DOT to issue RFP for enhanced N.H.-Springfield service

 

HARTFORD — The state will be seeking proposals from railroad companies to begin operating more robust commuter service on the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line in 2016.

 

“Like the I-95 corridor across southern Connecticut, the I-91 corridor through the center of Connecticut is a vital artery for economic development and jobs growth,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.  “Enhancing commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield will benefit commuters and their employers, and will reduce traffic congestion by taking cars off the road, with the added bonus of reduced pollution.

 

“As the gateway to New England, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program will also facilitate improved service to Massachusetts, Vermont and eventually Montreal,” added Malloy. “New train service will connect communities, generate sustainable economic growth, help build energy independence, and provide links to travel corridors and markets within and beyond the region.”

 

The state’s Department of Transportation will be seeking proposals over the next six to 12 months. Current service is provided by Amtrak, which owns the line.

 

“The state of Connecticut believes that the benefits to the customers of our new service can best be realized in the marketplace,” wrote DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker in a letter to Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman. “We intend to issue a Request for Proposals that will invite state-of-the-art, proven strategies for the highest quality operations, customer service and maintenance. “While federal and state statutes drive open competition, the importance of competition to high-quality service is equally or more important.”

 

The letter to Amtrak concludes with, “We appreciate the long-standing favorable relationship the Department and Amtrak enjoy, and we encourage Amtrak to pursue this new opportunity with us.”

 

Commissioner Redeker also pointed out that Amtrak will remain responsible for existing services on the line.

 

The objective of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Program is to provide significant new regional passenger rail service options as a key component of a robust and vibrant multi-modal regional transportation system. With funding from the new High-Speed Intercity Rail Program created in 2008, the NHHS Rail Program is intended to provide the infrastructure and trains to operate improved passenger rail service. The NHHS Rail Program will also facilitate improved service to Massachusetts, Vermont and eventually Montreal.

 

In the future, NHHS rail service will operate at speeds up to 110 mph, cutting travel time between Springfield and New Haven to as little as 73 minutes, according to the DOT. Travelers at New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield will be able to board trains approximately every 30 minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hour and hourly during the rest of day, with direct or connecting service to New York City and multiple frequencies to Boston or Vermont (via Springfield).  Future train stations also are planned at North Haven, Newington, West Hartford and Enfield.

 Route 34 remake to ‘complement’ surrounding streetscape

 

NEW HAVEN — “Right on schedule” is how one city administrator describes the Downtown Crossing/Route 34 project, a city-enhancement behemoth intended to improve transportation and traffic flow, attract new business activity, spur economic development, make neighborhoods more accessible and create new jobs.

That’s a complicated mission for a single project, but planners are confident about its fulfillment.

“The truth is, we’re right on schedule,” says Matthew Nemerson, the city’s economic development administrator. “I think we’re all absolutely delighted with what’s happened so far.”

What has happened is the beginning of a downtown transformation. Perhaps the biggest change to the original plan is the occupancy at 100 College Street, a biotech center intended as a home to a major, and several smaller, tenants. Alexion Pharmaceuticals was to be the anchor company.

Now, “Alexion will take the whole thing,” notes Nemerson, who says he is pleased with the development.

“Two stories were added to the building. We’ll be renting those two stories as well,” explains Irving Adler, executive director of corporate communications for Alexion. “It’s already under construction.” Adler says the building, which will be Alexion’s new corporate headquarters, remains on target for completion the latter part of 2015.

Winstanley Enterprises is the developer of the project, which was expected to generate 2,000 construction and 1,000 professional jobs to the city. That estimate, too, remains in effect, says Adler.

“The job projections are still intact,” Adler says.

The project also includes transforming Route 34 into a complement of local streets.

Vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians are all considered in the restructured street design, which is intent on easing the flow of traffic while making city streets more accessible to local dwellers.

Major thoroughfares are being affected. They include College, Temple and Orange streets.

Nemerson encourages local contractors that have not already done so to contact his office about opportunities related to the project.

“The contracting goes to a percentage of local companies,” he notes. “We want to make sure qualified New Haven companies have registered with our office.”

Helping make the project possible was a $16 million TIGER II (federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. The project also received state and city funding. In addition, Alexion is one of the state’s “First Five” program recipients. The program offers companies tax credits, loans, grants and other subsidies in exchange for substantial in-state financial investment and job creation.

 

 The state’s Department of Transportation announced that the $10 million upgrade of the power supply for Metro-North’s New Haven Line has been completed, giving full back-up power redundancy for the east- and westbound lines. “This project was designed to prevent the type of catastrophic power failure that occurred last fall in Mount Vernon, N.Y., seriously disrupting New Haven Line service,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement. “In addition, it will allow us to add more service on the New Haven Line as we move forward.”

Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) installed new transformers to replace four aging transformers at Cos Cob (in Greenwich) to ensure reliability and safe operation of the electric supply that keeps New Haven Line trains moving. The project nearly doubles the capacity of the two west transformers from 16 megawatts to 30 megawatts, matching the capacity of the two east transformers that were previously replaced.  This increases the power supply for trains and implements redundant power for this portion of the New Haven Line.

 BRIDGEPORT — The Discovery Museum has organized a new exhibition that highlights the state’s rich industrial history. Sponsored by Pitney Bowes, Connecticut Inventions & Innovations showcases elements of the state’s industrial heritage, including photos of factory workers and high-wheeled bicycles. The exhibition also features examples of early commercial innovation and women’s contributions to Connecticut businesses. Located at 4450 Park Avenue, the Discovery Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Monday. Visit discoverymuseum.org.

 NEW HAVEN — Three New Haven companies and their operator must pay nearly $750,000 in civil penalties under a recent court order for violating the state’s hazardous waste and air pollution control laws and regulations.

 

Suraci Inc., Suraci Metal Finishing, LLC, Suraci Paint & Powder Coating, LLC and Bruno F. Suraci Jr. operate metal-finishing businesses at two locations in New Haven, including a facility on River Street adjacent to the Quinnipiac River.

 

The state alleged that the businesses produced hazardous waste and that the defendants failed to comply with laws regulating that waste, thereby exposing employees, the public and the environment to serious risks. The complaint alleged multiple violations, including improper storage and labeling, lack of proper state and federal permits, failure to conduct inspections, failure to separate incompatible waste materials and lack of proper employee training and certification. It did not allege that companies dumped or spilled any pollutants into the environment.

 Survey: State economy on roads to ruin

Overcrowded highways and roads are the leading transportation concern for Connecticut businesses according to a survey released last month.

The 2013 Connecticut Transportation Survey found that business leaders ranked transportation third, behind economic development and education, for desired state government spending priorities.

More than half (55 percent) of survey respondents identified highway improvements and expansion as providing the most significant benefit to the state's residents and businesses, followed by improving and expanding rail systems (20 percent).

The survey, the first major study of statewide transportation issues, was sponsored by UIL Holdings Corp. and performed by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), Stamford Chamber of Commerce, Connecticut Construction Industries Association and Motor Transport Association of Connecticut.

"This survey measures the increasingly negative impact of the state's outdated transportation infrastructure on the state's residents, businesses and economic vitality," said CBIA economist Peter Gioia, speaking at the December 12 Connecticut Transportation Summit in Stamford.

James P. Torgerson, president and chief executive officer of UIL Holdings, called for improvements to the state's beleaguered transit system.

"Connecticut's economy will continue to stagnate unless we invest in improving connectivity both within the state and to the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas," Torgerson said. "More and better transit options will support economic growth and improve quality of life."

Other key findings of the survey:

• Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) support legislation prohibiting the use of Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund to cover General Fund shortfalls.

• Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said recent increases in the state's gas and diesel taxes impacted their businesses.

• 64 percent believe better transportation options would increase their ability to attract and maintain high-quality workers.

• Businesses overwhelmingly (88 percent of respondents) want operational lanes added to I-95.

• 15 have considered relocating their companies because of regional transportation concerns.

Stamford Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jack Condlin noted that traffic volume on I-95 was more than three times the highway's capacity of 50,000 daily vehicle trips.

"It's no wonder that this highway structure is among the state's — and even the country's — worst and most unsafe," Condlin said.

"This is a wakeup call to Connecticut's political leadership," said Michael J. Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut. "It's time to stop postponing expansions and improvements and get this state moving again."

 Settlement reached over illegal sewage discharges

 

WEST HAVEN — A settlement involving federal and state regulators and the city of West Haven will reduce illegal discharges of raw sewage into the environment from the city’s wastewater collection system. 

Announced December 19, the agreement is between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), the state Attorney General’s office and the city of West Haven.

Under terms of the settlement, West Haven will reduce illegal raw sewage overflows from its wastewater-collection system, which previously has been discharged to area waterways including New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. The city will also pay a fine of $125,000, to be split equally between the federal and state governments.

“By taking strong steps to eliminate raw sewage that is being discharged into rivers and streams that flow into New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound, we are both cleaning the environment and enhancing the recreation opportunities in these areas,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “It is encouraging that the city agreed to quickly settle this case and move ahead with the important work of remedying the problems in their wastewater collection system that have contributed to these untreated discharges.”

Added U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly: “The agreed-upon remediation measures will in particular benefit minority and low-income neighborhoods where many of the sewage overflows occurred.  West Haven’s corrective steps should help to prevent future overflows in these residential areas and make recreation in local waterways safer for residents.”

In addition to reducing illegal raw sewage overflows, West Haven  has pledged to implement an “operations and maintenance” program and a long-term preventative maintenance program to ensure the city’s sanitary collection system remains properly functioning.  The city must also implement a program to reduce the amount of fats, oils and grease that enter the collection system from restaurants. 

EPA investigations found that West Haven reported over 300 discharges of sewage from its collection system between January 2007 and June 2011.

Connecticut and seven other eastern states, all with Democratic governors and all under longstanding orders to reduce air pollution, announced December 9 they would petition the Environmental Protection Agency to force stricter air standards on nine upwind states from the Rust Belt and Appalachia that rely on coal-fired power plants.

The governors said their states have largely exhausted ways to mitigate local ozone pollution and now must act to force upwind states to reduce pollution at the source. Efforts at negotiation have failed, leaving the eastern governors with no choice but to seek federal intervention, according to the announcement

“They have been warned. They know this action is coming,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a statement to the media.

Malloy said the eight states are seeking federal action to lower unhealthful ozone levels that plague Connecticut and produce acid rain across Vermont and New Hampshire, degrading lakes and forests that are key to tourism.

Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont said the states acting Monday are “tailpipe states,” places where pollution generated from states to the west and south is dumped by prevailing winds.

“We’re sick and tired of being the tailpipe for the polluters from our west and south,” Shumlin said.

All eight states are in the Ozone Transport Region, a group of 11 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states under EPA orders to reduce air pollution. The three states in the region not signing onto the petition are Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine.

The states filing the petition are Delaware, Maryland, New York and every New England state except Maine.