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CT Construction Digest Wednesday November 6, 2019

Lamont’s $21B transportation plan emphasizes fixing bottlenecks, financed mainly through federal borrowing

Gov. Ned Lamont’s $21 billion transportation plan will tackle some of the state’s biggest bottlenecks, including widening of I-95 in Bridgeport, reconfiguring the I-91-Route 15 interchange in Meriden and relieving congestion on I-84 and I-91. The long-awaited plan, financed largely through federal borrowing and which includes limited tolls on bridges, would also spend nearly $500 million to purchase 71 new train cars for Metro-North as well as proposing hundreds of millions for improvements to bridges along the New Haven Line. The plan also includes money for Hartford Line stations in Windsor Locks and Enfield. About $134 million would go toward replacing CT Transit buses. The governor’s office declined to comment about the plan, which is still under discussion with legislative leaders. A source close to the negotiations provided The Courant with a copy of the plan’s details Tuesday evening.
The plan would require legislative approval, most likely in a special session later this fall. The $21 billion plan would include spending $14 billion on roads, $1 billion on bus transportation and $6.2 billion on commuter rail. “There are certain select chokepoints where you can just liberate the traffic if you take care of them,” Lamont said earlier this month. “That’s what we’re really focusing on because we think we can make the most difference with the least cost.”  About $300 million in revenue would come from tolls in 2023, the third year of the 10-year-plan, and about $320 million annually after that through 2030. About $2.5 billion of the $21 billion plan would come from electronic tolls. The new plan would provide a 20% discount to EZ Pass holders and levy only one toll per day for vehicles passing through a gantry. Hundreds of millions of dollars would go to towns for local road and bridge improvements across the state. Other improvements in the plan include improving traffic flow on Route 15 between Milford and Meriden, a persistent bottleneck, by adding improved acceleration and deceleration lanes. Another addition would be a new through lane on I-84 westbound between Park Road in West Hartford to the Route 9 exit near West Farms mall. In Glastonbury, the plan calls for reconfiguring lanes of Routes 2, 3, and 17 “to simplify the connection of these major roadways and allow traffic to access these critical links in a smoother more direct manner.” Along I-95 in Bridgeport, the Lamont plan would widen the highway between Exits 19 and 27A, “one of the key bottlenecks for congestion," with a goal of reducing commuting times. The $21 billion plan — which Lamont still hopes will attract Republican support — focuses heavily on congested highways in New Haven and Fairfield counties, with approximately 50 roadway improvement projects statewide. Lamont, a Democrat in his first term, campaigned on a plan to collect tolls only from trucks but reversed course in February, when he rolled out a proposal to include cars as well. Since then, he has floated a number of ideas, including one that would have erected 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. Lamont’s latest plan substantially scales back the number of electronic tolls. Locations for gantries, which will be used on bridge improvement projects, were not available Tuesday night. Lamont’s plan is also more modest than former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 30-year, $100 billion proposal that some legislators criticized as unrealistic and too expensive. Tolls have become a centerpiece of the administration’s plan to improve transportation and spur economic growth. Supporters view tolls as a user fee that would partially be underwritten by out-of-state motorists. But Republicans have repeatedly blasted tolls as another tax on motorists who believe they already pay too much in taxes. The state’s chief anti-tolls group, known as No Tolls CT, collected more than 100,000 signatures opposing tolls. Earlier this week, Max Reiss, Lamont’s chief spokesman, said it is hoped the plan will duplicate improvements made in Waterbury on I-84. The improvements, which are now completed, save drivers about 20 to 25 minutes in each direction. “We want to be able to replicate that all over Connecticut,” Reiss said Monday. “That’s the gold standard.”

Norwich voters approve $5 million road bond
Claire Bessette
Norwich — Voters on Tuesday again approved taking out a $5 million bond to improve city streets, bridges, drainage and infrastructure.
Voters approved the bond 3,204 to 1,128, unofficially, giving the city Public Works Department a pool of money to continue its road, bridge and infrastructure improvement program. Voters approved similar measures in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017.
Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said nearly $3 million remains in the 2017 bond. The city reconstructs six to eight miles of roadway per year at a cost of $350,000 per mile and has a goal of repaving the city's 162 miles of roadway on a 20-year cycle, he said.
The proposed schedule calls for paving six miles of roads in 2020 in East Great Plain, Laurel Hill, Thamesville and central city, mostly in East Great Plain and Laurel Hill. In 2021, the city plans to repave nearly three miles in Thamesville, two miles on the West Side and one mile in Greeneville.
In 2022, 6.6 miles of roadway would be repaved, including 2.45 miles in Norwichtown, 1.1 miles in Yantic and nearly a mile in Taftville and Plain Hill.
Other proposed work includes $500,000 for minor bridges and culverts, $300,000 for sidewalks and $200,000 for guiderails.

Direct Energy parent acquires S. Windsor fuel cell plant
Matt Pilon
British multinational energy-services company says it’s acquired a 5-megawatt fuel cell installation that’s under construction in South Windsor.
Centrica disclosed this week that its New Jersey-based Centrica Business Solutions arm acquired the 515 John Fitch Boulevard project back in March from South Energy Investments LLC. The deal hadn’t previously been publicly announced.
The price was not disclosed.
Centrica said the fuel cell project, which has a 20-year contract to sell its output to Eversource, will be completed next year.
The property on which the fuel cell is being built is just a few miles down the road from Doosan Fuel Cell America, which manufactured the plant.
Across the Connecticut River to the southwest, Centrica and its subsidiary, Direct Energy -- which is active in Connecticut’s retail energy supply market -- are also involved in a 20-megawatt installation that aims to power a proposed data center on a portion of the historic Stanley Works manufacturing campus in New Britain.


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