Read story of longtime State employee retiring:
Page begun with Hartford Courant series and 2007 proposed legislation reorganizing DOT.  Continued in 2015 with Transportation Finance Panel online viewing.  Some music do go with this page:


TOLLS at borders (new in 2009); the next step after Cambridge Systematics 500 page study, now complete, of options;  CT Toll Plazas redone.
Reorganization of DOT
Mass Transit Department
Connecticut Transit Authority

AND NOW COMING TO THE FORE, BUT NOT IN OUR PURVIEW:   ("What, can you repeat that, I couldn't hear...") how about air traffic control?  Aircraft safety?

Hartford, Stamford Among Nation’s Most Congested Highways
CT By the numbers on 11/23/2015 ·

A new study by the American Highway Users Alliance identifies America’s 50 worst bottlenecks and finds that the very worst bottleneck, as measured by hours of delay, is in Chicago, IL. Los Angeles, CA owns the next six of the top 10.  While Connecticut’s highways did not reach the top 50, two bottlenecks did receive honorable – or dishonorable – mention.

T H E    M E R R I T T    P A R K W A Y

Happy 75th Birthday to the Merritt Parkway

Connecticut transit plan spares stately Merritt Parkway

Stephen Singer, Associated Press
Sept. 12, 2015

Hartford — In a bid to unclog Connecticut's notorious traffic jams, the governor has put forward a plan to rip up and widen two major highways, Interstates 84 and 95.

A third highway, the stately Merritt Parkway, would remain little changed from when it was completed in 1940, a 38-mile roadway dubbed the "Gateway to New England" that winds through the wealthiest part of the state beneath old-growth trees and stone bridges...

Still, congestion is as constant a problem for motorists on the Merritt as it is on any other highway in Connecticut. But former Transportation Commissioner Emil Frankel said efforts to preserve the parkway still pay off even if traffic remains clogged at rush hour.

"You see calendars of Connecticut that don't show 95," he said. "They show the Merritt."

Story in full:

New federal study proposes overhaul of CT railroads — at a cost
By: Ana Radelat | November 11, 2015

Washington – To tackle congestion in the Northeast Corridor, the Federal Railroad Administration has released an environmental study on ambitious proposals to overhaul Connecticut’s railroad system – possibly adding new routes, high-speed rails and a rail tunnel under Long Island Sound...

Rail Officials Release Northeast Corridor Impact Study
Report analyzes 3 options for Northeast Corridor between now and 2040. One includes possible tunnel to CT. (Plus the null alternative as #4)
Hartford Courant
DAVID PORTER, Associated Press
Nov. 10, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. — The environmental impacts of a large-scale transformation of the Northeast Corridor rail line would be greatly outweighed by an eventual decrease in energy usage and greenhouse gas production, as well as an increase in economic activity and mobility, a draft environmental report released Tuesday concluded...story in full:

Railroad Agency to Detail New Rail-Track Standards
OCT. 9, 2015

Federal authorities plan to detail new rail-track standards on Friday after finding that a broken rail caused an oil train to derail this year in West Virginia...fir story in full please see NYTIMES.

Business leaders call for better rail service to NYC
By Keila Torres Ocasio, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published 1:43 pm, Thursday, September 10, 2015

STAMFORD — Could improving the state’s rail system lead to economic growth?

That was the question posed Wednesday morning at a panel discussion hosted by members of the business community at the Stamford Marriott.  The event, called “30 minutes to Manhattan: What will it take?,” focused on ways in which improving the area’s connectivity to New York City could help spur economic development in this state...story in full:

Malloy, Amtrak To Try To Work Out Commuter Rail Dispute

Hartford Courant
Don Statcom

HARTFORD — In a bid to resolve cost and schedule disagreements over the Hartford Line commuter rail project, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is scheduled to meet Thursday with Amtrak executives and federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The outcome of the session could determine whether Connecticut can start high-frequency train service between New Haven and Springfield by the end of 2016. The talks also may resolve the question of who will be responsible for a projected $180 million overrun — or perhaps whether it can be averted...story in full:


"...The Transportation Finance Panel will find there is no easy or popular solution to paying for the Governor’s $100 billion untested and unattainable wish list of projects.  Whatever they recommend, citizens will scream bloody murder and their lawmakers will vote it down."

From Jim Cameron's blog:

Even transportation panel’s homework sets off a partisan furor
By: Keith M. Phaneuf | August 12, 2015

The group tasked with studying how to fund a 30-year transportation improvement program in Connecticut knows there are few options – if any – that won’t spark controversy.

But the state’s Transportation Finance Panel watched that challenge expand significantly after its research became the focal point of an intensifying partisan battle among state legislative leaders.

With a report due to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in October, the group’s task doesn’t appear to be getting easier. Democratic and Republican leaders both insisted Tuesday that rhetoric from the other side is distorting not only the debate over fixing Connecticut’s infrastructure, but how to strengthen the economy in general...

Story in full:


November 23, 2015 - CTDOT presentations on Hartford near Capitol begin the morning.  We watched the entire meeting live.

I-84 alternatives in the Sisson Ave. and Sigournie St. - restoring neighborhoods and lots of bridges and relocation of railroad.  Lots of land will be made available for reconstruction.


Lowered highway on right.   Cost estimates expensive to do this. 
However, CTDOT has not been able to fully vet development potential...yet.  $5.3 billion Hartford viaduct re-do.


E C O N O M I C    I M P A C T    A N A L Y S I S   V I A D U C T
$9.2 billion BENEFITS - number in terms of economic analysis "2.68" - this presentation is provided by a consultant who is calling in...oops.


TRANSFORMATIVE  PROJECT NUMBER 2 - $7.2 billion Waterbury

New Haven Line
New Haven Line - 75 miles to NYC.  

Commuters within CT market:  Confirmation.  "Subway Service" - did you know About Weston has been talking about just this solution...since 1968?  Has anyone ever listened before?  No.

Emil - does this include Branch Lines?  No.  Those improvements in the "ramp up" projects already funded.  "2.51" cost/benefit results.  Outstanding reinforcement of the importance to CT of rail.  Emil asks if adequate funds are available or identified? 

Meeting ends at 12:17pm.


One more meeting October - November to finalize draft - aiming to have something for next "short" session in February.

Sharp question, shining a light on economic models (data gaming).  Baseline from Governor and Legislature.  DOT:  Null alternative answer.  And link to old type of model from UK.

TRANSPORTATION FINANCE PANEL SEPTEMBER 29, 2015 - called to order at 9:55am.

Last informational meeting.  Drafting of final report will begin, aiming for end of 2015.  "Let's Go CT" investments.  New approach.  Projects must support economic growth.  Highway and corridor analysis today, individual scores later.  3 corridors:  relatively good benefits (example).  METRO N. 4 tracks;  Using 2 tracks for shuttle;  inner 2 for express.

Co-author economic assessment consultant next.  I-95 west cost delays for traffic of TRUCKS.  Business competitiveness.  QUESTION ABOUT  CHARTS.  Input-output model and general equilibrium model/relative cost.  Time and delay, efficiency fits here - in the model (cost savings penalty);  PRODUCTIVITY.  TRUCKS.  Business productivity - premium to workers because of congestion.  I-95w logistics and commuters...environmental benefits.  And societal ones. C-B.  TOURISM, OFFICES TIED TO TRANSPORTATION INVESTMENTS BAR CHART...and more questions than answers - but this is not the final version.


NOTE:  U. of Texas economic analysis of accelerating time frame - big payoff.  Jobs for construction are the best result.  CAM:  Much smaller number of jobs - 5800 total.  LONG-TERM VALUE separate from construction - secondary-tertiary jobs - long term is primary (Emil).  Job retention (Oz) quantified???

Forecasts have to be changed.  Negative revenue for future.  Deficit.  Conservative numbers so credit rating agencies are sure.  Only a 10 year forecast.  2020 first problem.  Interest rate change will have big impact.  "Lock Box" was in this.  Constitutional lock box statutory is liked.  Double A across the board rating.

Emil:  What's in the numbers?  Debt service?  Oz:  Bond agenda included?  (We think this is why Governor showed up when he did - meeting of Bond Commission completed?)

11:45am break.  CT-N classical music always welcome!  Over after wrap up after noon, and confirmation of meeting in @ a month and response to substantive questioning expected.



Minutes approved.  Then invited presenters begin.

Emil asks if tolling could be proportional (i.e.  Diversion question asked by Oz Griebel).  How does this work if people don't pay?  "Leakage" policy?  No one firm answer.  We have now switched to State Tax Panel...
We will revisit the Transportation Finance Panel online when we have time - this is an example of how CT manages to confuse things for the public...we got back to this at 10:30am.

Managed lanes and connectivity, "lock box" concept?  Yes, it would lower cost of financing. MD, WI, VA have lock box.  Bond rating keeps it in check.  "Fire walls" can work, maybe.  NC entity was absorbed

Ten cents a gallon more on gas tax needed - just to keep the "ship" afloat.  Highway trust fund just got...3 month extension.  Solvency is in question.  Road user charges:  issues and options.  Congress forms Commissions.  "Long-term mileage" needed...collection of data and fairness...FYI - while listening, we multi-tasked...a NOTE FROM GOOGLE:   Most Europeans pay a much higher price for gasoline than Americans do, anywhere between $6 and $10 more per gallon.

Coalition Western User fees..some type of road user charge.  Conduct pilots to inform public.  Local land use fees (CA) pay for roads.  Oz - how do you support local roads?  GPS technology - privacy.  Self reporting;  cellular tracking;  NZ has annual sticker fee - you estimate mileage.  RAND Corp. studies.  Data collection cost:  4% now, 20% then.  Oregon:  How do you phase it in?  Governance issues a struggle.  What agency would administer this?  DMV???  "Lock boxes?"  Algorithms discussed. 

Avoids getting financing on the books.  Emil asks if new CT statute need?  In NYC "#7" line* was $3 billion for a mile (2005-6).  Not a TIF - Hudson Yards Development Corp.  Guy who answers is with DECD on TOD.  NYC has to back up for 10 yrs on interest.  Stamford guy says you need a "Special District."  Municipality driving the bus.  Only Stamford made it work.  Bond anticipation notes for small projects.  No base legislation.  "Special Act."  PILOT a big deal here.  Like a Fire District.  "CT Innovations"   VERY INTENSE DEVELOPMENT needed to make TIF work.

Oz makes the point that the "blow back" on HB6851 makes that approach a non-starter.  And then Oz Griebel asks to have deadlines reviewed so as not to miss the Governor's deadline expectations.

New staff present - hopefully he picked up on Oz' comment on deadline.  Next meeting in September (working around holidays)...

- Is this the "Second Avenue Subway" that New Yorkers always knew about as never having been built (until recently)?

CTNEWSJUNKIE reports on this meeting August 5, 2015:


Documents produced so far from OPM and DOT

Monday, May 18, 2015 at the L.O.B.  (First meeting was in April)
The meeting got started at 9:30am Legislative time - please note the link to this body is off the Governor's webpage.  The initial press release: .

The Governor’s Transportation Finance Panel is a nonpartisan working group comprised of experts in transportation, finance, and economic development.
Republican Alternative First up, when we tuned in right at the beginning, was Sen. Fasano.  He asked that.General Obligation Bonds be used, and that it was necessary to prioritize bonding - tighten our belts, in effect.  "Lock Box" restoration part of his "Blue Print."  Transportation Strategy Board reinstatement suggested during Q&A.  He asked:  Where can we get reliable source of income?
Oz Griebel asks if hearing could be held open for testimony that comes is after...Emil Frankel asks, (we thought we heard him say it) "only one MPO needed"!  Coffee break awaiting various Commissioners to testify...

No written testimony - mentions off-shore investments - PUBLIC-PRIVATE partnerships
Broadband arena must be included.  Simplify execution (right).  Staff asked to explain stuff.  What's the 5-yr ramp up?

Emil Frankel asks to have an analysis by type of projectJuly meeting(after public hearing) will have review of technical stuff.  Website (?) should help structure questions.  Competing statutes:  One requires "special transportation fund" and yet the General Fund is being raided.  Commissioner Redeker responds.

Waiting for Co-Chair. of Legislature's Transportation Committee.
But he arrived (many competing events at the Capitol) and shared his thoughts, below.

"Lock Box" not there anymore if it ever was.  Gas tax no looking as solid as once was because cars get better mileage. Rep.  Guerrera drives F-350 and says gas tax is never going to cut it for funding source because even the F-350 gets great mileage - quotes Cambridge Systematics' study

Discussion muted but we thought we heard that there would be in interim meeting Tues May 26 at 2pm" work session" in Hartford and then...

JUNE 23rd date for PUBLIC HEARING in New Haven, 10-2, location T.B.A. - invited guests will find out first, of course..."don't tell Mike Riley (joking)" voice off camera.

First meeting:

Look familiar?

Toll fight on the horizon
By Neil Vigdor, Greenwich TIME
Updated 1:12 am, Saturday, July 11, 2015

If Connecticut’s border communities appeared to have dodged highway tolls in this legislative session, well — not so fast.

Lawmakers could get called back to Hartford in the fall for yet another special session, this time to deal with funding a $100 billion long-term transportation overhaul prescribed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Malloy is seeking a constitutional amendment ensuring that the money in the state’s Special Transportation Fund cannot be spent in other areas. The fund is set to take in $1.5 billion in revenues from gas and petroleum taxes, as well as a portion of the sales tax, for the current fiscal year.

The “lock box” measure is expected to rekindle the raging debate over tolls, which have been absent from state highways for 30 years. This would be the second special session of the year, with lawmakers summoned back to the Capitol during the final week of June to hammer out the details of a controversial and tax-laden $40 billion, two-year budget...story in full:


Study: State could rake in $62 billion in highway tolls

By Bill Cummings, CT POST
Updated 3:05 pm, Saturday, June 27, 2015

HARTFORD - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is backing away from a state commissioned study which concludes that slapping electronic tolls on all of Connecticut’s highways could generate more than $62 billion in revenue over 25 years.

...James Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group, said the governor cannot propose a “$100 billion wish list of projects across the state” and back away from tolls, which Cameron said is an obvious method to pay for improvements.

“Tolls have never been popular but will be absolutely necessary,” Cameron said.

“The governor’s $100 billion plan is not a plan. It’s an un-vetted hodge-podge of unprioritized projects, ranging from the long-overdue to the dubious and doubtful,” Cameron said.

Puglia said immediate funding for Malloy’s five year 2.8 billion “ramp up” plan was secured by diverting one half percent of the state sales tax to the Special Transportation Fund, which was approved by the General Assembly last month.

The ramp up plan calls for widening sections of I-95 between Greenwich and Bridgeport, increasing service on Metro-North’s New Haven Line and improving branch lines in New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury.

Other work involves retooling the Waterbury intersection of Route 8 and I-84, known as the “Mixmaster,” improving the Hartford I-84 Viaduct, completing a commuter line between New Haven and Springfield, Mass. and expanding pedestrian and bike paths.

Puglia said the governor’s transportation funding panel is being encouraged to consider all options for long-term funding of additional improvements.

“The panel has an obligation to consider every possible funding source in order to do a comprehensive job to fund a 30-year vision and its members are going to use all information available to accomplish that task,” Puglia said.

“Now it will be the panel’s job to plan for decades far, far down the road,” he said.

Cameron said none of the funding options for Malloy’s transportation plan will be popular.

“But the governor absolutely has to “man up” and admit that he is as responsible for those painful revenues as he is proud of his transportation plan,” Cameron said...story in full:

Connecticut Approved For Federal Highway Toll Pilot Project
Hartford Courant
March 2, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Federal Highway Administration has approved Connecticut for a pilot program installing an electronic toll system.

The pilot program for so-called value-pricing bypasses a federal ban on federal highway tolls by offering an exemption that allows certain types of electronic tolls.

Value-pricing, or congestion pricing as it's sometimes called, assigns values for trips at different times and places for different motorists to encourage driving at different times and places to reduce congestion....story in full:

Forget traffic jams
on the Turnpike or at toll booths?  Will the crush of cars exiting/entering around tolls mean...more car-truck accidents on I-95?  Ready for congestion pricing?

NTSB Report: Pilot Could See Airport Before Crash

The Hartford Courant
11:50 AM EDT, August 20, 2013

EAST HAVEN — The pilot of a plane that flew upside down into two houses, killing four, had reported that he was able to see the airport two minutes before the crash, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday.

The report, released from the National Transportation Safety Board, is not the final word on the crash, said Peter Knudson, NTSB spokesman. Full reports average about a year to complete, he said.

According to the preliminary investigation, the pilot told a tower controller at the Tweed-New Haven Airport in New Haven at 11:19 a.m. Aug. 9 that he was headed for runway 20. The controller cleared him to land, the report states...

Story in full:

Had Survived Crash Landing In 2009
The Hartford Courant
Staff report
11:44 PM EDT, August 9, 2013

Bill Henningsgaard, identified as the pilot of the plane that crashed Friday into two houses in East Haven, worked for Microsoft for about 14 years and later became heavily involved in local social service and philanthropic efforts.

Henningsgaard was traveling to Connecticut with his son, the Daily Astorian newspaper of Oregon reported, quoting Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen.

Social Venture Partners, a Seattle-based organization of nonprofits and philanthropists with which Henningsgaard was affiliated, issued a statement saying that Henningsgaard and his son, Maxwell, were on a trip to visit colleges in the East...story in full:

Tweed 1971 crash
(Updated 10 a.m. Saturday) A Seattle pilot visiting colleges with his 17-year-old son missed the Tweed airport runway and crashed into two homes, leaving two families mourning in the wake of a fatal flight.
New Haven Independent:
August 10, 2013

The disaster struck at 11:22 a.m. on Friday, when a private plane plowed into two homes at 64 and 68 Charter Oak Ave. in East Haven, just north of Tweed New Haven Airport. The airport reopened late Friday after temporarily closing due to the crash investigation...another version.

As transit funds grow shorter, the call for tolls grows louder
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
December 10, 2012

Transportation advocates and officials across Connecticut gathered in the state capitol Monday to face a sobering fact: In an age of soaring deficits on both the state and national levels, the funds available for transit improvements are shrinking fast...

"In two years, our federal [funding situation] could be a disaster," said Jim Redeker, commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Transportation. "There's a real sense that we have to look very quickly at what the options are."

Like many other states, Connecticut is left with major transportation projects that have little or no source of funding at the moment -- including a badly needed overhaul of the Aetna Viaduct, a three-quarter-mile elevated stretch of Interstate 84 over Hartford, and the modernization of Metro-North's New Haven rail line, which carries upwards of 38 million passengers between Connecticut and Manhattan each year.

"These are multi-billion-dollar projects ... and the state does not have the funds to do them," said Emil Frankel, a former commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Transportation who is now with the Bipartisan Policy Center. "We have to look at other revenue sources."

Those sources must include tolls, he said, and was echoed by many others at the forum -- touching what had long been considered a "third rail" in Connecticut politics. Since a fiery crash at a toll barricade in 1983 killed seven people, Connecticut has eliminated all of its tolls and relies mostly on gasoline taxes and federal funding for transportation...

Story in full:

Funding for Long Awaited Transportation Projects Approved
by Christine Stuart | Jul 26, 2013 3:05pm

The state Bond Commission approved $537 million in borrowing to finance a series of road construction and maintenance projects, including repaving 250 miles of state highway...

“This is a year where we’re able to fund the long awaited I-84 widening project,” Redeker said. “So in 2014 we’ll be able to go out to bid for that. That’s a major accomplishment, long awaited, and this funding brings that to fruition.”

The state will spend about $33 million of the $537 million to rehabilitate or replace 30 existing bridges, another $115 million on the Fix-It-First state bridge program, and another $127 million on the resurfacing of state highways.  But there are also billions of road and bridge projects  that have yet to be funded.

“For years the backlog of maintenance was growing. That is now diminishing,” Redeker said. “The bridges that need to be repaired are being repaired.”

There are more than $8 billion of highway bridge construction projects that are unfunded at the moment, including projects like the I-84 viaduct in Hartford and the “Mixmaster” on I-84 and Route 8 in Waterbury. 
Redeker said there’s a schedule of work that needs to get done and will get done in a specific order. The three major bridges on I-95, including the Moses Wheeler, will be done first. Followed by the viaduct in Hartford and then the Waterbury “Mixmaster.”

The highway bridges get rated on a regular basis and that’s what drives the maintenance and replacement schedule, Redeker said. The program is updated on a regular basis so there will always be transportation projects that aren’t funded.  Redeker said the department is doing its best to address the projects in a timely fashion, but can only do so when it has the funding.

Asked if the gas tax the state is collecting to help fund these projects will be enough, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said “the answer is yes.”

“We are putting more state money into transportation than we’ve ever put before,” he said...

Story in full:

"Our goal is to have the same or a shorter commute time," Redeker said.
DOT chief says garage project is misunderstood
Redeker:: Parking, commute time misinformation at issue
Updated 11:05 p.m., Sunday, September 30, 2012

State Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker says he wants to set the record straight.

He says he understands that commuters are suspicious of the state's plan to hire a private developer to replace the Stamford rail station's deteriorating garage and develop the site.  He acknowledges that fears may be fueled by a similar outcry over the financial details of a public-private partnership that gave a Milford-based company a 35-year deal and most of the profits of the state's 23 highway rest stops in return for an overhaul. Redeker said he hopes efforts to get input from residents of Stamford and nearby towns using the station will help squelch concerns.

"It comes down to can the state DOT be trusted to make the right decision?" Redeker said. --¦ But unlike with the rest stops, these are my daily customers, my taxpayers, and if they feel somehow that we don't care, that's a problem."

Redeker said the project got a harsh reception due to misinformation that the DOT was willing to boost commute times for users to draw interest from developers.  Two impressions provoked much of the controversy: that the DOT had ruled out proposals to maintain commuter parking on the current Station Place site and that parking was likely to be moved a quarter-mile away to accommodate development, Redecker said. The quarter-mile is a maximum distance requested in the proposal, he clarified...Story in full:

Responding to commuters, Malloy and DOT create 'advisory panel' for garage
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
September 28, 2012

Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce in his hometown of Stamford yesterday, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that the state Department of Transportation would form an "advisory panel" to counsel the agency on plans to replace an aging parking garage at the city's train station, the state's busiest...

In an interview, DOT Commissioner James Redeker said the five-member advisory panel would include representatives of commuters, Stamford residents and businesses. Redeker said he decided to create the panel as "a follow-up to our commitment to open up communication and make sure that customer interests come first."

"It is a practice that has been used by other similar-type projects for public-private partnerships," Redeker added, referring to the state's new approach, in which the private sector will have an unprecedented role in designing the garage and suggesting a mix of retail, office and residential developments nearby. The significant design role is the reason Redeker says developers' identities and proposals must remain secret, in order to protect their competitive advantage.

The advisory panel will get to review portions of the developers' proposals as they counsel the DOT, Redeker said. While financial bids will be sealed, panel members should be able to see where the developers have decided to locate the new, 1,000-space garage that will replace the current 727-space parking deck. The location of the garage has been of the greatest concern to commuters, since the state issued guidelines earlier this year allowing developers to suggest locating the garage as far as a quarter-mile from the station.

"Occasionally, I have commuted with crutches, with a cast, and I see a lot of people struggling with double-strollers, children ... and everybody's always carrying something," Stamford resident Esther Giordano testified at the hearing last week. "So walking a quarter-mile, forget it. That's outrageous..."  Story in full:


Link to OLR backgrounder

Next congressional crisis: The federal gas tax?
Deirdre Shesgreen, CT MIRROR
August 23, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Talk about a bumpy road ahead. When Congress gets back to Washington next month, lawmakers face a possible legislative pile-up over the federal gas tax, an important source of funds to Connecticut and every other state with transportation infrastructure needs.

That 18.4-cent levy on every gallon expires on Sept. 30. And it could quickly become a focal point for a fresh fight over taxes and spending, as lawmakers rev up the debate over debt reduction this fall.

At the end of last year, President Barack Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission recommended a gradual 15-cent hike in the federal gas tax starting in 2013. Other debt-reduction groups have similarly looked at ways to shore up funding for the federal Highway Trust Fund, which currently does not take in enough revenue to cover the nation's transportation spending levels.

But raising the gas tax is a non-starter in this Congress, where House Republicans, filled with Tea Party fervor, have opposed any tax increases. And indeed, some conservative groups have even signaled that they would like to see the gas nixed all together, and they see the looming deadline as an opportunity to move in that direction.

"In general, we support the concept of eliminating the federal gas tax and letting the states fund transportation," said Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group.

Keller said the Club has not taken any position on legislation to extend the current gas tax yet, because they first want to see what kind of long-term transportation bill Congress comes up with. That legislation will map out federal highway spending for the next several years, to be paid for by any extension of the gas tax.

Meanwhile transportation advocates are scrambling to shore up support for the gas tax and nervously eyeing the crunched congressional calendar.

"There are 11 legislative days in September before the current extension expires," noted Tony Dorsey, a spokesman for American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). "That gives you a sense of the urgency of this. They've got to move."

Donald Shubert, a spokesman for Keep CT Moving, a transportation advocacy coalition, said he's asked Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration to consider pushing for a "safety valve" provision at the state level that would increase Connecticut's gas tax to compensate in case the federal gas tax lapses.

He noted that Tennessee has a statute on its books that automatically adjusts the state tax upwards if the federal tax declines or ends, so the state can maintain its transportation revenue stream.

"I'm hoping our governor's office will consider something like this," Shubert said, in case Congress deadlocks over the tax.

But a 3-cent-per-gallon increase proposed by Malloy shore up the state's own special transportation fund in his original budget proposal in February eventually was abandoned in the face of hostility by the state legislature.

Emil Frankel, a transportation commissioner for then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. and now director of transportation policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said there's probably a clear majority in Congress that favors renewing the gas tax.

"But that's not to say that majority will be able to work its will," he said. "There will be some kind of a battle over it. How serious is it, I don't know...  But one could imagine that there will be difficulties and obstruction and hurdles to the extension."

He pointed to the recent shut-down of the Federal Aviation Administration, after lawmakers failed to agree on a short-term extension of that agency's key programs. For about two weeks, 4,000 federal workers were furloughed and 75,000 construction workers were idled, and the FAA was unable to collect more than $28 million a day in airline taxes.

In addition to the gas tax, lawmakers also have to reauthorize the underlying federal highway and transit programs; the law to keep those programs operating also expires on Sept. 30. And the disputes over a long-term highway bill are at least as complex and contentious as the ones that jammed up the FAA reauthorization.

"In this context, with the Tea Party, the unseemly battle over the debt ceiling, [and] the FAA shutdown... it strikes me as fraught with danger that both [transportation] program authority and the funding sources are ending on the same day," Frankel said...story in full:

Malloy revives planning for completion of Route 11

Legislators mull transportation fixes in Malloy budget
Martin B. Cassidy, Greenwich TIME Staff Writer
Published 09:05 p.m., Sunday, February 20, 2011

STAMFORD -- Echoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's call to create more jobs as part of his recent state budget address, state Rep. Gerald Fox III, D-Stamford, said obtaining funding for transportation projects will help attract business...story in full:


The high cost of congestion

Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
September 3, 2010

Connecticut's congested transportation network does more than try motorists' patience: It costs businesses and residents at least $670 million a year, according to a new draft report prepared for the state's Transportation Strategy Board.  The position paper, one of several that ultimately will comprise the board's 2011 update to its statewide transportation strategy, says lower productivity, higher operating expenses, weakened worker recruitment efforts and other problems associated with clogged highways and limited alternatives contribute to the rising price tag.

And though the problem is worst in the Stamford-to-Bridgeport corridor in Connecticut's southwestern corridor, major congestion costs also plague the Hartford and New Haven areas, leaving the state at an increasing business disadvantage.  The report's findings are bolstered by a new national study that ranks Connecticut among the worst states for urban highway congestion.

"The impact is enormous and undoubtedly affects business growth in the state," reads the report, prepared by board staff, adding that congestion in Fairfield County "threatens to choke off economic growth throughout the state."

Businesses report that the $670 million cost projection is tied to a wide array of problems.  Not surprisingly delivery costs, both for goods coming into Connecticut companies and for those being shipped elsewhere, continue to rise. The report estimates more than 32 million hours of shipping delays affect state businesses each year.

Inventory costs increase as deliveries become less reliable and more products must be stored on site. In some cases, companies increased fleet sizes to compensate for the reduced number of trips each vehicle can make through Connecticut on a daily basis.  Because traffic congestion, particularly along Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway in the southwest corner "is pervasive and affects much of the corridor over an extended period of the day," some deliveries have to be carefully planned and attempted during a limited time frame.

The report, which calculated congestion costs using a methodology developed in 2009 by the Texas A&M University, estimated $350 million of the annual expense is tied to southwestern Connecticut, with $203 million connected to the Greater Hartford area and $117 million centered on New Haven.

"Everybody will tell you that if they can't get their products where they need to go in a timely fashion, they lose money," said former Monroe First Selectwoman Karen Burnaska, a member of the Transportation Strategy Board. "It's a bleak picture."

"The efficiency of highways is critical to business," said, Donald J. Shubert, spokesman for spokesman for Keep CT Moving, a transportation advocacy coalition composed of construction labor and business groups, adding about three-quarters of the goods imported and exported from the state move by truck. "Mobility is everything."

But the costs of congestion stretch well beyond shipping-related expenses.

Employee recruiting is hampered by Connecticut's bumper-to-bumper traffic. "The extent and duration of such severe congestion makes it very difficult for commuters to reach jobs," the report states, adding that "businesses might need to offer higher wage rates to attract employees."

Other congestion-related factors that eat away at a company's bottom line, the report adds, include employees arriving late and extra time needed for travel to business meetings.  Congestion particularly hinders the hiring of executives and other high-level workers, though recruitment problems are limited to the top echelon of employees, said Eric Brown, associate counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

"Having employees - not just the product you're trying to put out or pull in - stuck in traffic is a serious concern," Brown said, adding this is a common complaint among Fairfield County firms. "We're setting ourselves up as a state to be cut off from major economic corridors."

Though complaints about Connecticut's transportation network have persisted for decades, concerns about the cost are relatively new.  From 1985 through 1991 the projected congestion cost ranged between just under $100 million to about $150 million, the report states.  By 1995 the cost had cleared $200 million and began a series of sharp increases. Between 2000 and 2007 - the last year of data used to calculate costs in this report, the price jumped 60 percent, from about $420 million to $670 million.

And the study also warns that this last number is "a very conservative estimate" that could be adjusted upward for several reasons:

Smaller urban areas, including those surrounding Danbury, Waterbury and New London, were not analyzed.  It relies on national averages regarding compensation, and therefore does not reflect the generally higher wages paid here to offset a higher cost of living.

"Unfortunately, none of this is too surprising," said Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee. "When transportation stops you are going to kill business, and we still haven't found a way to fix the problem."

Guerrera says the legislature and Gov. M. Jodi Rell have taken steps to ease the congestion, but he concedes that the problem has grown for decades and that countermeasures were undermined somewhat.  Rell and the legislature dedicated $2.3 billion in total state funds, primarily financed with bonding, in 2005 and 2006, for transportation initiatives. That represented the largest transportation investment in two decades, but only about one-quarter of the level recommended by the strategy board.

Further complicating matters, state government is hard pressed to cover the debt service on its transportation program, let alone add new projects. That's because despite increasing the state's wholesale fuel tax from 5 to 7.5 percent between July 2005 and July 2007, Rell and lawmakers have spent nearly 60 percent of the roughly $1.5 billion collected from that tax since 2005-06 on non-transportation programs, according to budget records.

The strategy board drafted a report in late July warning that Connecticut will face annual gaps of $300 million to $500 million through 2014 between the cost of maintaining its transportation network, and its likely available funding.  And if Connecticut wants not only to maintain its transportation network, but improve it, the annual gap moves closer to $1 billion.

Report shows age is catching up with Connecticut's transportation network
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
July 28, 2010

Connecticut's transportation network is facing its own perfect storm of aging infrastructure, heavy usage and harsh weather conditions - all compounded by a slumping economy and shrinking government funding, according to a draft report from the state's Transportation Strategy Board...story in full:

Commissioner Redeker, CTDOT
State eager to weigh in on federal Northeast corridor plan
August meeting a chance to offer input on high-speed rail options
Martin B. Cassidy
Published 10:59 p.m., Sunday, August 5, 2012

STAMFORD -- This month, Connecticut residents and officials will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to offer their views on how to shape the state's current and future rail lines to improve economic competitiveness and quality of life, Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said.

"This is an opportunity that frankly has never occurred in that there is a process in place to shape a multigenerational investment in high-speed rail which has the potential to completely reshape the region we call the Northeast corridor," Redeker said. "High-speed rail can connect in a far more economically expansive and dynamic way because it links major centers much more quickly than you could in any other way."

Redeker and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others said they plan to have their say at an Aug. 14 hearing in New Haven, one of a series being held in the middle of this month by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration to gather opinions as they craft a blueprint for increasing the capacity and speed of rail travel between Washington, D.C. and Boston to meet the economic needs of the region for the next 30 to 40 years.

The New Haven meeting is set from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Aug. 14, at the Shubert Theater, at 247 College St., New Haven.

Federal transit officials project that population and economic growth will remain strong in the coming decades and challenge railroads such as Metro-North's New Haven Line and other transit systems to find solutions to meet increased ridership demand and shorten trip times...

A well-thought-out spending plan to improve rail service in Connecticut in coming decades needs to include necessary signalization and other upgrades to increase train speeds and passenger capacity on the New Haven Line, that would speed up rail trips from New Haven, Norwalk, and Stamford, into Grand Central Terminal, Floyd Lapp, executive director of the South Western Regional Planning Agency.

Lapp said draft plans published this summer by the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve the Northeast rail corridor fail to address improvements to the New Haven Line despite the heavy reliance of Amtrak trains on the system and importance as a public transit corridor.

"How come the Stamford station which has the second-highest ridership after Grand Central Terminal isn't prominently mentioned in the plan," Lapp asked. "When you look at the New Haven Line it is important because it rivals New Jersey Transit as a growth segment."

Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council said that he felt positive about some of the already discussed details of Amtrak's plans to expand rail infrastructure, including adding a third track between New Haven and New London on the Shoreline East line.

Most important, Cameron said the federal government must give proper weight to the economic importance of cities like Stamford, Bridgeport, and New Haven as business destinations and consider service expansions.

Cameron said it is puzzling that Amtrak's Acela Express doesn't offer a stop in Bridgeport; a noticeable lack for those who are working for Bridgeport's economic vibrance.

"Stamford is a very important stop on Amtrak and in terms of the international business we attract and the quality of service on the line is very important to our economic vitality," Cameron said...story in full:

Rell Concedes DOT Chief Resigned After Allegation
8:23 PM EDT, July 7, 2010

HARTFORD —Gov. M. Jodi Rell acknowledged Wednesday that the abrupt resignation a week ago of state Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie was precipitated by a complaint of "inappropriate behavior" against him by a department employee.

"My office was contacted by a person representing a DOT employee who had alleged inappropriate behavior by the Commissioner," Rell said in a statement issued by her staff late Wednesday. "Legal counsel for the Governor's Office conducted a preliminary inquiry into the allegation."

"No formal complaint of any kind was ever filed and no formal investigation was ever conducted," the governor said.

"However, at the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry, Commissioner Marie was offered an opportunity to resign and he did so," Rell said. "He also signed a stipulated agreement that required him to return all state equipment, including computers, cellphones and cars; restricted his access to all state facilities; and barred him from contacting or criticizing any state employees or administration officials..."

Until his abrupt separation from state government, Marie was credited with turning the focus of one of the largest and most expensive components of state government from road-building to mass transit, a policy initiative that Rell has embraced. As commissioner, he bought new rail cars and buses, fought cuts in commuter rail service to New York, supervised nearly $1 billion in improvements to the state's New Haven rail yard, and aggressively pushed for commuter rail connecting New Haven, Hartford and Springfield. 

He also prioritized expensive transportation projects in a way that could increase fiscal discipline over planning and spending,

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Questions raised over sudden departure of state's transportation commissioner

Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
July 1, 2010

Gov. M. Jodi Rell's administration remained largely quiet Wednesday over the abrupt departure of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie, who left the job Tuesday afternoon, but will continue to earn his nearly $170,000-per-year salary for four more weeks.

Marie submitted a two-sentence letter of resignation following a meeting at the Office of Policy and Management Tuesday. Details of that meeting were not disclosed, but sources said he did not return to Department of Transportation headquarters in Newington.

Rell issued a written statement Wednesday reporting Marie had left "to pursue long-term employment opportunities and spend more time with his family." The governor also announced that Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Parker would head the agency effective immediately...

Further complicating matters, nearly 60 percent of the roughly $1.5 billion state government has collected from the wholesale fuel tax since the 2005-06 fiscal year has been spent outside of the Special Transportation Fund, according to budget records. A $1.1 billion component within an overall state budget of $19.01 for new fiscal year that starts today, the fund is backed largely by state fuel tax revenues and federal grants, and is a primary source of funding for transportation network maintenance and new construction.

The legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis projected in a May report that the fund would fall into deficit by the 2011-12 fiscal year. That same report projected the general fund, which represents more than 90 percent of the total budget, faces a $3.37 billion built-in shortfall in 12 months.

Local 2001 of the Connecticut State Employees Association/Service Employees Union International, which represents about 1,000 DOT engineers, planners and analysts, has been sparring with Marie and his predecessors over several management issues.

The most recent dispute has centered on the DOT's decision to hire private-sector bridge inspectors without first preparing an analysis of whether the work could be done more effectively and for less money by state employees. Under Marie, DOT insisted this was allowed, and merely continuation of an existing practice, while the union charged it violates new requirements of the state's "clean contracting" statute.

"We're concerned about the future of the agency but we're concerned about the present as well," Local 2001 spokesman Matt O'Connor said. "His departure in the midst of this series of contracting questions left unanswered is certainly cause for concern."

Marie took over the Connecticut DOT in April 2008 on the heels of two crises.

The first involved massive flaws found in private contractor work performed on drainage systems, bridges, guard rails and lighting on Interstate 84 in Cheshire.

The department also was taking heat from the General Assembly after the administration revealed cost estimates for a new rail car maintenance yard to be developed in New Haven had quadrupled from about $300 million in 2005 to $1.2 billion. Since Marie became commissioner, reductions in project scope have driven the cost estimate for that rail maintenance facility closer to $600 million.

"I thought he addressed some significant problems fairly quickly," DeFronzo said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont of Greenwich issued a statement Wednesday praising the outgoing commissioner.

"Joe Marie helped reenergize the effort to bring high speed rail and better transit options to our state," Lamont said. "His resignation is a great loss for Connecticut...

Please search the CT MIRROR archives for the remainder of this story.

DOT Commissioner Joseph Marie resigns to spend more time with family, Rell reports
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
June 30, 2010

State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph F. Marie resigned today, and will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Parker, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced this morning.

In a written statement, the governor's office indicated Marie resigned "to pursue long-term employment opportunities and spend more time with his family."

"I thank Joe Marie for his service to the state of Connecticut and wish him well as he pursues other opportunities. Joe made a significant contribution to DOT over the last two years and his leadership will be missed," said Rell, who is not seeking re-election and whose term ends in early January. "I have full confidence that Jeff Parker will continue moving the DOT in the dynamic new direction that I have set."

Rell announced Marie's hiring in April 2008, hailing his more than 22 years of transit industry experience in both the public and private sectors. Marie was director of operations and maintenance for a regional public transit system in Phoenix, Ariz., when hired by Rell. He previously held senior transit posts for the states of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and had been assistant general manager for a metro transit operation in Minneapolis...

Please search the CT MIRROR archives for the remainder of this story.

COG learns ins and outs of stimulus funding
By Karin Crompton
Published on 8/20/2009

Norwich - When the state's ombudsman for federal stimulus projects handed local municipal officials 2˝ pages charting potential funding opportunities, he warned them not to think “there's this big pot of discretionary money out there.”

”There isn't,” said the ombudsman, Office of Policy and Management Undersecretary David LeVasseur.

Instead, he said, projects have to fit into federal guidelines, or a “niche.” Those guidelines, as many towns have already discovered, eliminate projects from consideration - a sore point among small-town first selectmen in particular, who told LeVasseur they have pricey, ready-to-go projects that aren't being considered for stimulus funds.

LeVasseur was the guest speaker at Wednesday's Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments meeting.

The bigger issue he wanted to speak about, LeVasseur said, was prevailing wage requirements for federal projects.

The Davis-Bacon Act, which sets wages for public works projects costing more than $2,000, applies to the federal stimulus projects. LeVasseur said the guidelines in the law have been a main reason for discrepancies between town and state estimates.

Waterford and New London have already learned about that, as two projects there will cost much more than original town estimates.

COG expects to use federal transportation grant money to cover the shortfall, but those funds are part of a federal surface transportation bill that hasn't yet been authorized and requires a local match, which, in New London's case, is $228,000.

The federal Department of Labor will be hiring additional inspectors for the projects, he said, warning that contractors must keep particularly detailed records.

”You could see projects come to a screeching halt,” LeVasseur said.

LeVasseur said the state Department of Transportation would conduct training on the Davis-Bacon Act in about a month.

He said other reasons for the estimates' discrepancies are because the state estimated a higher price per ton of asphalt and the intricacies of Federal Highway Administration guidelines...

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

State's transportation study finished, but no decisions made 
By Karin Crompton 
Published on 5/22/2009

Hartford - A transportation advisory board officially accepted the final copy of a million-dollar study on tolls Thursday morning but made no recommendation on whether to implement any of the ideas contained in the voluminous report.  Instead, members of the Transportation Strategy Board discussed several options they individually preferred and agreed to focus on those as the board prepares to update a document intended to guide the state's transportation policy.

Board members also said the public needs more education about the latest tolling technologies, which vary greatly from the older-style toll booths to electronic tolling using GPS and technology akin to the E-ZPASS system. Too many people automatically harken back to the deadly toll booth crash in 1983, members said, not understanding that modern technology can charge drivers without them needing to stop on the highway.

Cambridge Systematics Inc. administered the $1.2 million study for the strategy board and offered nine variations of tolling in the study.  Copies of the report have been forwarded to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the leadership of the legislature's Transportation Committee.  Strategy board members who spoke Thursday morning largely concentrated on two concepts they want to learn more about: charging drivers for vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and putting tolls on all limited-access highways.

The VMT approach charges drivers based on the number of miles they drive.  Members largely rejected the concept of border tolls as unfair to inter-state commuters. Members also questioned whether tolls could adequately mitigate congestion, one of the goals often cited.

Board chairman Kevin Kelleher summarized the group's next steps as continuing to educate itself on the VMT concept, and spending more time educating itself and the public on “boothless tolling.”

Member Karen Burnaska pointed out that the consultant had urged the board and the state to first consider what it wants to achieve by installing tolls before seriously debating the matter, namely whether it is congestion mitigation or revenue.

”I'd like to think it's both,” Burnaska said, adding later that state residents have made it clear that any tolls revenue should remain in the transportation coffers, not sent into other areas as currently happens.

”They want to see some benefit, not just get taxed again,” Burnaska said.

Member Lyle Wray said the electronic technology is not new, but the question of how to implement it nationally is. Wray said tolling is likely easier to do on a national level than state by state.  Wray called the VMT concept the way of the future.

”The question is, what are we going to do in the meantime?” he asked.

Member John Filchak said VMT makes the most sense and said he is not yet convinced whether congestion pricing would work in Connecticut.

”Clearly, we have to do more study,” Filchak said.

Kelleher defended the price tag of the study during the meeting and when asked about it later.

”I think we spent well and wisely to understand the practical application of what can be used in Connecticut,” Kelleher said.

In “Talking Transportation,” a regular column in his self-published transportation newsletter, Jim Cameron last week lashed out at the strategy board for failing to make a recommendation on the study.

”After commissioning a $1 million, 500-page study of the issue, the TSB is expected to say that the idea of 'value pricing' our interstates needs, you guessed it, yet more study!” Cameron wrote. Cameron later suggested that the board “wanted the plan to die.”

Cameron is also chairman of the Metro-North Commuter Council - sometimes called the Metro-North Shore Line East Commuter Council, though it focuses only on Metro-North - but writes the column independent of that role. Cameron favors tolling.  When asked about Cameron's criticism and the lack of a recommendation on a high-priced study, Kelleher reiterated board members' assertions that they need more information.

”That's the cost of doing studies today,” Kelleher said...

The report is available online at

Are streetcars a viable transit option for Stamford?  Firm will study potential of 3-mile route
By Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/20/2009 11:14:54 PM EDT
Updated: 04/21/2009 07:35:03 AM EDT

STAMFORD -- Will a bygone transit system propel the city into the next phase of economic growth?

An engineering firm has started to evaluate development potential along a proposed 3-mile streetcar route from Bull's Head to the South End. The firm, URS, is looking at U.S. Census and market data and interviewing land-use experts.

"We're looking to find out whether there is a level of economic development in a city of this size that makes a project like this worth pursuing," said Josh Lecar, the city's transportation planner.

In other municipalities, light-rail systems have been credited with increasing property values, spurring private investment and revitalizing neighborhoods. Supporters say streetcars, unlike buses, provide a permanent infrastructure that attracts more commuters and investors.

Portland, Ore., installed streetcars in 2001, which created more than $3.5 billion in property investments within two blocks of the line, according to Portland Streetcar Inc., which operates the cars. It began as a 2.4-mile loop that cost about $57 million, but the line was extended three times and now is 8 miles long.

In Tampa, Fla., $800 million in private investment projects sprang up along a 2.4-mile streetcar route after it opened in 2002, according to the Tampa Downtown Partnership. The initial cost was $48 million.

Lecar said a "starter system" in Stamford would make about eight stops and cost under $50 million. The city is interested in adopting a version that would subject the streetcars to the same right of way and traffic rules as cars. Though some city representatives are concerned about safety, it would not "dramatically change the operation of local streets from a traffic standpoint," Lecar said...

Please search the ADVOCATE for the remainder of this story.

Rail freight tunnel gathers steam
Greenwich TIME
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 03/28/2009 08:23:28 PM EDT

While hashing out transportation stimulus funding for the region this winter, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes pushed for a freight rail tunnel under New York Harbor.

With traffic clogging Interstate 95 and other roads throughout the region, the long-deferred idea of a tunnel between New Jersey and New York should be prioritized for its promise to move millions of tons of freight off trucks and onto rail cars, said Himes, D-Greenwich.

"I've always believed that it is a very important project, and I've always believed it is on way too slow a burn," he said. "It is a very high priority for me. And the people in Fairfield County pay too high a psychological and economic burden from congestion in the state."

This summer, Himes and

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who represents Manhattan's Upper West Side, plan to join forces to seek funding for the tunnel when legislators hammer out a new version of the five-year Surface Transportation Infrastructure Reauthorization Act, which expires in September.

Both point to a 2004 environmental impact statement commissioned by the New York Economic Development Corp. that found the underwater route could eliminate up to 1 million vehicle trips from New York City's roads a year, and similar numbers in Connecticut and Long Island, N.Y.

"There is basically 50 years of catching up to investment in rail freight in the whole area that needs to be done over a period of time," Nadler said. "Clearly, in terms of congestion on I-95, it would be very important to Connecticut, but it won't help much if some one in Connecticut doesn't look at what the options for a rail freight terminal up there are."

With the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey putting millions into the century-old idea of the tunnel, Connecticut officials said they hope the renewed push will fast-track the project...

Please search the Greenwich TIME archives for the remainder of this story.

And from the C.G.A. on Friday the 13th...but really, sounds more like an April Fool's joke on Fairfield County...
State committee approves study of electronic border tolls

Greenwich TIME
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/13/2009 11:31:24 PM EDT

HARTFORD -- Despite an outcry from Fairfield County legislators, members of the state's transportation committee Friday approved a bill proposing that the state's planners consider ways to install electronic tolls at state borders in municipalities such as Greenwich, Danbury and Brookfield, to fund transportation projects.

In an hour-long discussion, legislators from Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford and Stratford spoke against the bill prior to the legislature's transportation committee voting 22-13 to approve it and send it before the legislature for consideration.

"I'm concerned that this is a study on where the state will put tolls, rather than a further discussion of them," Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, said. "My vote will be 'no,' to highlight the concerns I have..."

"Our discussion today seems to reverberate with that old political saying that all politics are local," DeFronzo said. "While Fairfield County would be impacted by tolls, they would also probably be the biggest beneficiary of mass transit improvements if we could get tolls in place."

The state Department of Transportation would be asked to complete the report on border tolling by next June, according to the bill's text.  Sen. Robert Duff, D-Norwalk, vice chairman of the transportation committee, said the legislation was premature, because the study has not been fully evaluated. He said the state's railroad system and bus service should be improved and upgraded before imposing road use fees on Interstate 95 in Fairfield County.

"I don't think we're quite ready yet to move forward on this concept," Duff said. "After many years of neglect, the state should focus on getting new rail cars in place, parking lots for commuters. "We don't have a great intermodal transportation system."

After several rounds of comment on the bill, the committee voted 22-13 to refer the proposal to the General Assemby for debate.  Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said the proposed law's focus on border tolls, rather than various other options, seemed like a piecemeal approach that would make it harder to expand tolls into other state areas.

"If you just consider border tolling, it will become very hard to go back and expand it to consider other parts of the state," McDonald said. "This is blatantly trying to hit Fairfield County in particular, and it is a poor policy."

Last month, the Transportation Strategy Board received the results of the study on the possible use of electronic tolls to improve roads and reduce congestion. The study concluded that tolls could raise billions of dollars, but those gains could be offset if the fees harmed the state's business climate and drove traffic onto local streets.  The study found a $5 toll on all traffic crossing Connecticut's borders could raise $19.5 billion over 30 years but would result in an undetermined but significant number of cars using Route 1 in Fairfield County to elude the fees...

Please search the Greenwich TIME archives for the remainder of this story.

Not in CT and a different type, but BRIDGES especially along the AMTRAK corridor an issue.

Closer to home, Bridge Street Bridge in Saugatuck story:  Impact on trains.


The Mianus Bridge and state DOT

Stamford ADVOCATE editorial

Article Launched: 06/26/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

With the anniversary of the Mianus River Bridge collapse 25 years ago this week, it is important to respectfully remember the individuals who were killed, and how people from all sectors responded to the tragedy and its aftermath. Three people died and three were injured, while Greenwich and the region traumatized when the Interstate 95 bridge's design and lack of maintenance caused a 100-foot section of the northbound lane to fall away on June 28, 1983.

A package of stories in The Advocate last Sunday effectively recounted the shocking scene, the resulting traffic detours that choked surface roads in area municipalities and the changes in bridge maintenance programs shortly thereafter.

But in remembering that time, we cannot avoid hearing echoes from the disaster in some of the problems the state Department of Transportation still has to this day.

Following the Mianus collapse, it emerged that the DOT's bridge oversight program was not properly staffed, leading to brief, hit-and-miss inspections, as well as some that were reported done even though they weren't. Also at some points prior to the event, lack of money was officially used as the excuse for the fact that repairs recommended for the Mianus span were not being undertaken...

There's that money issue again.

There can be no doubt that the state has to respond to financial realities. Its revenue stream continues to slow because of energy costs and economic troubles nationwide. The prospect of substantial deficits has impelled even Gov. Rell to agree on putting off major DOT reform efforts for now, as well as order significant spending cuts across the board.

Additionally, it must be noted there is no indication that Connecticut is in immediate danger on the order of the Mianus Bridge tragedy - though that event was not expected either.

But while contemplating what occurred 25 years ago and why, we think it would be a lot better for public safety and peace of mind in Connecticut if the DOT didn't in some ways seem still stuck in 1983.

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Design errors found in '07 bridge collapse 
Published on 11/14/2008

Washington - Safety investigators on Thursday singled out undersized steel plates as the chief cause of last year's deadly collapse of a highway bridge in Minneapolis...

During Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, he cited the bridge collapse and called for spending more on crumbling highways, bridges and tunnels.

The Senate has yet to act on the bill. If no action is taken during a lame-duck session that starts next week, lawmakers would have to start anew on the legislation in January.


Gold Star, Nine Others Singled Out in Wake Of Disaster In Minneapolis

By Karin Crompton      
Published on 8/3/2007

The commissioner of the state Department of Transportation has ordered a review of 10 years' worth of safety records for the Gold Star Memorial Bridge, which connects New London and Groton, and the Route 169 bridge in Norwich, plus eight other bridges in the state that are “of a generally similar design” to the one that collapsed Wednesday in Minneapolis...

A bridge's lifespan depends on a variety of factors, including the material of the decking surface, the regular maintenance performed on the bridge, and the frequency of use, DeWolf said.

“If you have a bridge with concern, you should go more often,” he said.

The Federal Highway Administration uses two categories for bridges in poor condition. The bridge that collapsed in Minnesota on Wednesday was labeled “structurally deficient,” according to a 2005 federal study, although under federal standards that classification does not necessarily mean a bridge is unsafe.

Connecticut has 351 bridges deemed structurally deficient, which accounts for roughly 9 percent of all the state's bridges, according to data on the FHA Web site.

A bridge can also be classified as “functionally obsolete,” which means the traffic volume exceeds its planned capacity or the bridge's lane and shoulder widths are insufficient for its current use.

DeWolf said a bridge can fall under the structurally deficient category for a variety of reasons, such as corrosion, wear and tear, and fatigue cracks, which are caused by areas of a bridge being stretched through tension over a course of time.

“You don't necessarily have a collapse coming, but you have something to follow,” DeWolf said. “If (a collapse) were imminent, the state would close the bridge or reinforce it, anyway.”

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Rail cars to get more bike space 
By Mary E. O’Leary
Posted on Wed, Jun 11, 2008 

NEW HAVEN — Ask and you shall receive.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, at the request of New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., has ordered that the 380 M-8 rail cars on order for use on Metro North be modified to allow for increased bicycle storage...

But the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council feels that until there are enough train cars to allow all paying passengers to sit, bicycles should not be allowed to take up space.

“Everyone is tired of standing. How can you accommodate a bike without blocking the aisle?” asked James Cameron, council chairman.

He said the council does support more bike racks at train stations as a low-cost solution to help commuters, who now have a four-year wait for parking permits.

On the other side of the issue, cycling advocates point to successful programs in other states, particularly California.

Richard Stowe, of the New Canaan Environmental Group, has taken on Cameron in his blog, pointing particularly to price of oil as a reason to act.

“With the price of oil cresting 120 dollars per barrel never has there been a better time for Metro-North to accommodate bicycles during peak hours,” Stowe wrote. He also criticized Cameron’s defense of keeping bar cars, but not accommodating bikes.

Please search the New Haven REGISTER archives for the remainder of this story.

Jersey exec named to DOT post
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/30/2008 02:45:37 AM EST

The state has hired a longtime New Jersey Transitexecutive to run Connecticut railway and bus lines, including construction of the New Haven rail yard and a planned expansion of mass transit.

James Redeker, 55, vice president of technology services for New Jersey Transit, will become chief of the Bureau of Public Transportation next month. The bureau oversees Metro-North Railroad; manages CTTransit, the statewide bus service; and supports ridesharing programs.  Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie said Redeker's experience in New Jersey prepares him to handle rail and bus improvements in Connecticut.

"Only with safe, reliable and convenient public transportation will we transition people from their cars to the bus, train or van pool," Marie said. "Jim Redeker will help us deliver on that commitment. His long experience with transit issues in the tri-state area will serve us all well."

The job pays $145,000 a year, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said.

Redeker joined New Jersey Transit in 1978. He oversaw capital planning efforts, including new stations and parking facilities, and introduced computerized technology, according to the DOT.  Technological improvements included digital video and audio information systems for passengers and computerized ticket sales by machine and the Internet, according to Redeker's resume.

Redeker could not be reached for comment yesterday. In a statement issued by the DOT, he said it is possible to improve Connecticut rail and bus service even in the fiscal crisis...

 Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Commissioner: DOT must embrace change
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer

Posted: 12/14/2008 02:41:52 AM EST

STAMFORD - Choosing good leadership, cooperating with cities and towns, and creating plans to improve rail, bus and other mass transit in Connecticut are areas the state Department of Transportation needs to improve, Commissioner Joseph Marie told local business leaders Wednesday.

"We have many hardworking employees at the DOT, and there are things we are doing well," Marie said. "If we are going to fundamentally change the DOT into a 21st-century organization, we need for the institutional bureaucracy to embrace that challenge."

Next month, an official DOT report will be released dealing with efforts to reform the agency to be more efficient and move toward a greater focus on rail, bus, and other modes of transportation, said Marie, who took leadership of the agency this summer.  He spoke at a meeting of the board of directors of MetroPool, a regional nonprofit corporation funded by the DOT to encourage increased use of mass transit, carpooling and vanpooling, and other transportation options for employees of area companies.

"A good organization that gets better does a lot of soul-searching," Marie said...

Marie said his agency was trying to finalize a list of ready-to-build highway and transit projects to put forward for federal funding next year as part of President-elect Barack Obama's infrastructure program .

"We are spending every waking hour pushing ourselves to get projects 'shovel-ready' so that if that legislation is passed we are ready, and Connecticut doesn't miss anything," Marie said...

"We now have a professional in charge," said Floyd Lapp, executive director for the South Western Regional Region Metropolitan Planning Organization. "We have a very able administrator here, and now is the time to support him and try to get things done."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

DOT appointee brings mass transit expertise
Brian Lockhart
Article Launched: 04/24/2008 02:44:20 AM EDT

HARTFORD - Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele did not suggest that his boss, Gov. M. Jodi Rell, pick Joseph Marie of Arizona to run Connecticut's Department of Transportation.

But Fedele's glad she did.

Fedele spearheaded the national search for a new DOT chief after Ralph Carpenter retired in December...

Asked whether Marie plans to remain at the job for any length of time, Fedele said the appointment is secure only until the next gubernatorial election in 2010.

The DOT has had significant turnover in management in recent years.

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Train cars stay on track despite rail yard delays
By Brian Lockhart
Article Launched: 05/30/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

BRIDGEPORT - State transportation officials assured the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council on Wednesday night that problems with the upgrade of the New Haven Rail Yard will not delay arrival of 300 new M8 train cars or interfere with their maintenance.

"We have confidence that, working with Metro-North, the cars will be maintained to the appropriate standards," Eugene Colonese, the state Department of Transportation's rail administrator, told the council during a meeting at the Bridgeport railroad station.

Colonese and other DOT officials briefed the council on the rail yard project, which came under fire in April, when state lawmakers learned the $300 million budget approved in 2005 had ballooned to $1.2 billion.  Gov. M. Jodi Rell is reviewing bids from three contractors for an independent cost analysis of the design.  The rail yard upgrade and the $1 billion purchase of the train cars are hallmarks of Rell's 2005 transportation bill.

Lawmakers on the General Assembly's finance and transportation committees last month grilled the DOT on the higher costs. They are trying to schedule another meeting with Metro-North Railroad.  The commuter council questioned the DOT on Wednesday about the cost overruns.

Asked why the project was under-budgeted, Al Martin, a deputy DOT commissioner, said, "Keep in mind that initial estimate was a concept without an awful lot of the necessary engineering being done."

Council member Jeffrey Maron of Stamford asked why commuters should have confidence in the DOT's $1.2 billion estimate.
"You can rest assured we're very close to being right on," Martin said.

But council Chairman Jim Cameron had doubts.

"I think all bets are off," he said after the meeting.

The project has been divided into three phases, with construction scheduled to begin in April 2009 and lasting through 2020.

"How can you possibly plan out 10 years from now, given the inflationary and unpredictable environment we're in?" Cameron said...

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Lawmakers decry additional $250M for rail yard
Norwalk HOUR
April 16, 2008

State lawmakers were bent out of shape Wednesday after questioning the state Department of Transportation on its cost estimates for a new rail yard in New Haven.

The project is necessary to maintain a fleet of new rail cars for Metro-North Railroad's New Haven line that will arrive in late 2009. Lawmakers approved $300 million for the rail yard in 2005, but the cost has ballooned to $1.12 billion because of inflation and additional design aspects.

To keep the project on schedule, the legislature must appropriate an additional $252 million for the project's first of three phases by next March, according Office of Policy and Management secretary Robert Genuario.

The revelation didn't sit well with the legislature's finance and transportation committees, which pressed the agencies for an explanation Wednesday in Hartford.

"I feel like I'm going through the three stages of grief here," state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-27, said. "I've been through shock and anger, and I'm still wallowing in despair, and I haven't gotten to acceptance."

McDonald primarily wanted to know why he and his colleagues hadn't been informed sooner.

Genuario said he first found out in 2006 that the rail yard would cost more than expected, and at that point, he didn't entirely believe it. He ordered the DOT to re-evaluate their estimates during 2007, but didn't get the information to lawmakers until a week ago.

Repeatedly, he said the late notice was an error on his part.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have brought you into the loop earlier, and I take responsibility in that regard," he said.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, majority whip, laughingly calls the issue "Traingate."

"We've heard rumblings about the overruns since about four months ago, but we were never getting straight answers," Duff said after Wednesday's meeting.

Scott Hill, the DOT's project manager, said the department's original request for $300 million was based on a preliminary estimate. When DOT engineers actually began designing the project, they added a parking garage, a pedestrian bridge for workers, a storage yard and several other new features.

They also realized the city of New Haven wanted the surrounding property for economic development, meaning the new yard needs to be built on the existing yard's 70-acre plot. Builders, then, have to work around existing operations there, adding time -- and greater inflation costs -- to the project, Hill said.

Transportation Commissioner H. James Boice said it's typical for DOT projects to vary in cost from original estimates, and sometimes they even cost less, but lawmakers were still taken aback by how much more money taxpayers will have to pony up.

"While the department's tried to keep everything up to date, it is clear a better job could have been done," Boice said...

Please search the Norwalk HOUR archives for the remainder of this story.

Transportation Key Component of State Spending Plan 
By Karin Crompton  
Published on 2/7/2008 

Hartford — Under Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposed midterm budget, the state would reorganize the Department of Transportation, nab highway speeders through the use of radar cameras installed in the East Lyme area, and hire additional inspectors for bridge repair and maintenance...

State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said she likes the pilot program.

“I've been a proponent of that kind of oversight of the highways for a while because I know they do it in other states and it is rather effective,” said Stillman, chairman of the Public Safety and Security Committee. “I think it's a good idea to do it. ... I applaud (Gov. Rell) proposing some things that I believe the delegation had requested — not just the cameras, but certainly more patrol on the highways.”

State Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, said he is leaning toward supporting the idea.

“The feeling always is that public opinion doesn't support it, that people don't want cameras taking pictures of them, and they don't feel comfortable with that,” said Jutila, a member of the Transportation Committee. “I think right now people are upset enough with the carnage out there on the highways that they might be ready for it, and I might be.”

Jutila said he drafted a letter, signed by the local delegation, that asks the Transportation Committee for a public hearing on a variety of highway safety initiatives, from reduced speed limits to highway cameras and restricting truck traffic to the right lane. Jutila said the delegation is not yet advocating for the ideas but “we all agreed they should be on the table.”

The governor's proposal surprised many in its $2 million recommendation to split the state DOT into two separate agencies: the Department of Highways and the Department of Public Transportation, Aviation, and Ports...

Rell's proposal to divide the DOT came a couple of weeks after she received a report on proposed reforms for the department. Her recommendation to divide the department surprised many, however, because that was not a conclusion reached in the report but the governor's own suggestion.

Other recommendations in the proposed budget include:

•A law requiring people to clean their car roofs after snow storms to prevent “ice missiles.”

•$700,000 to add 10 commercial-vehicle inspectors within the Department of Motor Vehicles as part of a “crackdown” on unsafe trucks and trucking companies.

•42 inspectors and maintainers for bridge repair and maintenance to ensure bridge inspections occur every two years.

•An additional 50 DOT engineers for more “in-house design and oversight of transportation projects”; there was no budget adjustment, according to the proposal, because the positions “are funded 80 percent federal projects and 20 percent capital projects.”

•The creation of a “Responsible Growth” Cabinet to advise on responsible growth policies and initiatives and to coordinate funding and permitting for “developments of regional significance.”

•$500,000 in the capital budget to finance a master plan for the state's deep-water ports.

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation ("DOT") former Commissioner Emil Frankel pictured below at LWV of Weston event.

State searches for new DOT chief

By Mark Ginocchio
Published January 13 2008

The state is moving aggressively in its nationwide search for the next commissioner of the state Department of Transportation and will stop accepting applications for the post before the end of the month.

Commissioner Ralph Carpenter stepped down last month after a little more than a year with the agency. Applications will be accepted until Jan. 25, about six weeks after the job was first advertised, said Chris Cooper, a spokesman in Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office.

From there, the state Department of Administration will begin conducting interviews and narrowing the list of candidates.

Former DOT Commissioner Emil Frankel of Westport is expected to start serving as interim commissioner before the end of the month, according to state officials.

The Department of Administration posted an advertisement in newspapers, job sites and transportation trade and industry groups such as the American Association of Highway & Transportation Officials, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies.

Qualified applicants are expected to have at least eight years of top-level management experience.

The ad describes the state's long-term transportation strategy as focused on smart growth and transit-oriented development.

It also mentions the DOT reform group, a committee created by Rell last year to change the culture and structure of the agency after it was revealed that the department had mismanaged a $52 million drainage installation project on Interstate 84 in Waterbury...

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Time For A Transit Chief
Hartford Courant editorial
December 13, 2007

The retirement of state Department of Transportation Commissioner Ralph J. Carpenter presents an opportunity the state must embrace. Gov. M. Jodi Rell must appoint a transit advocate, a transportation professional committed to using all appropriate modes of transportation to improve the state's commerce and quality of life, to head the department.

For decades, the department's heavy emphasis has been on highways. Mr. Carpenter, an exemplary public servant, had begun the process of broadening the department's vision. A former state police lieutenant colonel and Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner, Mr. Carpenter came to the DOT in 2005. The department was then beset with scandals and lack of focus.

Mr. Carpenter, other state administrators and members of a reform commission appointed earlier this year by Gov. Rell have together made substantial improvements. They're reorganized redundant and failing administrative processes, established stronger oversight of construction projects and improved bridge inspections...

Gov. Rell has committed the state to a plan of responsible growth and transit-oriented development. The right appointment at DOT can bring the state a lot closer to these worthy goals.

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Border toll hearings' sites concern area lawmakers;  New Haven, Waterbury to host public hearings
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Updated: 04/26/2009 06:40:53 AM EDT

Fairfield County's state legislators want hearings scheduled in the southwestern part of Connecticut to let area residents have their say on a recently touted proposal to collect fees at the state borders on Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway.

"To me, to not have a meeting in at least the border areas seems blatantly unfair when there is this whole issue about tolling on the borders," said state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. "This, to me, seems that the Transportation Strategy Board is not serious about this issue and gaining public input from people who might be affected..."

The Transportation Strategy Board, made up of state business leaders, transportation advocates and elected officials, was established in 2000 after a summit in Stamford determined the state was at risk of economic stagnation without more deliberate strategies to develop the state's highway and mass transit infrastructure.

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGWheels turn on tolls: State panel weighing 9 options, all electronic, to raise revenue
By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register Metro Editor
Friday, February 20, 2009 6:43 AM EST

HARTFORD — The state needs to bring in more money, and it wants to reduce traffic jams, and so the Transportation Strategy Board is looking into whether to bring tolls back to Connecticut.  The TSB received a presentation Thursday from Jeffrey N. Buxbaum of Cambridge Systematics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., which did a $1 million study looking at toll options. Right up front, Buxbaum wanted to make one thing clear:

"I don’t want anyone to walk away from this room thinking that in any way, shape or form we’re talking about putting tollbooths back on Connecticut highways," he told the board. All the options presented involve electronic tolls, in which a camera photographs license plates or a device sends a signal to an overhead receiver...TSB Chairman Kevin J. Kelleher said he hopes the board will come up with a recommendation on whether to bring back tolls, and what system to use, at its next meeting and to present it to the assembly this session.

Please use link above to get full presentation.

Ed Stannard can be reached at or 789-5743.

Report on highway tolls pending 
Published on 1/1/2009

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A government panel is expected to receive a report later this month on whether tolls should return to Connecticut's highways.
Cambridge Systematics, a transportation research group, is scheduled to present its results to the state Transportation Strategy Board on Jan. 15. Jill Kelly, a board member, tells the Connecticut Post the report will lay out many options...see above.

From the road: No tolls in Connecticut
By Brian Lockhart
Posted: 12/03/2008 02:45:27 AM EST

Gov. M. Jodi Rell is looking for ways to close the state's budget deficit but does not count highway tolls among the potential solutions.

"I don't want tolls back in Connecticut," Rell said by phone Tuesday while returning from a conference of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia.

The route took her through New Jersey, which, Rell noted, imposed higher highway tolls as of Monday.  Connecticut's toll booths were dismantled 20 years ago after an accident between a truck and three cars killed seven people at the Stratford toll plaza for Interstate 95.  The revenue, used to help fund transportation initiatives, was replaced by gasoline taxes.

The state Transportation Strategy Board is doing a $1 million study on installing electronic E-ZPass style booth-less tolls along the state's main thoroughfares. The study is due in February, in time for the General Assembly to consider it during the 2009 budget session...

Floyd Lapp, executive director of the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, the organization that recommends transportation policy to the state leaders, supports the concept of tolls and congestion pricing.  Lapp said that based on previous statements he knew Rell was not in favor of tolls, but he said he wishes critics would keep an open mind pending the transportation strategy board's study.

"I would respectfully recommend that we wait, see the results and be guided accordingly," he said. "We remain open. . . . Maybe for whatever reasons, it doesn't work. But I wouldn't at the outset reach a judgment, pro or con."

But Lapp said restoring tolls would not be a quick fix for Connecticut's budget woes.

"What I learned . . . is the initial investment in infrastructure . . . is such you really don't realize a big bang for investment," Lapp said. "I think it would be a false advocacy for enthusiasts like me to say, 'You have a revenue source we don't have now.' . . . Initially, it's a slow investment."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Toll roads study on schedule for legislative debate in '09 
By Karin Crompton    
Published on 9/27/2008 

Newington - The company hired to study tolls and congestion pricing in Connecticut is sticking to its schedule and appears likely to finish in time for the matter to be debated during the 2009 legislative session.

Cambridge Systematics Inc., a Massachusetts-based company, met with the state Transportation Strategy Board on Sept. 18 and a group of “stakeholders” on Thursday to update them.

Proponents are suggesting the state reinstall tolls as a means to generate revenue for transportation projects in a way that charges the people who cause the wear and tear to roads and bridges. Tolls are also being suggested as a potential replacement to the existing gas tax, where a tax on fuel is meant to go into the state's Special Transportation Fund.

Critics question the need for tolls and point out that the state diverts more than half of the gas tax money into the general fund and away from the Special Transportation Fund. They also question some of the technology, such as the use of highway cameras, and whether highway tolls would result in more local traffic as people duck off the highway to avoid tolls.

No one, however, should envision an old school tollbooth, said Jeff Buxbaum, a principal with Cambridge Systematics.

Buxbaum reminded the audience during a presentation Thursday that current technology is fully automated and set up to allow vehicles to continue driving the same speed. There are no booths set up in highway lanes.

According to Cambridge, there are more than 5,200 miles of toll roads, bridges and tunnels in 35 states. Connecticut and Vermont are the only states in the Northeast without tolls; the next closest state without tolls is Tennessee.

The study will not make any recommendations, Buxbaum said, and will only present pros and cons. It will look at various technologies, locations, the amount of money that might be raised, and who would pay.

Buxbaum said people tend to prefer tolls to taxes, viewing them as a more equitable way to pay for transportation projects. However, support wanes when public-private partnerships - where private companies manage the tolls - are introduced, projects become more complex, and the public is less clear about where the money goes.

Buxbaum also reiterated that tolls and congestion pricing are separate, though related, entities.

Congestion pricing refers to adjusting the price of tolls depending upon the amount of traffic. It is meant to sway drivers from driving into a high-traffic area during peak times.

The study will also look at where the tolls might be located. The study will look at tolling:

■ All lanes of state and interstate highways;

■ High-occupancy vehicle lanes that are converted into toll lanes;

■ At the state's borders;

■ On road shoulders that are converted to toll lanes during busy times; and

■ Every road in the state.

The study will also look at pricing, implementation and the funding motivation behind tolling.

...The state Office of Policy and Management is administering the $1.2 million study for the transportation board.



Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Panel is in the driver's seat of transit reform
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published November 24 2007

Reforming the state Department of Transportation has been eye-opening for Michael Critelli.

As the head of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's 11-member commission to reorganize the DOT, the executive chairman of Pitney Bowes in Stamford has had to sift through information from four public hearings and dozens of comments submitted through the group's Web site...

The commission was formed in April after revelations that an Interstate 84 widening project in Waterbury was riddled with flaws.  By interviewing DOT employees, the commission got an insider's look at what is causing some of the problems, Critelli said.  Public hearings have helped commission members learn about the amount of interaction DOT must have with towns, other states and other Connecticut agencies. Consider the commuter who drives to a train station, parks in a garage there and rides the train into New York, then takes a subway, Critelli said.

He learned the DOT is not overstaffed, he said. It was downsized under former Gov. John Rowland and has yet to rebuild, despite an increase in projects and demands, Critelli said.

"It was so severely downsized, it has not come back to the level it needs to manage the ambitious agenda Governor Rell and the legislature agreed upon," Critelli said.

Since 2005, more than $3.5 billion in state money has been allocated to transportation, including the purchase of new rail cars for the New Haven Line and road improvements on Interstate 95, Interstate 91 and I-84.  Some of the problems plaguing the DOT are nationwide, Critelli said.

Revenue generated by the state gasoline tax is decreasing because high pump prices are forcing people to drive less or buy more fuel-efficient cars.  Inflation costs for construction materials and other commodities are skyrocketing as projects remain in design phase or under public review...

"DOT employees were afraid to make decisions because, if something went wrong, there would be a public investigation," Critelli said. "You need transparency because you're spending public money . . . but we need to figure out a process without the public hanging issue."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Stop the presses!  Silvermine residents may say otherwise (June 2008)!!!
Route 7 dispute settled
By Chris Gosier, Staff Writer
Published March 17 2008

The state and the Merritt Parkway Conservancy have reached an agreement in their long-running dispute over how to redesign a busy interchange in Norwalk.

The state Department of Transportation has settled on a "cloverleaf" design for the interchange of Route 7 and the Merritt Parkway, the plan favored by the conservancy.

The conservancy, in turn, has accepted state proposals to replace the historic bridge over Main Avenue near the interchange, as long as its character is maintained...

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Norwalk firm to get $671K for Merritt, Route 7 projects
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published November 20 2007

NORWALK - The state Department of Transportation has reached an agreement with a contractor to remove rubble on the Merritt Parkway exit ramp at Main Avenue in Norwalk and the rock wall at the end of the Route 7 connector...

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

State's Highway Cameras See But Don't Tell
By Julie Wernau   
Published on 11/11/2007

As the investigation continues into a multi-car crash on Interstate 95 in East Lyme that killed three people Nov. 2, police will be using measurements, eyewitnesses, photographs and other tools to find out how a tanker truck drove through the center barrier and into oncoming traffic, striking a southbound tractor-trailer and four cars.

The one tool they won't be using is video footage.

“Unfortunately, statute doesn't allow us to use cameras for enforcement,” said Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman for the state police.

The state highway system is equipped with more than 300 cameras — a fiber-optic network of teardrop-shaped eyes that can turn 360 degrees, zoom out and zoom in (close enough to read a license plate in some cases) — but the Connecticut Department of Transportation cameras do not record, said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick...

Additionally, the federal government, which paid for the cameras, allotted the funds to be used for incident management only, meaning if the cameras were going to be used for law enforcement purposes, the agreement would need to be renegotiated, Nursick said.

“In Connecticut, you couldn't just take a snapshot of a driver's license plate and mail them a ticket. The statute would need to be changed to do that,” he said.

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Advocates say DOT scheduled Stamford hearing hastily
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published September 5 2007

The public has not been given enough notice to attend a hearing in Stamford about the reorganization of the state Department of Transportation, advocates said yesterday.

Details about the hearing - which will be at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Pitney Bowes' Elmcroft Road headquarters - were posted on the DOT's Web site yesterday afternoon, about 48 hours before the meeting.

"If they are trying to not get public input or involvement, they're doing a great job," said Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council who will attend the hearing.

"This is extraordinarily short notice," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, who will not be able to reschedule a previous commitment and attend. "This is emblematic of the problems that have plagued the DOT historically and even today..."

"Good etiquette is an important part of public policy," said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for the Business Council of Fairfield County. "If you're going to have a public process, you got to give me more than two days notice."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Rell Begins Changes To DOT; Units Will Issue Audits And Enforce Compliance 
By Ted Mann    
Published on 8/18/2007 

Gov. M. Jodi Rell won't be waiting for the findings of her own task force to make changes in the structure of the state Department of Transportation.

In a press release issued Friday afternoon, the Republican governor announced the formation of a new Office of Project Oversight and Quality Assurance within the department, which will conduct annual audits and enforce compliance with agency regulations on major transportation projects...

In announcing the DOT policy changes, however, Rell seemingly pre-empts the work of a state task force she appointed to consider the potential reorganization of the department. The task force, led by the chairman and former CEO of Pitney-Bowes Corp., Michael J. Critelli, began hearings just last week, and isn't scheduled to issue its findings until Dec. 1.

“Governor Rell looks forward to reviewing all of the reform panel's recommendations, but the governor has made it clear that on an ongoing basis she would be implementing helpful and useful recommendations contained in the J.R. Knowles/Hill International report she received in May,” said Adam Liegeot, a spokesman for the governor, referring to the audit conducted into the I-84 drainage problems, in an e-mail message.

“The governor's goal is clear: she wants a more responsive and more responsible DOT. The governor has approved an investment of billions of dollars in our transportation system, and the governor believes that the agency — and taxpayers — will immediately benefit from additional quality control and fiscal review staff.”

The newly created office will focus primarily on overseeing the department's financial controls on major projects, and on “quality assurance,” Rell's statement said.

The new office will contain two divisions, the Quality Assurance unit and the Project Oversight/Constructability unit, and will be located within the department's existing Bureau of Engineering and Highway Operation. Among the responsibilities of the new office:

• Reviewing designs and plans for projects costing $10 million or more, and reviewing cost estimates, plans and other specifications.

• Making annual quality-control inspections of a sample of smaller-budget projects.

• Reviewing any engineering cost estimates that increase by 10 percent or more during the design phase.

• Maintaining a database of cost overruns on DOT projects.

Rell's statement said staffing for the office would be provided from within the 150 new DOT positions included in the new state budget, and that “planning for the hiring process has already begun.” The department currently employs about 3,200 people.

The reform task force, formally known as the Governor's Commission on the Reform of the Department of Transportation, is also accepting public input as it begins its deliberations. The commission can be reached through the department's Web site:

Governor's panel begins studying possible DOT reorganization
By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press Writer
Posted on Aug 9, 3:42 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A panel reorganizing the state's transportation department was warned Thursday that a "culture of fear" exists among employees who worry about making decisions that might put them in prison.  That fear is slowing down the decision-making process on state road construction projects, according to Donald Shubert, executive secretary of the Connecticut Road Builders Association.

"Over the past several years there has been a culture of fear that has basically challenged the confidence of even the best employees at the Department of Transportation," Shubert told members of Gov. M. Jodi Rell's new commission on reorganizing DOT.

He said it's not unusual for DOT workers to avoid making decisions in the field.

"They say, 'I'm not going to jail for this. You're going to have to wait for a decision up top,'" Shubert said...

Please search the A.P. and The DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Rell, DOT differ on problem bridges
Gregory B. Hladky, Capitol Bureau Chief

-HARTFORD — Depending on which experts you talk to and which definitions they use, the number of problem bridges in Connecticut is either as high as 34 percent or less than 10 percent of the total number of spans.

State Department of Transportation officials say the most accurate estimate is based on the federal government’s National Bridge Inventory, which only counts bridges of 20 feet or more in length.

Connecticut has 4,256 bridges that are counted in this year’s federal inventory and DOT officials say 341 of those are rated as "structurally deficient," which is just more than 8 percent.

The federal definition of a structurally deficient bridge is one that has at least one major structural component (like the deck or superstructure) rated as poor or worse, or that the span isn’t able to carry all legal loads.

Bridges in the structurally deficient category, such as the highway bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed last week, are in need of some kind of substantial rehabilitation, repair or maintenance work or even replacement.

Federal officials say such bridges "may be able to provide several years of safe service" before the defects become dangerous...

Please search the New Haven REGISTER archives for the remainder of this story.

411 Conn. Bridges Carry "Poor" Rating
The bridge over the West River in New Haven is rated in 'poor' condition.
August 3, 2007
More than 100,000 motorists a day rumble across the Housatonic River bridge on I-95 in Stratford, making it one of the busiest spans in the state.

It is also one of the spans most seriously in disrepair, with a deck deemed to be in "poor" condition and a bridge structure in even worse shape.

The I-95 bridge is one of more than 400 in the state that inspectors have rated as poor or worse in at least one of three critical areas, according to state bridge-inspection records. And in each of those three areas, the Stratford bridge is rated in worse condition than the I-35W span in Minnesota that collapsed Wednesday, sending dozens of motorists plummeting into the Mississippi River.

The 411 bridges with at least one poor rating account for nearly 10 percent of all active roadway bridges in Connecticut. Despite that number, Connecticut officials are confident that the state's bridges are safe.

Even a bridge with one or more ratings of poor "by no means poses an imminent danger to the public," said Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"If we thought for a moment that any bridge was unsafe, we'd close it immediately," he said.

Connecticut bridges also compare favorably with those in other states. A 2006 federal survey reported that 8.2 percent of Connecticut's bridges were structurally deficient - a third less than the national average of 12.8. Overall, Connecticut ranked 12th lowest out of the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia in the percentage of structurally deficient bridges.

The Minnesota tragedy provided a reminder of the 1983 collapse of the Mianus River bridge in Greenwich that killed three. It also put a fresh spotlight on bridge safety nationwide, and Gov. M. Jodi Rell Thursday directed the state Department of Transportation to report on recent inspections of the small number of bridges in the state - 10 or fewer, officials believe - with a design similar to the Minnesota bridge.

State bridges with that "steel arch deck truss" design include the Commodore Hull Bridge over the Housatonic River in Shelton and the Gold Star Bridge spanning the Thames River between New London and Groton. Those two bridges are currently being inspected, the governor said.

"The safety of the public is our top priority," Rell said. "The people of Connecticut can be assured that we are making every effort to regularly inspect all of our bridges and keep them safe and well-maintained."

But even before Wednesday's collapse in Minnesota, Rell had called for increased inspections of Connecticut bridges after The Courant revealed that the Department of Transportation had cut down on inspections of more than 1,000 bridges in "fair" condition or better. In order to save money, the DOT had shifted inspections of those bridges from every two years, which the federal government and bridge safety experts recommend, to every four years...

The Minnesota Department of Transportation inspects all its bridges at least once every 24 months, and nearly a third of its bridges are inspected more often than that, many as often as once a year, according to statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration.

Connecticut, on the other hand, inspects only a handful of its bridges more often than once every two years, according to the statistics.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the I-35W bridge was inspected by the Minnesota DOT in 2005 and 2006 and that no severe structural problems were noted.

The same could have been said for the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, which had been inspected nine months before a 100-foot section collapsed. That bridge failure ultimately spurred the state DOT to revamp its bridge inspection practices.

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

I-95 Northbound Up And Running;  Work Ahead Of Schedule On Damaged Span; South Side May Open Thursday
By LAURA WALSH, New London DAY, Published on 3/29/2004

Bridgeport— Construction workers whooped and cheered Sunday as a parade of cars, escorted by police, traveled on a northbound Interstate 95  overpass for the first time since a fiery tanker crash...

Northbound lanes to open soon; Rebuilding I-95 Temporary span to be rushed in
BRIDGEPORT - With a small cloud of dust and little fanfare, workers Saturday broke loose the last remaining chunk of the Interstate 95 overpass destroyed in a fiery crash.  The jagged chunk tumbled down to land on a huge pyramid of rubble on Howard Avenue.

"The southbound section has been fully demolished," said Art Gruhn, chief engineer for the state Department of Transportation. He said they will now begin laying a foundation for a temporary span to link the gap.  Earlier Gruhn announced some good news amid the disaster that crippled this major Northeast traffic artery. Extensive testing of the steel in the northbound lanes found them to be structurally sound. By midweek northbound traffic could be zooming past Bridgeport again.

However, he said because of the high volume of traffic that normally uses the turnpike, the reopened lanes would only be used for northbound traffic. Southbound traffic will continue to be diverted along local streets.  He said they are sticking to their original timetable that it will be one to two weeks before the whole span is open.

"It's looking very good for shorter rather than longer," he said.  Mayor John M. Fabrizi toured the construction site Saturday and said he was very encouraged by what he saw. He said he was especially happy to hear that the federal government will pick up the tab for the $11.2 million it will  cost to replace the span.  State officials estimate that 120,000 vehicles go over the section of the turnpike every day.

Traffic continued to clog local streets from Stratford to Fairfield as drivers sought a way around the closed turnpike.  State Police at Troop G in
Bridgeport reported that traffic volume on the Merritt Parkway was "extremely heavy" as motorists sought to circumvent the accident area.

"It was the equivalent of a heavy workday load all day long," Trooper Ken Damato, a spokesman for Troop G said.  "We had two small fender bender accidents on the Merritt northbound by exit 44 in Fairfield."

Compounding the extra traffic volume, state police had to contend with certain classes of drivers who apparently ignore signs on the Merritt .    "We had a serious problem with buses, tractor trailers and even recreational motor home vehicles getting on the Merritt between Stratford and Greenwich," Damato said. "First we stopped them, then we ticketed them and then we kicked them off the parkway."

The 18-wheelers are a double headache because what the drivers do to avoid shearing off the roofs of the trucks is "drive down the middle of the road," Damato said. "What they do is straddle the dotted line. If a tractor trailer does that and either hits an abutment or we observe them, then we also may issue them a ticket for reckless driving."

Scott Appleby, Bridgeport director of emergency management, said they had posted alternate travel routes on the city Web site at:

State police said an investigation is continuing into the crash Thursday night that caused all the destruction.  Despite the mass destruction caused by the crash, police said the 18-year-old Derby girl who caused it may only face a $95 ticket.  A tanker truck driven by 33-year-old Gilbert Robinson, of Galpin Street, Naugatuck, filled with more than 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel was traveling southbound between exits 26 and 25 shortly after 7:30 p.m. when it was hit from behind by a 1987 Toyota Corolla driven by Sarah Waddle, of Bank Street, Derby.

According to police and fire officials, as a result of the impact the tanker truck went out of control and slammed into the Jersey barrier on the right side. The truck slid along the barrier, ripping open the tank and spewing flaming fuel along a 200-yard path along the turnpike.  The truck came to a stop on the Howard Avenue overpass as a fireball more than 50-feet high engulfed the tank. Burning fuel poured between the cracks in the pavement igniting wooden boards on the underside...

He said the temporary bridge is rated to carry standard traffic and overweight vehicles will not be permitted over it.

"We are taking a project that would normally take a month to develop and doing it in a matter of hours," he said.  Gruhn stressed that this is a temporary fix and that a permanent structure will have to be built.  The original structure was under construction for three years and was nearly completed as part of a $113.2 million revamping of the highway between exits 24 and 26.  Gruhn said it could take a year and a half to replace the Howard Avenue overpass.

Bridge repair rushed;  Workers tackling damage from fire
by DANIEL TEPFER, 3-27-04
Delivering on a promise to work around the clock to reopen an Interstate 95 overpass destroyed in a fiery crash just 24 hours earlier, work crews Friday night began demolishing the structure.  When the buckled highway span is torn down, said Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, "We will begin erecting a temporary bridge that is being trucked here."

Where and how the bridge will be erected and when it will begin carrying traffic will probably be determined this weekend. Northbound lanes may be  reopened as early as next week, officials hope.  Gov. John G. Rowland, standing Friday morning in front of the charred and twisted overpass at Howard Avenue, declared Bridgeport a disaster area and promised $11 million in state and federal aid.

"We have 120,000 cars traveling this roadway a day so our first priority is to get it reopened," he said...

Before the tragedy in Minnesota...

Courant's ideas for focus noted in this series:
Transit and transit-oriented development
• A high-speed rail connection from Hartford to New York, and eventually Boston
• Keeping existing highways and bridges in good repair, a policy known as "fix it first"
• Embracing context-sensitive planning
• Taking bicycle travel seriously
• Letting directors run Bradley International Airport
* Railyard improvement project in New Haven - not in this series, but related (need the yard to repair trains).

The Right Road
State DOT - Beleaguered By Scandal, Layoffs And Loss Of Vision - Needs A Whole New Direction
Hartford Courant
July 15, 2007

The state Department of Transportation, a powerful agency that can trace its origins to the 19th century, has lost its way. For a variety of reasons - the loss of hundreds of workers, a diminished sense of mission, political interference, weak leadership, poor state planning and a departmental culture still mired in the interstate highway era - the DOT has become a sluggish, uncertain and often inept bureaucracy.

Two corruption investigations have led to arrests of DOT employees. The New Britain-Hartford busway is years behind schedule. Someone botched the paperwork needed to overhaul rail cars. A massive snafu came to light last winter involving a $60 million reconstruction project on I-84 in the Waterbury area in which hundreds of defective storm drains were installed and two bridges and an exit ramp were improperly built. The most recent revelation was a cutback in bridge inspections, an unsettling surprise to the many residents who remember the 1983 Mianus River bridge collapse.

This bureaucratic meltdown has come at a time when the state's highway-oriented transportation system is increasingly challenged by traffic congestion, fuel costs, pollution concerns and a backlash against land-gobbling sprawl development. In a 1999 report, consultant Michael Gallis said increasing congestion in the vital I-95 corridor toward New York threatened the state's economic dynamism, putting the state in danger of becoming "a giant cul-de-sac, or dead zone" in the global economic network. Since then, traffic has gotten worse.

But crisis is often a prerequisite for change, and there have been stirrings of change in the past two years. Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislative leaders pushed for $3.6 billion in transportation funding, the largest financial commitment to transportation in two decades. Mrs. Rell named a new DOT commissioner, Ralph J. Carpenter, last year.

After more revelations about the I-84 fiasco, she announced in late April that a task force headed by Pitney Bowes Chairman Michael Critelli would lead a "top-to-bottom reorganization" of the DOT. The group is charged with "examining and redesigning the DOT, its mission, direction, business practices and organizational structure."

Thus there is a rare chance to break out of the cul-de-sac, to create a new vision and mission for the DOT that will provide the mobility the state needs for 21st-century prosperity.

"Connecticut has a huge opportunity right now," said Jonathan Orcutt, former executive director of the nonprofit Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which did a study of the DOT in 2004. But change won't come easily to a department that has done things its own way for a long time.

The Highwaymen

The DOT began as the State Highway Commission in 1895, a time when privately owned railroads dominated intercity transportation and the advocates for paved roads were bicyclists.

The commission, later called the Department of Highways, moved ahead, paving the old turnpikes and post roads that crisscrossed the state. Traffic congestion started becoming a problem in the 1920s, as cheap cars and cheap gas foretold a revolution in transportation. The department began what has been an eight-decade response to congestion - it widened the roads. It also built elegant new roads. The first section of the Merritt Parkway was completed in 1938, and people rode out on Sundays to picnic alongside the park-like thoroughfare.

After the restrictions attendant to World War II were lifted in the mid-1940s, road-building began in earnest. With the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956, building the interstate highway system became the state and national transportation mission. With the highways came the unprecedented era of postwar suburbanization, a force that took thousands of middle-class people out of the state's large cities to new ranch or split-level houses in the suburbs.

In 1969, the highway department merged with the Department of Aeronautics, the Connecticut Transportation Authority and the Commission of Steamship Terminals into a new Department of Transportation, one of the first comprehensive transportation departments in the country.

The DOT would almost by happenstance pick up oversight of commuter rail and bus operations, as increasing use of cars made both services unprofitable. But it remained overwhelmingly a highway agency. In 1975, DOT commissioner Samuel Kanell told an interviewer, "I don't think you'll ever get Americans out of their cars." Other commissioners would echo his sentiment and its underlying philosophy.

What developed in the department was what planning consultant Toni Gold of Hartford calls a "highway engineer culture." The leaders, and often the commissioners, were civil engineers who specialized in building highways.

Although road-building demands engineering expertise, the danger of having the engineers in charge was that the entire focus would be on highway efficiency.

"There was a mentality that we design roads to move people from point A to point B and all else is nonsense," said state Rep. David McCluskey, a member of the legislature's transportation committee.

This thinking led to the disastrous decision - here and across the country - to run interstate highways through cities. That continued until "highway fighters" pushed back. Had activists not stopped them in the 1970s, there would have been highways built through the West Hartford reservoirs and Hartford's Bushnell Park.

Over the years, the DOT developed a symbiotic relationship with highway engineering and construction companies, often locally owned entities that solidified their positions with substantial political contributions to gubernatorial candidates. Though its downside has become apparent in recent years, this was the system that got the roads built.

The mania for cars and highways all but killed train, trolley and bus service. It is said the last time the late and lamented New Haven Railroad made money was hauling fill for I-95.

For a time, it didn't matter. The interstate highway system transformed the state, connecting it to national markets and providing a previously unimagined level of mobility. The roads could handle the load.

But eventually the loss of public transit did matter. This is a lesson from the state's bold and innovative but ultimately inadequate response to the Mianus tragedy.


On June 28, 1983, a section of I-95 highway bridge over the Mianus River in Greenwich collapsed, killing three people and seriously injuring three more. The tangle of bodies and mangled vehicles that fell 70 feet to the peaceful little river sent a horrific message that Connecticut's transportation system was in dire need of repair.

The collapse was followed by another embarrassment, a series of Courant stories about the ineffectiveness of the state's bridge inspection program. Gov. William A. O'Neill vowed that would change.

Transportation had suffered in the lean fiscal years of the mid-1970s because it competed for funds from the general budget. Mr. O'Neill understood that the state needed a reliable and sustainable means of paying for its transportation infrastructure.

At the governor's direction, Anthony V. Milano, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, DOT Commissioner J. William Burns and others prepared a plan.

Its principal innovation was a 10-year, $5.6 billion Special Transportation Fund, to be supported by an increase in the gas tax, motor vehicle fees and other revenue sources.

The Special Transportation Fund worked, and worked well. By 1993, the 10-year anniversary of the Mianus collapse, the state's reconstruction program had become a national model. Connecticut had gone from 35th to fifth in the nation in transportation capital expenditures. Road capacity and safety were improved and many major highway projects were completed. Bridges were repaired or replaced, and bridge inspections were brought up to national standards.

The fund grew to $10 billion and beyond as more projects were added. By moving ahead of most other states, Connecticut captured a disproportionate amount of federal money for the work. Connecticut was on the move again.

Yet by 1999, just six years later, consultant Gallis was saying - in a report written for the nonprofit Connecticut Regional Institute for the 21st Century - that the state's transportation system was choked and becoming a major drag on the economy. What happened?

Former state senator and transportation committee co-chairman Michael P. Meotti, who now heads the United Way of Connecticut, said the post-Mianus effort fixed a specific problem - the deterioration of roads and bridges - but not the whole problem. It was not a comprehensive statewide mobility strategy. There was no plan to reduce the use of roads and highways. Investment in mass transit in this period, as would soon enough become apparent, was woefully inadequate. Traffic got worse.

Congestion was particularly severe on I-95 in Fairfield County. As Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy put it, "I-95 is a parking lot and the Merritt Parkway is a museum." So bad was the situation that officials considered letting drivers use breakdown lanes or even the prohibitively expensive option of adding another deck to the highway.

House Speaker Moira Lyons of Stamford badgered Gov. John G. Rowland to do something. In 2000, he called a transportation summit, which led to the creation of the Transportation Strategy Board the following year.

The board reported back in 2003 with a $6 billion list of projects for highways as well as transit. Mr. Orcutt, now senior policy adviser to New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, said that although the Transportation Strategy Board had some good ideas, it was advisory and thus reliant on the governor, the DOT and the legislature: "the very actors whose inaction or lack of innovation led to the strategy board's creation."


Meanwhile, the DOT was almost literally going off the rails. In what was soon called the "winter of woe," in 2003-04, about 35 percent of the rail cars on the Metro-North New Haven line broke down, leaving commuters stranded in the cold. Some of the well-worn rolling stock was 30 years old.

As a stopgap measure, the state bought 33 used rail cars from Virginia. These needed to be overhauled before they could be used. The DOT put out a flawed request for proposals to get the work done. There was no response. The department then failed to issue another RFP. The cars sat idle for months, until Mrs. Rell learned of the oversight by happenstance and went ballistic on DOT Commissioner Stephen Korta II.

The rail car bungle was not an isolated incident.

Increasing congestion in the I-84 corridor west of Hartford in the late 1990s had led to plans for a 9.6-mile bus-only route from New Britain to Hartford. Studies showed a busway would be the least expensive way to ease highway traffic and would lure the most riders.

Part of the appeal of busways is that they can be built relatively quickly, but that hasn't happened here. In 2005, the Federal Transit Administration lost confidence in the state's ability to deliver the $335 million project and downgraded it from "recommended" to "not recommended" for federal funding.

Mrs. Rell, DOT officials and Capitol Region Council of Governments planners scrambled to get federal funding approved again. Construction of the project is now scheduled to begin in 2009 - three years after the busway was initially supposed to open.

Also, the risk inherent in the close relationship between DOT workers and contractors was becoming apparent. In 2004, a department inspector, James Murray, pleaded no contest to three counts of taking bribes from contractors in exchange for overlooking shoddy work.

In 2004, federal authorities uncovered irregularities in how the DOT's rail operations unit awarded contracts. Last year, a high-ranking official, Raymond Cox, pleaded guilty to theft and obstruction of justice. Three senior officials resigned or retired because of the contract scandal.

In early 2006, five employees of the highway agency, as well as a Massachusetts contractor, were arrested in connection with a bid-rigging scheme. The charges allege that the contractor bribed the employees to win a road-sealant contract. Perjury charges against one DOT employee have been dropped; the other cases are pending.

These may not be the only arrests. Mrs. Rell's promise earlier this year to overhaul the department followed the fouled-up rebuilding of I-84 in Waterbury and Cheshire, one of the worst highway construction failures in state history. Incredibly, some 300 defective storm drains were installed as part of a badly flawed underground drainage system. Also, two bridges and an exit ramp were improperly built. And 70 light poles with faulty brackets were put up, among other problems.

The I-84 job had been given in 2002 to a contracting firm, L.G. DeFelice Inc. of North Haven. The firm, apparently beset with financial problems, went out of business in 2006 with the project unfinished. DeFelice had gotten into trouble in 2004 for installing concrete curbing for free at the home of a DOT regional engineer.

The engineering firm paid to inspect DeFelice's work on I-84, the Maguire Group, failed to do so, state officials say. The DOT violated its own policy by assigning a project engineer to the job who was simultaneously heading two other construction jobs. Project engineers are supposed to oversee one job at a time to prevent construction errors.

"There were serious mistakes at all levels," said Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert L. Genuario at a legislative hearing Wednesday. "The people of Connecticut did not get what they paid for."

The state has sued the contractors. State and federal criminal authorities are digging into the $60 million fiasco.

DeFelice has regrouped as Hallberg Contracting Corp. and been hired by a bonding company to work on two state jobs.

The I-84 debacle made it clear that it was time to overhaul the DOT. Highway construction was what the department was supposed to be good at.

What Went Wrong

In its postwar heyday, the DOT was a powerful and semi-autonomous fiefdom that could make big things happen. But in recent years, forces inside and outside the department have challenged it as never before. These include:

MISSION. In the decades following World War II, the state and federal transportation mission had a clear focus - to build the interstate highway system, with its related network of state highways. The system is all but finished. Now what?

The loss of a clear mission may explain the pointless, pork-laden bridge-to-nowhere projects in the most recent federal transportation bill. Lack of direction in any organization can lead to inertia and incompetence.

While federal authorities search for a new mission - the National Surface Transportation Study Commission is holding hearings around the country on this issue - some states have aggressively defined their own missions involving transit and transit-oriented development. Connecticut is still building highways.

When the Tri-State Transportation Campaign examined 2005 DOT figures, it found that 76 percent of the state transportation improvement money and 84 percent of its "flexible funds" go to highways. With the authorization in the past two years of $3.6 billion toward highway and mass transit projects, the percentage of spending shifts somewhat to transit, but still favors highways.

BUREAUCRACY. Reductions spearheaded by Mr. Rowland early in this decade took more than 900 employees from the DOT. The workforce dropped from 4,058 in 1999 to 3,151 in 2004. First came layoffs, which took younger workers. Then, in 2003, came an early retirement buyout aimed at senior people. In 2003-2004 alone, the department lost 436 employees. Out the door went experience, institutional knowledge and management talent.

The cuts were not spread evenly; some DOT departments were harmed more than others. For example, three layers of management were pared off the top of the DOT's finance and administration bureau. There and elsewhere, inexperienced people had to step into jobs for which they were not yet prepared, often with no support structure or mentors.

Also, budget cuts led to the elimination of some leadership training programs, meaning the department wasn't developing the mid- and upper-level managers at the rate it needed them.

"It made for a very difficult time for everybody," said Gale Mattison, a finance and administration expert who has been lent to the DOT by the Office of Policy and Management to help rebuild the department.

In any event, the DOT became a bureaucracy that is sometimes overwhelmed, sluggish and - although the I-84 mess might suggest otherwise - cautious to a fault.

"The Rowland years created a bureaucracy that is totally risk-averse," said Robert W. Santy, head of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. "We have government by regulatory compliance. There is no reward for trying something different, and there are thousands of reports mandated by the legislature to cover any eventuality,"

Those who do business with the DOT complain that layers of review, inside and outside the agency, add months to the process of awarding bids and executing contracts. Planning and design contracts that took three to six months to process just five years ago now typically take six to 12 months. These delays can have serious impacts on project schedules and cost. Yet for all of this, oversight of the I-84 project was stunningly inadequate.

The department has also endured its share of patronage appointments. Under Mr. Rowland, for example, one of the DOT's deputy commissioners was James A. Adams, brother-in-law of powerful lobbyist and Rowland confidant Jay Malcynsky. Another deputy was former Waterbury state senator and lobbyist Louis S. Cutillo, an early Democratic backer of Mr. Rowland's. Neither appointee had a compelling background in transportation.

INNOVATION. The creation of the Special Transportation Fund in 1985 was an inventive, cutting-edge response to a major problem, and applauded as such around the country. There's been very little innovation at the DOT since. The department resisted new ventures such as the Griffin Line light-rail project from Hartford to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks and instead continued to focus on highways.

But projects such as the Q Bridge in New Haven point to the need for innovation. The department plans to spend $1.5 billion to rebuild and expand the elevated bridge on I-95 that crosses New Haven Harbor, even though, by the department's own estimates, the new bridge will have the same level of congestion the old one does in just three years.

PLANNING. The Transportation Strategy Board was created in 2001 to develop a long-term transportation plan for the state. The board's 2007 report, "Moving Forward," promotes a progressive, multimodal transportation system tied to land-use policy.

Ideally these recommendations would inform the DOT's long-range and master plans, which would ultimately generate the projects that would realize the vision.

But the planning process is subject to political caprice and gets whipsawed from all sides.

The governor, the State Bond Commission and the legislature all have a say in funding for DOT projects, and often call the tune. The department, for example, planned to replace aging rail cars several times in the past decade, but Mr. Rowland chose not to pay for them. He considered opening the shoulders of I-95 to rush hour traffic, something not in any DOT plan.

The federal government also interferes with DOT plans via congressional earmarks - funds for special projects - a bridge, road, deck or study - that can interrupt the flow of work. "Earmarks just kill us," said former deputy commissioner Carl Bard, a civil engineer who retired last year.

Then there is town planning. Sometimes, the DOT will come in and fix an intersection to resolve traffic congestion, then the town will allow a mall to be built, creating a new traffic problem.

Conversely, local officials and residents have ended up battling the department over the design of road projects, in some cases regretting the day they asked the department for help. "Many towns hate the DOT; they own the right of way and insist on maintaining traffic flow as if there was no town there," said Ms. Gold, the Hartford consultant who has worked with highway designers in several states.

In the 1990s, there was a movement across the country to better blend road design into communities; to balance the needs of vehicle movement with those of pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, shop owners and others. This concept, which in planning jargon is called "context-sensitive design" or "context-sensitive solutions," envisions a community planning process that takes all needs into account.

Some at the DOT - deputy commissioner Bard was one - tried to push the department in that direction. But despite those efforts, the department battled municipalities in recent years over the width and design of Columbus Boulevard in Hartford, the widening of Route 4 in Harwinton, the widening of historic Route 2 in North Stonington, the widening of Route 80 in North Branford and other projects. In Norwalk, seven environmental and community groups went to court in 2005 to block a redesign of the Route 7/Merritt Parkway interchange, which they viewed as way too big and destructive of the historic character of the parkway.

Some projects have gone more smoothly - the redesign of Albany Avenue in Hartford, for one - but the department is still fighting community objections in other places, such as the redesign of New Britain Avenue in the Elmwood section of West Hartford.

"They came in with a design to move traffic from point A to point B. That wasn't what we had in mind. Going through Elmwood, we wanted to make it pedestrian-friendly, with crosswalks, some cutouts for buses, barriers separating direction flows, street trees, maybe bring back some elm trees," said town manager Jim Francis. "They want it wide; we'd prefer more sidewalk space."

Here, as in most of the other cases, the department has been responsive and made some modifications to its design. The goal would be a planning process that avoids the problem in the first place.

LEADERSHIP. When DOT Commissioner James F. Sullivan, a longtime department highway engineer, announced his retirement in 2002, members of a Transportation Strategy Board subcommittee went to Mr. Rowland with the names of potential commissioners from around the country who they believed could shake up the department and turn it in a new direction.

But Mr. Rowland instead appointed another longtime department highway engineer, James F. Byrnes Jr. He became acting commissioner in 2002, commissioner in 2003 and retired in 2004. He was replaced by Mr. Korta, who had been the administrator of Bradley Airport and the department's aviation administrator as well.

Mr. Korta, well-liked and successful at the airport, was thought by some insiders to be in over his head as DOT commissioner. In 2006, Mr. Korta chose to return to his classified post as aviation administrator.

Last summer, Mrs. Rell replaced Mr. Korta with Ralph J. Carpenter. Except for two years as motor vehicles commissioner, he had spent his career as a state police officer, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. (He was one of the troopers who responded to the Mianus bridge collapse in 1983.) Mrs. Rell was criticized - by this page and others - for appointing a cop and not a cutting-edge transportation expert. Some still hold this view.

But Mr. Carpenter has won over a number of legislators and transportation advocates with candor and a public commitment to smart growth, intermodal transportation and transit-oriented development.

"I know this state is being ruined [by sprawl] and I don't want this agency to be a part of it," he said.

Mr. Carpenter is trying to restore efficiency and change a culture in which workers tolerated corruption. "There are a lot of terrific people here, but everybody let those issues ride out. We never got the systemic problems solved. We are taking a hard look at our business practices," he said.

Activists and legislators looking for a change agent at the DOT seem willing to give Mr. Carpenter the chance to be that person. But the real change agent must be Mr. Carpenter's boss. "You cannot do this without really strong leadership from the governor. She's got to use her political capital," said Kip Bergstrom, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council and former economic development director in Stamford.

A New Vision

Before reorganizing the DOT, state officials must decide what, exactly, the department is supposed to do. There must be a vision on which to build a strategy for the department to execute.

For the past half-century, the department's overriding mission has been to build highways. Now the highway system is all but completed, heavily used and inexorably filling up. The DOT must now create a transportation system with a mix of trains, planes, buses, vans, bicycles and boats - and encourage such things as telecommuting and flex time - to achieve optimal movement of passengers and freight.

In its early years, the DOT viewed transportation as an end in itself. It sacrificed places for the ability to travel through them. In the future, the department must see its role as part of a broader effort to create an attractive, efficient, sustainable and prosperous state.

To get there, transportation must be tied to land use, economic development and housing policy, all integrated into a meaningful state plan of development. Elements of the plan should include:


After two decades in which their predecessors underfunded mass transit, Mrs. Rell and legislative leaders have put $3.6 billion in transportation funding on the table, much of it for mass transit. The department must move as quickly as possible to restore commuter rail to the New Haven-Hartford line and continue it north into Massachusetts, possibly reaching southern Vermont. The New Britain busway should be finished, Shore Line East rail service should be expanded and light-rail service explored for fast-growing eastern Connecticut. In the new DOT, at least as much money must be committed to mass transit as is committed to highways.

Simultaneously, the department, working with towns, regional entities and other agencies, must help spur commercial and residential development around transit stops.

This brings the density that makes transit work, and lessens development pressure on the state's fast-dwindling supply of open space. The DOT has taken the first step by hiring a deputy commissioner, Albert Martin, to lead this effort. He'll need support from the top. The transportation funding bill, which is down to the final details in the legislature, has money for pilot projects in transit-oriented development.


The DOT was at its best when focused on a big vision, whether building the Connecticut Turnpike or responding to the Mianus tragedy. A one-seat, one-hour trip to New York could be the kind of man-on-the-moon goal to again inspire the department's best work.

The benefit would be enormous for the central part of the state; it would bring Hartford into the New York economic sphere. Companies could bring back-office work or headquarters here, as they did in Stamford a generation ago. The influx of more companies, entrepreneurs and investors cannot help but enhance the region's economy. The eventual addition of high-speed transit to Boston would put Hartford in the center of a Boston-New York mega-region, also an enticing economic prospect.


When the widening of the western portion of I-84 and the eastern section of I-95 are finished, the state's highway system will essentially be complete. There are plans to build or widen more highways. Unless it can be shown these projects are essential - critics say they are not - these projects should be shelved in favor of keeping the existing roads and bridges in top repair.

This is not the plan at the moment.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has recently studied the DOT's projected spending for 2007-10. In "Reform: The Road Not Taken," the authors say that although the state is spending more on mass transit, the majority of capital funding - 59 percent - is allocated to highways and bridges. Of that amount, more than 60 percent is dedicated to road expansion projects.

This is a reversal from earlier in the decade, when nearly three-quarters of the money was aimed at maintenance. The danger, the report says, is that more than three-quarters of existing road lane miles are rated "less than good" and a third of the bridges are rated deficient (though, the department notes, not in danger of collapse).

"Fix it first" should be a broad enough policy to embrace the repair of old mistakes. For example, New Haven has gotten a grant to study turning Route 34, the downtown "highway to nowhere," into a boulevard, to help connect downtown to the Yale medical campus and other entities. This is a sensible idea that the DOT should support.

The department should also embrace a community effort in Hartford to ameliorate the damage done to the urban fabric by the Aetna Viaduct, the half-mile elevated section of I-84 that cuts through the heart of the city. The viaduct is nearing the end of its useful life. Community activists want a bold long-term plan; possibly to bury the roadway. The DOT's current plan is to repair the viaduct in place, prolonging the problems for another 20 years.


All key DOT people should be trained in this discipline, as happens in New Jersey and elsewhere. The department should consider hiring land-use planners, landscape architects and others who can help execute the policy. When the department works with towns, the premise should be complete streets - streets that work for bikes, pedestrians, residents and businesses as well as cars - and the planning should start in the community.

The DOT should strongly consider rewriting its highway design manual, as Massachusetts has done, to incorporate the principles of context-sensitive design into all phases of roadway design and construction.


As cities across the country push eagerly to create bike paths and multi-use trails, the DOT pays cursory attention to this energy-friendly recreation and travel alternative.

In December, leaders of the Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance asked the governor and Commissioner Carpenter to focus on bike issues such as trails and safety. A department official sent a dismissive response to the effect that there was no money for bicycle facilities or safety promotion activities. But the Tri-State Campaign's 2007 study found that the DOT is not taking full advantage of flexible federal dollars that could be used for bike or pedestrian facilities.

That's not the spirit. A good trail network can get people out of their cars and is a tremendous recreational asset to boot. That's why volunteers have been spearheading an effort to build trails, with help from another state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection.

This fragmented network could be sewn together much more quickly if the DOT were involved. And since a trail could be viewed as either a narrow road or a wide sidewalk, why aren't the contractors more interested?


n most states, the major airport is run by an independent, self-funded airport authority. Here, it's run by the DOT. The department has always done an excellent job on the operations, or "air side," of the airport. The debate is over what is known as the "land side" - the marketing, promotion and business development at Bradley.

Several consultants and agencies who have studied the airport in the past decade all concluded the airport could benefit from more independent and business-oriented leadership. Most airport authorities aren't hamstrung by state procurement, personnel and contracting rules, and thus can respond quickly to the fast-changing air travel market.

For example, it took the Bradley board nearly 18 months to hire a marketing director a few years ago. They got an excellent one in Kiran Jain. But last year, because of constraints in the airport's funding formula, her budget was cut.

"We need to manage to a market, not to a budget," said Michael T. Long, a recently retired Ensign-Bickford executive and vice chairman of the Bradley board of directors.

One option is to create an independent airport authority, with a Massachusetts presence to increase the marketing footprint. Another is to empower the board of directors, which at present doesn't have the authority given to most boards of directors.

This would keep the DOT at the airport, and there are advantages to that, not only with moving planes but with maintaining roads. And Bradley is generally doing well. But giving the directors the authority to hire and fire an executive director, approve budgets and contracts and otherwise oversee the airport should make the airport more entrepreneurial and give it the flexibility to respond to challenges such as the one posed by new service going into Stewart International Airport in nearby Newburgh, N.Y.

The transportation bill, which legislators expect to be finished by the end of the month, gives the strategy board money to update earlier studies of Bradley management. It doesn't need another study.

A New Day

Change is daunting, especially in a bureaucracy, particularly one in which the people have grown up doing things a certain way. Change is difficult when there's a powerful assemblage of road builders, consultants and suppliers with a deep interest in the status quo.

Change is also expensive. Gov. Rell and legislative leaders patted themselves on the back for making the largest fiscal commitment to transportation in two decades - $3.6 billion over 10 years.

That may not be enough. In 2005, Massachusetts committed $31 billion over 20 years to improving the state's transportation infrastructure. If Connecticut is to have a balanced transportation system, with the ability to move people and freight without causing more sprawl and pollution, we will have to pay for it.

The recent revelation that the department has been cutting back on bridge inspections to save money does not inspire hope. That the governor and some legislative leaders were thinking of cutting the gas tax for the summer is shortsighted. Former DOT Commissioner Emil Frankel, who served under Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in the early 1990s, estimated at a panel earlier this year that if the state hadn't cut the gas tax in the mid-1990s by 14 cents a gallon, from 39 cents to 25 cents, there would be more than $2 billion available for transportation improvements.

But if the DOT is directed to create a new transportation system, what should the agency look like?

Obviously it will continue to do many of the things it does now. Roads will have to be plowed and kept in repair, trains must be operated and maintained, airports have to be run. The department should also do some things differently. The Waterbury fiasco points to the need for review of contracting, design and quality control procedures. The DOT needs to reward risk-taking and innovation.

Externally, the department needs to be more of a partner with other agencies, regional planners and town officials. The governor 's responsible-growth initiative announced last fall creates a framework in which the DOT can work with other agencies toward more compact, transit-oriented growth.

Mrs. Rell created an Office of Responsible Growth in the state's Office of Policy and Management. It has a steering council made up of the state agencies involved in land use: economic development, environmental protection, transportation, agriculture and public health, as well as the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and the Connecticut Development Authority. The idea is that they work together. Mr. Carpenter, DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy and other department heads have enthusiastically endorsed the idea, and the early signs are positive, said OPM undersecretary W. David Levasseur, who is coordinating the effort.

As for the department's internal structure, there is growing sentiment to break off bus, rail and ferry service into a transit authority, separate from the DOT with its own source of funding.

This would have the advantage of seeing that mass transit gets the money it needs. There was a bill introduced in the legislature this year to create a transit authority. The transportation committee chose to wait for a year to see whether Mr. Carpenter's department could deliver a multimodal system, although Sen. Donald DeFronzo, the Senate co-chairman, has wondered aloud if the agency is too big and fragmented to be optimally effective.

The most imaginative suggestion for reorganizing the department came from former state Sen. Meotti, who thinks the agency should be organized around mobility requirements rather than around different modes of transportation. "This is something companies went through 20 years ago, when they realized they were organized around their products rather than their customers' needs," he said.

He suggests that the DOT organize around two or three major transit corridors, and serve the mobility needs of the corridor, by whatever modes make sense. So instead of a highway bureau and a transit bureau, there might be a coastal corridor bureau and a central corridor bureau. The idea would be to break down the highway vs. rail mentality and focus on the best ways to move people and goods.

This invites the intriguing possibility of creating a parallel effort with the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The two agencies would work together to bring mobility, commerce and housing to the same corridors, and to the land around Bradley Airport. This would have the added benefit of new DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald's extensive transportation background.

This is the kind of change Mr. Critelli's study group should explore. The task force - which is heavy on government and business people and short on transportation reformers - should speak with officials who have changed transportation departments around the country, and study how European countries are moving goods and people.

It's a new day. The DOT has to change. Connecticut has to get moving again.

Another costly surprise from the DOTStaff Reports
Article Launched: 04/14/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

What is going on at the state Department of Transportation?

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Turning Toward The Future

Hartford Courant
July 15, 2007

Other states, facing the same transportation challenges, have crafted solutions that Connecticut may find useful. These include:

NEW JERSEY. Garden State transportation officials understand they cannot build their way out of traffic congestion, so they are trying to get cars off the road. The state has invested billions in transit and is a national leader in transit-oriented development through its Transit Village Initiative.

The program aims to revitalize communities with transit as an anchor (a transit village is designated as the half-mile area around a transit facility). Thus far, more than a dozen communities have taken advantage of state grants to redo their city plans and encourage residential and commercial growth around transit stops.

In addition, New Jersey has adopted a new planning model in which communities and DOT officials design road improvements together. Nearly 1,000 DOT employees have been trained in context-sensitive design. The department is studying the possibility of removing an expressway from downtown Trenton and replacing it with an urban boulevard.

The problem in New Jersey has been paying for these improvements. The gas tax, 14.5 cents a gallon since the early 1990s, is one of the lowest in the country, hence the state's Transportation Trust Fund is inadequately supported. A study three years ago found that debt repayment had effectively bankrupted the state's transportation program. The problem has not yet been solved.

MASSACHUSETTS. The Bay State has tried the "super-agency" approach to coordinate transportation with planning and economic development. In 2003, Gov. Mitt Romney created the Office for Commonwealth Development, bringing the state's transportation, housing, environmental protection and community development departments into a single agency.

With a series of incentives to build in town centers and around transit stops, initial results are promising. More than 100 transit-oriented development projects have been completed or are in the works. Some MBTA lines and stations have been upgraded; service now extends to Worcester and Providence.

The "fix it first" policy aims state spending at existing water, sewer, road, transit and park infrastructure. The transportation department has rewritten its highway design manual to encourage more context-sensitive planning.

NEW HAMPSHIRE. As the fastest-growing state in New England, New Hampshire's small towns were being overrun with traffic, threatening the state's distinctive quality of life.

In 2004, DOT Commissioner Carol Murray engaged the New Hampshire Community Foundation, a statewide leader in land-use planning and growth management. What emerged was a citizen planning effort - which included critics of the DOT - that helped craft the state's long-term transportation plan. "Community, neighborhood and cultural leaders have to be listened to," Murray said.

The plan directs the DOT to design transportation solutions in traditional town centers, to build regional planning capacity to integrate transportation and land-use planning, and to develop multimodal plans for the state's major transportation corridors.

"Transportation is the board on which the game is played," Murray said. "Weaken the board, you ruin the game."

Editorial in full.

Never say never!!!

Virginia toll lanes offer drivers convenience, but raise privacy concerns
Video monitors speeders, HOV scofflaws
Story in full:

...The new system has set up 24/7 video surveillance to monitor whether or not motorists are obeying the high occupancy vehicle lane rules.

But those images are stored in the system and can be accessed with a warrant, according to Mike McGurk, a senior corporate relations associate with Transurban, the Australian company that built the express lanes through a private-public partnership and which operates the technology used on the lanes.

Videos are stored for five days, and still images are logged for 90 days after the driver is captured on the lanes...

State transportation board continues collecting highway toll information
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 07/16/2009 10:45:59 PM EDT
Updated: 07/17/2009 07:32:35 AM EDT

HARTFORD -- In the midst of an IBM engineer's presentation on a variety of electronic tolling systems in use in the United States, London, and Stockholm, Lyle Wray, a state transportation board member, interjected, stating that the major stumbling block for Connecticut residents to accept the tolls are possible invasions of privacy.  Even the concept of using cameras to catch red light violators and speeders failed because of public opposition, said Wray, making it likely residents would be less amenable to the use of laser sensors and cameras to collect fees on a daily basis.

"We have a political judgment that we don't want this in anyway," Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, said. "Being able to track the fees without taking photos of a public official with his mistress in the car is 95 percent of the problem."

Vinodh Swaminathan, an IBM transportation consultant, responded that easing qualms about economic fairness and privacy associated with high-tech electronic tolling will require intensive publicity and education, addressing the benefits for both the environment and economy, while ideally improving mass transit and making it cheaper to pull drivers off heavily travelled roads...

Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said he hopes the board takes steps to include the public more fully in its deliberation on tolls by holding evening meetings when the subject is under consideration and publicizing them adequately.

Also, a public hearing process this spring on tolls revealed that many state residents' opposition to electronic tolls was based on misapprehensions that toll booths would be used to collect the fees, he said.

"Holding a meeting in Hartford at 9:30 a.m. certainly means anyone who drives I-95 at rush hour won't be able to attend," Cameron said. " My overall complaint about the TSB is that they have not done an adequate job explaining electronic tolling to the public so they can make decisions based on an informed decision."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Norwalk stretch of I-95 most dangerous.  State police: 'Busy, congested area"

Norwalk HOUR
By Dan Brechlin, Alyssa Casey, Ron Ragozzino and Christine Torrney - Special Correspondents
Posted: 02/15/2009 07:58:15 AM EST

Traveling on Interstate 95 in Connecticut means taking your life in your hands on a regular basis, but if you're driving on the highway through Norwalk, your chances of being involved in an accident climb markedly.

A Connecticut Post analysis of highway data from 2002 through 2007 furnished by the state Department of Transportation reveals that 4,342 accidents occurred on the 3.5-mile stretch of I-95 through Norwalk, a number that is 29 percent higher than New Haven, which posted the second largest number of accidents along the highway (3,350) during the six-year period.

In 2007, the latest year for which complete statistics are available, 735 accidents occurred on the Norwalk portion of I-95. That number represents

10.3 percent of all I-95 accidents in the state, from New York to Rhode Island, for the year. New Haven had the second-largest number of crashes, 582, in 2007, followed by Stamford (579), Greenwich (576) and Milford (564)...

What's the solution?

Mike Riley, president of the Motor Transportation Association of Connecticut, a trucking trade group, said the highway wasn't built to handle today's volume of traffic.

"Trucks and people driving to work are all on that road at the same time," said Riley, whose group works with about 1,000 trucking lines that have routes in the state.

Ryan Lynch, Connecticut coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, attributes the number of accidents to overall congestion of the highway.

Lynch's group, which advocates transportation reform in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, believes congestion pricing could cut down on traffic. "We're not talking about toll plazas; they're certainly outdated," he said. "We'd like to see a high-speed tolling system that would take pictures of vehicles' plates and debit the drivers' credit card an amount based on time of day. That could encourage drivers to use the road more at off-peak hours..."

Please search the Norwalk HOUR archives for the remainder of this story.

Tolls study planned 

Karin Crompton
Published on 7/18/2008 

On a day when the speaker of the House held a press conference to state his opposition to tolls on the highway, the state Transportation Strategy Board announced that the state has contracted with a consultant to study the issue.

Speaker Jim Amann, D-Milford, said in a statement issued Thursday that the Republicans' idea to cap the state's gross receipts tax on petroleum products is a “budget shell game.” Amann said commuters in surrounding states pay an average of $1,300 in tolls on top of gas taxes.

The state Office of Policy and Management has contracted with Cambridge Systematics Inc., a Massachusetts-based company, to study tolls and “congestion pricing..”

Please search the New London DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Reactions to toll editorial shows public cynicism toward elected leaders. 
New London DAY editorial
Paul Choiniere 

Published on 6/6/2008 

In a recent editorial The Day called for a serious look at returning tolls to the state's highways. You can view it here. Not surprisingly, the suggestion proved controversial and the majority of those commenting on said it was a bad idea. (One commenter called for our public flogging).

The argument The Day presented is that tolls could be a sensible alternative to the high gas tax and that new E-ZPass technolgies will prevent the delays and back-ups the old tolls caused. The gas tax is primarily paid by those of us who live here in Connecticut. But tolls would capture money from the many drivers who pass through our state, but never contribute a dime toward the upkeep of its highways. If tolls were returned they would have to be combined with a big reduction in state gas taxes, the editorial argued. And toll revenues would have to be spent on transportation needs.

What I found most interesting about the reader comments was the degree of cynicism about the editorial's suggestion that toll revenues be combined with a big gas tax reduction. It appears many readers are convinced the state's legislators could not be trusted to keep the gas tax under control. They're convinced that despite the added toll revenues, lawmakers would end up raising the gas tax back up as well. And they don't believe the politicians would spend toll money on highways.

Who can blame Connecticut citizens for having that opinion? After all, once upon a time citizens were told lottery revenues were going to help pay for education. Remember when the income tax was going to provide plenty of money to run the state? And shouldn't getting $430 million a year from the two casinos be enough to help pay the state's bills?

Yet there never seems to be enough. What ever the state collects it manages to spend. New taxes get added to old. Towns and cities don't get the state revenues they're promised. And so while adding tolls and cutting the gas tax may make sense, I can understand the level of skepticism that greets the idea.

The strange thing is, when it comes time to vote people seem quite happy with the status quo. Incumbents keep getting returned to the legislature and dominance by the Democratic Party threatens to turn Connecticut into a one-party state. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

Republicans, it seems, could make inroads with a unified reduce government and cut taxes platform. But the party appears in disarray and demoralized. A Republican, by title at least, sits in the govenor's seat. But Gov. M. Jodi Rell is the most pragmatic of politicians, often shaping her policies to the situation and frequently siding with the Democratic majority on major issues -- including the recently-approved budget. Republicans in the legislature wanted to cut spending and taxes.

It's not enough to complain that politicians are all the same and nothing changes. This is a republic, after all. New state leaders can be elected, perhaps even ones who can be trusted to cut gas taxes and fix highways if they bring back tolls.

Editorial in full

NYC congestion pricing commission members appointed
Norwalk HOUR
By SARA KUGLER, Associated Press
August 22, 2007

NEW YORK — The 17 members of a commission that will study Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge motorists fees when entering parts of Manhattan were announced on Tuesday, and most already favor the idea.

The commission will examine the overall concept of reducing traffic, with an emphasis on Bloomberg's plan for tolling drivers as a way to get more people onto mass transit...

Please search the Norwalk HOUR archives for the remainder of this story.


Conn. reaches deal to upgrade travel plazas
Nov 19, 2009 7:15 PM EST

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut officials have reached a 35-year agreement to transform the state's 23 service plazas along the major highways, adding more types of restaurants and upgrading facilities.  The plazas are located along I-95, the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways and I-395.

For two decades, McDonald's has been the major food provider along I-95. ExxonMobil has been the fuel vendor since 1982. Under the new deal, all 23 service plazas will include a Subway sandwich shop, a Dunkin' Donuts and a convenience store.  McDonald's will be one of the food providers at eight locations.  Alliance Energy, a New England petroleum-marketing distributor, will provide fuel and operate the convenience stores.

Stamford State Sen. Andrew McDonald has called for a financial analysis of the contract.

No relation to the fast food company, we assume.

FAA: Fewer flights at Bradley make less noise
By: Ana Radelat | January 23, 2014

Washington – Bradley International Airport has gotten quieter.

At least that’s what the airport has told the Federal Aviation Administration, which approved a new noise map this week that shows the area affected by the noise of Bradley's flights has shrunk significantly over the past five years.

The reason: The number of flights landing and taking off from Bradley has dropped precipitously.

According to Kevin Dillon, executive director for the Connecticut Airport Authority, the airport served 7.2 million passengers in 2006 and only about 5.2 million in 2012. Dillon said he expected there was no growth last year.

Dillon said the recession and airport mergers are to blame. When Delta merged with Northwest Airlines and United Airlines merged with Continental, duplicate flights were eliminated.

An FAA official said the agency “advised the Connecticut Airport Authority to update its noise exposure maps for Bradley International Airport” because the old maps "did not accurately reflect aircraft operations at the airport.”

“Operations at the airport have not grown as forecast,” the FAA said...

Please search the CT MIRROR archives for the remainder of this story.

Watercolor by M.S. Wirtenberg

FAA: Controller on phone during Hudson River crash

Associated Press
Updated: 08/14/2009 07:13:44 AM EDT

WASHINGTON -- A personal phone call during last week's collision over New York's Hudson River has led to two air traffic controllers being removed from duty, although officials said the conversation probably had no impact on the tragedy...

Please search the A.P. and CT POST archives for the remainder of this story.

Supreme Court won't hear appeal of Federal Aviation Association flight plans over Fairfield County
By Brittany Lyte, Correspondent
Published: 10:24 p.m., Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the appeal of Federal Aviation Administration flight paths that would lead to increased airplane traffic over Fairfield County.

Backed by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the appeal, submitted in November, cited increased air pollution and harmful noise levels as grounds for legal review of the plans proposed by the FAA in 2006.

"The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the FAA to fly above the law, unchecked and unfairly routing more large planes over southwestern Connecticut without considering public input or environmental damage to the region," Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal described the flight paths as "fatally flawed" and said he would continue to fight against them...

Blumenthal petitions U.S. Supreme Court to reverse flight path changes
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 11/17/2009 11:13:10 AM EST
Updated: 11/17/2009 11:13:11 AM EST

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday seeking to continue a suit brought by local towns challenging 2006 changes to flight paths over Fairfield County that opponents and local leaders believe will have harmful levels of noise and environmental damage...

In 2007, Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, and six other towns formed the Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning and sued the FAA to overturn the flight changes.

The changes would
bring an additional 150 flights over Fairfield County each day.

In June, a three-judge panel concluded the FAA had performed an adequate analysis of the environmental effects of the plan, which was implemented to eliminate an estimated 200,000 hours in delays each year at New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania airports.

Court upholds FAA flight paths
By Martin B. Cassidy,
Posted: 06/10/2009 10:35:09 PM EDT
Updated: 06/11/2009 07:35:41 AM EDT

HARTFORD -- A three-judge panel Wednesday ruled against Stamford and other Fairfield County towns and upheld the Federal Aviation Administration's proposed flight path changes.

In a 2007 lawsuit, the towns claimed the FAA disregarded environmental effects and increased noise over Fairfield County in redrawing the flight paths. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who argued the case last month before the panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, said he will seek a re-hearing by the entire court.  If the request is denied or the state loses the re-hearing, the next option would be to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, Blumenthal said.

"The Supreme Court only hears a fraction of the cases that seek review. The odds are always against a challenge to a federal agency administrative decision, and certainly more so when review is sought before the U.S Supreme Court," Blumenthal said. "But we're going to continue the battle..."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Towns make their case against FAA flight paths
By Martin B. Cassidy

Posted: 05/11/2009 06:25:47 PM EDT
Updated: 05/12/2009 08:39:10 AM EDT

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued yesterday in Washington, D.C., against proposed flight path changes, saying the new routes would create significant noise and air pollution for Fairfield County...

"All of their modeling now includes this incorrect data," Blumenthal said.

The FAA also failed to pursue promised changes that would lessen the environmental effects, including routing more planes over water and monitoring noise, he said.  In September, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report stating the FAA followed procedures in approving the policies.

Two years ago, Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Ridgefield and six other towns formed the Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning and sued the FAA to overturn the changes. The court consolidated the case with similar actions filed by officials in Elizabeth, N.J., Delaware County, Pa., and Rockland County, N.Y., and transferred it from New York to the Washington, D.C., court.

Stamford Economic Development Director Michael Freimuth, Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi were among the elected officials from Fairfield County who attended the hearing Monday.

Freimuth said the FAA plans did not consider how the additional noise and emissions would affect air quality, real estate values and quality of life.  The outcome of the case is important, Freimuth said, but towns also must act to change how FAA policy is created in the future. He called for greater scrutiny of environmental studies and aviation safety.

"We need to be cognizant that there is a window we are looking at this moment where there is a chance to hit the refresh button and require different reviews, and change the process," Freimuth said. "What do we want to do to balance the trade-offs of expediting airplanes on a runway? We all want to cut delays, but no matter how you rearrange the air space, you are still putting them into very crowded airports."

The U.S. District Court judges sitting on the panel were David Sentelle, Douglas Ginsberg and Arthur Randolph.

If unsuccessful, the case would have to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blumenthal said.

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Blumenthal wants flight plan halted 
By Associated Press    
Published on 9/13/2008 

Hartford (AP) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday that he has asked a federal court to halt a new flight pattern plan for airports in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, citing noise, pollution and other issues.

The Federal Aviation Administration adopted the plan nearly a year ago, after nearly a decade of study, in an effort to reduce flight delays and congestion in the heavily traveled Northeast. Parts of Connecticut and Delaware are also affected by the flight patterns.

The legal brief was filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, 10 cities and towns in southwestern Connecticut and nine other plaintiffs, including local governments and organizations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Blumenthal charged that the FAA violated federal law by failing to fully consider effects on noise levels, air quality, the environment, state parks and wildlife areas. He's asking the court to halt the plan and force the FAA to redo it.

”These flight paths will bombard residents, sensitive wildlife areas and state parks with noise and pollution, damaging air quality and quality of life,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “We will fight to rescind these defective flight paths and force the FAA to rewrite the plan.”

The legal brief, filed late last month, is part of a lawsuit Connecticut filed against the FAA in November 2007. It also alleges the FAA failed to fully consider alternate routes over water and in military air lanes.

An FAA spokeswoman said Friday that the agency does not comment on pending litigation. The agency has determined that the new flight patterns pose no significant threats to the environment, although noise would increase in some Northeast communities...

Please search the A.P. and The DAY archives for the remainder of this story.


Analysts: Super-Jumbo Jets Not Practical For U.S. Carriers
By ERIC GERSHON | Courant Staff Writer
August 1, 2008

A new era in air travel starts in the United States today, when an Airbus A380 super-jumbo laden with paying passengers lands here for the first time.

But U.S. airlines have nothing to do with the event at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport — and so far nothing to do with the A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft.

Of Airbus' 17 customers for the four-engine A380, a double-decker designed for extra-long flights, not one is an American airline and just one is an American company, Los Angeles-based International Lease Financing Corp.

The A380 arriving at 4:45 p.m. today, from Dubai, is owned and operated by Dubai-based Emirates airline, the largest customer for the super-jumbo and the second to get one from Airbus, the manufacturer. Emirates' plane is the first to use engines made by Engine Alliance, a partnership of Pratt & Whitney and General Electric.

But the lack of American customers for the A380 comes as no surprise to industry analysts, who say U.S. airlines don't need or want super-jumbos.

Singapore Airlines was the first airline to get an A380 and put it into service, last October. It operates A380s between Singapore and London and Sydney and Tokyo, and will divert one to Beijing during the Summer Olympics. Other major customers include Lufthansa, Qantas, Air France and British Airways.

In all, Airbus has sold more than 200 A380s, at $200 million to $300 million apiece, depending on features.

Not Practical For U.S.

"It's not very controversial or sinister or frankly very surprising," said Daniel Petree, dean of the college of business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. "I think it's fundamental economics."

U.S. airlines are struggling for survival due to crippling oil costs, which means they're not generally in buying mode, he said. Several airlines have grounded aircraft and delayed or canceled orders for new ones.

Other aviation industry analysts cite a more basic reason for U.S. airlines' lack of interest: For decades, their business strategy has called for frequent departures of smaller aircraft, rather than fewer flights on bigger planes.

People want the convenience of frequent departures, said Robert Mann, an airline consultant based in Port Washington, N.Y. For airlines, high frequency has the benefit of enabling travel by business-class customers paying high fares, he said...

Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

2nd near collision occurs at JFK airport in week 
By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press Writer 
Posted on Jul 12, 8:46 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two airborne planes - one landing and the other taking off - came within a half-mile of colliding at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday in the second such incident at the airport in a week, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The FAA moved quickly to change takeoff and landing procedures at JFK on perpendicular runways - the kind of runways involved in both incidents...

"This did happen today," Laughlin said. "This is what we call, and what the FAA classifies, as a 'proximity event.'"

Laughlin said she didn't know how many people were aboard the Delta flight, which came from Shannon, Ireland, but the plane seats 170 passengers.

Dean Iacopelli, a representative for the New York National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said the FAA has "terminated that perpendicular simultaneous approach procedure."

Barrett Byrnes, who president of the controllers union at the JFK tower, said controllers have long sought the procedure changes.

"The FAA put out an order to JFK to no longer use that approach. That's exactly what we wanted to happen," Byrnes said. "We've been trying to change that for the last 12, 13 years. It's been an accident waiting to happen."

Friday's incident began when the Delta flight was handed off from the FAA's traffic control center in Westbury, N.Y., to the JFK tower as the plane prepared to land. In the handoff, the Delta pilot apparently wasn't using the communication frequency the flight was assigned to communicate with the JFK tower, Brown said.

The JFK tower and the Delta jet did not establish contact until the flight was 1.5 miles from touching down on the runway, Brown said. The flight was cleared to land by the tower, but the pilot decided to abort the landing, Brown said.

Please search the A.P. and The DAY archives for the remainder of this story.

Lawmakers draft statement against FAA redesign plan
Greenwich TIME
By Monica Potts, Staff Writer
Published February 16 2008

STAMFORD -- In an effort led by state senators from Stamford and Norwalk, the General Assembly's Transportation Committee voted yesterday to draft a resolution that would make official the state's opposition to the Federal Aviation Administration's airspace redesign plan...

The FAA adopted the plan to reroute some flight paths from LaGuardia and Westchester County airports over lower Fairfield County in September. In November, the state and a coalition of 14 municipalities sued the FAA over the plan....

Please search the Greenwich TIME archives for the remainder of this story.

Himes wants FAA to look into watchdog group's noise complaints; Lawmaker to help county group back up complaints
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 08/12/2009 06:58:17 AM EDT
Updated: 08/12/2009 06:58:39 AM EDT

STAMFORD -- U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Greenwich, is working with a Fairfield County aviation noise watchdog group to submit its data about aircraft traffic to federal officials.

The group wants to corroborate reports of low-altitude flights and high aircraft-noise levels above their neighborhoods.

Last week at a forum at the Stamford Government Center, Himes told officials from the Federal Aviation Administration he would gather and submit information from members of the group about specific flights that could be checked against the FAA's flight logs for nearby Westchester County Airport, as well as John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York City, for violations of FAA airspace regulations.

Dozens of residents opposed to the FAA's 2006 redesign of flight paths meant to reduce passenger delays for the tri-state region attended the meeting to question FAA officials about what they say is increased air traffic and aircraft-related noise in the area.

"It's important that we check the logs of the records of the flights, the area and the altitudes against what the residents are seeing and measuring," Himes said. "We could get to the facts."

The aviation noise monitoring group was organized in 2008 as a lawsuit against the FAA was filed by local officials to try to block new agency-ordered flight paths over Fairfield County that opponents said would bring increased aircraft noise and pollution to their communities...

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Residents monitor airplane noise
Greenwich TIME
By Neil Vigdor,
Staff Writer
Article Launched: 07/07/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT

In the tradition of air raid drills and fallout shelters, a new generation of plane spotters is monitoring the skies above lower Fairfield County.

People like Pamela Kearns, who has been known to keep a notebook on her nightstand to log when planes fly overhead.  And Julius Marcus, who bought a $600 noise meter to measure decibel levels from low-flying aircraft.  Both are on the front-lines of a 13-town coalition's opposition to a controversial Federal Aviation Administration aircraft rerouting plan for the region...

Please search the Greenwich TIME archives for the remainder of this story.

Then Mayor of Stamford at former SWRPA Legislative Breakfasd

Airspace coalition elects officers to oversee FAA lawsuit

By Wynne Parry
Published December 5 2007

The coalition of 14 towns aligned to fight the Federal Aviation Administration's proposal to reroute flights over Fairfield County has elected its first officers...

The towns will contribute to the cost based in part on population, Bliss said. The alliance also elected a business adviser, information adviser, financial director and financial management adviser. None are from Stamford.

"I don't think we were desirous of playing a leadership role in the organization. We are a leading funder, and we are lending our Washington tools to the effort," Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said, referring to the city's lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

"I certainly want people to understand we are organized, and we are working together," he said.

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

Expert: Lawsuit against FAA may be a flight of fancy
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published November 19 2007

When the Federal Aviation Administration tried to fine one of Gregory Winton's clients for operating a Learjet that did not meet standards for airworthiness, he got the case thrown out by a judge.

Similarly, the Washington, D.C., aviation lawyer said he won a case in which the FAA tried to revoke two pilot certificates from one of his clients for flying a plane that it said exceeded weight restrictions.

"Has the FAA been beat? Absolutely. Does it happen often? No. I'm sure they would like to keep that under wraps," said Winton, founder and president of Aviation Law, a national firm that represents clients such as Boeing and British Airways in litigation.

Winton's comments are ominous for a coalition of 11 towns and the state, which sued the FAA earlier this month over its controversial new flight paths over Fairfield County.  A former FAA lawyer, Winton said the agency has a stable of lawyers, as well as U.S. Justice Department attorneys, prepared to defend it from lawsuits filed over the routing plan.

"The government is not in this to make money or friends," Winton said. "Unfortunately, they'll fight an issue to the death..."

Please search the ADVOCATE archives for the remainder of this story.

State sues to block flight traffic
Danbury News-Times
Article Last Updated: 11/01/2007 11:56:17 AM EDT

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced today that the state has sued the Federal Aviation Administration to block new flight paths that route more planes lower over southern Connecticut...

 Please search the Danbury News-Times archives for the remainder of this story.

Trying To Ease Gridlock In N.Y. City Skies:
`Congestion Pricing' Enters The Discussion As FAA, Task Force Target Chronic Delays At Three Metropolitan Airports
Hartford Courant
By DAVID B. CARUSO | Associated Press
October 12, 2007

NEW YORK - Simple mathematics explains why New York has become the nation's worst air-travel bottleneck. Almost every day, more planes are jockeying for space in the sky than the region's beleaguered air traffic control system can handle.  Finding a solution to the problem, though, has tied the aviation industry in knots: Do you schedule fewer flights? Or, can you find ways to safely get more jets in the air?

A federal task force made up of airline executives, government officials and aviation groups has been discussing both approaches during a series of high-stakes meetings over the past three weeks.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters convened the group in late September and gave it a warning: Find a fix for chronic delays at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and its sister airports, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International, or be prepared to face a federal order reducing the number of allowed flights...

Please search the A.P. and Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.

Stamford commuters tell DOT head: Let us in on plans for new parking garage
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
September 20, 2012

Stamford -- Dogged by criticism of the secrecy of his plans to spend $35 million replacing a dilapidated parking garage at the Stamford train station, state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told the more than 50 people attending a public hearing Thursday night, "We want to hear from you."

What he heard was an overwhelming message of concern over a process in which the state will decide who will add 300 parking spaces to its busiest train station and develop around it -- without telling anyone who's in the running to do the project or what their plans are...story in full:


Probe reveals oxygen bottle burst on Qantas flight 
Posted on Aug 28, 2008 10:22 PM EDT

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- An oxygen cylinder caused the explosion that blew a car-sized hole in a Qantas jet last month, forcing an emergency landing, air safety officials said Friday.

The release of the interim report by Julian Walsh, acting executive director of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, confirmed earlier suspicions by investigators that an exploding oxygen tank was the cause.

The Boeing 747-438 aircraft, carrying 365 people, was flying over the South China Sea July 5 when the explosion blew a hole in the fuselage five-feet in diameter, causing a loss of cabin pressure.

Walsh said one of the seven emergency oxygen cylinders below the cabin floor had exploded, but did not say what caused the tank to burst.

"On the basis of the physical damage to the aircraft's forward cargo hold and cabin, it is evident that the number 4 passenger oxygen cylinder sustained a failure that allowed a sudden and complete release of the pressurized contents," Walsh told reporters in releasing the report...

Please search the A.P. and The DAY archives for the remainder of this story.


News of upstate New York incident...17 hurt when cruise ship hits seawall lock
Greenwich TIME
Friday, June 19, 2015

Story in full:

Watercolor by M.S. Wirtenberg

You know the saying...all politics is local?  Well, all traffic is politics! 

That begins with interstate issues over Metro-North and airplane noise, to inter-town bus routes, station parking permits to requirements for buckling up on school bus or...water skies?  T.O.D. for Weston?  Then there is bridge work (and we are not talking at the dentist, although drilling down on these projects can...hit a nerve).

Malloy: Anonymous Pro-Busway Comments Were A Mistake
Don Statcom, Hartford Courant
August 26, 2015

NEW BRITAIN — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy says a top DOT administrator shouldn't have posted anonymous comments favorable to Ctfastrak on, but adds that he doesn't believe anything put up was inaccurate.

Defending the bus rapid transit system in the face of blistering anonymous criticisms of the busway — often with erroneous information — was understandable, but Transit Administrator Michael Sanders shouldn't have done it without disclosing his identity on the posts, Malloy said at a CTfastrak promotional event Wednesday.

"He should have put his name on it, for the life of me I don't understand why he didn't," Malloy said. "It was a mistake."  For story in full:

Emails: From Day 1, Connecticut heavily promoted bus system

By STEPHEN SINGER, Associated Press
Aug 25, 2:21 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- As the $567 million bus-only corridor between Hartford and New Britain began operating this spring, state officials worked behind the scenes to shape public opinion of the project that has been a lightning rod for criticism because of its cost.

The public relations campaign to rally support for the 9.4-mile CTfastrak involved Michael Sanders, the Transportation Department's transit administrator, who suggested in an email that he would use a "stage name" to post a comment on a newspaper website...ALSO here:

Originally here:


In with the new, above, and out with the old, below, not exactly in time for the first day of school...but then, who really thought it would be?

"Bridge in a Backpack" up a tree?  Existing drawing above enlarged.  Or need to exceed R.O.W. line (in red)?  "Work-around" coming?
Above is a drawing shown at 2014 public meeting held by DOT in Weston Town Hall in winter 2014. Coordination between levels of government should require building in time overruns.

CTDOT engineer and bridge specialist and Town Engineer present
It was winter 2014 when CT DOT engineers explained the project that would cut the "H" intersection in pieces...requiring traffic rerouting until full completion - will Old Mill Road be closed at some point?

Different look for bridge or is it that the angle is not the same in both drawings?
Looks to us as if there will be extra height provided to meet flood standards, perhaps, based up drawing - or are we missing something it rather that the angle of the Route 57 intersection is being made or remade?

Bicycle advocate, Cobb's Mill Inn owner and manager were there, too.
CT DOT staff including manager above plus engineers, higher-ups, too, and bridge section's consultant were all present.

Hartford Courant editorial:   
States raising taxes, fees and debt to pay for road repairs
By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press
Aug 17, 3:08 PM EDT

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- While Congress remains stalled on a long-term plan for funding highways, state lawmakers and governors aren't waiting around.

Nearly one-third of the states have approved measures this year that could collectively raise billions of dollars through higher fuel taxes, vehicle fees and bonds to repair old bridges and roads and relieve traffic congestion, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

The surge of activity means at least half of the states - from coast to coast, in both Republican and Democratic areas - now have passed transportation funding measures since 2013.

And the movement may not be done yet...story in full:

Port Authority to help shape future at New London, state’s other deepwater ports

By Julia Bergman
Published September 04. 2015 8:05PM
Updated September 04. 2015 11:08PM
Before the housing market crashed in 2008, the main commodity coming into New London's State Pier facility was lumber.  From 2009 to 2014, there was no lumber market at State Pier, according to officials at Logistec, port operator at the facility for about 17 years.  But Logistec began importing lumber from Europe again in 2014 for the housing market and home renovations...story in full:

Ah, yes, "Club Weston" back in August of 1994...proof positive that if you dot (nothing to do with "DOT") all the "I's" and cross all the "T's" you can sometimes beat the bureaucracy!

WestCOG RFQ for Stamford bike-ped "complete streets" contract: