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CT Construction Digest Tuesday June 30, 2020

Appropriations Committee

 Informational Hearing on the Fiscal Impact of COVID-19 on the Department of Transportation Budget


 Monday, June 29, 2020 1:00 PM via Zoom Video Conference





  1. Joseph Giulietti, Commissioner, DOT

  2. Mark Rolfe, Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer, DOT

  3. Garrett Eucalitto, Deputy Commissioner, DOT

  4. Scott Hill, Bureau Chief - Engineering and Construction, DOT

  5. Bob Card, Bureau Chief - Finance and Administration, DOT

  6. Paul Rizzo, Bureau Chief - Highway Operations, DOT

  7. Rich Andreski, Bureau Chief - Public Transportation, DOT

  8. Tom Maziarz, Bureau Chief - Policy & Planning, DOT

  9. Jackie Primeau, Chief of Staff, DOT

  10. Gary Pescosolido, Finance and Administration, DOT

  11. Lori Kiniry, Finance and Administration, DOT

  12. Darren Meyers, Finance and Administration, DOT

  13. Maureen Kent, Finance and Administration, DOT

  14. Alicia Leite, Legislative Liaison, DOT

  15. Pam Sucato, Director of Government Relations and Policy Coordination, DOT




       Crew sizes

       Returned to full sized crews this week

       Projects- have they been completed on time?

       Have not experienced many delays

       Saw initial delays but were able to make up for lost time


       Supply chain issues have caused the few delays


       50-60% traffic

       Has allowed to ramp up projects

       Municipal projects

       Going as scheduled

       Federal funds

       $488m has come from CARES Act

       Money is for reimbursement and transit operations due (lost ridership) to COVID

       Will not impact the STF

       Municipalities are not eligible but regional transit districts are as direct applicants

       Legislation to help reduce cost to DOT

       FAST Act- bus route system certificates need to be reassessed- needs a legislative fix after court ruling

       Requesting speed cameras to assist state police

       Vacancies at DOT

       343 vacant positions

       271 currently being filled

       Remote v essential staffing

       All garages fully staffed

       Remote staffing has been a tremendous success and has not made an impact on work production

       1500 working in field v 1400 approved for telework

       Bus routes

       Down 50% of ridership at peak (late April)

       Looking at the data as it relates to equity analysis of bus ridership

       COVID funding to Hartford Line

       Considered a high speed rail line- not eligible for COVID funding

       Has been a success- asking the federal delegation for help in designation to receive funding

       Health and forecast of STF- union raises

       Working with OPM

       Not in a position to comment on the health of STF and how the federal money has impacted it

       Impact on FY 20 and FY 21 budget

       FY 20- no deficiency bill necessary

       FY 21- will be tough but will be OK

       Need a serious conversation regarding project funding moving forward (beyond FY 21)

       Long term effects on daily travel (more people working from home, fewer people on roads, mass transit implications)

       Have been looking at other states- MA down to 5% of rail ridership- watching the patterns and will create new schedule based off of projections

       If reopening is not successful it will create more issues projecting forward

       DOT able to collect data and see travel as similar to pre-pandemic levels of travel

       Pending raises and impact to DOT

       Active discussion

       Budget covers the program raises

       Metro-North Ridership- concerns over social distancing

       In daily conversation- doing active counts on ridership

       Overcrowding has been misrepresented

       Authorized Metro-North to have trains on standby and increase cars for holiday weekend

       Need to continue to monitor but confident there is not overcrowding

       Currently required to report any train that is over 30% capacity- 0 reports

       Federal funding/general funding available for operations of rail

       Funds go to alleviate lost revenue due to ridership due to COVID

       Will need a further conversation to the long term effects that the state will have to fund

       Still have a significant portion of funds to apply for

       Capital projects- 7 to 15 interchange, Talmadge Hill and New Canaan branch line

       Interchange still moving forward- Governor still needs to release funds

       Branch line projects moving forward- high speed study needs funding ($1m needs bonding or approps action)

       Tree removal

       Has continued- reduced staffing reduced production

       Capital projects (top 5) if there is a federal government infrastructure package

       DOT has a package if federal government produces a stimulus bill

       Would increase projects by 50%

       Projects would be similar to those listed in the Governor’s toll plan

       Will be basing priorities based off of evolving needs




Eversource Gas will be paving, repairing trenches
BRISTOL – Eversource Gas will be paving to repair their trenches on Ronzo Road starting this week and then move on to pave Birch Street during the week of July 6.
“We like to give notice on these projects so residents can anticipate the delays and one lane alternating traffic and adjust their schedules accordingly,” said City Council member Mary Fortier who represents Council District 3, where the work is being proposed.
Birch Street will have some temporary closures, because they will be doing an entire lane between Redstone Hill and Pine Street. Ronzo Road, which is wide enough, will be open during paving.
“We also want to remind people that there may be changes to the schedule due to weather delays or other unforeseen conditions,” said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
Zoppo-Sassu also advised residents to maintain a safe speed when driving in the vicinity to ensure the safety of the workers and other drivers.
While it is an Eversource project, the city will be monitoring the work. Questions or concerns about the project can be directed to the Public Works Engineering Division at 860-584-6125.
The Public Works Department has released its schedule for the 2020 summer paving program which will be completed in two phases.
“The initial phase consists of milling off the existing bituminous pavement of the road. The second phase consists of installing a new bituminous roadway surface and will start shortly after the first phase,” said City Engineer Nancy Levesque. “Once construction is complete, the city will repair any affected driveway aprons,” Levesque said.
The paving program will begin Monday, July 6. As part of the program, the following streets will be milled and then resurfaced:
Brewster Road (Queen Street to Rotary), Magnolia Avenue, Geary Avenue, Vanderbilt Road, Round Hill Road, Rogers Road, Main Street (South Street to Memorial Boulevard), Redstone Street, Tulip Street (Park Street to Divinity Street), Willow Brook Road.
“There may be minor traffic delays during construction, however roads will remain open for mail delivery, emergency vehicles, and local traffic at all times,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “Temporary ‘No Parking’ signs will be posted as needed during construction.”

A Marshall Plan for infrastructure can boost New England’s economy
James T. Brett
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted not only the physical health of almost 2 million Americans, but also the economic well-being of our region and nation.
Congress has enacted several massive legislative packages to help tackle coronavirus, assist struggling businesses and reinvigorate the economy. Still, more must be done.
One bold step that Congress could take to spur economic growth already has support from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as well as the White House: a major federal infrastructure investment package, which would provide tremendous benefits to the nation and our region.
As Washington considers such an investment, it is important that our elected officials take a broad view of what constitutes infrastructure. Traditionally, when we talk about infrastructure, the first thing that comes to mind is our transportation infrastructure, which all would agree needs repairs and modernization.
We all know our region’s roads and bridges are in rough shape. In fact, recent data shows that 8.4% of our bridges are structurally deficient, above the national average of 7.5%. Also, our roadways must be improved to accommodate the increased traffic we’ve seen over the years, not just for carpools and individual drivers but also incentivize bus-rapid-transit.
Besides addressing road needs, years of mass transit maintenance backlogs require a substantial investment. Bolstering transit throughout our region will ensure greater access for commuters, decrease congestion and improve air quality. This holds true for Amtrak, particularly the Northeast Corridor, which must be upgraded.
Moreover, Congress should give serious thought to funding regional rail expansion to better connect our region and spark economic development beyond traditional hub centers. We appreciate that the recent House bill aims to tackle these surface transportation priorities.
Another traditional infrastructure mode is air travel, which will no doubt rebound and even hit new heights, necessitating airport upgrades and new construction to meet increased passenger loads. Similarly, growth in trade will dictate a need for on-shore facility capabilities and channels that can accommodate the vessels bringing goods to and from our ports.
If the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated one thing, it is that hospitals must be considered part of our national infrastructure and funds for the construction and renovation of hospitals are necessary to ensure we can manage future potential health crises in our communities.
Federal investments for physical and technological infrastructure on higher education campuses as well as for elementary and secondary schools will ensure a modern education system that can accommodate all students and prepare them for the jobs of the future.
Water infrastructure systems demand constant attention, whether for drinking water or wastewater treatment facilities.  Besides the need to meet new requirements for our growing region, aging systems — some approaching or surpassing a century old — need replacing as well.
Energy reliability is critical to our economy and for our overall way of life, and Washington must pursue modernization investments that will enable the grid to safely and reliably accommodate new clean energy resources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Connectivity has proven vital to our economy — especially during this pandemic — and any major infrastructure investment must support and expedite the deployment of broadband that can accommodate telework, telehealth and remote learning needs across the region.
Further, support for America’s research infrastructure is necessary to cement our overall research capabilities and boost our competitiveness for years to come.
Also, whether it’s new construction or necessary upgrades, climate resiliency and cybersecurity protections must be fundamental additions to infrastructure components to guarantee the integrity of our investments.
Congress and the White House have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact a bipartisan infrastructure plan that will create jobs, boost the economy and meet existing and anticipated infrastructure needs. Many have dubbed such an effort as a “Marshall Plan for Infrastructure” and that is clearly what the United States can and should accomplish in the wake of this pandemic.

Amid ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ developments, East Windsor eyes 138 acres of historic farmland for future growth
Matt Pilon
There are a few types of developments that don’t come along often or ever for most towns, but East Windsor has two of them in the works.
The first — a joint casino proposed by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes — has been slowly plodding along through zoning entanglements, and will ultimately need further legislative approval.
The second, first reported this month by the Hartford Business Journal, is a 485-acre solar array planned on old gravel pits that would be the largest solar installation in the Northeastern United States. It still needs state Siting Council approval.
Combined, the two projects could generate an estimated $6 million a year in new local property taxes, an 18% increase over the town’s 2019 collections.
“Those lightning-in-a-bottle moments don’t come along very often,” said First Selectman Jason Bowsza. “You can’t sit back and wait for them.”
As he waits for further movement on the casino and solar projects, Bowsza said the town is pursuing other smaller and medium-scale developments when they make sense.
One target is a stretch of bucolic land on North Road/Route 140 that’s now for sale, after its longtime owner died last summer.
[Read more: HBJ examines developments in CT towns, cities]
East Windsor attorney Walter Bass Jr. had many plans over the years for 138 acres of historic farmland that surrounded his family home and spanned to the west on the far side of North Road, where his office was also located, in nearby Bassdale Plaza, which was developed by his father, the late Walter Bass Sr.
Bass died unexpectedly last August at age 68 after his heart stopped during a business meeting.
Now his family, led by daughter Caroline Bass, a 2004 UConn alum who has since moved to New York City and made a name for herself in the residential real estate market there, has put the five parcels on the market for $2.5 million (the purchase price could be less, if a buyer combines some of them in one deal).
Since listing the land in January through Berkshire Hathaway New England Properties, Bass said she has been in close contact with Bowsza, a high school classmate who is eager to do what he can to facilitate further growth of the town’s commercial tax base.
“It’s prime real estate,” Bowsza said of the parcels, which are less than two miles from I-91 and about 10 minutes from Bradley International Airport.
“We could do the casino project three times with room to spare,” he said of the sewer plant’s 60% capacity.
Bowsza said the North Road parcels are zoned for commercial use and could be a good fit for mid-to-upscale retail, medical offices or luxury apartments.
“The market in general is not excited right now about office space, and with COVID-19 I think you will see more of that,” he said.
Bass said the listings have drawn a few serious nibbles. One party was interested in a solar development, while another was interested in the approved condo project that fronts nearby Winkler Road. The local permit expired last year, but there’s potential for someone to renew it, possibly with a denser layout and more units, since recent zoning changes would allow for it.
Caroline Bass said she was a bit surprised to see interest in the property during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said has produced plenty of opportunistic offers in her own broker work in the city.
“In New York my buyers and sellers are getting low-ball offers left and right because they assume everybody is distressed,” she said.
She said the East Windsor tract’s location and price are both attractive, which could explain it.
Bowsza said he hopes the town is on the verge of a development wave. Besides the casino and solar projects, and the potential the Bass land presents, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union recently wrapped construction on a 25,000-square-foot training and office facility on Craftsman Road East, while construction of a 55-plus age-restricted, 122-unit apartment community called Water Mill Landing — developed by realty firm Calamar — remains ongoing.
There’s been lots of development in adjacent Enfield and South Windsor over the last decade or two, and now Bowsza hopes it’s East Windsor’s turn.