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CT Construction Digest Thursday December 12, 2019

New Haven alders push $838M neuroscience center forward amid traffic, gentrification concerns
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — The city has advanced a major medical project that is slated to bring $1 billion in economic expansion to the region, although more changes in parking are expected and alders added their voices to concerns with future displacement of low-income residents tied to the growth.
Years in the planning by Yale New Haven Hospital, the Legislation Committee of the Board of Alders approved amendments to a Planned Development District at its St. Raphael’s Campus to allow construction of a neuroscience center and new replacement inpatient rooms and beds to upgrade aging facilities.
It was one of two important legislative approvals tackled by the committee that featured hearings that continued for almost six hours.
For the hospital plan, the hearing covered general support for the new neuroscience center, but there was criticism of the carbon footprint of the new garages and the impact on asthma rates in the city, as well as some some questions on the architecture.
Despite several requests that approval be delayed, the committee sent the plan to the full Board of Alders for a vote in early January.
The $838 million neuroscience center, which will be built over the next five years, will house research and treatment for persons with strokes, ALS, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It is expected to draw patients from across the country, but of importance to the alders, represents a state-of-the-art medical facility for the area.
The committee approved changes to the medical area overall parking plan that covers the needs of Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale University Medical School and the Connecticut Mental Health Center, increasing the total number of parking spaces by about 100 to 12,277.
But because two major parking areas used by personnel — 600 spaces at the former Coliseum site and 472 at the Sherman-Tyler parking lot — will become development sites, there was a need to accommodate about 1,000 more spaces in the medical area’s parking demand This will be taken care of by the expansion of a garage on Orchard Street, the addition of a second garage on the St. Raphael’s campus with the hospital leasing parking available in a garage being built on Legion Avenue.
The entire project on Chapel Street, Sherman Parkway, Orchard Street and George Street is within the existing footprint of property already owned by the hospital.
Yale New Haven Hospital is the fourth-largest in the country and the largest safety net hospital in the state.
Hospital officials said it is the largest state taxpayer, sending Hartford $300 million annually in taxes. That is in addition to $5.6 million in property taxes to New Haven, $3 million in a one-time supplemental payment to the city last year and another $3 million in an annual voluntary payment. Vincent Petrini, a vice president at the hospital, called the project “transformational,” one that was “born from the commitment to the highest levels of care” that will allow investments on “the frontiers of medicine” in treating people with movement disorders.
As for the upgrade in patient beds, officials said they can’t build this project fast enough given the demand, particularly for adult patients, which currently can run to more than 90 percent capacity.
The aldermanic committee also approved easements and licenses for two overhead pedestrian bridges, as well as for utilities.
A traffic study by Tighe and Bond concluded that the project is not expected to make a significant impact on traffic operations within the study area, which covered 23 locations around the hospital.
There was pushback from alders on this and extending the impact study will be the subject of ongoing discussions before final approval by the full board, as well as at site plan review by the City Plan Commission.
Alder Adam Marchand, D-25, chairman of the meeting, said the city should look ahead to revamping the general parking requirements for the hospital given overall transportation changes in the country with people expected to have fewer cars in the future and wanting to live close to where they work.
Alder Dolores Colon, D-6, said the project cannot move forward without the proposed garages, and while she would like to see a cut in carbon emissions now, people still want their cars, although, like Marchand, she hoped eventually there will be better public transportation.
To mitigate the additional cars, the Tighe and Bond engineer said they would replace the traffic signals at the four corners of the main campus, which includes Chapel Street at Orchard Street and Sherman Parkway and George Street at Orchard and Sherman, while also upgrading the pedestrian signal at George and Day streets.
He previously said the hospital made investments along the Frontage roads under the Smilow Cancer Center project and the engineer recommended implementing timing revisions to those locations. He said reducing the impact to Orchard Street was very important, so the driveway to the new garages will be on George and Chapel streets, not Orchard.
Board of Alders Majority Leader Richard Furlow, D-27, said he wants more information on how the traffic would effect Route 34 and Whalley Avenue, and expects to amend the plan at the full board meeting.
Alder Jeanette Morrison, D-22, suggested the hospital commit to putting money set aside for traffic calming measures if the need arises after this project is built. Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr., D-26, agreed. “If there is any budgetary impact that is going to happen to the city, we really could use some help around these traffic changes,” he said.
Brackeen said Vista Terrace, Edgewood Way, Edgewood Avenue and Fountain Street already are heavily impacted by traffic coming from Bethany and Shelton and the bump in jobs at the hospital would add to that. “There is no way that I can be convinced that there is no contributing factor connected to the hospital/university,” Brackeen said.
Marchand said the alders should make clear that “they want to be convinced that the traffic impacts and the pedestrian impacts will be dealt with.”
Michael Piscitelli, city acting economic development administrator, said New Haven has “the second-largest concentration of companies in the biosciences and life sciences field and that has a lot to do with these centers of excellence at Yale New Haven Hospital and the Yale School of Medicine.”
Piscitelli said about one-sixth of the world’s population is affected by neurological diseases, the impetus for this research center.
Doug Hausladen, who heads traffic and parking for the city, said the traffic upgrades are estimated to cost more than $2 million. He said he was looking forward to discussing with the hospital additional improvements in the area for corridor synchronization.
On the issue of environmental justice and potential displacement of poorer residents if housing near the proposed neuroscience center is upgraded, several people commented, as did the alders.
Brackeen said the applicable term is “development induced displacement. It is real and there is an impact.”
He said Johns Hopkins has done studies on this. He said the comments of residents who addressed this issue should not be dismissed when they are only given three minutes to explain themselves at this public hearing.
“I don’t want them brushed off, that they don’t know what they are talking about. Yes, they do,” Brackeen said,
Marchand also commented on displacement. “Whenever you have projects, it is like gravity. It has a distorting effect on property values.” That presents itself as an investment for some, but then others can’t afford to rent any more, a phenomenon that happens over and over. He said values are likely to go up for the surrounding properties.
“That is something that we should take really seriously,” Marchand said. He said the city possibly could consider such an impact in its zoning rules.
“We have to operate within the law, but we are also the legislature so we could change the law,” he said to finger-snapping from some in the audience. He said such an update could be complementary to a study on inclusionary zoning.
Kerry Elllington said since she moved into the neighborhood 10 years ago, rents have been going up. “It is increasingly being gentrified,” she said. Ellington wants the hospital to do a study on displacement and asked that the project be rejected or tabled.
Petrini said they also are concerned with the availability of affordable housing, with 100 employees taking advantage of its homebuyer program. He said they offer other support to help with affordable housing construction in and around the project.“The conversation continues,” he said. Petrini said no renters are being displaced by the construction itself.
Colon asked whether the hospital would consider building affordable housing for its workers.“We are more than willing to have that conversation,” Petrini said. “There are a whole variety of ways we can potentially impact that in a positive way. ... We will do whatever we can to preserve access to affordable housing.”On other issues, architect Freshteh Bekhrad said the proposed building and garage should have more of a human scale, rather than one that is so massive and industrial-looking.
Kate Walton said she also has strong concerns over the design of the facility and said it will have a negative impact on the area. “It is going to be a long, scary block going down George Street.”
In another area, Walton said the St. Raphael’s campus is “the epicenter for asthma, not only for New Haven but for the state of Connecticut,” and the additional traffic and garages will add to that.
Frankie White, who lives on Orchard Street, said her family already feels the impact of the traffic and she asked that approval be put off. She said there a lot of residents with asthma from the bad air quality, including relatives.
Unequivocal support for the project was offered by Garth Sheehan, CEO at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, given the job creation potential and spinoffs from more biotech companies. Ernest Pagan, a representative of the carpenters union, said the new center means stability in the construction trades for the next four years and high-quality health care.A father of a handicapped daughter said his family won’t have to travel as far for treatment for her.
Jeff Klaus said the new neuroscience center is an example of “destination medicine” and will bring in outside dollars to the region. “From an economic standpoint, the more outside dollars ... is the best kind of capital that our city can use,” he said. Klaus said the state is in dire fiscal condition and New Haven should not count on it for more assistance over the next decade.
Klaus also said the city is in a “ precipitous fiscal condition.”
On another issue, there are two historic Victorian buildings on Sherman Avenue that the project will raze. The hospital has offered to take them apart and let anyone who is interested recover specific architectural elements.An official said moving them to another site would cost about $500,000 and that doesn’t include the cost of foundations. Also, they don’t have a site that could accommodate them.

Big advantage for trucks-only tolls: They will fool most people
Chris Powell
With elected officials, the best taxes are those that most people can't see or understand and that can't easily be evaded even by the people who  can see and understand them. That's one reason Governor Lamont last week settled on a proposal to impose highway tolls exclusively on trucks. The other reason is that once the toll gantries are in place, they can toll all traffic if trucks-only tolling is found unconstitutional or against federal law.
The governor says his latest toll proposal could raise nearly $200 million a year for transportation infrastructure. People are supposed to think that this revenue will come only from truckers and not ask where the truckers will get the money. Of course the truckers will get it from raising rates for deliveries throughout Connecticut, thereby raising prices on everything shipped into the state. Most people will pay through intermediaries without realizing that they are paying at all -- politically perfect.
Advocates of this tolling claim that trucks don't pay their "fair share" of taxes while doing most of the damage to Connecticut's highways. But trucks in interstate commerce already pay heavy taxes to all states, including Connecticut, and most of the highway damage in the state is due to its sharply variable climate, not trucks.
But no matter, since the Lamont administration and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly want tolls not for transportation at all but just to avoid economizing in the rest of state government in favor of transportation. Already this year they have diverted transportation fund money to other spending.
Indeed, while the governor was touting tolls again, the University of Connecticut announced that it will raise tuition by 23 percent over five years, almost 5 percent a year. The leader of the state Senate's Republican minority, Len Fasano of North Haven, groused about this and the university's longstanding failure to control costs, but no one else in authority criticized UConn.
Nobody ever asks a critical question with specifics, like whether the university should raise tuition for ordinary students while continuing to waive tuition for children of the university's own employees, a spectacular fringe benefit worth $14,000 per year per student.
Since most UConn employees are amply compensated quite apart from the tuition waiver, it's unlikely that the university would lose anyone essential if this fringe benefit was withdrawn. But as the total annual cost for an in-state student at UConn surpasses $31,000, increasingly pricing out middle-class kids or burdening them with loans, the public again is just supposed to shut up and pay in the confidence that the university's new president, Thomas C. Katsouleas, and the Board of Trustees are doing all they can to control costs.
Meanwhile Katsouleas is receiving a salary of $525,000 per year with annual fringe benefits worth perhaps another $200,000 and is guaranteed annual raises of 3 percent.

Archaeologists uncover 12,500-year-old site in Avon, showing evidence of the earliest known population in Connecticut

When the state Department of Transportation began construction on a bridge over the Farmington River archaeologists suspected there could be historic sites hidden under the soil. In January, once excavation was underway, crews discovered evidence of what scientists have called southern New England’s earliest inhabitants. The site, located near Old Farms Road, is estimated to be about 12,500 years old, dating back to a time known as the Paleoindian Period. It has been named in honor of Brian D. Jones, the state archaeologist who died in July. The Paleoindian site is the crowning discovery after years of archaeological digs in that part of Avon, according to Catherine Labadia, a staff archaeologist with the State Historic Preservation Office. Labadia said previous excavations have uncovered younger sites. But the DOT project allowed for a deeper dig — and more significant finds.“This is the once-in-lifetime opportunity to look [at a site of this age] in Connecticut,” Labadia said. “This site has the potential to make us understand the first peopling of Connecticut in a way we haven’t been able to.”  The DOT hired a Storrs-based firm, Archaeological & Historical Services, Inc., to conduct the dig itself. The principal investigator on the dig, Senior Archaeologist David Leslie, said excavation turned up about 15,000 artifacts and 27 features. Artifacts in this case were mostly tools — and the archaeologists count each small fragment as an artifact. Features, Leslie said, are more rare. The DOT hired a Storrs-based firm, Archaeological & Historical Services, Inc., to conduct the dig itself. The principal investigator on the dig, Senior Archaeologist David Leslie, said excavation turned up about 15,000 artifacts and 27 features. Artifacts in this case were mostly tools — and the archaeologists count each small fragment as an artifact. Features, Leslie said, are more rare. In general, features are remnants of human activity, including holes and walls — what Leslie described as “traces of behavior” that have been recorded in the earth. At the Avon site, Leslie said, archaeologists found an open fire pit, or hearth, and a number of posts from temporary houses. Only a handful of Paleoindian features have ever been discovered in this part of the country, Leslie said, and the Avon site revealed more than two dozen. The site shows evidence of the earliest known population in Connecticut, she said. “Right now, this is the oldest. And people have been looking for Paleoindian sites for quite some time," Leslie said. The Avon site was discovered as the DOT prepped to reconstruct the Farmington River bridge at Old Farms Road, near Route 10. The project cost a total of about $14.7 million In this project and in any others, the DOT is subject to the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires agencies to look into potential historic landmarks before building on or disturbing a site. Because there often isn’t enough funding for independent archaeology research, many discoveries come about after a state or federal agency starts a construction project, according to both Labadia and DOT Staff Archaeologist Scott Speal. “Far and away most of the archaeological resources that get investigated happened through .... agencies doing their work, going about their business and spending money,” Speal said. In the case of the Avon site, the DOT project required deep excavation for the construction of bridge abutments. Labadia said that such a deep dive — the artifacts and features were lodged about six feet under the surface — would likely have been cost prohibitive to archaeologists working on their own. “It is these federal laws and the requirements that make people stop, look and listen,” Labadia said. “It’s those laws that really have resulted in the largest identification of archaeological sites.” Leslie, the site’s principal investigator, said that the DOT agreed to “100 percent data recovery” of the Avon site, meaning that the plot of land was fully excavated and each patch of dirt was sifted through for artifacts. “They afforded us time and money to excavate the entire site,” Leslie said. “We preserved it through excavation.”The Avon site and all of its artifacts may have been left undiscovered if not for the work of Brian Jones, an archaeologist who worked at Archaeological & Historical Services and later became the state archaeologist. Jones, who died over the summer after a battle with cancer, had a “knack” for finding Paleoindian sites, Leslie said. The DOT first hired the Storrs-based archaeology firm in 2012 to 2014, Leslie said. The DOT tasked the firm with conducting an initial site survey of the Avon site, which Jones led.But that survey didn’t turn up anything of note. Nevertheless, Jones wrote in the survey report that he believed there may be something lurking deeper below the surface, in part because of the site’s proximity to the river.  The DOT project was then stalled for several years, but the need to dig deeper was included in the project’s memorandum of agreement, Leslie said. In 2018, when Jones was the state archaeologist, his former firm was once again contracted for work at the site. This time, the crews dug about five feet down, Leslie said. Within a week or two, with artifacts and features already popping up, they realized they’d found a Paleoindian site. “Many other archaeologists, I think, have missed sites that are deeply buried because we’re used to only investigating the top few feet,” Leslie said. But “Brian had a feeling that there could be the potential for archaeology here.” Even after Jones was diagnosed with cancer, he would visit the site regularly, offering his advice and expertise to the archaeological crews. “Brian was battling cancer throughout the past year ... and yet he still found time almost every week to be on site with us,” Leslie said. Labadia, of the State Historic Preservation Office, said the site discovery felt like a final ode to Jones’ years of dedicated work. “It was almost like a gift that was given to him,” Labadia said. To honor Jones and his work, the Avon site has been dubbed the Dr. Brian D. Jones Paleoindian Site.

Training Boom Set To Power Offshore Wind Energy Growth
Johanna Knapschaefer
With construction of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s new offshore wind training facility just completed and classes under way, climbing structures for on-water crew transfer training and indoor work at height, are compelling to students. “This will be the first U.S. facility to include all five components of Global Wind Organization training, including sea survival,” says Tom Pham, academy project officer.
The push for the $1.73-million facility on Cape Cod to meet training standards of GWO—a Denmark-based group of offshore wind energy market participants—comes as sector growth momentum along the eastern seaboard drives demand for a trained craft and technical workforce.
As eight East Coast states—particularly Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Virginia—push forward to install offshore wind, “developers, turbine manufacturers and unions all have a need for workforce training because this is a new industry to us,” says Michael Burns, academy director for maritime and professional training.
The crew transfer facility on the academy pier in Buzzard’s Bay comprises a 12-ft-wide by 7-ft-long by 10-ft-high lightweight aluminum gangway structure with a 20-ft-high by 9-in-wide ladder. It is designed to simulate personnel boarding a transfer boat and climbing a ladder from the vessel onto a stationary turbine platform. There also is a newly constructed indoor climbing facility.
“Basic safety training will be required for all offshore wind workers who are out on the water,” says Nils Bolgen, offshore wind program director at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in Boston, which provided $500,000 to build the training facility. “The key missing component in the U.S is crew transfer training,” he says.
“That’s where the accidents happen, when somebody is going from boat to boat or a floating structure to a fixed structure,” says David Borrus, business manager for Pile Drivers union Local 56, which includes divers. Workers will join the first 48-hour, four-week program, in partnership with global safety training provider Relyon Nutec, which will include 12 trainees per class.
The academy expects to train 60 by next May, also including cadets, electricians and welders.
Local Access
Local 56 workers are set to help build the $2.8-billion, 800-MW Vineyard Wind offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, the first in the U.S. at utility scale, even as its construction start now is delayed to next year with an unexpected—and controversial—federal permitting delay in August.
Project developers already have started the $2-million Windward Workforce Fund to recruit and train state residents for offshore wind jobs.
“We are collaborating with MassCEC, educational partners and workforce development institutions to set up and help fund required safety and technical training programs … to ensure local residents have access to the industry,” says Jennifer Cullen, Vineyard Wind permitting and outreach specialist.
Vineyard also is negotiating a project labor agreement with the state Building Trades Council to “determine how trades will address unique conditions of working in this new industry, including need for multiskilled workers, offshore stays of two-plus weeks and shift patterns required,” she says.
GE Renewables General Manager Rainer Broering said that with 22.5 GW of offshore wind power potential in the U.S and with GE set to deploy in two east coast markets, Haliade-X, the world’s largest offshore wind turbine, he sees more skilled jobs beyond the one- or two-year construction timeline.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D)’s enthusiasm for offshore wind as a more cost-effective clean energy source prompted him on Nov. 19 to boost the state target to 7,500 MW by 2035, up from 3,500 MW by 2030.
The sector also is looking on campus for its workforce.
MassCEC is funding offshore wind technician certification training at several state community colleges and at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Tufts University established this fall a new master’s degree in offshore wind energy engineering, the first U.S. graduate program dedicated to offshore wind structural and geotechnical design.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced in April that Danish wind developer Orsted U.S. and utility Eversource, partners in the 880-MW Sunrise offshore wind project, pledged $4.5 million to support sector education and supply chain development in the state.
Of that, $3 million is for University of Rhode Island programs. The firms also committed $10 million to create a national workforce training center with unions and Suffolk County Community College in New York.
Ian Baring-Gould, technology deployment manager for the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab, told attendees at an industry conference last month in Boston that a regional approach to workforce development is key to avoid having unneeded training programs that will fail.

Update to Waterbury-Oxford airport master plan underway
OXFORD — Connecticut airport officials and consultants have begun the process of revising Waterbury-Oxford Airport’s long-term master plan, evaluating the traffic in and out of the airport and what new facilities or equipment will be needed to accommodate that growth.
The environmental and transportation consulting firm CDM Smith will research and write the plan over the next year.
They have already started surveying the airport property and estimating how much activity is expected to increase at Waterbury-Oxford, the fourth-busiest airport in Connecticut.
Each public airport in the United States is required by the FAA to submit master plans and revise them approximately every 10 years. The last master plan for Waterbury-Oxford was finished in 2007. The current plan will include information going back to 2018 and will cover future development through 2038.
The firm will take an inventory of existing airport facilities, forecast the future growth and evaluate what capital improvements will be needed to accommodate that growth.
CDM Smith planner Zachary Duvall spoke about the master plan at an informational meeting Wednesday night at the Wyndham hotel Southbury.
Working with the Connecticut Airport Authority, CDM Smith consultants will assess plans to move the airport’s firefighting and administration building, build new hangars on the airport property and establish a customs office at the airport so private international flights don’t have to stop at other airports before arriving in Oxford.
“You look at the past, the present, the future of an airport to determine where it needs to go,” he said.
The firm will evaluate the environmental impact of any planned changes or increased activity levels, Duvall said.
Neighbors of the airport from Oxford and Middlebury raised concerns Wednesday about the potential for increased noise and traffic at the airport, and the impact on surrounding wetlands.
While the revised plan will anticipate growth of private jet traffic to the airport, there is no plan to grow the size of the airport or expand its service past its current general aviation status, airport manager Matthew J. Kelly, said.

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