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CT Construction Digest Friday December 27, 2019

Jesse Buchanan

SOUTHINGTON – Town leaders are planning for a bridge replacement that’s more than a year away but will require the closure of Marion Avenue over Humiston Brook.Keith Hayden, Public Works director, said the bridge will be shut down for two weeks in the spring of 2021. That approach speeds construction and avoids alternating one-way traffic on the bridge for several months.“There are several good detour routes,” Hayden said. “I think it’s a lot less intrusive both for the neighbors and for the traveling public.”He said the best detour routes are being discussed with Police Department.Town leaders had an information session on the work for neighborhood residents earlier this month. While the project is a long way off, Michael DelSanto, a Town Council member and public works subcommittee chairman, said it will affect people in the area.“It’s going be an inconvenience for a lot of folks,” DelSanto said.Hayden said the bridge’s substructure was rated poor in 1990 and it has been expanded at least once. Concrete is spalling, there’s exposed rebar and the river has undermined it. The bridge is “long overdue” for replacement, according to Hayden.A grant through the state Department of Transportation will provide the town with $1.2 million to construct the bridge. The town is paying $188,125 to design the new bridge and that work is about 30 percent complete.Closing the road also allows construction crews to more easily bring in the crane that will put the new bridge in place.The driveways of adjacent properties will have changes as a result of the construction and the new bridge ramp layout. The four neighbors of the bridge couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.During the meeting with area residents, Hayden said the options of closing the bridge for a short period or leaving it open and alternating traffic for the summer were presented. He said neighbors understood the reasoning for a bridge closure to speed construction.“Once we explained it to them, they received it very well,” Hayden said.There will be work leading up to and following the two-week closure. Paul Chaplinsky, a Town Council member and public works subcommittee vice chairman, said the entire project will last from spring of 2021 until the fall.“There’ll be prep work beforehand and finishing up work, grading, afterwards,” he said.Construction won’t start until the town receives permits from a host of agencies, including the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hayden said the town also needs construction easements to do the work. All the approvals are a prerequisite for state funding.“We have to have all the rights of way in place and all the permitting in place before we get approval for the construction funds,” he said.

Matt Pilon

Gov. Ned Lamont had a bumpy first year in office scoring a few political victories but getting rebuffed on arguably his most significant policy push. The political novice delivered on a variety of campaign promises, including increasing the state’s minimum wage and creating a paid family medical leave program for private-sector workers — both controversial policies opposed by the state’s top business lobby.To soothe their angst, Lamont delivered on his pledge to eliminate or reduce several “nuisance taxes” on businesses, and hold income and corporate tax rates steady, despite needing to tackle a multibillion-dollar deficit.The former entrepreneur, who is married to venture capitalist Ann Lamont, has many successful and wealthy business people in his orbit, but he held firm on the worker-focused policies. Lamont said he views the paid-leave program, which will start in early 2022, as the only realistic way small employers will be able to offer the benefit to new parents and workers who need to care for sick loved ones.“I said I was going to do it, I did it and I did it on purpose,” Lamont said in a recent interview with HBJ in his state Capitol office. He noted that the paid-leave program is entirely employee funded through a new payroll tax and if the benefits cost more than the tax brings in, tweaks can be made. “If the numbers are off, we reduce the benefit, we don’t raise the fee,” he said. Legislative traffic jam While he backed a number of major legislative proposals in his first year, Lamont also rode a political roller coaster after waffling on his position on tolls.In his second month in office, after he campaigned on trucks-only tolling, the governor rolled out a much broader plan to toll cars and trucks, raising $800 million annually. He faced fierce opposition and the proposal failed, as did other tolls plans throughout the year. Ultimately, Lamont was forced to revert back to supporting trucks-only tolls and he’s hoping for a January legislative session to vote on that scaled-down proposal, which would generate $187 million in annual revenue, helping to finance $19.4 billion in transportation improvements over a decade. Lamont said attempts to create a reliable funding stream to improve Connecticut’s roads and bridges has been a slog. It’s also made him an unpopular governor, with an approval rating of 24 percent as of October, according to a Sacred Heart University/Hartford Courant poll. Other issues where Lamont failed to muster support included increasing property tax credits for middle-class voters, legalizing recreational marijuana, and working out a deal allowing for another casino and sports betting in Connecticut. His successes include settling a long-running dispute with the state’s hospitals over the provider tax; ramping up Connecticut’s renewable energy push by putting an enormous wind-power contract out to bid; and negotiating a restructuring of payments to the state employee and teachers’ pension funds, producing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of short-term savings. Scoring his performance When HBJ interviewed Lamont in late 2018 about the year ahead he laid out several overarching goals: Help to drive a turnaround in how Connecticut is perceived from the outside and within, and push for a state budget that would provide as much certainty to employers and others as possible. Reflecting on his experience 11 months later, Lamont said he certainly made progress. The two-year, $43.5 billion budget was “a good start,” he said. It didn’t raise rates on major taxes, although it did raise hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues through new and higher fees and a broadening of the 6.35 percent sales tax. The budget was also signed on time, which has become a rarity in recent years. “That was driving everybody crazy,” Lamont said. “We got it done on time; that doesn’t always happen.”The state is also in a better position when the next recession hits, because it has built up its reserves (to nearly $3 billion) and reduced borrowing. Meantime, when it comes to perception, there’s plenty of self-loathing within Connecticut, Lamont says. But bringing more business leaders into his administration’s orbit, including through the re-organized Connecticut Economic Resource Center and the recently convened Governor’s Workforce Council, raises the state’s stature with outsiders, he said. So too does a change in the state’s debt rating outlook, fueled in part by Lamont sticking to his guns on reducing borrowing through his self-described “debt diet” and refusing to drain the state’s budget reserves, despite steady appeals from nonprofits and myriad others. Finally, Lamont pointed to his efforts to meet with the Wall Street Journal’s famously conservative editorial board, which gave him some mostly favorable ink in September, detailing the deep fiscal hole he’s inherited and giving him credit for not making matters worse. “I’ll take these things when it comes to perception,” Lamont said. “That was really important when it comes to the folks who I’m trying to get to take a second look at the state.” As Lamont heads into his second year, he says his biggest priorities include workforce development and continuing to chip away at the state’s fiscal challenges.

State DOT project makes changes at Naugatuck intersection


NAUGATUCK — The state Department of Transportation is half way through a project to improve the intersection of North Main, Union and City Hill streets.
James Zaharevich, a project engineer with DOT, said foundation and underground conduit work is complete.
A new traffic island between Union Street and City Hill Street was built closer to North Main Street than the old one. The new location of the island changed traffic flow for drivers turning left from Union Street onto City Hill Street. Previously, drivers turned before the island, now they turn onto City Hill Street after the island at the traffic light.
The remaining work includes replacing the existing span poles and cable-suspended traffic signals with steel poles with mast-arm-supported traffic signals. When it’s finished, Zaharevich said, there will be an additional traffic signal facing traffic on City Hill Street.
Work to install the new poles and signals is expected to start in the coming weeks, followed by the electrical work, according to Zaharevich. The DOT also needs to paint new road markings.
The project, which is expected to be finished by April 15, is estimated to cost $221,326, Zaharevich said. The project will be paid with federal funds, he said.
The borough hosted a public information meeting, which drew a little more than two dozen people, on the project in December at Naugatuck Town Hall.

Some people expressed concerns about school buses and firetrucks being able to make the left turn around the traffic island from Union Street to City Hill Street. DOT officials conducted successful field tests with a school bus and firetruck to make a left around the island, according to Zaharevich.
If a tractor-trailer cuts the corner of the island, the rear of the vehicle would be able to roll over the 2-inch-high island, according to Zaharevich.
Burgess Rocky Vitale and Zoning Enforcement Officer Ed Carter also expressed concerns that the new traffic flow around the island would cause traffic on Union Street and City Hill Street to back up, since drivers turning left from Union Street now have to wait for the traffic signal.
Union Street will have a longer green light for just traffic on the road, which officials say will help traffic turn left through the intersection.
Vitale added the new location of the traffic island cuts down on the site distance and time drivers on Union Street have to see cars that are traveling fast coming off Route 8, which has on- and off-ramps at the intersection.
Natasha Fatu, a transportation supervising engineer with the DOT, said the Naugatuck project is one of many across the state to upgrade and add traffic signals.
The DOT is making improvements at 13 intersections in nine towns, Zaharevich said. The entire project is estimated to cost roughly $2.5 million, he said.
Fatu said changes can be made after the project is complete.
“As the maintenance life of a signal decreases, we upgrade our signals periodically. This is just one in a number of signals that we’re replacing,” she said. “We can adjust. We work with the town after the signal gets installed. They can alert us to any concerns. Then we’ll review again.”

Construction company moving into former Volvo dealership in Torrington
TORRINGTON — Burlington Construction Co. plans to move their offices to the former Mitchell Volvo dealership on New Litchfield Street next spring.
The local construction company purchased the former dealership for $550,000 from Volvo Realty Sales LLC, a company owned by the Mitchell family.
Mitchell Volvo closed its Torrington location in August 2018 and consolidated its business into the Simsbury location.
The 57-year-old building will require some renovations to doing away with the dealership features and convert it into office space and a conference room, according to Justin Giampaolo, president of the construction company.
The new spot will more than double the space at Burlington Construction’s longtime offices at 67 Prospect St., which has about 3,200 square feet. The new location has 6,600 square feet.
Giampaolo said the company’s 16 employees are expected to move to their new home in April. The new space will offer space for possible expansion in the future.
“We have a good reputation and do quality work and as time goes on, we can add people in the right spots,” Giampaolo said.
The company worked on several projects in recent years in Torrington, including the expansion and renovation projects at Brooker Memorial, the Torrington Library and Cook Funeral Home. The company is currently working on an addition project at Torrington Saving Bank’s main offices downtown.