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CT Construction Digest Monday January 26, 2020

Transportation projects expected to disrupt Stamford traffic in 2020
Ignacio Laguarda
Hearst Connecticut Media
STAMFORD — If you hate being stuck in traffic, this is the story for you.
At a recent meeting of the city’s Transportation Committee, members of the Traffic Department presented an inventory of big construction projects that will likely cause traffic this year.
One project intended to make it safer for people on foot in Glenbrook received some push back from a member of the Board of Representatives.
The project would eliminate the northbound right-turn lane on Hope Street at Glenbrook Road, instead creating more green space. Cars would still be able to make the right turn, but the intersection would be narrower. The idea is that eliminating the right-turn lane, described as a “slip lane” since cars do not have to slow down to continue on the road, would make it much safer for pedestrians.
10 projects in 2020 that will impact traffic:
West Avenue and West Main Street traffic design changes
Atlantic Street Bridge improvements
Replacement of Route 1 bridge over Noroton River
Replacement of South State Street Bridge over Rippowam River
Repair of I-95 bridge over South State Street and Metro North tracks
Summer Street pedestrian improvements at Hoyt Street, North Street, Broad Street and Main Street
Traffic signal modernization at various intersections
Glenbrook Road at Hope Street redesign
Davenport Street reconstruction
Rep. J.R. McMullen asked if the redesign would create more traffic.
“We’ll be creating an environment that ask drivers to drive the speed limit, which is not what happens there now,” Jim Travers, transportation bureau chief, responded. “If we want to keep pedestrians safe, the only way we can do it is to normalize intersections.”
McMullen said Hope Street is one of two major thoroughfares used by residents in the neighborhood to get to downtown.
“So this is going to create congestion that’s going to back up into Glenbrook and then ultimately into Springdale,” he said, before describing rush-hour traffic in the area as a “nightmare.”
“All I’m asking is that we create roadways that are safer for all users,” Travers said.
Overall, Travers and his department presented about 10 projects that would likely create traffic snafus in 2020. However, the list is far from complete. Road paving projects organized by the Highways Department and utility projects from the Engineering Department were not included.
One of the projects discussed was the intersection of West Avenue and West Main Street, a common bottleneck during rush hour. The West Side intersection will be getting a makeover meant to solve the problem of traffic building up behind cars turning left on West Avenue. The redesign will include new dedicated left turns in all four directions. The project should be completed by June.
Other ongoing projects include improvements to the Atlantic Street Bridge that carries Metro North tracks and the replacement of the Rt. 1 bridge that goes over the Noroton River near the Darien line that will be done by 2021.
New projects for 2020 will include the rehabilitation of the bridge on South State Street between Greenwich Avenue and Washington Boulevard that was originally built in 1847. The bridge needs to be fixed because of the deterioration of the stone masonry piers and arches that support the structure.
That project will begin in the spring, said Garrett Bolella, traffic engineer for the city.
The I-95 bridge that travels over Metro North tracks, Myrtle Avenue and South State Street will be the recipient of a number of repairs starting this year. The work, which is funded by the state with a budget of roughly $26 million, will result in frequent off-peak hour closures of travel lanes and periodic closure of the Elm Street northbound I-95 on-ramp.
Another project that could create traffic slowdown is the Summer Street pedestrian plan.
“This is going to be a transformative project for our downtown,” Bolella said.
The pedestrian-focused project will bring improvements to four intersections - Hoyt Street, North Street, Broad Street and Main Street - along Summer. Those improvements will include curb extensions to create wider walkways for pedestrians, as well as better signals for crosswalks.
The construction, which is 95 percent funded by the federal government, has a budget of $1.7 million.
The area around Pulaski Street will also be the site of a number of traffic improvements and temporary traffic buildup.
Work will involve installing the city’s first roundabout at the intersection of Pulaski and Greenwich Avenue, to relieve congestion in the Waterside neighborhood, as well as improve travel lanes at the intersection of Greenwich Avenue and Davenport Street, the latter of which will be the recipient of brand new bike lanes.
Once complete, the redesigned streets should provide for safer passageways for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, according to the city’s website.
 
Sacred Heart University will build a nearly 4,000-capacity, $60 million hockey and skating arena on its West Campus in Fairfield, according to a press release from the University.
“The facility will be home to our Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs, our nationally ranked figure skating team and our men’s club ice hockey team. It is the continuation of a robust, multi-year building and expansion program reflecting our significant growth, appeal and national status,” SHU President John J. Petillo said in the release.
The release said the arena would be completed in 2022, and will feature a number of amenities for students and guests, including a pro shop, beer gardens, food venues, suites, meeting rooms and offices. Construction will begin this summer.
“This arena will be the Division I intercollegiate skating crown jewel and a standout facility in the Northeast,” Jim Barquinero, senior vice president, enrollment, student affairs & athletics said in the release. “In addition to providing a sophisticated and beautiful home venue for our teams, it will serve our entire university community and residents throughout the region,” he said. Barquinero gave a nod to SHU coaches and hockey players, past and present, whose dedication and commitment led to this moment. “It truly is the culmination of many years of athletic excellence by all our former hockey players—men and women—who have donned the Pioneer jersey.” He said future plans call for the addition of a women’s club ice hockey team, synchronized skating and more.
“The arena will be engineered to the highest standards, with enormous attention to detail and quality involving the design of locker and training rooms, spectator space and the rink itself,” Michael Kinney, senior vice president for finance said in the release. “It will include broadcast facilities and a wide range of complementary amenities.”
Sacred Heart said the the building would have multiple uses, including hosting special events such as guest lectures, concerts, convocations and other activities open to students and the community. There will be also ice skating time available to students, faculty, staff and community members. And the arena will also serve serve as a classroom for SHU students studying in the areas of sports communication & media, sport management, hospitality and others.
“This arena will be a game-changer for Sacred Heart University, our student-athletes and coaches, visiting teams and the youth and families already supporting our athletic teams,” Bobby Valentine, executive director of SHU athletics said in the release. “Not only does it provide a fitting venue for what will soon be a national hockey powerhouse, but it creates a halo effect that elevates all of our Division I athletic programs. It’s another example of Sacred Heart’s commitment to providing our student-athletes, students and fans with a remarkable experience whenever they step on our campus.”
Petillo noted the new arena will also “They will use it as a practice space for learning sound and video equipment, doing broadcasts, filming and more,” he said.
The arena is being designed by architectural firm ALG of North Dakota and the S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury.
It will be built on SHU’s West Campus, home of the University’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology, Isabelle Farrington College of Education, a wide range of innovation and technology resources, a 27-room guest facility and a variety of other University departments and programs. It is located a minute off Exit 46 of the Merritt Parkway.

Marine construction firm envisions expansion, new pier in New London
Greg Smith           
New London — Mohawk Northeast Inc., a heavy civil construction and engineering company that operates a marine services division in Groton, is contemplating an ambitious expansion project in New London that would boost use of the city's waterfront.
The Plantsville-based company recently purchased three acres of land off Lewis Street on the Thames River adjacent to State Pier that a century ago was the site of the Thames River Lumber Company, a thriving lumber yard complete with a pier for offloading ships carrying wood.
The site, just north of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, now features a collection of warehouse buildings that Mohawk had been leasing for the past several years and uses for storage of vehicles, equipment and material. Public records show the company, under the name West Bank Properties LLC, purchased the site, listed as 18 Eastern Ave., for $2 million from Eastern Avenue Properties.
Under plans in the early conceptual stage, Mohawk imagines a bulkhead to expand use of the shoreline, a staging area, railroad spur, and a 100-foot-by-400-foot pier — enough space to dock barges and other vessels for repairs or offloading equipment and bulk materials. The parcel offers water access and straddles the rail line, making the site an optimal place to use both the waterway and freight rail for its marine construction operations, said J. David Schill, Mohawk's vice president of special projects and business development.
As opposed to the state-owned State Pier, Mohawk would provide a significant tax boost to the city.
“The area is just not being used. Other than water access, rail access is critical,” Schill said. “There just hasn’t been any private shorefront development related to construction, heavy civil operations, in I can’t remember how long. It’s a shame.”
Mohawk’s marine operations are contained to a Groton site directly across the river from the New London parcel. It maintains four tugs, has numerous barges and cranes and clients that include the Navy, Electric Boat, Coast Guard and state Department of Transportation. Mohawk was the general contractor of the work on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge and performs work on state highways, bridges and shorefront structures.
“Right now, there’s no port other than the State Pier that can be used for these types of projects,” Schill said. “We’re already vested in this area and would love to see New London thrive. Developing this and expanding our operation down here would mean more jobs and more opportunities for the city and for us. It’s a great opportunity for the region.”
Schill said the company performs fabrication work and envisions the New London site being used as a staging area for any number of projects happening in the region.
“The city is extremely excited about this,” New London Mayor Michael Passero said. “It’s an area famously underutilized. They will actually restore port infrastructure to a section of the river that historically had infrastructure but was lost. It’s just another sign that the maritime economy in the Thames River is coming back to life.”
Other recent activity in the commercial and industrial area under the bridge includes the opening of a solid waste management and recycling facility by Connecticut Waste Processing Materials at 45 Fourth St.
Schill is quick to point out that Mohawk’s plans still are in the "very preliminary stages.” The company has had discussions with city officials and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and plans future talks with the Army Corps of Engineers about the feasibility of the project.
While initial meetings were positive, Schill said there is still a long way to go before it becomes clear the project can move forward.
Mohawk’s plans are separate from the planned redevelopment of State Pier, which is expected to be transformed into a base of operations for the offshore wind industry. An agreement, among offshore wind developers ├śrsted-Eversource, the Connecticut Port Authority and State Pier operator Gateway for the more than $93 million redevelopment of State Pier, still awaits final signatures.
The plans would shrink traditional uses of State Pier and is expected to displace DRVN Enterprises Inc., which stores and provides salt to area municipalities.
Schill said the two projects are not related, though he did not rule out Mohawk performing construction work at State Pier, accommodating operations displaced from the State Pier or even work to support some of the offshore wind industry’s ancillary operations, such as steel fabrication.
Schill said Mohawk’s idea of an expansion project was underway years before news of the offshore wind industry’s venture in New London was made public. Schill said Mohawk in is the marine construction industry and does not anticipate accepting cargo ships at the site.
“It’s not our industry. It’s not what we do. We’re not cargo handlers,” he said. “State Pier has its own operation. There are other entities in the area that need access to marine operations. We’re looking to support any local businesses that we can.”
Passero said the city would partner with Mohawk and any other industry looking to develop the city’s shoreline, and would support their various regulatory applications “vigorously.”
“This is going to be a long process and it's just out of the gates,” Schill said.

 

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