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CT Construction Digest Friday May 6, 2022

Despite pushback, New Milford moving ahead with two-lane bridge plan on Cherniske Road

Sandra Diamond Fox

NEW MILFORD — After months of heated debate and pushback from residents, New Milford is moving ahead with plans for a two-lane bridge on Cherniske Road.

The Town Council, by a 6-to-3 vote, authorized design work to be completed toward widening the bridge for two lanes on the scenic road.

Some residents, however, continue to say if the town moves forward with a two-lane bridge design, then the town would be violating the town’s scenic road ordinance. They’ve also said the town’s policies were not followed in regard to the building of a temporary bridge for the road.

The one-lane bridge, which is west of the intersection with Sawyer Hill Road and Cherniske Road, has has been closed since January 2021, due to its poor condition.

While the town could put $600,000 in federal funds toward the bridge, a two-lane bridge, which costs about $1.6 million, would qualify for a 50 percent state grant, bringing the total cost to $230,000.

A single lane bridge would cost the town $830,000.

The state will not reimburse for a one-lane bridge, saying it’s functionally obsolete. Jack Healy, the town’s public works director, said the only way the Department of Transportation would consider giving grant money for a one-lane bridge is for travel by less than 100 cars a day on the road. He said several hundred cars per day are on that bridge, according to the Department of Transportation website, traffic monitoring and count data.

In letters to the town and Hearst Connecticut Media and at Town Council meetings, residents have said a two-lane bridge violates the town’s scenic road ordinance.

The ordinance says that no alterations of a scenic road can be made unless the Town Council determines they’re necessary to maintain the road in good repair and in passable condition.

While a two-lane bridge would constitute an alteration of the bridge since it would be widened, Mayor Pete Bass said last year the Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers implemented new design guidelines for bridges.

“So if it’s a design that’s going to be required, then that supersedes the scenic road ordinance,” he said.

Residents said Cherniske Road lacks a scenic road committee. Since the bridge is on a scenic road, according to the ordinance, a scenic road committee would have to be formed.

Town attorney Randy DiBella said a scenic road committee is formed only after a decision is made on the bridge design.

Some Town Council members asked if the scenic road committee decide on bridge specifics, such as a one- or two-lane bridge.

DiBella said no — the scenic road committee is not an engineering committee.

“It’s an aesthetics and beautification entity and a preservation of the scenic road condition,” said DiBella, adding the committee would be appointed by the mayor.

The scenic road ordinance states alterations to a scenic road should not be made as to unnecessarily encourage increased speed. Some residents and Town Council members were concerned about the increased speed cars might go if there is a two-lane bridge on that road.

Council member Mary Jane Lundgren said, “It’s already pretty crazy before the bridge went out. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like after a two-lane bridge is in there and then obviously it’s going to be a safety issue.”

Healy said he’s working with Army Corps of Engineers, DOT and DEEP on the issue.

Putting speed bumps or humps on the bridge was suggested, as well a no-through truck ordinance, but those are not allowed, Healy said.

In regard to residents’ concerns about reducing truck traffic and reduce speeds on the bridge, Bass said the town is working with the state Traffic Authority and neighboring towns to find a solution. He’s expected to speak about an ordinance prohibiting heavy vehicles from crossing Cherniske Road at Monday’s Town Council meeting.

Temporary bridge

In March, after the town received letters from emergency responders for a temporary solution to allow emergency vehicles to access the area, the town authorized public works to start a temporary bridge.

A temporary bridge, which costs $213,000, has been ordered.

Some residents and Town Council members were upset that the approval for the temporary bridge was not listed on the agenda for that meeting and therefore they didn’t get a chance research option for such a bridge ahead of time — in terms of quality and cost.

Other council members said the town’s public works department and engineers should be trusted to do their job accurately.

Bass said the temporary bridge that was chosen can be stored in town and reused where needed.

“The thought process for Jack and the engineering team is once the permanent bridge is done at Cherniske, we then can take the (temporary bridge) and use that for a bunch of other bridge projects that may need a temporary bridge,” Bass said. “We have 62 bridges in New Milford, once the Cherniske one is completed, we could then use that other one in the later years.”

Next steps

Once the engineer brings the design of the bridge to public works, which Bass said will take about two or three weeks, the Town Council will set up a scenic road committee.

The state application for the grant for the permanent bridge is May 31. Construction is expected to take place in 2023.

Julia Perkins

DANBURY — The city has officially earned a state grant that will cover 80 percent of the expected $164 million cost for its proposed career academy.

It’s an achievement for the proposed landmark school that would serve about 1,400 middle and high school students and be constructed at the former Cartus Corp. property.

“I want to express my appreciation for the passage of the special legislation for the Danbury Career Academy to receive a reimbursement rate of eighty percent for the new construction project including site acquisition, eligible costs and the associated Board of Education central facility project,” Mayor Dean Esposito said in a written statement.

Approval of the grant comes about a month before the June 7 referendum where residents will vote on borrowing money for the project as part of a $208 million package for school projects and improvements.

School officials did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.

The new school is modeled after a program in Nashville where Danbury students would study various career pathways through six “academies.” These opportunities will be available to students at the new school, as well as the existing high school.

The new school would host the Academy of Scientific Innovation & Medicine and the Academy of Global Enterprise & Economics. The existing high school would house the Academies of Innovation Technology & Cyber Security, Professional & Public Service, Art, Engineering & Design, and Communications & Design.

City and education officials see the school as a way to reduce overcrowding at the growing middle and high schools. Danbury’s enrollment has risen rapidly, and the city’s building projects have been unable to keep up.

But the plans to purchase the 30 acre Cartus property, with potential opportunities to buy additional adjacent land, could give Danbury schools space for future expansion. The school district’s central offices may also move to the campus.

Esposito praised state Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, for his “passion and determination” to get the legislation passed, saying that without his leadership “we could not have achieved this remarkable opportunity for the Danbury Public Schools system, and the City of Danbury.”

“I’m thrilled,” Arconti said of the approval.

He was instrumental two years ago in getting previous legislation passed that would have paved the way for Danbury to earn an 80 percent reimbursement to build this school within the Summit development. That approval came down to the wire and would have created a pilot program to provide state grants for schools renovated within a commercial space.

When the school location changed to the career academy, the state needed to approve new legislation for the project.

This time, it was easier to get the money included in the state budget, Arconti said. The administration was on board, and officials had negotiated with the state Department of Administrative Services to get it in. The language related to the pilot program in the 2020 legilsation is now nullified, he said.

“It was a pretty smooth process this year,” Arconti said. “It took a lot of work, but less tough negotiations than it was two years ago.”

He said the Cartus property is a “better choice” for the school.

“I’m just really looking for to seeing the end product,” said Arconti, adding the academy paradigm could become a model for other communities.

Milford P&Z OKs Plains Road development

Saul Flores

MILFORD — A cluster development on Plains Road has been given the go ahead.

The Planning and Zoning Board, at its meeting May 3, approved plans for a cluster development on Plains Road. The site, listed as 535-543 Plains Road, consists of six development lots and one lot set aside for open space.

Currently, there are four houses at the location, and attorney Kevin Curseaden, representing the applicant, said only one will remain because the applicant is living in the house. The plan calls for the demolition of the other three houses, property divisions and the construction of five more houses which will be accessed via a private road.

The separation of properties and creation of the roadway culminate in a cul-de-sac named Highland Court.

“As a private road, the property owners will be responsible for the paving, maintenance, construction, plowing, garbage pickup,” said Curseaden. “There’s not going to be any city services other than emergency services.”

Curseaden said with the approval, the applicant is allowed to downsize the lots. He added the applicant wants to provide more open space at the end of the cul-de-sac and to preserve one of the houses on the property.

“When you look at traditional subdivision versus cluster subdivision, you’re not allowed to come with more building lots than you would under a regular subdivision,” he said. “It also allows some flexibility in the creation of the lot sizes, so that you can preserve open space or preserve natural resources. And we have the flexibility to request a private roadway as it is requested here.”

Board member Robert Satti, who was against the motion, asked why the applicant hadn’t submitted the written statement of the intended ownership and legal documentation.

“If we were going to do a full set of documents, it would be extremely expensive for the applicant to do that,” said Curseaden. “At this stage of the development, it could go a variety of ways. It could be an incorporated association, co-op, he could decide to file a condominium declaration.”

The plan is to have a deed-restricted open space at the end of the cul-de-sac, which is a little more than an acre in size.

“This open space is not open to the public,” said Curseaden. “It’s just supposed to be preserved in its natural state or for passive recreation.”

Eversource reviewing possible sale of offshore wind investments

Andrew Larson

Eversource Energy has begun a review of its offshore wind investments, which could result in the sale of all, or part of its 50% interest in its joint venture with the Danish power company Ørsted. 

Eversource said late Wednesday that its board of trustees approved the action, which was announced as part of the company’s first quarter results.

Eversource and Ørsted are partners on the high-profile Revolution Wind project, which aims to produce 704 MW of power about 15 miles south of the Rhode Island coast. It is intended to deliver power under long-term contracts, starting in 2025, to Rhode Island (400 MW) and Connecticut (304 MW). 

That project is the impetus for a goal to transform the New London State Pier into a modern, heavy-lift facility capable of supporting offshore wind turbine staging and assembly and a broader range of cargo businesses. Gov. Ned Lamont, a major backer of wind energy and the New London pier project, plans to talk to Eversource President and CEO Joe Nolan today about the company's plans, a source said.

Nolan said Eversource's review will occur “in light of the record-setting prices in the recent federal lease auction for tracts around the New York Bight and an evolving landscape.”

“Eversource remains committed to supporting offshore wind with advocacy, transmission investment solutions, and clean energy resource integration,” Nolan said.

Eversource has hired Goldman Sachs and Ropes & Gray as advisers to conduct the review, which will be finished this year.

If Eversource sells all, or part, of its interest in the offshore wind joint venture, the proceeds would be used to strengthen, modernize and decarbonize its regulated energy and water delivery systems, the company said.

The Ørsted joint venture includes two other contracted projects, in addition to Revolution Wind, with a total capacity of about 1,758 megawatts:

South Fork Wind (130 MW): located 35 miles east of Long Island’s Montauk Point, will interconnect into eastern Long Island where it will deliver power to households under a long-term power purchase agreement with the Long Island Power Authority. Construction of South Fork began in early 2022 and the project is expected to be placed into service in late 2023.

Sunrise Wind (924 MW): located about 30 miles east of Long Island’s Montauk Point, will deliver power to New York State under a long-term purchase agreement with NYSERDA. Sunrise Wind is expected to be commissioned in late 2025.

In addition, the joint venture includes 175,000 acres located 25 miles off the south coast of Massachusetts, which is open for wind development.

Eversource said it will continue to provide oversight of the siting and construction of onshore elements of the three active projects during the review.

For the first quarter, Eversource reported profits of $443.4 million, or $1.28 per share, compared with earnings of $366.1 million, or $1.06 per share, in the year-ago period. 

During the quarter, Eversource said it recorded an after-tax charge of $24.1 million, or 7 cents per share, related to a fine from the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority for its performance restoring power following the catastrophic impact of Tropical Storm Isaias in August 2020.