connection from the Danbury and Waterbury branch lines to Grand Central Station in New York.
The improvements to the Waterbury line would allow two-way train traffic rather than the current one-way shuttle from Waterbury to Bridgeport and back again. Passengers on both the Danbury and Waterbury lines would no longer have to change cars to get to Grand Central.
Included in the plan are 132 new rail cars and 30 dual-power locomotives for Metro-North, whose 40 million annual passenger trips makes it the busiest train line in the country. Overall, the goal would be to shave as much as 15 minutes off the current train trips to New York.
The tolls would be along Interstate-84 in Newtown, Waterbury and West Hartford; on the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk; on I-91 near the Charter Oak Bridge in Hartford; along I-95 in Stamford, Westport, West Haven, East Lyme and New London; I-395 in Plainfield; I-684 in Greenwich on a stretch of road used mostly by New Yorkers; Route 8 in Waterbury; and Route 9 in Middletown.
Toll prices would range from 50 cents to a dollar, with state residents enjoying 20-percent discounts similar to the rates that residents of nearby states get for their highway tolls.
Under the proposal, commuters would not pay for more for than one round-trip per day, per toll location. Lamont told reporters that there were no plans for congestion pricing that would charge commuters more for morning and afternoon rush hours.
Plans for improvements to Tweed-New Haven Airport in East Haven and Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford are up in the air in the plan, and are to be determined. Both facilities face major obstacles if runways are to be expanded, because neighbors oppose larger planes.
The plan also anticipates eventual development of the state’s major ports, from Stamford, which is not controlled by the state, to Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, which has been the center of Lamont’s hopes to support wind-power projects targeted for the Atlantic Ocean 40 to 60 miles out to sea.
During a mid-afternoon news conference in a downtown Hartford business center, Lamont conceded that that he would push for the tolls even if Connecticut loses eligibility for some federal support, because the state’s dedicated fund for transit improvements will become insolvent over the next several years due to declining sales-tax revenues on gas sales.
Lamont said the state’s transportation system, with 65-year-old highways and 100-year-old railroad bridges, are being over-stressed.
“The problem really is we have some severe choke points that were built into the design of these highways many years ago,” Lamont said, underscoring the need for a revenue stream supported in part by out-of-state traffic. “And if we fix these choke points we can dramatically improve commuting times.”
Lamont was joined by union leaders, business executives and members of his administration including, DOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti, who stressed that state buses carry another 40 million passengers a year. The new transit plan includes revisions to the bus operations along Route 1 from Stamford to Bridgeport.
“It’s time that visitors to our great state of Connecticut pay their fair share,” said David Roche, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, estimating that Lamont’s plan could create 26,000 jobs a year.
“Let’s play politics with something else besides the foundation of our state,” said H. Darrell Harvey, co-CEO and principal of The Ashford Company, a Stamford real estate concern, who says that the economy is faltering because people cannot easily get to work, so they become frustrated and leave their jobs.
Joseph McGee, vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County and a former state economic development commissioner, said that Lamont’s new plan is worthy of support.
“Standing here, I just had a thought,” McGee said to a crowd of 100 in a business incubator off Park Street. “You’ve got labor, you’ve got business and you have the governor all aligned. This is a big deal. This is about our economic future.”
The new website for CT2030 went online Thursday morning, around the time that Lamont’s staff briefed Senate majority Democrats in the State Capitol. The website includes interactive maps that briefly explain a variety of proposals.
“No company should be less productive as a result of traffic jams or slow trains and buses,” Lamont said on the new website. “No parent should be late to pick their child up from school because of a traffic signal in the middle of a busy highway, or a preventable delay at a bridge or exit. Our state has the opportunity today to make the investments and decisions that will pay off for our children tomorrow.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, both praised Lamont’s vision and the details, but backed away from supporting any type of tolls. Fasano said GOP senators are developing their own proposal, which will not include new fees.
Klarides suggested a much smaller plan of about half the scope of the $20 billion.
Lamont said he’s willing to listen to other plans.hJoe Sculley, who as president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut represents state truckers, said after Lamont’s announcement that his group still opposes tolls.
“MTAC remains opposed to tolling existing highway capacity, whether that means current highway lanes, or specific bridges,” he said. “As the trucking industry already pays the diesel tax, the Petroleum Gross Receipts Tax, and vehicle registration fees, tolls would be a fourth tax for the privilege of using what we have already paid for.”

Mystic Education Center proposed as mixed-use village for young professionals
Kimberly Drelich
Groton — The former Mystic Education Center, at 240 Oral School Road, is proposed to be redeveloped as a mixed-use village designed for young professionals to "live, work and play," according to conceptual plans announced Thursday.
Respler Homes LLC is proposing to turn the former Mystic Oral School building into the village's "commercial hub," with co-working and high-tech R&D spaces and amenities such as an organic market, coffeehouse and restaurant, and constructing about 750 market-rate apartments on site.
The proposal for the redevelopment of the site, which the state listed in 2011 as "surplus property," was unveiled during a public meeting Thursday at the Town Hall Annex. The plans also were outlined to The Day in an interview.
The town and the state, which both have an interest in seeing the site redeveloped, have been co-marketing the site and a request for proposals was issued in 2017, Groton Economic and Community Development Manager Paige Bronk said. Respler Homes recently was chosen as the "preferred developer" for the site, where the Whipple School for the Deaf was once located and which had been used for "the Groton Parks and Recreation Department, Special Olympics, a dance program, a business, a day care center and firefighting training programs," according to a town document.
Developer Jeff Respler said the proposed development would provide needed housing for young professionals, particularly as major employers, such as Electric Boat, expand and increase hiring.
"It’s market-rate apartments geared towards the Gen Z-ers and millennials that are looking for a community with life," Respler said. "The biggest problem that Electric Boat and Pfizer mentioned is housing."
Bronk pointed out that 80 percent of the jobs in Groton are held by commuters.
"We are in a unique position," Bronk said. "A lot of communities are trying to create jobs. We have job growth, but really the largest economic driver for us, and need, is to try to provide the housing product to satisfy our workforce who leave every day. We have to close that loop."
Respler said the co-working and R&D spaces within the main 100,000-square-foot building will address the needs of local business enterprises.
The proposed development is intended to provide a "live, work and play" environment. Planned amenities, like the coffeehouse, restaurant, a village green and a recreational center, will offer spaces for people to gather or meet up with friends after work, Respler said.
The development also may be attractive to some empty-nesters, Bronk said.
Redevelopment plans
The redevelopment is slated for 44 acres of the site, while another 33 acres will be deeded to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Respler said. The development team is proposing to install a walking trail to connect the complex with the waterfront and improve the boat launch.
In addition to underground parking in the apartment buildings, the developer is proposing a parking garage on site.
"We want to keep this as green as possible," Respler said.
The proposal calls for historically preserving the former Oral School, while rebuilding its interior and replacing all the windows within the original architectural style, Respler said. Bronk pointed out that though the property had been used for a long time in the past, it is degrading and has been subject to vandalism, so it's important to repurpose the historical building in time to prevent damage and minimize the developer's rehabilitation costs.
Respler said the plan is also to renovate the Pratt Building, a former recreational facility with a pool and a gymnasium, into a recreational center to be used by residents in the village as well as for public use, though the logistics are still under discussion.
The town is considering funding $116,500 for a community needs assessment, a feasibility study and an engineering study for the building to understand the community's recreational needs, the building's condition and needed upgrades, and how it could best be adapted, according to Bronk.
There will be efforts to deter traffic from going through neighborhoods, Bronk said. The developer's proposal calls for upgrading Oral School Road and potentially building a new road.
The development team said it is looking at the feasibility of providing a connection from the property to Cow Hill Road, through a 17-acre parcel to the west that it plans to purchase. That way, drivers could quickly access the highway and bypass residences in the area.
Respler said the redevelopment of the property is anticipated to cost the development team approximately $250 million.
A public-private partnership for the property's redevelopment entails the state giving the land to the developer for a dollar, if certain conditions are met, he said.
David Kooris, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said that given the redevelopment and environmental cleanup costs, the state was willing to do that to facilitate the property being repurposed into a development "well-suited for Groton's needs in the 21st century."
"Overall, it’s a great example of a community like Groton thinking creatively about how to reinvent itself to meet the changing demands of the population and local employers, and we’re happy that state property was available to enable the realization of that vision," Kooris said.
Economic impact
Ray Kehrhahn, real estate financial economist with the development team, said the development will bring multiple economic benefits. He said employers will be able to recruit the workers they need, as housing has been a stumbling block in recruiting talent. The development also will put fallow state property back on the tax rolls.
According to the development team, the project will bring in an estimated $3.5 million in annual property taxes. The payroll associated with the expected 320 jobs in the commercial hub is estimated at about $25 million.
During the three-year construction period, an estimated 880 construction jobs are projected, the development team said.
Kehrhahn also anticipates $80 million in increased retail spending annually in the area.
The development team said the numbers are based on the plans, which are only conceptual, and the project still would need a number of approvals to move forward. Respler anticipates the approval process will take about a year.
Multiple steps
Bronk said the process calls for multiple steps. State approvals needed include a purchase and sale agreement, which is essentially finalized; a master lease agreement; and approval from the state traffic commission. Locally, the process would include steps such as rezoning the property, wetlands review, a development plan review, a special permit hearing on the property and a local land development agreement that the Town Council would need to endorse.
"It's really a multimonth process and the public will be able to receive notices, and understand that process as it's unfolding," Bronk said.
If approved, the proposed development would proceed in phases, with full build-out expected to take three years, Respler said.
Fuss & O'Neill will be the site engineering firm and also will work to finish the remaining environmental cleanup of the site with Martin Brogie, a licensed environmental professional, Respler said. He said the cleanup already has been 80 to 85 percent completed by the state.
Crosskey Architects will be designing the apartment buildings to have a New England feel, he said. Coursey & Company will be conducting community outreach.

Rail company touts freight line upgrades, sees New London as ripe for growth
Julia Bergman
Recently completed upgrades to the freight line that runs from New London to the Canadian border allow for heavier cargo to be carried and provide more opportunity for growth at New London’s deepwater port.
That was the message of Genesee & Wyoming officials who gave U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and this reporter a tour — by hi-rail truck, a vehicle that operates on both road and rail — of the 24-mile stretch from Willimantic to the Massachusetts border to get a look at the upgrades.
“Before and after is quite dramatic,” said Courtney, who helped secure a federal loan that paid for about 66 percent of the $12.8 million project. Genesee & Wyoming paid for the remaining portion.
The upgrades bring the rail line up to the national standard for freight capacity, which is 286,000 pounds. Previously, the rail could only accommodate 263,000 pounds, and the condition of the line meant trains could travel no more than 25 mph. Now, freight trains traversing from Willimantic to Massachusetts can travel up to 40 mph.
Construction on the project, which provided about 90 temporary jobs, started in May 2018 and was completed last month.
“This is opening up New London for a much more viable rail competition,” said Jerry Vest, senior vice president of government and industry affairs for Genesee & Wyoming, explaining that the company sees New London as ripe for growth.
In recent years, salt treatment chemicals, building materials, steel coils and rolled paperboard have come into and out of New London’s port by rail.
Vest indicated the upgrades would attract new customers for Genesee & Wyoming but also for Gateway, which operates out of New London’s port. One potential new cargo is stone and rock used for construction, said Len Wagner, senior vice president of Northeast Region Railroads for Genesee & Wyoming.
“The welcome mat is out,” he said.
Jim Dillman, president of Gateway, said by phone Thursday that the upgrades “make a big difference for us as far as advertising and going after cargo.”
Genesee & Wyoming has been working with Gateway “to allow us to grow rail traffic while accommodating wind turbine construction,” Wagner said.
He said the two companies were at the “five-yard line” on an agreement that would spell out how that would work, given the major upgrade planned for New London’s port to accommodate the burgeoning offshore wind industry.
David Kooris, acting chair of the Connecticut Port Authority board and deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Community and Economic Development, said at a meeting in September, outlining the planned upgrades to the port, that rail access will be “retained” and “that real link is an important component of our long-term vision for the relationship between the facility and the surrounding region.”
Courtney was adamant that freight cargo not be disrupted or cut off at New London’s port. He said during a recent visit to the port that Gateway officials “thankfully validated that the highest and best use of the pier is with the inter-modal connection on rail with the cargo traffic coming in.”

Here are the bridges to be rebuilt by tolls, and the cost to cross them
MARK PAZNIOKAS
These are the 14 bridges that would be rebuilt or improved with money raised by tolls under Gov. Ned Lamont’s new CT2030 transportation infrastructure plan.
The exact placement of the tolling gantries is unclear — though one of them is effectively in New York, thanks to an oddity of the interstate highway system.
Base charges would be 50 cents or $1 for cars, $1.25 to $2.50 for medium-sized trucks and $3.50 to $7 for heavy trucks, with a 20-percent discount with a Connecticut EZ pass transponder.
Within a 24-hour period, any vehicle equipped with a transponder would not pay more than one round-trip user fee per gantry. Commuters without a transponder will be billed by mail and pay a 25 percent to 50 percent higher rate.
With a discount, the car ride from New Haven to Greenwich on I-95 would hit three tolls and cost an EZ Pass holder a total of between $1.20 and $2.40, depending on time of day. A drive between Danbury and Waterbury would hit two tolls and could cost between 80 cents and $1.60.
One of the bridges with minimal impact on Connecticut commuters carries I-684 across the Byram River in Greenwich. It is located in Connecticut, but it is on a stretch of I-684 that juts into New York and cannot be accessed from any local road in the state. In fact, New York plows the stretch during snowstorms, but Connecticut is responsible for the upkeep of the bridge.

These are the projects to be financed by tolls and their construction cost:
  • I-95 over Metro-North in Stamford. Cost: $20 million to $25 million.
  • I-95 in Norwalk and Westport. Cost: $70 million to $130 million.
  • I-95 West Haven, reconstructing Exit 43 and replace bridge over Metro-North. Cost $65 million to $90 million.
  • I-95 East Lyme, interchange improvements and bridge replacement. Cost: $140 million to $220 million.
  • I-95 New London and Groton, Gold Star bridge reconstruction. Cost: $300 million to $415 million.
  • I-84 Newtown, reconstruct Rochambeau Bridge over the Housatonic River. Cost: $70 million to $110 million.
  • I-84 Waterbury, reinforcing the mixmaster. $235 million to $260 million.
  • I-84 West Hartford, replacing crossing over Berkshire Road. Cost $75 million to $110 million.
  • I-91 Hartford, Charter Oak Bridge improvements. Cost: $300 million to $330 million.
  • I-395 Plainfield, reconstruction bridge over Moosup River. Cost: $15 million to $20 million.
  • Route 8 Waterbury, strengthen bridges south of Mixmaster. Cost: $20 million to $35 million.
  • Route 9 Middletown, elevate highway and remove traffic lights. $90 million to $160 million.
  • I-684 Greenwich, bridge over Byram River. Cost: $12.9 million.
  • Route 15 Norwalk, improve connections between Route 15 and Route 7. Cost: $160 million to $200 million.
Dan Haar: For one CT toll, it’s a New York state of mind
Dan Haar
It’s the highway toll equivalent of President Donald Trump declaring Mexico will pay for the border wall.
New Yorkers will help pay Connecticut tolls without ever driving to, or from, Connecticut, if Gov. Ned Lamont has his way. How's  that possible? Simple geography. They will be in Connecticut for a 1.3-mile stretch of Interstate 684 that pases through a remote corner of Greenwich. There’s no way to get to or from any other Connecticut or Greenwich road from that stretch. The nearest exit to the north is in Armonk, and to the south, the Westchester County Airport. But that toll gantry would be in Connecticut, technically. And that’s good enough for Lamont, whose plan to toll 14 highway bridges, rolled out Thursday, includes a bridge along that stretch — right on the state line, over the Byram River.
“I think it’s atrocious and I find it offensive,” Burdick told me in a phone call exactly as Lamont was addressing the media and supporters in Hartford. “It looks as though this thing was snuck through.
Burdick said he’ll join with others in Westchester — home of Cuomo — in fighting the toll. He’ll have plenty of company from Connecticut folks in places like West Hartford, West Haven and other locales whose highway bridges drew the Scarlet Letter T on Lamont’s map.
“This is very distrurbing,” said Burdick, a Democrat whose town includes Katonah and Bedford Hills. “We typically have a very good relationship with Connecticut and to just do this with no notice ... zero contact, zero collaboration, zero consideration for the impacts it’s going to cause.”
As Lamont’s office sees it, the bridge is fair game for a toll. Connecticut is responsible for maintaining it and, spokesman Max Reiss said, the location was vetted by federal highway officials.
“It’s not like we just threw darts at projects,” Reiss said.
No, but the bridge in question needs a $12.9 million repair, the smallest job among the 14 tolled bridges in the Lamont plan, far, far smaller than most of them. There are some 300 highway bridges deemed “deficient” along Connecticut highways including Hartford’s crumbling I-84 viaduct, with seven separate bridges needing repairs.  
Reiss was unabashed. “Aren’t we supposed to minimize the impact on Connecticut residents? New York understands very well that Connecticut drivers help to support their infrastructure on a daily basis.”
Indeed we do, so maybe fair is fair. It does seem underhanded considering that whenever we pay a toll in New York or Massachusetts, we’re deciding to drive to those states, or at least through them in a meaningful way. You know, with things like highway exits, maybe a local gas station, grab a sandwich.
Motorists along I-684 know they’re in Connecticut only because of two green signs, “Entering Greenwich” and “Leaving Greenwich.” Soon it might say, “Thank you for your 50 cents,” the likely price each way , based on Lamont’s plan — which needs approval from the Connecticut General Assembly.
Connecticut residents use I-684 too — mostly people driving to and from I-84 and the Danbury area — but they probably think they’re long gone from their home state when they’re south of Armonk.
Taking a step back, this charade illustrates why tolling individual bridges makes less sense than tolling whole highways. User fees are the right way to go and we need tolling desperately in Connecticut, so the bridge plan is way better than borrowing more money at double the cost of tolling to residents.
Still, it’s fundamentally unfair to make people who happen to pass a certain specific point every day pay more than their fair share. The money from this tolling plan will pool together in one pot to pay back a federal loan Connecticut hopes to get at about 2 percent interest. So it’s all for one and one for all — if the gantries are plentiful enough to spread the pain.
Lamont, of course, wanted to do that, with 50 or so gantries along four main highways in Connecticut: I-95, I-84, I-91 and Route 15. That plan made more sense and raised more money — as much as $800 million, compared with about $300 million for the bridge plan. But he couldn’t generate enough support among weak-kneed lawmakers.
So now the governor, who lives in Greenwich, will look to the Empire State for an unwitting hand.
He recently gave Cuomo a framed Connecticut fishing license in thanks for their day out on a boat on Lake Ontario. Cuomo’s office didn’t respond with a comment on the I-684 toll, but maybe he’ll want to trade in that fishing license for a Connecticut EZ-Pass, the better to get a 20 percent discount while driving around in his own state.
 
 

Gov. Ned Lamont opened a campaign Thursday for passage of a $21 billion transportation plan with a user-friendly web site and the enthusiastic backing of labor and business, allies he will need to overcome a wariness among lawmakers about embracing an unpopular governor and his insistence that limited highway tolling no longer can be avoided in Connecticut.
Lamont, a Democratic businessman from Fairfield County, where sclerotic highways and a geriatric commuter rail system are choking economic growth, begins with little political capital: His polling is poor, antipathy to tolls was a factor in some Republican municipal wins Tuesday, and Senate Democratic leaders have yet to show an interest in helping him.
The governor acknowledged to reporters that a major challenge is overcoming public skepticism about the need for $320 million in new annual revenue from 14 tolled bridges. He also acknowledged mistrust that government would use the money solely for transportation, even if federal law requires any interstate highway tolls to be used on those systems.
“My job is to tell people the truth and keep my word. I think they can count on it,” Lamont said. But Lamont campaigned last year on a promise to seek tolls only on trucks, a promise unmet by his original transportation plan in February and the one published Thursday.
Lamont addressed a transportation forum Thursday morning, recorded a pitch for his 10-year plan on WFSB’s “Face the State to be aired Sunday, and then formally unveiled what he is calling CT2030 at a late-afternoon press conference in Hartford. He was backed by allies who pointedly challenged legislators to support the governor.
“I don’t want this thing to be a partisan issue, OK?” Lamont said at the morning forum in Farmington. “A lot of Republicans will say, ‘No tolls. No tolls.’ They’ve got a great political issue. And, frankly, a lot of Democrats are scared of their own shadow and hope this issue goes away.”
Details of his plans have dribbled out over the past weeks as he briefed lawmakers and others. The Connecticut Mirror published a detailed account Wednesday after obtaining copies of the plan, an executive summary and a financial pro-forma. The question now is whether Lamont can sell it nine months after the rollout of his original proposal, which never came to a vote.

His immediate political challenge is in the Senate, where Democrats have a 22-14 majority after two years of sharing power with Republicans in an evenly divided chamber. Fearful of losses in 2020 that could cost them the majority again, Democrats want the political cover of at least some Republican support.
“Where is the profile in courage when you have Senate leadership saying, ‘We are not going to support this plan unless a Republican supports it?’ ” asked Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, the deputy House GOP leader. “How about you vote for it or against it? Why are you hitching your wagon to the Republicans? It’s a total cop out.”
House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said Republicans are making their own political calculation that reflexively opposing any plan with tolls will strengthen them in 2020. But Ritter says he believes that Fairfield County Republicans are mistaken if they think CT2030 is bad politics, given the benefits it would produce for their commuting constituents.
The plan would eliminate chokepoints on I-95 between New Haven and Greenwich, replace rail bridges that are more than 100 years old, expand Metro-North service and purchase 132 rail cars and 30 locomotives that officials say would be cleaner, faster and more reliable.
Without GOP votes, the best-case scenario for passage appears to be an 18-18 tie that would be broken by the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. But Lamont has no commitment from legislative leaders to return in a special session on transportation, and some legislators who asked to not be quoted by name say they doubt one will be called.
Success or failure may rest with the ability of Lamont’s allies in business to lobby Republicans, especially in Fairfield County, and those in labor to work on reluctant Democrats. 
Lamont met for least 90 minutes last week with 21 chief executives at a session with the Business Council of Fairfield County. All 21 endorsed the plan and offered their support, said Joe McGee, the council’s vice president.
On Thursday, Lamont was joined by Sal Luciano, the president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, and H. Darrell Harvey, the co-leader of the Ashworth Company, a national commercial real-estate company based in Stamford. Luciano backed Lamont for governor, while Harvey supported a Republican, David Stemerman.

 
 “Fixing our infrastructure is not a partisan issue,” Luciano said. “That is why labor is standing with the governor and the business community today to call upon the legislature to summon the political courage to get this done.”


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