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CT Construction Digest Tuesday February 18, 2020

Truck-Only Toll Vote Still In Limbo

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said an option discussed last week is to have both chambers vote on identical bills at the same time. If that happens then one chamber would have to vote on a bill a second time.
“There were some members in each chamber who wanted to be assured it would be final action,” Looney said last week.
However, it’s not ideal and it’s not “my preferred way to do it,” Looney said.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz was away from the Capitol on personal business last week and unavailable for comment.
When it comes to what day the vote will happen, legislative leaders have told their members to be ready for a vote on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
“We’re trying to thread the needle,” Looney said.
As of Monday night no new information had been shared with members about scheduling a vote. It’s thought that members would be given at least 48 hours to read the legislation before voting upon it.
Democratic legislative leaders plan to use what’s called emergency certification to introduce the transportation bill.
It means the bill can bypass the committee process and move straight to a vote. Thus, the public won’t have another chance to weigh in on the proposal, which was posted in draft form on the Connecticut General Assembly website for a public hearing earlier this month.
The proposed bill calls for tolls ranging from $6 to $13 on large trucks.The dozen tolls are projected to raise $172 million a year for the state’s Special Transportation Fund.
While Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Ned Lamont remain confident they have the votes to pass it, there are some still questioning whether certain lawmakers will vote for the plan if they face a tough re-election bid from an anti-toll Republican. 
Recently, members of the Waterbury delegation raised concerns about the number of toll gantries in the Greater Waterbury area.
According to draft legislation, one gantry would be on I-84 over the Housatonic River on the Rochambeau Bridge, one at the so-called Mixmaster at the intersection of Routes 84 and 8 in Waterbury, and one on Route 8 south of I-84 in Waterbury.
Waterbury lawmakers, even those who support truck-only tolls, are concerned about the number of gantries in the area.
Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, said he was on board to toll all vehicles and supports truck-only tolls, but Greater Waterbury can’t have 25% of the 12 toll gantries.
“It’s not a fair representation,” Reyes said.
Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, agreed.
“If you want to have a conversation I said to them let’s start on equal ground,” she said.
She said 25% of the tolls is too much.
There are four Democratic senators who likely won’t vote for the proposal, requiring Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz to cast a tie-breaking vote. There’s been no firm count in the House where they need 76 of the 91 Democratic representatives to vote in favor of the proposal.

Bridgeport seeks state grant to overhaul aging Sikorsky Memorial Airport runway
Brian Lockhart
STRATFORD — Bridgeport officials are hoping to gain early access to state funds that were set aside for improvements to Sikorsky Memorial Airport but had strings attached.
Specifically, they want some of the $7 million then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced in late 2018 to help Bridgeport finance runway upgrades and a new passenger terminal at the city-owned, Stratford-based airport. That amount was to be matched by an unnamed private carrier and not spent until “all necessary financial commitments and assurances” from that airline were in place, according to the written terms.
The city has yet to strike a formal deal with an airline, despite negotiations last year between Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration, an unidentified carrier and the Federal Aviation Administration to launch a revived passenger service by 2021. In the meantime, however, one of Sikorsky’s two runways — 11-29 — is “at the end of its useful life,” Danny Roach, a Ganim aide, said this week.
So the Ganim administration is asking state officials about gaining access to some of that $7 million to fix the aged runway even without commitment from a carrier.
“In order to continue to function as a general aviation airport, we’re going to need this runway done,” Roach said.
Roach noted that airport management placed a temporary weight restriction on the runway in January and conducted engineering evaluations and some maintenance to keep it usable.
Sikorsky’s other runway, 6-24, was overhauled with safety improvements a few years ago thanks to funding from the FAA. But Roach noted “they shrunk the width from 150 feet to 100 feet, which is fine for smaller planes. It doesn’t work that well for larger or passenger planes.”
Which is why 11-29, which can accommodate that traffic, is so crucial, not just for present users, but to bring back the regular passenger service that has not been in place at Sikorsky for several decades, he said.
In a January email to airport users, Sikorsky Manager Michelle Muoio wrote that if the state approved Bridgeport’s request, “A rehabilitation project could be designed and built this year if we are able to exercise this grant quickly.”
Jim Watson, spokesman for the state Department of Economic Development, confirmed that that agency had been approached by Bridgeport about the latter’s desire to spend some of the $7 million immediately. Watson said the next step is for the Ganim administration “to make a direct appeal” to the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management — the state’s budget department.
In her January email, Muoio also encouraged airport supporters to contact Gov. Ned Lamont’s office “to voice your opinions on ... the importance of funding the needed runway rehabilitation work.”
Despite Malloy previously committing the $7 million to Sikorsky, last fall Lamont’s administration indicated in its transportation plan that it was looking at either Sikorsky or New Haven-based Tweed for aviation expansion.
During a Feb. 3 visit to a Bridgeport non-profit, Lamont told the Connecticut Post the process of choosing one of the two airports was continuing.
“I want to make up our mind on this this year so we can get going,” Lamont said.
The Bridgeport City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a resolution urging the state to choose Sikorsky for the upgrades.
“Geographically, I think it makes a lot more sense (to choose) Bridgeport and Stratford when you consider how much travel comes out of Fairfield County,” said Councilman Scott Burns, a resolution co-sponsor. “In a lot of ways, Sikorsky’s a lot better suited for further developed air traffic versus Tweed.”
Both Roach and Muoio said they remained “optimistic” that the state will favor Sikorsky.
Groton — Conceptual plans to redevelop the former William Seely School property as a market-price, multifamily housing development will be presented Wednesday.
The public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Groton Town Hall Annex at 134 Groton Long Point Road.
The Town's Planning and Development Director Jon Reiner said an interview committee has recommended DonMar Development Corporation of North Haven as the "preferred developer" for the site, but the Town Council has not yet approved an agreement with the developer.
Reiner said the purpose of Wednesday's meeting is to introduce the concept of the development to residents and get their feedback.
"Although this plan is in the early stages, we would like to share with you our vision for the site, which we believe is a best-use for the property," the company wrote in a postcard invitation to the meeting. "Our goal is to help Groton achieve their economic development targets by building on their commitment to re-invigorate the local housing market and bolster the grand list."
DonMar wrote that on Wednesday it plans "to not only introduce ourselves, but to give the public an opportunity to see and hear about what we have been working on. We will give members of the public an opportunity to ask questions about out project and what to expect moving forward."
Project Executive Anthony Di Gioia said the proposed development is geared toward the millennial age group, as well as empty nesters. He said the project is designed to meet the housing needs of the shifting demographic that's coming to Groton to work, including thousands of new employees that Electric Boat plans to hire over the next two decades.
The family-owned business had responded to a town-issued Request for Proposals for the former school site. The town worked with Goman + York to help market the property.
Reiner said DonMar Development Corporation did a great job researching Groton and the local housing market and has been very responsive to comments the town had about the plans.
"We think they can build a very high quality product in Groton," Reiner added.
Reiner said that after the conceptual plans are introduced at Wednesday's meeting, the next steps would be for an agreement to go before the Town Council and for the developer to go through the town's regulatory approval process.
Di Gioia said the plans to demolish the school and build the housing development are conceptual at this point, and community outreach will be a big part of how the plans go forward and get developed.

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