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CT Construction Digest Thursday January 16, 2020


The leaders of the House and Senate said Wednesday they expect transportation financing legislation to be finished and made public Tuesday, a milestone that would enable them to schedule a public hearing and finalize a vote count, two of the last tasks necessary before a vote on passage in special session.
In separate interviews, Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they have largely resolved questions raised by rank-and-file members about Gov. Ned Lamont’s 10-year, $19 billion transportation proposal that would establish tolls on tractor trailers at a dozen highway bridges.
With legislative lawyers working on what could be a final draft, the Lamont administration is pushing for a public hearing next week, something that Aresimowicz said was “ambitious, but possible.”
Aresimowicz said he wants a hearing consistent with existing legislative rules, which call for a five-day notice period. Due to the availability of lawmakers, Looney said no vote was likely on the transportation bill or a related bond package before the week of Jan. 27th. The regular session opens on Feb. 5. 
A tolls opponent failed to win a special session for a House seat Tuesday, and an issues poll commissioned by environmental and labor groups in advance of the 2020 legislative session recently found a majority of Connecticut voters support “instituting tolls on eighteen-wheeler trucks on twelve Connecticut bridges.” 
The poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a global firm that came to national prominence working for Bill Clinton in 1992 and works for interest groups and Democratic candidates, found 51% of voters in favor and 42% opposed to the administration’s plan, but the numbers improved to 64% in favor and 35% opposed when nudged with more information about the scope of the administration’s plan.
The administration hopes the election results and poll reassures Democratic lawmakers, who know that Republicans hope to use tolls as a wedge issue in 2020.
“We’ve reached a point with House and Senate Democrats where we all agree on what the direction needs to be, as to how we’re going to address our transportation crisis,” said Max Reiss, the governor’s communications director. “It’s important for the public to understand precisely what it is, not only how to get to the solution, but what the end result will be.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the draft is overdue.“If Gov. Lamont is confident in his plan, why won’t he share it with the public, or at the very least the lawmakers who he is asking to vote on it? What doesn’t he want us to know? I can only assume something is in the bill, or not in the bill, that he wants to keep away from the public,” Fasano said.
Democrats said the public will see the bill no later than Tuesday, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
The bill will make clear that passenger-car tolls are not authorized, and Aresimowicz said there was a possibility that car tolls could be placed before the lawmakers so they could go on record voting in opposition, if that was their position.
Aresimowicz and Looney said one of the concerns raised by urban lawmakers was that the state’s urban bus routes be updated to reflect the needs to city residents who do not own cars to commute to suburban jobs. They want assurances that some members of a new transportation oversight board will be mass transit advocates.
The initial rates would be set in legislation, with future increases up to the oversight board, whose members would be appointed by the  governor and legislative leaders. The potential increases, legislators said, most likely would be pegged to inflation.
Adam Wood, a spokesman for the environmental and labor groups that commissioned the poll, declined to identify the members of the coalition. But he provided a copy of a three-page memo analyzing the results of two tolls questions.
The results varied by congressional district, with the least support in the 5th District, where 47% were in favor and 48% opposed. The other four districts had clear majorities in support. The broader push language produced stronger majorities across the board.
 “The language tested below increases support for tolls on trucks among voters in every demographic group and across all parts of the state, including among voters in the 5th Congressional District who were initially divided,” said an unsigned memo accompanying the poll by GQR, as the polling firm is also known. “Among independent voters, 62 percent support the proposal while 36 percent remain opposed.”This is the description that moved the needle:
“As you may know, there is a new comprehensive transportation plan designed to reduce commuter drive times, fix crumbling roads and bridges, and reduce emissions that cause climate change. The goal is to create a sustainably funded long-term plan to fix Connecticut’s infrastructure. As part of this plan, Connecticut would institute tolls on eighteen-wheeler trucks on twelve of Connecticut’s bridges. The revenue from the tolls on trucks would be put in a dedicated fund for improvements to transportation and matched with seven hundred and fifty million dollars from the federal government. It will also make Connecticut eligible for low-interest federal loans.”
The poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is based on live telephone interviews with 500 likely voters from January 6 to 9. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, with higher margins for smaller subgroups. 
 
WORLD HEADQUARTERS
1101 15th Street, NW, Suite 900
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January 15, 2020

Majority of Connecticut Voters Support Instituting
Tolls on Trucks
Survey Findings

To:
Fro
m:

Interested Parties
GQR

A recent survey of likely voters in Connecticut finds majority support for instituting
tolls on 18-wheeler trucks on twelve Connecticut bridges. 1 Support for tolls on
trucks swells to nearly two-thirds after voters hear more about a long-term,
comprehensive transportation plan that would use the toll revenue to fund
important infrastructure projects.
A 51 percent majority of voters favor instituting tolls on 18-wheeler trucks, while
just 42 percent oppose the idea. Support hovers above the majority threshold
across most of the state and reaches 55 percent in the 3 rd Congressional District.
Independent voters favor instituting tolls on trucks by a 12-point margin (52 percent
favor – 40 percent oppose). Moderates, Democrats, independent women, and
college educated voters all favor the proposal by significant margins from the
outset.

1 GQR conducted a survey of 500 likely 2020 General Election voters in Connecticut. The survey was
conducted by live interviewers from January 6-9, 2020 and is subject to a margin of error of +/- 4.4
percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. Margin of error is higher among subgroups.

www.GQRR.com
Survey Findings



Page   2

Figure 1: Initial support for tolls on trucks

After hearing more information about the proposal, support for instituting tolls on
18-wheeler trucks climbs to a strong 64 percent majority. Just over one-third of
voters remain opposed. The language tested below increases support for tolls on
trucks among voters in every demographic group and across all parts of the state,
including among voters in the 5th Congressional District who were initially divided.
Among independent voters, 62 percent support the proposal while 36 percent
remain opposed.
As you may know, there is a new comprehensive transportation plan
designed to reduce commuter drive times, fix crumbling roads and
bridges, and reduce emissions that cause climate change. The goal is to
create a sustainably funded long-term plan to fix Connecticut's
infrastructure. As part of this plan, Connecticut would institute tolls on
eighteen-wheeler trucks on twelve of Connecticut's bridges. The revenue
from the tolls on trucks would be put in a dedicated fund for improvements
to transportation and matched with seven hundred and fifty million dollars
from the federal government. It will also make Connecticut eligible for lowinterest federal loans.

2020 All Rights Reserved

Jan-20
Survey Findings



Page   3

Figure 2: Informed support for tolls on trucks

Conclusion
Voters in Connecticut largely support instituting tolls on 18-wheeler trucks on twelve
of the state’s bridges. Support for tolls on trucks grows considerably in the context
of a comprehensive plan to fix Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure, reduce
congestion, and tackle climate change.

2020 All Rights Reserved

Jan-20

Bipartisan committee would have power to raise rates under latest plan for truck-only tolls

A 13-member council would have the power to approve increases in toll rates, rather than legislators or the state transportation department, according to the latest working draft of Gov. Ned Lamont’s truck-only toll bill. The 22-page draft, obtained by The Courant, says the council would be bipartisan with appointments by Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and a chairperson selected by Lamont. An earlier, shorter working draft had called for the state transportation department to have the power over toll increases, but some lawmakers have rejected that idea.House Majority Leader Matt Ritter of Hartford said Wednesday he could not support allowing unelected staff members at the transportation department to have the authority to set toll rates. "One thing that I feel strongly about is I do not want to give DOT any authority to raise rates,'' Ritter said. “So that is one pushback that we are hearing from our caucus.”The bill is still being crafted behind closed doors, and the legislature has postponed votes multiple times on the issue over the past six months. Even though Lamont has called for a vote “as soon as possible,” top legislators have still not scheduled a date.“We anticipate being able to present a final draft of the bill to our members by next week, and we will go over that with members to review it and see what questions they have,” Ritter said in an interview at the Capitol. “If that goes well and questions are answered, then we could begin thinking about scheduling things thereafter. Once we have a bill that’s drafted, and we have agreement on it, then any day is fair game, quite frankly. So I won’t predict the day or the week.”Ritter said it is often difficult to get legislators together when the General Assembly is not in session. The next regular session begins on Feb. 5, and he said that legislators have crafted their schedules around that date for the session that ends in May. “Generally speaking, the House and Senate both struggle — on both sides of the aisle — getting members when we are in special session,” Ritter said. “You never get 100% attendance. We are a part-time legislature. People have work. They have social plans and vacations. It’s very, very hard to get 100% attendance in a special session. It is always going to be a problem, no matter what the issue is, to get people here for a special session date.” Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven said he has repeatedly asked the governor’s office directly for more information about Lamont’s proposal and has received nothing in return. Fasano has not seen the latest working draft, and he was not notified that the bill calls for him to appoint one of the 13 members on the Transportation Policy Council that would set the future rates after the legislature votes on the initial bill. “If Gov. Lamont is confident in his plan, why won’t he share it with the public, or at the very least the lawmakers who he is asking to vote on it?” Fasano asked Wednesday. “What doesn’t he want us to know? I can only assume something is in the bill, or not in the bill, that he wants to keep away from the public. If the governor is as committed to transparency as he says he is, he needs to share his bill with the press, with the public and with all lawmakers immediately, Democrat and Republican, and stop playing games." The truck-only tolls, which would be located on a dozen bridges across the state and raise between $150 and $200 million per year, would help finance a 10-year, $19.4 billion transportation plan. The toll revenue would be used to pay back low-interest federal loans over a period of 35 years, up from an original plan for 27 years. “We are talking about a $19 billion cost for state taxpayers, and there is zero transparency,” Fasano said. "It’s outrageous that Republicans cannot even get a response to our questions and lawmakers from both parties are being kept in the dark.” Lamont’s chief spokesman, Max Reiss, pushed back against the statements by Fasano. “It is the height of hypocrisy for Sen. Fasano to complain about details of a transportation proposal that he has already said he won’t support, when he never proposed his own viable bill, continuing a track record of being all talk, and no substance," Reiss said Wednesday. "He continues to whine about the state budget while he never had the guts to propose his own line-by-line spending plan.'' Reiss said that the toll plan will help the state by reducing greenhouse gases and will help create jobs over 10 years. “As evidenced by his refusal to get off the sidelines, these are goals not shared by Sen. Fasano, through his actions and words, and I doubt he will ever share them based on his continuous comments,” Reiss said.Ritter also batted away criticisms. Asked about Republican complaints about secrecy, Ritter responded, “Here’s what the bill’s going to say — you can toll trucks on 12 bridges. I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to figure out what it’s going to say.”

‘Structurally deficient’ I-95 bridge in Stamford slated for $26.7 million in repairs
Ignacio Laguarda
STAMFORD — It carries 127,000 vehicles every day through Stamford, over three local roads and the underlying Metro-North train tracks, and it’s considered “structurally deficient.”
That’s why the 1958-built Interstate-95 bridge between Exits 7 and 8 is now slated to be repaired, with work expected to begin this year.
The curved structure, which crosses Myrtle Avenue, South State Street and Lafayette Street, is in need of repairs, particularly on the underside of the deck, which has developed hairline cracks, deteriorated concrete resulting in exposed rebar, as well as hollow areas and rust, officials said.
The “deficient” designation landed the bridge on Gov. Ned Lamont’s CT2030 plan, which envisions a system in which tolls on highways only for large tractor trailers will help pay for costly transportation repairs over the next decade.
His plan states, “The I-95 bridge over Metro-North in Stamford is in need of routine, but costly repairs to ensure the bridge’s safety and accessibility in future years.”
The structure is in a select group of bridges under the state’s control deemed deficient. Overall, about 4.5 percent of the 4,000 or so bridges owned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation are structurally deficient.
The project was awarded to low bidder Rotha Contracting Co. late last year for $16.9 million, but the total budget, which considers contingencies and incidentals, is $26.7 million.
The governor’s proposal had projected the cost to be between $20 million and $25 million.
The scope of the work will include patching of concrete on the deck, installation of a new protective membrane and new expansion joints and a new railing. Some beam bearings will be replaced, while concrete will be patched on abutments and piers and steel beams will be repaired and painted.
The project is expected to begin at some point during the construction season, which runs from April to November, and is estimated to be completed in 2021.
It will require frequent off-peak hour closures of travel lanes and periodic closure of the Elm Street northbound I-95 on-ramp.
Kevin Nursick, spokesman for the Connecticut DOT, said the work will likely cause traffic buildup.
“The traffic through there already is significant,” he said. “What we’re hoping to do is have the lowest impact on the busiest travel times. We want to minimize the impact on the morning and afternoon rush.”
While the deficient designation for the I-95 sounds alarming at first blush, it’s not quite cause for panic just yet, according to the state DOT.
The 62-year-old Stamford bridge has an overall score of 4, placing it in the lower rung among such structures in the state. The score is derived from grading three components of a bridge and taking the lowest score.
The trio of elements are the deck, the superstructure and the substructure.
The latter refers to all of the elements below and close to the ground that stabilize a bridge, while the superstructure refers to the girders and beams below the bridge and above the substructure.
The deck is the surface where cars travel, as well as the underside.
The I-95 bridge scored 5s on both the superstructure and substructure but got a 4 for the deck.
Nursick said the bridge’s score was “expected and anticipated,” as bridges naturally deteriorate over the years and need to be repaired or replaced.
“Sooner or later, everything takes a toll on it, no pun intended,” he said.
A rating of 0 would result in a bridge being closed down, while a 1 or 2 would mean the state has great concerns about a structure and may close it. Stamford’s I-95 bridge isn’t anywhere near either of those classifications, Nursick said.
And age has nothing to do with the score.
“We have 100-year-old bridges that are solid as a rock,” he said. “And then you have 50-year-old bridges you need to replace.”
Nursick used a baseball card analogy to make the point.
“You could have a Babe Ruth baseball card sitting in a package. That same card that’s gone through 5,000 different hands, is going to be tattered, and in worse shape,” he said, describing the difference.
The more likely deciding factor in a bridge’s lifespan is it’s “opportunity of deterioration,” Nursick said.
In the case of the I-95 bridge over Metro-North tracks, that opportunity is great.
As Nursick put it, the bridge has been “getting the living hell beat out of it” for decades, with a large volume of vehicles, including giant tractor trailers, traveling on the roadway every day, not to mention harsh weather conditions.

East Hampton’s new Town Hall looking good for spring opening
Jeff Mill
EAST HAMPTON — The new town hall/police complex is expected to be ready to open by mid-April.
Meanwhile, the Town Council has a date to consider selling the present town hall to a Bristol developer.
During their meeting this week, the council heard a report from Town Manager David E. Cox about a Jan. 7 visit the town staff made to the 34,000-square-foot complex being built inside the Edgewater Hills mixed-use development.
“Most of the rooms are in; the drywall is in. And the lockers for the Police Department are in as well,” Cox said.
In addition to combining all town offices in the new building and relocating the Police Department to more spacious quarters, the building will serve as the home to the Board of Education.
The town has allocated $18.9 million for the project.
Construction is continuing apace and is expected to be completed by the end of February.
“It should be ready to be turned over to us by March 1,” Cox said.
Then the process will begin to move the various town departments from either the existing town hall or leased space elsewhere in town.
That relocation process will result in some temporary service interruptions, Cox said.
“We should be ready to open by the middle of April - on or about Easter,” which this year falls on April 12, Cox said.
Cox had additional good news for the council, indicating there could be some savings upon completion of the project.
“Right now, the project is running ahead of the budget. If all goes well, the project could come out $100,000 or more in the black,” Cox said in an email Wednesday.
Turning to the proposed sale of the 73-year-old building, Cox said, “The next two steps are for the council to hold a public hearing and then set a town meeting to act on the sale.”
He proposed — and the council agreed — to hold the hearing and the meeting back-to-back on the evening of Jan. 27.
The proposed sale has already been reviewed and approved by the Board of Finance.
On Jan. 8, the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the proposed sale and determined the sale “is in compliance with the Plan of Conservation and Development. The town was asking for at least $500,000 of more for the building, which sits on 0.9 of an acre in the heart of town’s commercial center.
However, after nearly a year, only one offer was put forward. Bristol developer John Calciano offered the town $316,000.
The building will require substantial work. It is settling at an angle, is beset by leaks and the well that services the building is contaminated. By one estimate, it could cost at a minimum $300,000 to revive it. Caliano seemed unconcerned about that when he briefly spoke with The Press in December.
He said he was uncertain just what to he might do with the building but said it might be put to use for retail business.

Lamont administration releases May 2019 agreement outlining State Pier redevelopment terms
Julia Bergman
A 25-page document, obtained by The Day this week, outlines the terms of an agreement to redevelop State Pier as a hub for the offshore wind industry.
Some of the details of the memorandum of understanding signed in May 2019 by offshore wind partners Ørsted and Eversource, the Connecticut Port Authority and Gateway, which operates State Pier, and touted by Gov. Ned Lamont, have been discussed publicly, but the document had been kept private.
It outlines the major components of the State Pier deal, such as key deadlines envisioned by the parties, and the details of the proposed work to be done, including how it would be paid for. Many of the deadlines outlined in the memorandum have passed. For example, the first phase of construction at the pier was supposed to begin Dec. 1, 2019.
The deadlines have various incentives attached to them. If the redevelopment is complete and State Pier is ready for use by March 2022, Ørsted-Eversource would pay the port authority $10 million, the memorandum says.
The Day sought the memorandum via a Freedom of Information request several months ago, but the port authority declined to release it, saying it was part of ongoing negotiations.
On Monday, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere contacted the governor's communications director, Max Reiss, to express The Day's concerns that the newspaper and public were being denied access to the memorandum. Initially Reiss declined to release the document but later said the administration had reconsidered.
David Kooris, chairman of the port authority's board, said by phone Wednesday that the memorandum is the product of negotiations that occurred in late 2018 and early 2019 following the selection of Gateway as the operator of State Pier.
While some aspects of the memorandum are expected to stay intact in the finalized plan for State Pier, known as the harbor development agreement, many aspects have been subject to continued negotiations, Kooris said.
The Lamont administration has taken an active role in the negotiations as part of its greater oversight of the port authority due to the resignation of several key personnel and scrutiny over financial mismanagement and operations that came to a head over the summer.
"Frankly, some of this is the state coming in and the governor's team having a harder line on some of the issues that maybe were not properly negotiated by those who came prior," Kooris said.
He said the parties continue to meet and have "robust conversation" regularly and that he "strongly hopes" to present the finalized redevelopment plan to the port authority's board at its Jan. 21 meeting. He said he does not expect the board to vote on the agreement, as he wants to give members ample time to review it. The final agreement is contingent upon all federal and state permits required to support pier redevelopment.
"We are quickly approaching the decision point where frankly Ørsted and Eversource will have to secure their port alternative in order to guarantee they can meet their commitments," Kooris said, as part of their Revolution Wind Farm set to deliver electricity from federal waters south of Martha's Vineyard by 2023.
Kooris said the companies will need to make that decision within the next few months, which is why he's emphasized the need to finalize the details of the redevelopment.
The port authority, under the memorandum, would be responsible for securing all permits and overseeing design, engineering and construction in connection with the redevelopment. The agency would retain "100 percent of cost savings," but also would be responsible for any cost overruns, per the memorandum.
Gateway would provide access to State Pier for redevelopment and would not be required to pay rent or "meet minimum variable revenue thresholds" during construction, given no activity will take place during that time. One of Gateway's responsibilities, as outlined in the memorandum, is to make "best efforts" to relocate existing customers and operations at State Pier to its facility in New Haven once redevelopment starts.
The memorandum says that the Ørsted-Eversource would provide $2.5 million to compensate the port authority for lost revenue during construction.
The port authority has an agreement with New London to provide revenue to the city as part of its long-term contract with Gateway to run State Pier, and Kooris said the agency intends to continue making payments to New London during the redevelopment.
A major aspect of the redevelopment plan, which was presented during a public meeting in September 2019, is to fill in the area between the two existing piers at State Pier to accommodate heavier cargo. Yet the memorandum also envisions a scaled-down version of the project that would rely on barges to shuttle groups of wind-turbine components to the lease area as opposed to a so-called installation vessel transporting the turbine components all together. Under that scenario, the space between the piers would not be filled in.

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