Connecticut Department of
page begun as a result of
Courant series and 2007 proposed legislation re:
IN THE NEWS;
COMING TO THE FORE ("What, can you
repeat that, I couldn't
hear...") how about air
traffic control? Aircraft safety?
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.
Funding on the federal level remains uncertain not only because of the
slow negotiations to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," but also
because a highway trust fund is nearly broke. Meanwhile, Connecticut's
own deficit seems to rise daily -- it is now estimated at around $400
million for this fiscal year -- prompting budget cuts to a variety of
different state agencies.
"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
"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
"We, as citizens, have to take on more responsibility for funding,"
said Oz Griebel of the MetroHartford Alliance, who ran for Governor as
a Republican in 2010 and suggested highway tolls for the state at the
time. He speculated that Gov. Dannel Malloy, who was criticized by many
for embracing the controversial $570 million Hartford-to-New-Britain
busway dubbed CT Fastrak, might now be willing to touch the third rail.
Redeker said the state has been studying the possibility of adding fees
for highway drivers based on time of day, type of vehicle, and lanes.
"Tolls need to be looked at, like everything else," he said. The Los
Angeles-area, that for years boasted of its toll-free highwatys,
recently began charging tolls on an 11-mile stretch of its 110 Freeway.
Still, tolls -- or higher gasoline taxes, which have also been floated
as a possibility on the national level -- wouldn't solve the problem. A
large chunk of gas tax money that was technically meant for
transportation in the state has for many years gone to other uses. Last
year, Malloy put $40 million back into what's called the "Special
Transportation Fund," but this fiscal year he took out $70 million. He
offset the difference partly by fare increases on Metro-North that will
take place on January 1, 2013.
If tolls were added, said many at the forum, they would have to be
dedicated only to the Special Transportation Fund.
As Frankel put it, "People who use the system should pay for the
system, and they should know that the money is being reinvested in the
Kim Fawcett, who represents Fairfield and Westport in the Connecticut
General Assembly, said she's been fighting for years to get her
constituents to warm to the idea of tolls on I-95 or other highways in
"How do I sell it?" she asked panelists at the forum on Monday. "We
need a grand vision."
Perhaps, she suggested after the forum, she could "sell" her voters on
tolls if they came with this promise: "You're going to get a commute of
30 minutes to New York City instead of the hour and 15 minutes that it
currently takes on the train."
At the moment, though, the state doesn't have any long-term plan that
would allow her to promote such a vision. And there's no guarantee that
Connecticut won't continue to raid its Special Transportation Fund,
making the situation even worse.
In his opening remarks at the "Transit for Connecticut Forum," Malloy
referred to that issue, saying pointedly, "Putting our fiscal house in
order after 20 years of ignoring it is a very important issue...these
days will be behind us."
He also pointed out that Connecticut does have a few major
transportation projects already underway, including CT Fastrak and the
new high-speed rail line that runs from New Haven through Hartford up
to Springfield. (Those projects are financed largely through one-time
Redeker said the Special Transportation Fund should not be affected by
changes to the state's General Fund -- but in reality, there are no
"At this point I'm really not aware of what the proposals are or what
the debates are going to be, but it's a tough problem," he said.
"And we'll work together on it."
Redeker's agency budget totals about $1.2 billion, including both
capital and operating expenses.
"Our goal is to have the same or a
shorter commute time," Redeker said.
DOT chief says garage project is
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
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
"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,
"Our goal is to have the same or a shorter commute time," Redeker said.
After a strong rebuke from Stamford commuters two weeks ago at a
hearing and calls for more outreach by the DOT before moving forward,
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced plans Thursday for a five-member
advisory council to provide guidance to the DOT in choosing a potential
development project involving the station. Redeker said a leaflet
will be distributed to Stamford commuters to dispel misinformation. He
said he wants to clarify the DOT's openness to maintaining parking
where it is today and other bullet points, including the DOT's intent
to maintain approval of the facility's daily and monthly rates.
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said the DOT did not do a good job of
explaining the process to residents and commuters and how to provide
"The state did not distribute the information as completely as it
should have and they did not do it clearly," Pavia said.
Redeker said the state's process of choosing a private developer to
deliver the work and limit the state's investment is a shift in
practice. Previously, the state would first design a project and then
seek public input through extensive hearings before doing the work
itself or hiring a company to do so.
Under the new review process, the DOT is legally bound to keep the
final pool of proposals confidential to shield the ideas of the
developers which are considered proprietary, Redeker said.
"This is for the DOT a new thing and is a new thing for the state of
Connecticut and really the first public-private-partnership-type deal
we're doing on a project like this ... ," Redeker said. --¦ But
I want to assure commuters that my goal is that at the ribbon-cutting
everyone will say `this is great.' "
Redeker said the state's decision to halt the project in 2008 and
pursue a public-private partnership for transit-oriented development at
or around the station was motivated by a lack of state tax funds for
big infrastructure projects, and an assessment of the cost to design,
bid and build the garage itself. The DOT's analysis concluded a
project led by the agency could take more than three years and cost an
estimated $60 million, nearly double the currently allocated $35
million, which is considered the maximum amount the state is willing to
invest, Redeker said.
"What we concluded then is that for the DOT to do that would take a
very long time and not be affordable," Redeker said.
State Rep. William Tong, D-147th district, and state Sen. Carlo Leone,
D-Stamford, said they both asked the state to provide a better defined
process for commuters to participate in the state's decision-making
while understanding the limitations imposed by the public-private
"We've made it clear and I got a commitment from the commissioner that
he felt the same way -- that the commuters are paramount and a
priority," Tong said.
Leone said involving private developers will help finance a plan to
address a wider scope of improvements to the station than the state
could fund alone, but that local input is necessary to ensure the
project is done correctly to accommodate future growth and be in step
with the city's vision.
"It's hugely important that we do it right," Leone said. "It has to
meet the needs of the commuters and the city, and we have communicated
with the commissioner and the DOT that if it doesn't it is a
Residents can send their opinions on the garage project to
DOT.Stamford.TOD@ct.gov to be considered by the agency.
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.
"The goal of this project is to provide the commuters of the Stamford
region with a state-of-the-art parking structure that will deliver more
parking, accessibility for commuters and travelers of all modes,"
Malloy said in a statement.
The announcement follows a story Thursday on The Mirror's website. The
story reported heavy criticism from commuters, state legislators and
Stamford officials, all of whom felt pushed aside as the DOT prepares
to accept proposals from developers who will not be named, and whose
proposals will remain a secret, until a final one is picked at the end
of the year. Because the state owns and operates the train station, the
DOT is leading the project.
"That's our garage," state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, told DOT
officials at a public hearing at Stamford High last week. "Frankly, it
doesn't belong to the state, it doesn't belong to the developers."
Dozens more testified at the hearing, the only one scheduled about the
$35 million project. Public comments are due by Oct. 5, and developers'
proposals are due four days later.
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."
Giordano is currently on the waiting list -- along with 857 others --
for a $70 monthly parking permit at the station. It is expected to take
about two years for those at the bottom of the list to get a permit.
Redeker said he is still working out details on when and how to select
the members of the advisory panel. "It'll be a lot of work," he said.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, called
the announcement "a very important first step to making sure that the
interests of all the stakeholders are heard and considered."
"It's still a somewhat opaque process," Cameron said. "It's not going
to be open and transparent, but it sounds like it's not going to be
completely hidden, either."
The DOT will also be passing out flyers at Stamford Transportation
Center through early next week asking commuters for their input on the
project. Cameron said members of the Commuter Rail Council would
distribute their own flyers as well.
Link to OLR
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
"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
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
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.
He and others said it would be devastating if the gas tax was allows to
expire, even for a short window. The federal government would not be
able to reimburse states for any construction work currently underway,
let alone make future commitments for key projects.
"You would have such a huge problem," Janet Oakley, AASHTO's director
of policy and government relations. "The construction industry is
already on its knees as it is. And this would just send them over the
edge, because few states would have the cash flow to pay the
contractors without the reimbursement."
Oakley said that a month or so ago, she and her colleagues were pretty
nervous about the prospect of a stalemate over the gas tax,
particularly in the wake of the FAA impasse. But they've been working
furiously in recent weeks to talk to lawmakers about the importance of
renewing the fuel tax.
In addition to the 18.4-cent tax on gasoline, there's a 24.4 cent levy
on diesel fuel and several other revenue provisions, such as a tax on
heavy truck tires, which are all vital to filling the coffers of the
Highway Trust Fund. That pot of money is then divvied up for highway
and transportation projects across the country.
Oakley noted that in past years, the gas tax has been reauthorized
repeatedly without much controversy. But earlier this month, a leading
anti-tax conservative, Grover Norquist, hinted that he would like to
use the Sept. 30 expiration as a way to spur debate over the federal
His group, Americans for Tax Reform, has long argued for the repeal of
the gas tax. Like the Club for Growth, Norquist has argued that
the tab for highway and transit projects should fall to the states.
"ATR would love to help begin such a dialogue," Norquist told Politico
earlier this month
To the relief of Oakley and others, Norquist has since said he would
not consider a vote in favor of extending the gas tax a violation of
his group's no-tax-increase pledge. Many Republicans have signed that
promise, and Norquist has exercised significant pressure to hold them
to it, so his statement makes an extension of the gas tax somewhat
Still, Oakley said that in two decades of working on this issue, she's
never seen such uncertainty surrounding the gas tax. "We're in
uncharted territory," she said.
That fact that the gas tax and the transportation authorization law are
expiring at the same time makes the political calculations a little
more charged, she added.
"All of this has to come together," she said. "It really raises
All the same, she said she's optimistic that it will get done.
"I think there will be a flurry of activity the first week when they
return," she said. "That's not to say there won't be some drama
attached to it, as we saw from the FAA bill. But we think that cooler
heads will prevail."
Malloy revives planning for completion of
Mark Pazniokas and Deirdre Shesgreen
It was given up for dead during the administration of Lowell
P. Weicker Jr. in the early 1990s and again in 2009 under M. Jodi Rell,
but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today breathed new life into the idea of
completing Route 11.
With the blessing of the Federal Highway Administration,
Malloy revived planning for an unfinished 8-mile route that has been an
issue in eastern Connecticut since construction began on the initial
7-mile stretch in 1966.
Malloy said the planning will include an updated
environmental impact statement and a study of the feasibility of
financing construction, at least in part, with tolls, since federal
highway dollars are expected to grow even tighter.
"We'll be examining all our options," Malloy said.
No one should plan on a groundbreaking soon: The studies
outlined today will take about 2½ years. And if the past is
prologue, betting on a happy ending should carry long, long odds.
Malloy is the eighth governor to wrestle with a project begun
in the 1960s, suspended in the 1970s, reworked in the 1980s, and
abandoned in the 1990s, only to experience periodic revivals like an
U.S. Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, and Malloy said
the impetus for the highway remains the same: After Route 11 ends in
Salem, the trip from Hartford to New London follows a winding and often
dangerous path along Route 85.
President Obama took the route last week from Bradley
International Airport to the Coast Guard Academy after bad weather
grounded his usual ride, the Marine One helicopter.
"I was to dispel any rumors that the fact the president had
to drive from Bradley to New London and take the zigzag route, which we
all deal with every day, has nothing to do with the timing of this
announcement," Courtney joked.
Emil Frankel, a transportation commissioner for Weicker and
more than 15 years later an interim appointee of Rell's, pronounced the
project dead under Weicker. When he returned under Rell, he joked he
would have to dispatch it again.
Frankel remains a doubter in his new post as the director of
transportation policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington
"You can't do everything," Frankel said. "If that
project is built, if $1 billion is spent on that, then there are a
couple of bridges on I-95... that can't be rebuilt."
And money remains a key stumbling block.
He said Malloy and others need to evaluate Route 11's
benefits and costs in the context of all the other needs in the state.
"Last time I checked, Route 11 would carry 15,000 to 20,000
vehicles a day," Frankel said. "The Moses Wheeler bridge on 1-95
carries about 150,000 to 175,000 vehicles a day."
Replacing the bridge and completing Route 11 would each cost
about $1 billion, with much of the cost of the Route 11 project going
for interchanges at I-95 or I-395.
"If you can only do one thing, which do you think is more
important?" Frankel asked. "Those are the choices the state faces in a
time of constricted constrained resources."
On the issue of resources, Frankel also raised broader
questions about Malloy's hopes of fixing Connecticut's transportation
woes by, at least in part, getting more federal money.
"The cupboard is bare," he said.
Malloy is more optimistic, but the governor's study of tolls
is an acknowledgment that federal funds could be unavailable.
Connecticut's transportation capital program is already too
heavily reliant on federal funds, and with Congress emphasizing
austerity, Washington's contribution to the state isn't going to grow,
"It's likelier that Connecticut's slice of that pie is going
to be smaller," Frankel said. The formulas used to divvy up federal
transportation dollars used to be written in large part by lawmakers
from the Northeast, but that's not true now.
"I think Connecticut's power and ability to influence its
slice of the pie has dwindled in a situation in which the pie is not
going to grow. And then you also have the prohibition on earmarks... so
that also is going to be a factor."
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.
Fox had been hoping the governor would include nearly $50 million in
funding to replace the deteriorating rail station parking garage
downtown and replace the Atlantic Street overpass where trucks
delivering goods to the South End often get stuck.
"What we plan to do in Stamford with those two projects has so much
potential to create jobs that that will be the argument we make in
seeking funding," Fox said.
The governor's budget included few specific projects, but many area
legislators said they were pleased Malloy is emphasizing the need to
maintain the state's mass transit and highway infrastructure that had
been long deferred. Among the transportation related projects and
investments identified by Malloy's budget office to be funded in his
two-year budget are:
$227 million to fully fund the Department of Transportation's
Fix-It-First program to perform high-priority repairs on highways and
$196 million to maintain bus and rail infrastructure, above and beyond
current funding levels.
$50 million over two years to support the dredging of the heavily
silted Bridgeport Harbor and other maritime projects like refurbishing
ferry slip and harbor facilities in New London.
Malloy's budget director Benjamin Barnes said the proposals would keep
rail and bus fares flat through 2011, further delaying the first of
seven consecutive annual fare increases of 1 percent to pay for new M-8
cars until January 2012. Connecticut Rail Commuter Council
Chairman Jim Cameron said that the plan to delay the fare increase
seemed reasonable given a pledge from former Gov. M. Jodi Rell to
postpone the fare increase until the M-8s were in service.
"I hope he will be able to honor it if there is any further delay in
the testing program for the M-8s," Cameron said. "I would say that it
is good news."
The state is also expected to continue releasing funds toward an $880
million project to double- track a passenger rail line to shorten
commuter trips between lower Connecticut and Massachuetts.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-143rd District, and state Sen. Toni
Boucher, who both represent Wilton and Norwalk, said they supported
Malloy's pledge to block legislators from raiding the state's Special
Transportation Fund away from transit projects to cover general
"We need to protect that money for transportation purposes because we
need it to maintain what we have," Lavielle said.
Lavielle said that she supported work on the project, but felt that
investments to electrify the Metro-North Danbury Branch and upgrade the
New Canaan Branch would be prioritized.
"If you are looking for the bang for the buck for the least amount of
investment having the greatest impact, I think the New Haven Line and
its branches really have to be a priority," Lavielle said.
Boucher said that it was likely that Malloy's plan to raise the state's
gasoline tax from 25 to 28 cents a gallon to raise money for
transportation projects would likely cause an outcry.
"I saw a lot of good things in his transportation plan, but the gas tax
won't be very popular with the public because we already have one of
the highest gas taxes in the country," Boucher said.
Link to design solutions for more
local types; above a big intersection if you miss the signs for the
Merritt coming home from Hartford!
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
The position paper outlining transportation needs, the first of four
components that will ultimately comprise the board's 2011 update to its
statewide transportation strategy, warns this confluence of bad
conditions could require a major investment - despite the state's
fiscal crisis - unless Connecticut wants to risk its economic future.
About 6 percent of the state's highway bridges and 27 percent of its
railway bridges, nearly 300 structures in total, were rated
structurally deficient, with at least one major structural component -
such as its deck or substructure - not capable of carrying all legal
loads. A structurally deficient bridge can provide several years of
service before receiving the necessary work to restore it to fair or
better condition, the report adds.
According to state Department of Transportation data, the number of
structurally deficient bridges is at its highest level since 1993. And
things could quickly get worse.
Much of the interstate highway system in this state was built in the
1950s and 1960s, and many of the bridges that serve it have a 40-60
year life span. The state maintains about 3,900 highway bridges and
about 200 rail bridges and just over 2,850 were built prior to 1970.
"Even maintaining what we have under such intense use and demanding
conditions is straining our financial resources," the report reads. "It
leaves us little ability to improve our systems or expand capacity to
meet growing demand."
Nearly 60 percent of Connecticut's highway pavement, about 2,200 miles,
was found to be in less than good condition when inspected between 2006
and 2008, the report states.
Connecticut's highways serve 110,000 to 170,000 vehicles per day, with
truck traffic representing 10 to 15 percent of that amount, one of the
busiest rates in the nation, the report states. The same is true of the
New Haven commuter rail line, which serves 36 million passengers per
Former Monroe First Selectwoman Karen Burnaska, a member of the
strategy board, said Tuesday she wasn't surprised by the types of
problems outlined in the draft of the first component of the 2011
update. "That wasn't really a shock," she said. "What was shocking is
that we have so many needs. We know we have a lot of good projects that
we won't be able to fund unless something changes."
Further complicating matters, the funding needed to deal with this
challenge simply isn't available, the report states.
"For over a decade, our usual transportation funding programs have been
inadequate to support our transportation infrastructure needs," the
board wrote, adding that reductions in the gas tax, unfavorable changes
in federal funding and inflation "has left us without the financial
capacity to either maintain or expand our systems.
Between 1997 and 2000 the state legislature and then-Gov. John G.
Rowland lowered the state's retail gasoline tax from 39 cents per
gallon to 32 cents in three stages. The legislature and Gov. M. Jodi
Rell increased the state's wholesale tax on gasoline and other fuels
from 5 to 7.5 percent between July 2005 and July 2007.
But 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 on non-transportation programs, according to budget records.
According to Rell's office, annual spending on bridge repair has grown
considerably in recent years, jumping from $105.5 million in 2007 to
$304.3 million last fiscal year.
Still, the board wrote in its report that a lack of funding has created
"a large backlog of deferred repair, reconstruction and replacement
The new report estimates 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.
Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimate that the Special
Transportation Fund, a $1.2 billion component within an overall state
budget of $19.01 billion, would fall more than $42 million into deficit
Though the board didn't address the funding shortfall in this component
of its 2011 update, the issue of funding is expected to be addressed in
"We must meet the challenge. We have to restore our infrastructure to a
state of good repair while also improving our systems and their
performance," the draft states. "Continuing to defer needed repairs and
improvements will only increase the backlog of projects and will
threaten future economic growth in the state."
Created by the General Assembly in 2001, the Transportation Strategy
Board was charged with developing long-range strategies to improve the
state's congested transportation network and foster economic
The panel, which issues a new comprehensive strategy every four years,
prepared the latest draft as part of an ongoing effort to update its
2007 strategy early next year. Other components of the 2011 update are
expected to address projections on the funding needed both to maintain
the current transportation network and to make improvement; key
projects needed to ease highway congestion; impacts that both the
current system and proposed projects could have on future economic
development; and funding options for transportation initiatives.
Donald J. Shubert, spokesman for Keep CT Moving, a transportation
advocacy coalition composed of labor and business groups, praised the
strategy board for acknowledging a neglected infrastructure, but said
the group's real test will come later, when it decides whether to
recommend sources of funding for major new investment in transportation.
"We still have to dig up the money to expand our capacity and to
operate it," he said.
Sen. Robert Duff, vice chairman of the legislature's Transportation
Committee, said the key to attacking the problems raised by the
strategy board while dealing with a $3.4 billion deficit projected for
next year's state budget is prioritization.
"If a project will help grow jobs in Connecticut, then I think we have
to look at it," said Duff, a Norwalk Democrat whose home community lies
amid some of the most congested highways in the Northeast. "Ultimately
it all comes down to how this affects our economic future."
Commissioner Redeker, CTDOT 2012
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
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 study by the I-95 Corridor Coalition projected that demand for
highway travel from Maine to Florida will increase by 70 percent by
2040 unless other modes such as rail and bus create new options.
Average weekday travel demands are projected to increase in the New
York region by roughly 3.3 million trips from 2005 to 2030, with 80
percent of those trips expected to be absorbed by highways and the
balance by transit, according to the Federal Transit Administration.
Malloy, who was recently appointed by his fellow New England governors
to be lead governor for transportation of the Coalition of Northeast
Governors said that Connecticut needs to state strongly the importance
of improving railways in the state to improve the state's economy,
especially increasing the speed of service between business centers.
"High-quality, high-speed rail service is one of the keys to improving
our economy and our business climate, both in the near term and for
decades to come," Malloy said. "We are not just talking about a single
corridor, we are talking about a major segment of the country that
depends on an ever-expanding transportation network for commerce,
commuting and even tourism to fuel our economy and keep everyone moving
State legislators and transit advocates expressed excitement about the
federal government creating a long-range plan that could include
dramatic spending to create high-speed rail through Connecticut but
also said the plan should weigh increased spending on the inner New
Haven Line from Union Station in New Haven to Greenwich.
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.
State Sen Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, the ranking minority member of the
General Assembly's Transportation Committee and state Sen. Bob Duff,
D-Norwalk, the vice chairman of the committee said that they felt it
was important that advocates make the best case possible for a wide
variety of rail improvements.
"This is definitely a partnership between the federal government and
the state government and one that we have to work together on," Duff
said. "The state clearly can't absorb the cost of moving everything to
high-speed rail as much as we'd like to but this is the busiest
corridor in the country and needs to be treated as such."
Boucher and Duff said they were in favor of the concept announced by
Amtrak last month that would build a high-speed rail line from
Washington, D.C. to Boston allowing train speeds of 220 mph, which
would cut travel times between New York and Boston to 94 minutes or
"Amtrak is actually proposing something that would actually make us
competitive on a global scale and that is something I support 100
percent," Boucher said. "There is an economic imperative and a
financial imperative to doing this because we need faster commutes and
more flexibility in our system."
Valley Forge Bridge monitoring
Rell Concedes DOT Chief
Resigned After Allegation
By EDMUND H. MAHONY, email@example.com
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."
Marie could not be reached Wednesday. Neither could the woman who
colleagues said brought the complaint nor the lawyer the colleagues
said represents her.
Rell issued her statement and her administration released a copy of the
stipulated agreement a day after a formal request by The Courant for
records showing the nature of any complaint against Marie and how it
had been resolved.
The agreement says that Marie was allowed to resign as an employee in
good standing as long as he complies with a number of conditions,
including a promise not to criticize the governor.
"In the event Mr. Marie in any way criticizes, verbally or in writing,
the Governor of the State of Connecticut or any member of the
administration or employee of the State of Connecticut, such
resignation in good standing shall be changed to a dismissal indicating
that the services of Mr. Marie no longer pleased the Governor due to
inappropriate behavior by Mr. Marie," the agreement said.
The governor's explanation of the resignation Wednesday was in sharp
contrast to her remarks a week ago, when she and her staff attempted to
portray Marie's June 29 resignation as routine.
A week ago, Rell said: "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."
She said Wednesday: "I moved expeditiously in seeking this resignation
— first and foremost, to end any alleged inappropriate and unacceptable
behavior, and also to resolve the situation in a way that was
respectful to the employee involved and all of the people affected,
including innocent family members."
In her first statement, Rell said Marie had chosen to "pursue long-term
employment opportunities and spend more time with his family." But
within hours, the governor's characterization was questioned by
legislators and administration officials puzzled by the apparently
hurried series of events connected to the resignation.
On the afternoon he was apparently pressed to resign, Marie told
colleagues that he had received a telephone call asking him to attend a
meeting at the Capitol with a senior administration official. Not long
after leaving DOT headquarters in Newington to attend the meeting,
another administration official said that Marie's access to his state
e-mail account was blocked and his key card access to transportation
headquarters and Bradley International Airport was deactivated.
Although Marie resigned June 29 and is effectively barred by the
stipulated agreement from visiting state offices and speaking with
state employees, he is being allowed to continue to collect his
$170,000 salary until July 29, the effective date of his severance.
Rell praised Marie's appointment two years ago, predicting that he
could refocus a department afflicted by construction blunders and
allegations of corruption on public transportation initiatives. Marie
had been an administrator of a public transit system in Phoenix, Ariz.
The governor replaced Marie with Deputy Transportation Commissioner
The terms of Marie's resignation are outlined in the legal agreement he
signed with Linda Yelmini, a labor relations specialist with the state
Office of Policy and Management. It says he agreed to "resign from
state service in lieu of dismissal" and will be considered to have
"resigned in good standing."
He agreed not to "contact any current or former employee" of the state
without specific authorization of the Governor's legal counsel. Marie
acknowledged that he resigned voluntarily and agreed not to sue the
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,
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.
The governor's office confirmed that Marie - who earns $169,745
annually according to the comptroller's office - would remain on the
payroll through July 29 but declined further comment. Marie could not
be reached for comment Wednesday, and the DOT indicated it could not
forward messages to him.
Marie told colleagues Tuesday that he had been summoned to a meeting
with a senior administration official, the Hartford Courant reported
late Wednesday. Not long after, Marie's access to his state e-mail
account was blocked and his key card access to DOT facilities was
deactivated, the Courant said.
Marie's unusual exit raised questions Wednesday with the Senate
chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee and with the
union representing transportation engineers, planners and analysts.
Sen. Donald J. DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the
legislature's Transportation Committee, said Wednesday that Marie's
sudden depareture raises questions.
"The circumstances under which this transpired, the abrupt nature of
the departure, leaves me with a lot of concerns," DeFronzo said, adding
that with limited state and federal funding available for crucial
transportation projects, leadership at DOT is crucial. "If this were
happening under normal conditions, I don't think it would be as big of
DeFronzo noted that Marie "has really been the point man, not just for
Connecticut but for New England," in pursuing federal aid for a
proposed $800 million commuter rail line initiative designed to serve
communities between New Haven and Springfield, Mass. Connecticut
already has secured about $40 million in federal aid and applications
for a second round of funding are due in August, DeFronzo added.
In a report issued earlier this year, the transportation department
projected a $926.4 million gap between the cost of planned highway,
bridge and transit projects for the next five years, and the level of
anticipated funding available.
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
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,"
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.
The DOT is one of state government's largest agencies with nearly 3,400
employees and a $516.9 million annual budget. It is responsible for the
construction and maintenance of major Connecticut roads, highways and
bridges, and the state's public transit system. The DOT also oversees
commuter and freight rail lines, shoreline ports and piers, ferries and
Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.
The General Assembly's Program Review and Investigations Committee
launched a study earlier this summer to identify ways to get state
transportation projects done quicker and under budget.
Marie has more than 24 years of transit industry experience in both the
public and private sectors. He 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.
Parker, a Newington native, joined the DOT in 2008 after a successful
tenure as senior director of transportation operations at the
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. A graduate of
Northeastern University of Boston, Parker also worked for the
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority where he oversaw project
management, safety and operations control.
"Deputy Commissioner Parker brings a wealth of experience in mass
transit and commuter rail to which we are committed. I fully expect a
seamless transition at DOT as we move forward with our goals," Rell
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
"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.
During his tenure Marie has overseen an embattled transportation
department struggling with limited state and federal funding amid a
Headquartered in Newington, the DOT is one of state government's
largest agencies with nearly 3,400 employees and a $516.9 million
annual budget. It is responsible for the construction and maintenance
of major Connecticut roads, highways and bridges, and the state's
public transit system. The DOT also oversees commuter and freight rail
lines, shoreline ports and piers, ferries and Bradley International
Airport in Windsor Locks.
In a report issued earlier this year, the department projected a $926.4
million gap between the cost of planned highway, bridge and transit
projects for the next five years, and the level of anticipated funding
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 Thursday, 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, about $42.2 million,
by 2011-12. 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.
The General Assembly's Program Review and Investigations Committee
launched a study earlier this summer to identify ways to get state
transportation projects done quicker and under budget.
A spokesman for the union representing about 1,000 unionized engineers,
planners, safety analysts and inspectors at the department, Matt
O'Connor, recently called the DOT "ripe for reform."
Parker, a Newington native, joined the DOT in 2008 after a successful
tenure as senior director of transportation operations at the
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. A graduate of
Northeastern University of Boston, Parker also worked for the
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority where he oversaw project
management, safety and operations control.
"Deputy Commissioner Parker brings a wealth of experience in mass
transit and commuter rail to which we are committed. I fully expect a
seamless transition at DOT as we move forward with our goals," Rell
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 2½ 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.
For example, LeVasseur said, the life of a federal highway project is
longer than municipal projections: The highway department insists on a
road life of five or more years versus the two to four a municipality
might budget, he said.
In Waterford, estimates for an intersection-improvement project
increased by a little more than $325,000, and in New London, estimates
for the first phase of a Montauk Avenue repaving project tripled, from
$560,000 to $1.7 million.
COG last month asked the state DOT for permission to use federal
transportation grant money allocated to southeastern Connecticut to
cover those shortfalls. Although the region had about $1 million
still available to it in the federal grant, the state DOT informed the
council that final designs would need to be submitted by Wednesday.
Neither project met the deadline. Waterford's final design will be
completed later this week, First Selectman Daniel Steward told the
council, while New London's is about 60 percent complete, according to
City Manager Martin Berliner.
In a letter to the council's executive director, James Butler, the DOT
said the deadline would not be extended and it appears the money cannot
be carried over, but that the council can use its anticipated 2010
Although Butler said he's hoping for the same $2.5 million as this past
year, it is unclear how much money the region will receive in fiscal
year 2010, nor what other regional projects might not receive money
because of the gap funding for Waterford and New London.
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
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
”They want to see some benefit, not just get taxed again,” Burnaska
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, adding that
the board on Thursday defined the next step.
”That study was meant to be a contextual basis by which we could make
further decisions,” Kelleher said, “and I think the decision that we
made is that there is a level of appreciation around this as an
application in Connecticut, (of using) cashless, boothless tolling. But
we don't know enough about what we don't know to move forward, so we're
at the next level of, 'Let's dig in now.'”
The strategy board was originally expected to receive the study in
February and then forward a recommendation to the legislature.
Instead, the legislature's Transportation Committee held a public
hearing on tolls in February and, despite the support of its chairmen,
none of a handful of bills introduced this session made it out of
The report is available online at www.ct.gov/opm/tsb.
does this fit in with some other projects?
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
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.
City officials mostly are enthusiastic about the plan. Kip Bergstrom,
director of the Urban Redevelopment Commission, said he considers the
project a high priority.
"Stamford's future is in being as transit-oriented as it can be, and
this will be a key piece of that," Bergstrom said.
Land Use Bureau Chief Robin Stein said the city's decision will hinge
on the results of the report by URS, expected in the next two months.
Jeromie Winsor, an urban planner at URS, is responsible for the
Last week, Lecar escorted Winsor on a tour of the route between the
train station and the South End.
As they walked through a neighborhood undergoing construction, Winsor
snapped pictures and took notes. In the afternoon, he met with a group
of stakeholders that included Jeffrey Neuman, an executive vice
president of W&M Properties, and Jack Condlin, president of the
Stamford Chamber of Commerce.
"As a consultant, I need to speak to people who are living here every
day," Winsor said.
Indications are that Stamford will continue to be among the
fastest-growing cities in the region. Royal Bank of Scotland
recently opened a 12-story office building on Washington Boulevard and
construction is under way at Harbor Point, a $3 billion mixed-use
development in the South End with 4,000 units of housing, office
buildings and a hotel. Light rail is the trend, said David
Kooris, a director at the Regional Plan Association.
"Stamford is one of the dominant cities of the metropolitan region,"
Kooris said. "If it's going to continue in prosperity, job growth and
attractiveness, it's going to have to find solutions to the challenges
of increasing mobility without increasing automobiles."
Biden Mistaken That Cars Could Use Rail Tunnel
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:34 p.m. ET
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden is off track about the
nation's largest transportation project.
When questioned by The Record of Bergen County about the Hudson River
rail tunnel during a conference call on Monday, Biden told the New
Jersey newspaper the tunnel ''is designed to provide for automobile
However, the tunnel will only handle commuter trains that shuttle
passengers between New Jersey and Manhattan.
Biden's office said Tuesday the vice president misheard the question.
Biden's press secretary, Elizabeth Alexander, says the vice president
is a big proponent of rail and worked hard to boost funding for the
Officials broke ground on the $8.7 billion project on Monday.
OFFICIALS BREAK GROUND ON TRANS-HUDSON
June 8, 2009 --
NORTH BERGEN, N.J. -- Officials symbolically broke ground in northern
New Jersey on the nation's largest transportation project on Monday.
The third rail tunnel under the Hudson River will speed the ride to
work from New Jersey to New York City.
Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff says the rail tunnel
is the largest ever funded by his agency.
The Obama administration will provide $3 billion toward the $8.7
The tunnel will double commuter rail traffic from New Jersey and allow
an increase in direct routes by eliminating a chokepoint.
The project is expected to generate 6,000 construction jobs and be
completed by 2017.
Rail freight tunnel gathers steam
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
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
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,.
The Port Authority recently started a $15 million environmental impact
study on the project out of $100 million federal appropriation. The
study includes an analysis of expanding freight rail to carry
commercial goods in the region.
Of the goods now moved between New York and New Jersey, 95 percent
travels by truck. That freight movement in the New York-New Jersey
region will increase by 70 percent in the next 20 years, said Steve
Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman.
To jump-start an effort to expand freight movement across the harbor,
last fall the Port Authority spent $16 million to purchase a Jersey
City, N.J., facility that is capable of launching barges loaded with
freight-filled rail cars, Coleman said.
"Freight movements is a critical issue that we consider to be a matter
of common sense," he said.
A route linking Connecticut to the nation's rail system is long overdue
and moving a large share of freight traffic from trucks to rail cars is
one of the most plausible solutions to congestion, said Joan McDonald,
commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community
McDonald, who was transportation vice president for the New York
Economic Development Corp. until 2006, said population growth will
worsen commercial traffic on all area highways.
Population growth in New York City alone is expected to grow by 1
million by 2030, McDonald said, causing a potentially crippling spike
in freight traffic into the city's road system.
"Building a tunnel under New York Harbor would relieve a lot of the
truck traffic, particularly on I-95," said McDonald. "I think it is a
great project for the entire region."
The proposed tunnel route would link the Greenville Railyard in
Bayonne, N.J., to Long Island Rail Road terminals at either 51st or
65th Street in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, N.Y.
From there, trains could travel north on the LIRR's Bay Ridge line over
the Hellgate Bridge, meeting spurs of Metro-North Railroad's New Haven,
Hudson, and Harlem lines, according to a plan for the study.
Currently, efforts to convert truck to rail freight are hampered by the
lack of a convenient rail connection, said Floyd Lapp, director of the
Southwest Regional Planning Agency, which coordinates transportation
planning for 14 Fairfield County towns. The closest rail crossing
between Connecticut and the western United States is in Selkirk, N.Y.,
a detour of more than 240 miles, Lapp said.
Although the cost of the tunnel is daunting, Lapp said relying on
trucks to carry the majority of goods through Connecticut will worsen
gridlock, said Lapp, who supported the tunnel concept while a
transportation commissioner in New York City in the 1990s.
"This is something I am a very big advocate of, seeing as it would
remove a large number of trucks off the road which would improve and
reduce congestion while improving the carrying capacity of freight," he
The concept of the tunnel dates to 1893, when the Pennsylvania Railroad
proposed building the tunnel. It re-emerged as a major goal for the
newly formed Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1921 but was
abandoned by the 1940s.
The project gained new momentum during the tenure of former New York
City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani, who worked with Nadler to get the New York
City Economic Development Corp. to initiate a tunnel study.
Earlier this decade, the project met strong opposition from Brooklyn
residents, and doubts about its costs compared with the benefits,
Connecticut Department of Transportation officials have said there is
scarce room for additional freight on the New Haven Line and said many
rail bridges would need to be raised to allow freight travel. Kevin
Nursick, a DOT spokesman, said the agency was open to exploring the
idea of rail freight but does not have an official position on the
"Wherever feasible and practical it is worth taking advantage of our
rail infrastructure to ease roadway congestion not just in terms of
carrying passengers but for freight as well," Nursick said. "The
details are very important in any proposal."
McDonald said she recognized engineering restraints and community
reluctance but said a plan could be worked out.
"Any major public works investment, whether it is a road, bridge or
freight tunnel, you have to deal with the communities that it passes
through," McDonald said. "There are engineering constraints but in the
end it will be a huge plus to the New York metropolitan region."
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
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."
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, chairman of
the transportation committee, asked Fairfield County legislators for
support, arguing that a state report on border tolls would also reveal
the feasibility and negative effects of reintroducing tolls and help
address financial, legal, and environmental issues.
A recent $1 million study, completed for the state Transportation
Strategy Board, that considered numerous options for tolls raised
complex issues that need further exploration, DeFronzo
"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
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
"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
Rep. Alfred Camillo, R-Greenwich, who voted against the bill, said he
supported further consideration of toll proposals, but the review
should include other options in the study.
"The spirit and intent of this is a good thing," Camillo said. "I do
think we need to be very considerate about it and consider the other
The Transportation Strategy Board is to meet next week to consider
whether to recommend any specific tolling methods to the state
legislature. The study said that in order to reduce congestion in
Fairfield County using tolls, the state would have to charge high fees
of up to $1 a mile. The study's proposals include converting high
occupancy vehicle lanes on interstates 84 and 95 into tolled lanes,
charging drivers 10 cents a mile on I-95 from Branford to the Rhode
Island state line and charging motorists for all miles they travel on
state roads, which the study's consultant said posed major privacy
Rep. Anthony Guerrera, a co-chair of the transportation committee, said
the legislature needed to be realistic about how it would raise money
for many proposed transportation projects, including the $1.3 billion
New Haven Railyard and other railroad improvements, without tolls.
"We've been talking about this for many years now, and the legislature
is going to have to get serious," said Guerrera, who represents
Newington. "Somehow we have to pay for these transportation projects or
start deciding which priorities we want to downgrade or scale back."
The Mianus Bridge
and state DOT
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.
Compare that with the situation just last year, when it was revealed
that the DOT had "quietly cut back on bridge inspections across the
state" as a way to save money. Inspections had gone from every two
years to every four, though the governor quickly countermanded that
change after knowledge of it became public.
To be sure, a federal official said that Connecticut qualified for an
exemption to inspection guidelines because its bridges met certain
criteria. One expert said in most cases there would be little change in
the condition of a bridge over four years, as opposed to two. But other
experts maintained that the new schedule could have long-term
consequences, and that it could allow deterioration to take place
unnoticed. There are sound reasons for the federal standards, they
Then there was the debacle with widening done by contractors on a
stretch of Interstate 84.
According to news reports, an independent audit last year found faulty
catchbasins and drainage pipes, defective light poles, an improperly
installed bridge and other problems in a project being supervised by
the DOT for a 3.5-mile stretch from Waterbury to Cheshire. Inspections
that should have caught at least some of the flaws either were not
performed, or failed to point out inadequacies, the auditors said.
After a storm knocked the arm off a light pole, defective brackets were
found on 70 poles, which the DOT was told posed a risk to motorists.
Among other DOT shortcomings recounted in hearings, an agency worker
said she was not given authorization to work some extra hours on one
problem she discovered.
Yet the effort to overhaul this dysfunctional agency continues to
As reported by Staff Writer Brian Lockhart, the state Legislature
"adjourned May 7 without funding new positions or budgeting money to
study Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal to split the DOT into two
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
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.
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.
But contractors working on the bridge had stockpiled construction
material on the center span over the Mississippi River, and that
additional weight contributed to the collapse that killed 13 people and
injured 145, they said.
Federal investigators told the National Transportation Safety Board
that the collapse on Aug. 1, 2007, of the Interstate 35W bridge was
unavoidable once gusset plates in the center span failed. When that
happened, it dragged other sections of the bridge and rush-hour
commuters into the water. The plates helped connect the bridge's steel
Board members criticized Minnesota transportation officials for
allowing the storage of 287 tons of construction materials for
lane-widening on the bridge. The materials were stored above the gusset
plates that fractured. But board members said it was not possible to
determine if the materials alone - or factors such as weather and
traffic, combined with the added weight - pushed the plates to a
”Had the gusset plates been properly sized, this bridge would still be
there,” said Bruce Magladry, director of the NTSB's office of highway
Investigators said the half-inch thick plates were inadequate to handle
traffic and other stress factors and did not meet engineering
guidelines when the bridge was built in 1967. The safety board, as far
back as January, had identified design flaws in the plates as a
critical factor in the collapse. The board's final ruling was expected
In July, the House passed legislation authorizing an additional $1
billion next year to rebuild structurally deficient bridges on the
national highway system. The bill would require states to come up with
repair plans for troubled bridges.
The bridge was called “fracture critical.” That meant a failure of any
number of structural elements would bring down the entire bridge.
Safety board investigator Jim Wildey said there is “nothing inherently
dangerous” about this type of bridge, as long as each structural
element is designed to withstand the expected stress loads.
From the start, the investigation has been laced with politics.
Democrats in Minnesota heaped criticism on the state's Republican
governor, Tim Pawlenty, and Democrats in Congress said the accident
showed the nation's roads and bridges were crumbling.
Board members pledged to keep politics out of their deliberations.
”We are here, not to protect other agencies or other organization, we
are not here to point fingers or to lay blame, or find fault. ... We
are not here to push personal agendas. We're here to seek the truth,”
board member Robert Sumwalt said.
In January, Rosenker, who is a Republican, said that design error was a
“critical factor” in the collapse. He also said there was little chance
that state bridge inspectors would have noticed undersized gusset
Pawlenty took that as a measure of vindication because the initial
focus had been on his administration's program for maintaining bridges.
Rosenker's comments angered Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who
heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Oberstar
said the early pronouncement committed the safety board to a finding
that might not bear out with further investigation.
In St. Paul, Minn., a group of collapse survivors gathered at a
National Guard armory to watch the NTSB presentation via the Internet.
Michele McLane, 41, said the hearing was “the last door to close for
McLane was able to drive her car safely off the northern end of the
span. But she said she was emotionally traumatized. “I finally get it
now,” she said. “I finally understand.”
During Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, he cited the bridge
collapse and called for spending more on crumbling highways, bridges
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.
Bridge Construction Draws Crowds in
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: June 8, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS — On a sunny Saturday, more than 300 people stood in
clusters squinting out at the gurgling Mississippi River and the spot
where one of the state’s most-traveled bridges fell down one evening
last August, killing 13 people and injuring many more.
Concrete forms for the Interstate 35W bridge await assembly.
Near the front of this morning’s crowd, which included tourists with
cameras and water bottles, a Boy Scout troop all in navy and a local
man celebrating his 75th birthday, stood Peter Sanderson, the project
manager for a new $234 million bridge that is rising fast above the
Trailed by workers in hard hats lugging loudspeakers, Mr. Sanderson
used a microphone to answer seemingly endless questions. How strong
will the metal be in the new concrete bridge? How peculiar is its
design? Has it been used before in this country? What is that puff of
smoke over there? What exactly are those construction workers there
doing? What are those tubes for?
On and on the quizzing went, as it does most weekends now, part of an
unusual series of public meetings the Minnesota Department of
Transportation calls the Sidewalk Superintendent tours.
Hundreds of people gather to stare out at the emerging Interstate 35W
bridge, the gargantuan cranes, the dump trucks and excavators, the
crushed train cars nearby (the last vestige of the collapse) and to
make a million disparate inquiries, most of which, in the end, seem to
come back to a single, never-uttered question: Will this bridge really
If it seems odd that people would choose to spend 90 minutes of a
spring weekend staring out at construction crews and listening
(blankly, at times) to Mr. Sanderson, of Flatiron Constructors, as he
speaks of “longitudinal post tensioning” and “cantilevered sections,”
Minnesotans come for every reason.
The engineers, like the retired transportation department workers
(including one former bridge designer, Donald A. Heinrich, who has
turned up here nearly every weekend, even through the winter), say they
want to see the technological elements of the new bridge. Tourists say
they are awed at the sheer size and scope of the construction and the
enormous puzzle of putting together a bridge that will carry five lanes
in each direction. Locals say only that this is their bridge; they need
But just any new bridge, many here agreed, would not lure so many. The
images of cars plunging into water, of twisted metal and concrete, of
dazed, dripping survivors are gone. But it is still hard to look away.
“The fact that the bridge fell down, that it was such a terrible
experience for all of us, I guess you just want to know as much as you
can,” said Nita Lussenhop, 82, who gazed out at the new structure meant
to last 100 years, recalling how she, like most people in this region,
had crossed the old bridge again and again and again over the years.
“It’s amazing to see what it takes to build a bridge. Just look at it.
To see it is different. Really, you just want to see that it’s going to
There are those who find the cheerful weekly tours here mildly unseemly
— some slightly ghoulish cousin of the New Orleans bus tours of damage
left behind by Hurricane Katrina.
Chris Messerly, one in a group of lawyers who are handling, pro bono,
scores of the legal cases for bridge collapse victims (and are now
focused on a $38 million state compensation fund created for them),
said victims had varied reactions to the emergence of the new bridge.
One injured woman has insisted that she wants to be the first to drive
over the new bridge, Mr. Messerly said, while other families have
criticized Minnesota officials as setting aside the human loss too
swiftly and racing ahead to erect a replacement.
Mr. Messerly said he had questions about the notion of the tours. “I
find it a bit morbid to have a celebration of a structural engineering
feat which seems to ignore in all respects what happened there before,”
he said. “It almost is a gravesite, a memorial site. It should be a
But those working on the bridge say the talks are about rebuilding
public confidence. The federal authorities are still searching for the
cause of the Aug. 1 bridge collapse here, and preliminary indications
suggest a design flaw, but the event stirred an outcry of fears over
how the authorities have maintained Minnesota’s bridges and where else
a problem may be looming.
“We’re trying to be accessible here,” said Jon Chiglo, the project
manager for the Transportation Department, which, as part of the bridge
contract, is paying more than $500,000 to a public relations firm to
promote the story of the new bridge with these tours and with open
houses in local neighborhoods.
“I have to tell you something I get asked all the time,” Mr. Chiglo
said. “People ask me, am I willing to be the first one to drive across
this bridge? That is why we’re out here.”
Adding to the concerns of some Minnesotans is the remarkable speed with
which this bridge is being built. On 12-hour shifts, the hundreds of
employees work night and day and most holidays. Officials say their
rush recognizes the importance of this bridge — the previous one
carried 140,000 cars a day — and the many costs of its closing.
By contract, the bridge is to be finished by Dec. 24, but many expect
it will open far sooner. A provision offers the contractors as much as
$27 million in incentives if they finish by Sept. 15. (Some suspect it
will open by Sept. 1, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty is to be host of the
Republican convention in St. Paul, though Mr. Sanderson said to a
reporter after a recent tour that he had received no pressure to finish
in time for the convention.)
Along the tour, Mr. Sanderson emphasized how sturdy the new bridge
would be, and how many redundant support elements it would have. He
said the project had received more scrutiny and more inspections from
state officials (“like making our way through a swamp full of
molasses”) than any he had seen.
Then he passed around thick segments of steel cable that help to hold
together the design, and members of the crowd weighed them in their
hands, tugging and pulling at them as if to try the bridge itself.
Rail cars to get more bike space
New Haven REGISTER
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.
After viewing a mock-up of the rail cars in late May, the mayor asked
for the revision to the cars, as well as a change in Metro-North policy
which currently does not allow bikes on rush-hour trains.
Rell, in a letter to the mayor, said she had similar concerns about
limiting bicycles on trains, which commuters now use to ride to a train
station and use again to make the last leg of their commuting journeys.
Rell told the mayor that since the first of the new cars are not
scheduled for delivery until 2009, “there is sufficient time to modify
the design without delaying the scheduled delivery.” The proposed
changes will be made by the state Department of Transportation.
Rell said new bike racks also have been installed at stations and the
state DOT will review its policies on bicycle access.
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
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
“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.
Jersey exec named to
"My career has been devoted to the customer, and I am
confident that, even under difficult financial pressures, Connecticut
can enhance commuter ridership and boost customer satisfaction,"
Redeker said in the statement.
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
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.
Rail advocates and legislators said they hope Redeker will improve
planning, because equipment needs have gone unidentified and the agency
does not maintain enough employees to finish critical projects.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Metro-North Commuter Rail Council, said
Redeker's experience with New Jersey Transit's efforts at
"transit-oriented" development - providing residential and commercial
buildings within walking distance of rail and bus hubs - could help
Connecticut planners pursue the concept.
The DOT is seeking developers to build residential, office and retail
space around the Stamford train station as part of a project to replace
the run-down parking garage.
"New Jersey Transit has taken sleepy little train stations and
developed vibrant communities and retail around those stations,"
Cameron said. "He's coming from a system with a very good reputation
for transit and doing a lot of things right."
State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, who sits on the legislature's
Transportation Committee, said Redeker will find it difficult to fund
projects because of the budget deficit. McDonald said he is
uneasy about the status of the New Haven rail yard project, which DOT
officials say remains a priority, though cost estimates quadrupled to
$1.2 billion since 2005. The rail yard is vital if the DOT is to
maintain 342 new rail cars that should begin to arrive in 2010,
"I'm very fearful the department, even though it seems to be making
some progress now, is likely to curtail many initiatives," he said.
"I'm encouraged they are bringing somebody on, but am worried that he
and the bureau will be set up for failure."
State Rep. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, said Marie has sought top officials
with rail and other mass transit experience to overhaul Connecticut's
The DOT in the past focused on big road projects, not rail and bus
service improvements, he said.
"My only hope is that the DOT chief is trying to bring in more
rail-oriented thinking," Leone said. "We'll have to watch carefully in
the coming years because transportation improvements are critical for
the state, especially southwestern Connecticut."
Commissioner: DOT must
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
"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
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,"
Last year, a commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a report
calling the DOT an insular agency that needs to be more transparent,
accountable and accessible. Marie said the department faces a
financial crisis in the coming years because of the state's budget
deficit. The issue is complicated by a drop in tax revenue from gas
sales to fund construction because people are driving less.
Marie said he was working with Metro-North
Railroad to resolve a request from the Metropolitan Transit Authority
to cut four off-peak trains on Metro-North's New Haven Line, or other
cost-saving measures. A plan proposed by the MTA to institute
tolls into Manhattan and a "mobility tax" on payrolls could generate
billions and avert service cuts, Marie said.
"We are trying to manage this as much as possible," he 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.
Without additional funding, the state's current budget deficit will
force the DOT to complete fewer projects. Those that could be delayed
include a $1.2 billion project to renovate the New Haven Railyard into
a train maintenance facility and another project to replace aging
catenary wires on the New Haven line.
John Lyons, president and chief executive officer of MetroPool in
Stamford, said that higher gas prices earlier this year and changing
attitudes have continued to increase use of MetroPool services by area
companies and their employees. In 2008, employees of companies
part in a corporate challenge conducted by MetroPool traveled 6.8
million fewer "vehicle miles" by use of carpooling, using shuttle
services and riding trains, Lyons said.
"Even after the gas prices came back down, we didn't see the behavior
change," Lyons said.
Several members of the MetroPool board of directors said they had
confidence in Marie's leadership, based on his extensive experience
running public transit systems in Arizona and Minnesota.
"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."
DOT appointee brings mass transit expertise
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.
Fedele helped whittle down the list of candidates from 30 to two -
Marie and "another gentleman from down South." The names were submitted
to Rell a few weeks ago.
Fedele said he wanted Marie to get the job but shared his opinion with
Rell only after she made up her mind.
"He not only had public service experience but also comes from private
industry, so he brings the best practices of both those areas," said
Fedele, a Stamford resident.
Lawmakers are expected to hold a confirmation hearing Monday.
A Massachusetts native, Marie, 45, is director of operations and
maintenance for the Phoenix regional public transit system. He has held
senior transit positions in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts
and worked for rail equipment manufacturers.
Fedele said Marie's background fits the administration's goal to focus
on mass transit.
"We want to maintain our roads and bridges but also create an
environment that promotes mass transit," Fedele said.
Marie has a lot of energy and looks forward to taking over an agency at
a crossroads, Fedele said.
Earlier this year, Rell said the DOT was "broken" and suggested it be
split to focus more on mass transit.
Lawmakers likely will vote to create a committee to study the proposal.
Marie and all finalists had ideas about splitting the department and
about simply reorganizing it, Fedele said.
"He brings some very good managerial skills, and I think he's very
open-minded and is a people person," he said. "He's not afraid to roll
up his sleeves and get the job done."
Marie has worked in different states, which should make it easy for him
to interact with the administration and General Assembly in
Connecticut, Fedele said.
Many lawmakers have praised Rell for breaking a tradition of hiring
commissioners from within the DOT or other departments.
Two DOT employees were in the running, including acting Commissioner H.
James Boice, according to department sources.
"When you have an outsider and insider, there's pluses and minuses,"
Fedele said. "What we were looking for is who could do the best job
with the organization that is there today, and work with the governor
and legislature to move the transportation agenda forward."
Fedele said Marie will move his family back to the Northeast and hopes
to start in June.
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.
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
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.
The Rell administration determined that the rail yard had to be
upgraded to maintain the high-tech rail cars, which are being designed
in Japan. The DOT is shopping around a mockup of the rail car
commuters. It was on display yesterday in Stamford, and there are plans
to bring it to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. The cars
will begin arriving in mid-2009. The rest of the fleet will be
built in Nebraska and shipped from there at the rate of about 10 cars
per month. It is more expensive to split the project into phases
but it had to be
done because rail yard operations must continue during construction,
The DOT is seeking funds to complete the first phase, which includes
new tracks to store the M8s, a facility to maintain the wheels, a
multilevel maintenance shop that can handle 13 cars and office
space. The initial phase costs $432,000. The DOT is expected to
ask Rell and
the General Assembly to come up with the extra money when the 2009
legislative session begins in January. The state plans a gradual
fare increase to pay for the new cars.
"We believe we will have the dollars to complete (phase one) on
schedule," Martin said. "We understand the riding public and taxpayers
in general are very much concerned about how we're going to do this."
The second phase includes a central parts warehouse and car washer. A
paint shop, parking garage and pedestrian bridge for workers is planned
for the final phase.
"Know we are going to do it in a fashion that does not put a burden on
the taxpayers," Martin said.
Cameron and Andrew Todd, a council member from Norwalk, asked DOT
officials to forward details about the warrantee on the M8s.
Cameron said he is concerned that if the upgrades fall behind, the
state will not be able to maintain the new cars, invalidating the
warrantee. But Colonese said that is not a concern.
"We feel pretty confident we have a plan that will accommodate the
existing and new fleet," he said. "It's like a new car. You buy a new
car you're not going into the shop that often."
Terri Cronin, a council member from Norwalk, said she was not satisfied
with the answers about how the rail yard will be funded.
"I'm just so concerned they're going to raise ticket prices," Cronin
But Cameron was optimistic.
"I don't think they're going to stick it to the commuter."
additional $250M for rail yard
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
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
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
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
"We've heard rumblings about the overruns since about four months ago,
but we were never getting straight answers," Duff said after
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.
State Rep. Toni Boucher, R-143, said Wednesday's forum underscores the
need to split the DOT into two entities -- one for highways and one for
mass transit -- because it shows the agency's inability to plan major
"This is more than just about this project," she said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell has also shown concern.
On Monday, she ordered a review of all DOT capital projects either
under construction or planned to break ground in the next five years.
"Especially now, money is tight -- but even if the financial picture
were brighter, we have a responsibility as stewards of taxpayer dollars
to ensure that every penny is spent in the most efficient and effective
way possible," Rell said in a statement.
She also called for the Office of Policy and Management to hire an
independent analyst to study the rail yard design and see if any money
can be salvaged.
The DOT hasn't made a request for more funding yet, which is necessary
before lawmakers can consider an appropriation. Genuario said there
will be more conversations over the next few weeks, but did not say
whether he would advise the legislature to appropriate more funds this
session or hold a special session before March 2009, when construction
is supposed to begin.
Either way, Genuario said the 300 new rail cars will arrive on time.
"This issue is not in any way, shape or form impacting the incoming
fleet," Genuario said.
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.
Rell would also like people to clean their cars of snow on stormy days
to spare others from the “ice missiles” they launch.
The proposed 2009 fiscal year budget includes an increase of $5 million
for transportation, considered one of the year's “major initiatives.”
“To those who use this congested highway as their personal speedway,
we're going to see you and we're going to stop you,” Rell said during
her State of the State address.
“And it will cost you.”
In addition to the highway cameras, the budget also includes a
recommendation to hire 100 state troopers over the next five years who
would focus solely on highway enforcement, and to increase penalties
for certain violations by teen drivers.
The camera pilot program would cost about $250,000 and begin by Oct. 1.
Chris Cooper, a spokesman for the governor's office, said the violation
would be treated as an infraction and the presumption would be that the
car's registered owner is driving, though that can be challenged.
The law would require that a summons be mailed no later than 14 days
after the violation and include a photo. The law only pertains to
speeders and is not affiliated with red-light cameras, which spot
violations at traffic signals, Cooper said.
State Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold, vice chairman of the
legislature's Transportation Committee, said after the address that he
has “mixed feelings” about the cameras.
“I'm not jumping on board that,” he said. “It may be that there are
other ways we can deal with aggressive drivers without (them) being
photographed. ... I'm concerned about personal privacy. I'm just
concerned about Big Brotherism.”
State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, said she likes the pilot
“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 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
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
The reorganization would take effect Jan. 1, 2010, and would create a
position of chief operating officer, who would report to the DOT
commissioner. Rell's budget chief, Robert L. Genuario, said the
division into two agencies was not intended as a cost-saving move but
to provide focus.
Genuario said that, aside from the new chief operating officer
position, he doesn't believe the split would result in more employees.
It was unclear Wednesday how the proposed move could affect the search
for a new DOT commissioner. Acting commissioner Emil Frankel said he
expects to serve until the middle of March, a term he understood to be
set by statute.
In a phone interview, Frankel demurred when asked whether he thinks the
idea to split the DOT into two agencies is a good one.
“She's a lot closer to this, and I respect her judgment about this,” he
said of Rell, “and we're going to do everything we can to make this
successful. We'll come up with some models and kind of analyze what the
best way is to do it. ... There are a lot of institutional patterns
that can be followed, and we're going to try to analyze and come up
with (ideas), and as long as I'm there, I'll be of whatever assistance
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
•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.
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
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.
The state is still awaiting the committee's report, which was
originally slated for release last month.
It has been delayed as the group, led by Michael Critelli of Pitney
Bowes in Stamford, continues to comb through its research and input
from transportation advocates, residents and DOT employees.
Some lawmakers said they are disappointed that the nationwide search is
being conducted primarily through state government instead of hiring an
outside firm or consultant to find top-level talent.
It's appropriate to hire a consultant or a committee to help with a
national search," said state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. "There are a
number of stakeholders" in the state who would be interested in getting
involved with the search process, he said.
The state's current method of promoting the position "isn't exactly the
way to beat the bushes for a national expert on transportation," said
state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, a member of the legislature's
Transportation Committee. "It's just one element of what's needed to be
Other lawmakers said they are less concerned by the process and are
instead pleased to hear the state is pushing ahead with its search in a
"I'm waiting for the resolution and relying on the governor's national
search to find someone who is equipped to handle a major transition"
for transportation policy in Connecticut, said state Sen. William
Nickerson, R-Greenwich. "We need to find someone who brings stability,
leadership and imagination."
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
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.
The DOT reform commission, headed by Pitney-Bowes Chairman Michael
Critelli, is scheduled to report Monday on how to reform the
3,200-employee department. A big part of providing the state with the
transportation it needs must be leadership.
Gov. Rell said the state has embarked on a national search to find a
new commissioner, and has enlisted the capable Emil Frankel, DOT
commissioner under Gov. Lowell Weicker from 1991 to 1995, to serve as
interim commissioner while the search is in progress.
National search or not, history suggests there will be strong pressure
to promote a highway engineer from inside the department, as so often
in the past. This time, we must find someone with a technical
background, to be sure, but also a broad view. We need someone who will
put the T in DOT, who is as committed to trains, buses, bikes and
ferries as to highways, someone who will encourage development around
transit stations. There are such people out there, such as former New
Hampshire transportation commissioner Carol Murray and former New
Jersey transportation commissioner Jack Lettiere.
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.
Proposed Train Station Is No Sure Thing
May 6, 2008
THE Web site for Eastside Commons, an apartment building under
construction along East Main Street here, stresses its proximity to a
proposed Metro-North station on the corner of Myrtle and East Main.
The outlines of large apartment buildings have begun to rise amid the
auto body shops and car dealerships. According to local officials and
property owners, they are the first signs of a plan to create an “urban
village” where residents will live above retail stores, walk the
streets for fun and use public transportation to get around.
But the Metro-North station will not be built for years, if it is built
at all, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
“It’s transit-oriented development without the transit yet in place,”
said Robin Stein, Stamford’s director of planning.
The idea of encouraging residential development near future commuter
train stops has gained momentum among policymakers looking for
alternatives to suburban sprawl. In several places, including
Connecticut, financial incentives have been created to encourage
developers to build near existing public transportation. There are no
such incentives in the East Main Street area, but property owners are
Seth G. Weinstein, the developer for Eastside Commons, said the train
station would be a boon to his plans, though not a requirement. He said
the new residential and retail developments would create their own
momentum and draw people to the area.
He was quick to say, however, that he was not trying to mislead
potential buyers at Eastside Commons about the status of the train
Stamford officials have been planning changes in this area for years.
The idea of an East Main Station served by the New Canaan branch of
Metro-North’s New Haven line was first introduced in the city’s 2002
master plan. In 2005, the city hired a consultant to study the East
Main area specifically. The resulting report detailed a plan to
“recapture the corridor and transform it into an urban village.” To
that end, it recommended that the city campaign for another Metro-North
But the decision to build a new station rests with the Department of
Transportation, which recently began a feasibility study looking at the
potential ridership and environmental impact of building one. The study
will not be completed for 20 months, said Al Martin, the department’s
deputy commissioner. Though he said he was optimistic that the station
would be approved, he said the earliest it could be built was 2011 or
But business plans wait for no train. At least two other property
owners are pursuing plans for residential projects of their own. The
East Side Partnership, an organization made up of local property
owners, is attempting to create a business improvement district, which
would collect fees from its members to make physical improvements to
the neighborhood. Many of these changes would be made with the
intention of making East Main Street a more comfortable area for
pedestrians, said Jim Grunberger, the head of the group.
Mr. Grunberger said his goal was to create something resembling
Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. This would require transforming a
district whose primary economic activity now appears to be serving
people whose cars have broken down. In Mr. Grunberger’s view, the
days of the brake centers and body shops
are numbered. As he walks down the street he refers to many existing
businesses simply as “development sites.”
An example above of how e-z pass looks, conceptually.
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."
On Thursday, the board announced two public hearings on the results of
a $1 million Electronic Tolling and Congestion Pricing Study, completed
by Massachusetts-based Cambridge Systematics. The study considered
options for using tolling to ease traffic flow or raise money for
The first hearing is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Gateway
Community Technical College, 60 Sargent Drive, New Haven. A second
hearing will be 6 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, May 5, at the University of
Connecticut's Waterbury campus, 99 E. Main St., in multipurpose rooms
113 and 116. The full TSB is scheduled to meet May 21, when it
could recommend to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislators what type of tolls
should be implemented and which highway locations are best suited for
TSB Chairman Kevin Kelleher and Philip Smith, undersecretary for the
state Office of Policy and Management, which oversaw the study, did not
return calls for comment. Jill Kelly, a member of the TSB from
Fairfield, said she was concerned that the New Haven and Waterbury
meetings will not receive enough publicity to draw crowds and an
appropriate amount of public input. Without enough comment, she
said, she would be reluctant to approve any recommendations.
"We have to start some place, and a public education effort is needed,"
Kelly said. "It may turn out that if border tolling per se becomes the
lead concept, they would have to hold hearings in Enfield or the lower
Fairfield County area. I'm more concerned if we can get the information
out to the public."
A half dozen state legislators from Stamford, Norwalk and Greenwich who
oppose border tolling have expressed disappointment that no local
hearings were slated. Legislation proposed this year seeks a $500,000
feasibility study to implement tolls at or near the state border in
Fairfield County and other areas of the state. They said the board
should plan hearings near Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk, where tolls
most likely would be installed.
"It's completely baffling that the TSB would not hold a hearing on
tolling in southwestern Connecticut, which would receive the brunt of
the initiative under a border tolling proposal," said state Sen. Andrew
McDonald, D-Stamford. "I don't know if this oversight is the result of
an intentional snub or the product of political tone-deafness."
State Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, and state Rep. Lile Gibbons,
R-Greenwich, said a meeting should be held closer to Greenwich where
town residents could express their concerns about border tolling.
Frantz said he expected Kelleher would plan another hearing in
Fairfield County, particularly if the TSB planned to indicate support
for border tolling.
"Chairman Kelleher is an outstanding leader, and I'm sure if the
subject matter of the meeting included solely border tolls, it would
certainly be an issue for constituents down here," Frantz said.
"Chairman Kelleher is a very responsible person, and I think if he
suspected that the board would recommend border tolling, he'd plan
hearings in North Stonington, Enfield and Fairfield County."
Gibbons said she would support an electronic form of tolls, such as
EZ-Pass, if it would help mitigate congestion and were not placed only
in Fairfield County. She said the timing of the hearing also was a
problem given that legislators who want to attend might be busy in
Hartford in the next two weeks. Gibbons said that having more
hearings over diverse parts of the state would help educate residents
who are unaware of more up-to-date tolling technology that allow fees
to be collected without slowing traffic. More hearings would help the
public shape a better-informed opinion about tolling, she said.
"We need a public hearing on it because not everybody agrees with me,"
Gibbons said. "There definitely has to be a hearing in Greenwich or
Stamford because if we ever end up with electronic tolls, you can be
sure one will end up in Greenwich or our area."
The Cambridge report outlined options that include creating tolled
lanes parallel to highways that would allow drivers to drive faster;
charging drivers statewide based on miles traveled; and introducing
tolls onto highways that need repairs and using revenue to complete
needed work. Other options in the report are:
"¢ Tolling all "limited access" highways in the state, including
the Merritt Parkway, I-95, Interstate 91 and Interstate 84.
"¢ Tolling all traffic on I-95 north of New Haven and I-84 east of
Danbury, or tolling specially created express lanes to fund expansion
of those corridors.
"¢ Tolling only truck traffic.
"¢ Converting highway shoulders into so-called HOT lanes, allowing
drivers to pay to use lanes reserved for carpoolers or buses.
State Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said he would like additional
hearings in his district because of the potential impact on the
Connecticut-Rhode Island border. Many employees of Electric Boat,
which is located in Groton, travel from homes in Rhode Island, and
border tolls would impact that business.
"It is assumed that tolling would be a slam-dunk in terms of revenue
for the state, but I'm not sure it would be," Maynard said. "I doubt we
will get people who are able to drive to Waterbury or New Haven with
all the responsibilities they have these days, whether it is working
two jobs or caring for their families."
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.
OF FINDING: Wheels turn
on tolls: State panel weighing 9 options, all electronic, to raise
By Ed Stannard, New
Haven Register Metro Editor
Friday, February 20, 2009 6:43 AM
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
"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.
Connecticut removed its tolls in the 1980s, in part as a result of a
1983 crash on Interstate 95 in which a truck plowed into a line of cars
at the Stratford toll station, killing seven. The federal government
also threatened to withhold transit money if the state did not remove
the tolls. Saying technology has removed that safety concern,
presented nine options for the board to consider, ranging from charging
vehicles to use high-occupancy lanes near Hartford to charging drivers
for every mile driven in Connecticut. All had positives and negatives,
The positives are bringing in more money to the state treasury. One
plan, putting tolls on major roads at eight state border crossings,
would target out-of-state drivers coming into Connecticut. A $1 toll
could raise $3.8 billion over 30 years, and a $5 toll could bring in
$19.5 billion, according to the study.
Another potential benefit would be to reduce the number of vehicles on
already-jammed highways. But there are several negatives, which
depending on the option. The border tolls might crowd local streets
with cars that leave the interstate to avoid the toll.
"What might be a few, relatively small percentage share on the
interstate is a fairly large impact if you put it on the city streets,"
An option to use shoulders as toll lanes likely would not work because
too many bridges would have to be widened. And there are privacy
concerns when every vehicle that passes is photographed. The
chosen, if tolls do come back, may limit how the state could use the
"If you put a toll on the interstate system, current rules dictate that
that money has to be used on the highway from which it is collected,"
And if Connecticut residents were somehow exempted from a border toll,
by a tax credit or other means, that could violate the Interstate
Commerce Clause. The reduction in gas tax revenues, because of
fuel-efficient cars, was a concern for some. State Rep. Antonio
Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the General Assembly’s
Transportation Committee, said he is in favor of border tolls.
"Obviously, more people travel through the state of Connecticut and
don’t pay anything and don’t fill up in our state," he said.
"We cannot rely on our gas tax anymore," Guerrera said. "How are you
going to get that same amount of moneys when you know that these cars
are going to be getting 50 to 60 miles per gallon?"
State Sen. Antoinette Boucher, R-Wilton, ranking Republican on the
Transportation Committee, said of bringing back tolls, "I, right off
the bat, do not like it. However, we can’t go in with a closed mind."
Boucher said the border toll would be most palatable, but said, "The
question remains, are we adding another tax onto our residents to get
Michael J. Reilly, president of the Motor Transport Association of
Connecticut, said he opposed tolls and that truckers would be unfairly
"Making them pay for the privilege of crossing the border in this state
... lays an unfair burden on them," he said. Truckers make only 2 to 4
cents a mile in profit, he said.
Reilly said Connecticut should not charge drivers more, but instead use
the gross receipts tax on fuel for transportation needs. The
Transportation Campaign issued a statement saying electronic tolls
would reduce congestion and pollution.
"Congestion in Connecticut causes residents and business to lose over
$500 million a year in excess fuel consumption, loss of productivity
and delays," it said.
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
Ed Stannard can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5743.
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
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.
The strategy board, an independent group created by state officials to
help guide Connecticut's transportation policy, suggested in 2003 that
the state study the idea of toll roads to help ease traffic congestion.
Prices would be raised during rush hour and lowered when there's less
It's uncertain whether the strategy board will support the idea of
tolls after receiving the report.
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
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.
For years, strategy board members have said E-ZPass tolls would capture
additional revenue for infrastructure projects and decrease congestion
by charging higher amounts during rush hour to encourage motorists to
use mass transit. Rell traditionally has opposed reviving the
tolls, but she acknowledged Tuesday the state could use the revenue.
Rell and the legislature are faced with crafting a new budget for
fiscal years 2009-10 and 2010-11 that addresses an estimated two-year
more than $6 billion deficit. Some of that shortfall is due to the
sudden drop in gas prices, which
has resulted in a $100 million shortfall in the amount of gross
receipts taxes the state collects on the sale of petroleum products.
"I understand we're looking at a budget deficit not only in our regular
general fund but the transportation fund," Rell said.
But she said she continues to oppose tolls as part of the solution.
"I always hate to draw a line in the sand, but that is not an option
for me," Rell said.
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
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
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
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;
■ Every road in the state.
The study will also look at pricing, implementation and the funding
motivation behind tolling.
During a question-and-answer session after the presentation, audience
members reminded Cambridge representatives of the cynicism many
Connecticut residents feel about tolls.
”There is absolutely no way under God's blue sky that citizens will
allow tolls, unless and until all the money by highway users is put
into highway use funds,” said Michael Riley, president of the Motor
Transportation Association of Connecticut, which represents the
trucking industry. “Keep it in the pot where it should be.”
Riley later added: “You can't have the highest fuel tax in the country
and think people will let you put tolls on top of that.”
Others suggested putting tolls in Bridgeport and New London, where cars
come into the state off of ferries; questioned the fairness of border
tolls on people who live at the state's borders and drive across the
line to their jobs each day; and questioned whether congestion pricing
would reduce traffic because many people in rush-hour traffic are on
their way to work and can't drive the road at a different time.
The state Office of Policy and Management is administering the $1.2
million study for the transportation board.
Radio Frequency Identification: Like the E-ZPass system, which includes
transponders and cameras.
Video: Cameras capture images of license plates and vehicle owners are
Mileage-based pricing: Wireless reader in gas pump reads GPS signal in
Truck Tolling Only: An onboard unit tracks a vehicle's driving, and a
toll collection center charges transport company's account.
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.
When the commission submits its recommendations to the governor next
month, they may not be perfect, but they should reflect the vast amount
of data gathered by the group charged with developing a better DOT,
"We have to zero in on fundamental issues here," said Critelli, a
former member of the state Transportation Strategy Board. "We can't
come at it with a laundry list of recommendations. We don't want to
spend a lot of time trying to find the silver bullet solution, because
there isn't one."
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
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
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,
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
are skyrocketing as projects remain in design phase or under public
With these problems, the commission must find ways to "mitigate the
impacts," Critelli said. "There needs to be different strategies . . .
and we need to create a culture of collaboration" with other agencies
Transportation advocates have criticized the commission, particularly
its public hearing schedule. It's good the group had four
hosts a Web site where comments can be submitted, but the timing and
promotion have not always been convenient, said Karen Burnaska, who
represents coastal Fairfield County on the Transportation Strategy
"The meetings have not been well publicized, but they are doing a
thorough job," Burnaska said. "They wanted an extension (to submit
their report) because there's more work to do. That's a plus."
The commission was criticized earlier this year when a hearing in
Stamford was publicly announced only two days in advance. The
commission added a second hearing in Fairfield County in
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said
public hearings sometimes were frustrating because speakers repeated
the same ideas from forums held years ago.
"I was coming away saying we're right back at square one again," said
Cameron, who met with Critelli earlier this year to discuss the
commission. "I was very pleased he reached out to me and others and
listened to our arguments."
Critelli said he hopes residents are able to communicate with the
commission and DOT after a report is submitted.
"The process of getting public input doesn't stop with the publication
of this report," he said.
One of the commission's goals is to find more ways for residents to be
heard, though they must be careful not to contribute to a "culture of
fear" at the agency, he said.
"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."
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
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.
Those are the elements of one proposal that will be aired at a public
hearing at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Norwalk City Hall, preceded by a
one-hour open house.
Five proposals for rebuilding the interchange will be offered. The DOT
will present the cloverleaf design as the preferred option but will get
public input before deciding, said Thomas Harley, manager of consultant
design with DOT.
It has been about two years since a federal judge blocked the DOT's
plans after a lawsuit by the conservancy. Since then, the two sides
have been meeting, with Gov. M. Jodi Rell urging them to reach an
"This really is a collaborative effort," Harley said. "Both sides have
conceded issues in this process. We are going to this meeting with an
alternative that both parties can feel comfortable with."
More than 10 years ago, the state proposed reconfiguring the
congestion-prone interchange. The DOT is trying to finish the
interchange so it's accessible to traffic from all directions, Harley
said. The redesign will let Route 7 traffic travel north on the Merritt
Parkway, and drivers heading south on the Merritt will be able to exit
at Route 7.
The state also wants to replace the Main Avenue Bridge to expand Main
Avenue from two lanes to six lanes. The conservancy agreed to that
because of assurances from state officials that they will replicate the
bridge's stone construction and historic character.
"We really want to see historic character of the parkway be
maintained," said Jill Smyth, director of the conservancy.
The state backed off its earlier proposal to build elevated on- and
off-ramps that would loom 20 feet to 30 feet above the Merritt,
although that option will be displayed tomorrow night, Harley said.
Another option is to bring the ramps down to the level of the Merritt
Parkway, but they still would be imposing, Harley said.
"As you drive along the highway, you'll have more ramp on either side
of you," he said.
The cloverleaf - named for its appearance from above - has one lane
northbound and southbound where drivers merge on and off the parkway.
The DOT generally tries to steer clear of cloverleafs because the
interweaving traffic makes them harder to manage, Harley said.
Construction would not start for about four years, after permitting and
environmental studies are complete, Harley said.
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.
M. Rondano Inc. of Norwalk was the low bidder and was awarded the
contract for $671,550, DOT officials said. Work will begin
shortly and is expected to continue during the winter, said Kevin
Nursick, a DOT spokesman. Construction should be complete at both sites
by the spring, he said. Norwalk officials have been clamoring for
the projects for years.
The Merritt rock pile was left behind after a federal judge halted
construction at the parkway and Route 7 interchange last year.
Initially, the DOT left the pile and other construction materials with
the hope that an agreement could be reached with parkway
preservationists and work would resume. But the project remains stalled.
The Route 7 wall, which dead-ends the highway connector at Grist Mill
Road, has been the scene of many automobile accidents since the road
opened in 1992. The wall was left intact because the state
believed the spot would be a temporary terminus for the connector,
which was to extend to Danbury as part of the controversial Super 7
highway. A lack of state funding - and strong opposition from
Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding - has prevented completion.
The DOT agreed about four years ago to drill and blast the rock ledge
and build a 100-foot-wide slope stretching 40 to 50 feet back from the
road. At least six fatal crashes have occurred at the Grist Mill
Road wall since 1992. Most recently in March, a 19-year-old North
Stamford man crashed into the wall in what was believed to be a suicide.
The DOT decided to bid the projects together to save money.
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.
“We do get a lot of (Freedom of Information) requests,” Nursick said,
“folks asking for the 'quote -unquote' recordings. But there aren't any
Nursick said there would be dozens of obstacles to having the cameras
record and making the footage available to law enforcement, not the
least of which is a statute that disallows such use.
“Certainly there are members of the public who would have a problem
with Big Brother looking down on us,” Nursick said.
At the DOT operations center in Newington, Rick DeMatties, highway
operations crew leader, maneuvered a joystick on his keyboard Thursday
to turn and zoom in on a stranded motorist.
In front of him, 20 small TV monitors surrounded a large screen —
covering the length and height of a wall. One monitor displayed the
news, while the others showed cars and trucks on interstates 91 and
84. It was about 2 p.m., and, so far, the roads looked
clear. From his chair, DeMatties has direct access to about 130
cameras, a radar system that indicates congested traffic areas using a
color-coded speed tracking system, weather conditions and other highway
DeMatties said, for the most part, the DOT is clued in to major
incidents from their eyes and ears on the ground, including state and
local police and the DOT crews that roam the highways. Alerted by their
reports, said DeMatties, he can bring up the camera assigned to that
area, if there is one, and conduct “incident management.”
Switching the large screen to view Exit 28 on I-91 — the entrance to
the Berlin Turnpike — he explained that if an accident were to occur in
that area, he could turn on highway message signs to detour motorists
onto the turnpike, all from his office chair.
“We're part of what we call an incident management team,” he said.
“...We're not just called in for sand anymore.”
The operations center can dispatch a team to handle anything from a
dead raccoon to a major traffic accident to a tree down on the roadway,
he said. But just two operators are watching the screens at any given
time, and it is impossible, he said, to watch all the cameras at once.
In Bridgeport, the state's other operations center controls about 200
cameras that monitor I-95 and I-395, including 23 cameras viewing I-95
between Old Saybrook and Stonington and I-395 through Montville and
Norwich. Operators of each center can view what the other is
seeing on their big screens, said Nursick. At Troop G in
Bridgeport, state troopers are able to view the cameras, said Lt. Louis
J. Fusaro Jr., commanding officer at Troop E in Montville. Fusaro said
he has spoken to the DOT about hooking Troop E into the cameras as well.
State troopers cannot control the cameras; they can only view what the
DOT is seeing. Fusaro said Troop G does not record the footage
and neither would Troop E.
“We can certainly do our investigations without it. Would it be a
useful tool? It might be,” he said.
Fusaro said the cameras are not a part of an investigation into the
Nov. 2 I-95 crash. To his knowledge, no one was watching a camera near
the exit where the crash occurred at the time of the incident.
“It's going to be a long investigation. I know people want to see it.
But it's going to take a long time. It's going to take months,” he said.
Nursick said the department's position on using the cameras for law
enforcement is “neutral.”
Some of the cameras, because of their placement, cannot zoom in to the
license plate level, he said. And at any given time, he said, there is
no telling where a camera will be pointed, meaning that even if a
camera could have recorded the Nov. 2 crash, it might have been facing
the wrong direction at the key moment.
The system, which started with just two cameras in 1995, is still
dozens of cameras away from fully covering every stretch of the highway
system, said Nursick, and the cameras cannot see in the dark.
Recorded footage would also require extra time and money for DOT.
The department would have to save and store the footage and answer what
Nursick said would be a “flood” of FOI requests from attorneys and
others to view the footage. The employees at DOT's two operations
centers are not trained in law enforcement and if law enforcement
personnel were allowed to operate the cameras, the two agencies could
have conflicting interests.
“We would want to make sure that from an incident management
perspective we remain as effective as possible,” he said.
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.
Advocates say DOT scheduled Stamford
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."
It was unclear yesterday who was responsible for communicating the
commission's meeting schedule with the public. The Commission on
the Reorganization of the DOT, led by Pitney Bowes Executive Chairman
Michael Critelli, first mentioned the possibility of a Sept. 6 meeting
in Stamford at its meeting last month in Hartford.
But the date was never finalized and posted on DOT's Web site until
yesterday afternoon, and legislators were not formally notified before
then, McDonald said.
In a statement last month, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced that DOT's Web
site would be used to gather public comments and to keep state
residents informed about future meetings. Rell's press office did
not return calls seeking comment yesterday afternoon.
During the meeting, the 11-member panel, which must give
recommendations to Rell by December on ways to improve the culture and
efficiency of the DOT, will hear presentations from the agency's
bureaus of Public Transportation, Engineering and Highway, and Aviation
and Ports. The commission will then open the floor to public
Rell initiated the panel earlier this year after revelations that an
Interstate 84 widening project in Waterbury was riddled with flaws and
"This is too bad," said Stamford Chamber of Commerce president Jack
Condlin, who was unaware of the meeting. "It's one of their first
meetings and (the commission) is already not doing what they said
they're going to do" and keep the public involved and notified.
State Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, who was aware of the meeting
but will not be able to attend, said there will still be plenty of time
for lower Fairfield County residents and transportation advocates to
give feedback to the panel.
"It's in the preliminary stages," Nickerson said. "But they are headed
in the right direction."
Others said it would have been better to give more than two days notice
of a public hearing.
"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."
Rell Begins Changes To DOT; Units Will
Issue Audits And Enforce
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
The announcement is Rell's latest in response to calls for change at
the DOT, which have stemmed largely from revelations of major flaws in
a reconstruction and improvement project on Interstate 84 near
The flaws were discovered in 2006 when a large sinkhole opened up on
the highway, which inspectors later determined was the result of
improperly installed or simply nonexistent drainage systems. A
subsequent audit revealed the project to be rife with errors, including
improperly installed bridge bearings, “defective” street light poles,
and payments for work never completed by contractors. The audit also
found that the flaws were not detected by the firms hired by the state
to oversee the $65 million project.
“Obviously we saw some of that neglect, if you will, on the I-84 work
that was done,” Rell said, in an audio clip recorded in her office and
sent to reporters Friday afternoon. “So now we want to make sure that
all inspection requirements are being complied with at all times, and
auditing the major projects at least once a year, so that we know that
the money that is being invested in this project is not only being
well-spent, but spent in the way that it was originally intended to be.”
Earlier this week, Rell announced new internal paperwork requirements
in the department, including daily inspection reports for in-progress
projects, and “certificates of compliance” to be signed by consultants
and designers affirming that their work complies with the terms of
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
• 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: www.ct.gov/dot.
Governor's panel begins studying possible
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
"They say, 'I'm not going to jail for this. You're going to have to
wait for a decision up top,'" Shubert said. "That sort of stuff costs
the state a tremendous amount of money."
DOT employees, in recent years, have been snagged by
scandals ranging from corrupt bid-rigging to accepting illegal gifts
from contractors during former Gov. John G. Rowland's administration.
Federal and state investigators are now looking into the botched I-84
widening project, where hundreds of storm drains were installed
incorrectly, to see if there was any wrongdoing.
Rell's commission was formed in the wake of the I-84 problems. The
panel, which held a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building,
expects to present its recommendations to the governor by the end of
Jay Doody, a DOT engineer and a union member, said he believes DOT
employees were more fearful about losing their jobs if they spoke out
during the era of the Rowland administration. At that time, he said,
the agency's in-house bridge design unit was decimated and replaced by
more expensive, hired contractors.
Doody said the attitude of the Rowland administration was, "we can't
have people in-house designing bridges when consultants need work."
Rowland resigned in July 2004 amid a corruption scandal.
Michael J. Critelli, the commission chairman, said the state's reliance
on outside consultants and contractors will be examined in the coming
months. The panel will also look at whether portions of the agency are
understaffed, as union members claim, because of state employee layoffs
and early retirements. They also plan to examine ways the state
can better attract young, qualified engineers to work for the
Critelli said it is too soon to determine how extensively DOT should be
"We need to understand all of what DOT is asked to do," he said, adding
that the agency must abide by numerous state and federal mandates.
"Let's look at everything it's asked to do and whether it has the
resources and the structure to do that."
Two more victims
found in bridge collapse
9 August 2007
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Two bodies were found on Thursday in the
wreckage of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, raising the total death
toll so far to seven, police said.
The unidentified victims were removed and taken to the Hennepin County
Medical Examiner, police said.
Eight people had been listed as missing from the August 1 collapse of
the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River. Another eight
injured people remain in hospitals.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush at a White House news conference
commented on the federal investigation into the cause of the collapse.
"The American people need to know that we're working hard to find out
why the bridge did what it did so that we can assure people that the
bridges over which they'll be traveling will be safe," Bush said.
Rell, DOT differ on problem bridges
New Haven REGISTER
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
Federal officials say such bridges "may be able to provide several
years of safe service" before the defects become dangerous.
But some transportation watchdog groups, such as the Tri-State
Transportation Campaign or the Reason Foundation, claim Connecticut’s
total of problem bridges is far higher. Tri-State officials cited
a 2005 federal survey in warning that 33 percent of bridges in this
state were deficient, a significantly higher rate than the national
average of 26 percent.
The Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Performance Report used the same
2005 data to rate Connecticut as having 34.2 percent of its bridges
But both of those groups appear to be including in their statistics a
second category of bridges designated in by federal officials as
A functionally obsolete bridge isn’t necessarily unsafe, say DOT
officials. Bridges are placed in this category if traffic flows
are more than it was originally designed to handle, the roadway
approach to the bridge is poor, or that it’s too narrow by modern
highway standards, or is too low over the body of water the span
crosses to allow for modern boats to pass.
According to Connecticut’s DOT, this state has another 1,026 bridges of
more than 20 feet in length that fit in this category.
To make things even more confusing, DOT records list another 109
bridges that are shorter than 20 feet that are considered structurally
deficient, and an additional 153 functionally obsolete bridges of less
than 20 feet.
To top the confusion off, it appears the DOT and Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s
office can’t seem to agree whether there are 5,354 bridges in
Connecticut (Rell’s figure) or 5,532 as the DOT claims.
"We do get conflicting totals on the numbers of bridges depending on
how bridges are counted," said DOT spokesman Judd Everhart.
411 Conn. Bridges Carry "Poor" Rating
bridge over the West River in New Haven is rated in 'poor' condition.
By MATTHEW KAUFFMAN | And THOMAS KAPLAN Courant Staff Writers
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
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
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
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
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.
But Rell ordered the agency to resume biennial inspections, and
officials said Thursday that inspectors had visited about a third of
the bridges that were overdue for review. The remainder will be
inspected by Sept. 30, Rell said.
Inspectors who examine bridges assign a grade to three key areas of the
bridge: the deck, the superstructure under the road surface, and the
supporting substructure that includes piers and footings. Thirty
bridges in Connecticut received ratings of "poor" or worse in all three
areas. A rating of poor indicates "advanced section loss,
deterioration, spalling or scour," according to federal inspection
guidelines. Spalling is flaking and cracking often caused by
temperature extremes. Scour refers to erosion caused by flowing water.
Of the 411 bridges with at least one poor rating, many are smaller
spans, some with as few as 100 cars a day passing over them. But others
are among the state's most heavily traveled bridges, and two dozen of
the spans carry portions of interstate highways, primarily I-95.
The I-95 bridge over the West River in New Haven, for example, carries
135,000 cars a day, each passing over a span with a deck rated in poor
condition. The bridge's superstructure received an even lower rating of
"serious," indicating that damage to the bridge has "seriously affected
primary structural components. Local failures are possible. Fatigue
cracks in steel or shear cracks in concrete may be present."
The I-95 bridge over Route 33 in Westport also has a deck rated poor,
as does the I-95 bridge over Stiles Street in New Haven.
More than a dozen smaller bridges around the state have a
superstructure or substructure rated in "critical condition,"
indicating advanced deterioration. "Unless closely monitored it may be
necessary to close [bridges in critical condition] until corrective
action is taken," according to federal guidelines.
Many bridges in Connecticut are in bad shape because the state does not
invest nearly enough money in its infrastructure, said Kate Slevin,
executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional
Although Connecticut has spent more money in recent years on new
roadway construction, there has not been a similar focus on making sure
existing highways and bridges are kept in good working order, she said.
Instead of focusing on new construction, Connecticut should implement a
"fix it first" policy and invest in repairing and maintaining the
existing infrastructure, Slevin said.
"You don't like to use a tragedy like this, but it does make a case
[for more maintenance]," she said.
Even with the biennial bridge checks reinstated after Rell's order,
Connecticut's bridge inspection program is less stringent than the one
in Minnesota, which has among the highest bridge inspection standards
in the nation.
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
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.
ORDERS REVIEW OF BRIDGE RECORDS
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
Commissioner Ralph J. Carpenter, in a statement issued Thursday,
directed the state's bridge-safety division staff to pull and review
records of the 10 “arch deck truss” bridges in the state. Carpenter
wants to know what deficiencies were found, what remedial steps were
taken, and when the next inspections are scheduled.
“Once that review is done, decisions will be made to determine any
immediate steps that might be necessary,” a DOT spokesman said Thursday.
Federal officials alerted all states to immediately inspect all bridges
similar to the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which buckled and
fell while under repair, sending dozens of cars into the Mississippi
However, a spokesman for the state DOT cautioned against making
comparisons between the Connecticut bridges and the one that collapsed.
“Keep in mind, (the similar design is) not a need for anyone to panic,”
said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick. “The same general design is one
thing, an identical bridge is a whole different thing. Each bridge is
kind of like an individual. It has its own individual characteristics.
“Each bridge has to be taken and considered in its own light. While it
may have some of the same general design features, it is very much a
The Gold Star, which carries Interstate 95 between Groton and New
London, is currently undergoing a state inspection due to end as soon
as today. The span is in fact two bridges, each one carrying traffic in
a single direction. The inspection is a 2- to 21/2-month process.
All bridge inspections, Nursick said, take weeks or months to conduct.
The Norwich bridge crosses the Shetucket River as part of Route 169,
also known as Newent Street. Its last inspection was in June 2006,
according to the state DOT.
There are 5,354 state and municipal bridges in Connecticut, all of
which are supposed to be inspected at least once every two years. Of
those, 156 bridges are on more frequent inspection cycles, according to
the state DOT.
While the state conducts inspections, it does not perform maintenance
on all the bridges, some of which are the responsibility of
municipalities. The state does inspections in conjunction with private
In late June, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered the transportation department
to reverse its decision to increase the time between bridge inspections
after a story in The Hartford Courant revealed that the department
planned to inspect certain bridges every four years instead of every
The Courant story reported that the DOT had begun cutting back on some
bridge inspections nine years ago. The department began inspecting
bridges in “fair” condition or better every four years, the newspaper
On Thursday, Rell announced that the DOT has recently completed
inspections on 180 bridges that had been on a four-year inspection
rotation. According to a press release from her office, 1,144 bridges
classified as being in “fair” condition or better were on a four-year
inspection schedule. Of those, 561 were identified as needing an
inspection before Sept. 30. Her office said the rest would be finished
by that deadline.
Rell also wrote a letter to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to offer the
expertise, equipment and personnel of Connecticut's DOT.
The Mohegan Pequot Bridge, which crosses the Thames River between
Montville and Ledyard, undergoes a special inspection every year, with
the last one conducted in February. Nursick said the bridge has an
“identifying factor” that means the state needs to inspect the bridge
annually. He had no further details Thursday.
The Gold Star's two nearly identical spans rise 135 feet over the
Thames River. The northbound, original bridge is 5,931 feet long and
was built in 1943. Its southbound counterpart is 6,362 feet long and
was built in 1973. The spans are owned by the state.
The Baldwin, which opened in 1993, is a 2,558-foot span across the
Connecticut River on I-95 between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme. It has a
vertical clearance of 81 feet. Also owned by the state, it replaced a
2,448-foot span with the same clearance built in 1948.
Bridge Monitor: Connecticut 'Staying On
Top' Of Conditions; Expert Says State's Spans are Mostly In Good Shape
By M. Matthew Clark
Published on 8/3/2007
John DeWolf, a professor of structural engineering in the civil and
environmental engineering department of the University of Connecticut,
said Thursday the state's bridges are generally in good condition
compared to those in other states.
“I think Connecticut is doing a pretty good job of staying on top of
their bridges,” said DeWolf, who has been monitoring approximately 30
bridges throughout the state over the past two decades in conjunction
with the research division of the state Department of Transportation.
“We do a little more in Connecticut because we have the ability to go
out and actually measure these bridges and obtain real data,” he said.
Part of DeWolf's research is to find cost-effective monitoring systems
that will provide continuous information on Connecticut bridges between
regularly scheduled inspections.
Two of the bridges DeWolf is monitoring as part of a long-term project
are the Raymond E. Baldwin Bridge that carries Interstate 95 traffic
over the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, and the Gold Star Memorial
Bridge that spans the Thames River between New London and Groton.
DeWolf said the data being collected on the Baldwin Bridge, which
opened in 1993, is measuring the effects of temperature on structural
The project on the Gold Star is testing a newly designed, wireless,
solar-powered monitoring system. DeWolf said neither the Baldwin nor
the Gold Star was being monitored for specific safety issues.
The Gold Star is “not a bridge that needs to be monitored, in my view,
other than the biannual review,” he said.
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.”
I-95 Northbound Up And
Running; Work Ahead Of Schedule On Damaged Span; South Side May
By LAURA WALSH, New London DAY,
Published on 3/29/2004
whooped and cheered Sunday as a parade of cars, escorted by police,
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
By DANIEL TEPFER email@example.com
BRIDGEPORT - With a small cloud
of dust and little fanfare, workers Saturday broke loose the last
chunk of the Interstate 95 overpass destroyed in a fiery crash.
jagged chunk tumbled down to land on a huge pyramid of rubble on Howard
southbound section has been
fully demolished," said Art Gruhn, chief engineer for the state
of Transportation. He said they will now begin laying a foundation for
a temporary span to link the gap. Earlier Gruhn announced some
news amid the disaster that crippled this major Northeast traffic
Extensive testing of the steel in the northbound lanes found them to be
structurally sound. By midweek northbound traffic could be zooming past
he said because of the high
volume of traffic that normally uses the turnpike, the reopened lanes
only be used for northbound traffic. Southbound traffic will continue
be diverted along local streets. He said they are sticking to
original timetable that it will be one to two weeks before the whole
looking very good for shorter
rather than longer," he said. Mayor John M. Fabrizi toured the
site Saturday and said he was very encouraged by what he saw. He said
was especially happy to hear that the federal government will pick up
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
turnpike every day.
continued to clog local streets
from Stratford to Fairfield as drivers sought a way around the closed
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.
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
by exit 44 in Fairfield."
the extra traffic volume,
state police had to contend with certain classes of drivers who
ignore signs on the Merritt . "We had a serious
with buses, tractor trailers and even recreational motor home vehicles
getting on the Merritt between Stratford and Greenwich," Damato said.
we stopped them, then we ticketed them and then we kicked them off the
18-wheelers are a double headache
because what the drivers do to avoid shearing off the roofs of the
is "drive down the middle of the road," Damato said. "What they do is
the dotted line. If a tractor trailer does that and either hits an
or we observe them, then we also may issue them a ticket for reckless
Appleby, Bridgeport director
of emergency management, said they had posted alternate travel routes
the city Web site at:
police said an investigation
is continuing into the crash Thursday night that caused all the
Despite the mass destruction caused by the crash, police said the
Derby girl who caused it may only face a $95 ticket. A tanker
driven by 33-year-old Gilbert Robinson, of Galpin Street, Naugatuck,
with more than 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel was traveling southbound
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.
to police and fire officials,
as a result of the impact the tanker truck went out of control and
into the Jersey barrier on the right side. The truck slid along the
ripping open the tank and spewing flaming fuel along a 200-yard path
the turnpike. The truck came to a stop on the Howard Avenue
as a fireball more than 50-feet high engulfed the tank. Burning fuel
between the cracks in the pavement igniting wooden boards on the
tremendous heat from the fire
melted the steel girders under the bridge causing them to sag toward
roadway below. The fireball melted high-voltage transmission
stretched a hundred feet above the roadway carrying power from the
Resources Recovery Association plant.
Illuminating spokeswoman Mary
Ellen Cody said on Saturday crews began replacing the lines but they
not going to "re-energize" them until they got the OK from the crews
on the highway below. The lines only affect power coming from the
trash-to-energy plant and she said no UI customers are affected.
Saturday, crews began laying a
foundation around the gaping hole where the southbound lanes were to
a temporary span. The 85-foot-long temporary span, which had been
held in storage in New Jersey by its manufacturer, Acrow, was being
in pieces to the site. He said the span is three lanes wide and is made
up of steel panels. The same type of span was used to replace
the Mianus River Bridge after it collapsed on June 28, 1983.
like a giant erector set, a
lot of small pieces that have to be bolted together," he said. He said
once the temporary span is put together it will be lifted onto the
on the southbound section of the overpass. "It's not something we
would want to use as a permanent structure, but it will be more than
until we can put a permanent structure in place," he said.
said the temporary bridge is rated
to carry standard traffic and overweight vehicles will not be permitted
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
structure will have to be built. The original structure was under
construction for three years and was nearly completed as part of a
million revamping of the highway between exits 24 and 26. Gruhn
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
Delivering on a promise to work
around the clock to reopen an Interstate 95 overpass destroyed in a
crash just 24 hours earlier, work crews Friday night began demolishing
the structure. When the buckled highway span is torn down, said
Cooper, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, "We
begin erecting a temporary bridge that is being trucked here."
and how the bridge will be
erected and when it will begin carrying traffic will probably be
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
a disaster area and promised $11 million in state and federal aid.
have 120,000 cars traveling this
roadway a day so our first priority is to get it reopened," he said.
sides of the busy stretch of
I-95 were closed Thursday night by an explosion sparked by a collision
between a tractor-trailer and a compact
sedan, causing the truck to slam
into a highway barrier. About 10,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil
into 50-foot-high flames that burned about three hours, destroying the
highway's surface and melting part of its supporting structure.
there were no serious injuries.
Robinson, 33, of Naugatuck,
was driving the hauler reportedly owned by Island Transport of
and New York, south of exit 26 about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, State Police
The truck was struck from behind by a 1987 Toyota Corolla driven by
Waddle, of Bank Street, Derby, police said.
said Friday morning she was
not injured. "I'm here with the cops now and we're going over
she said. No arrests have been made. The southbound lanes were so
severely damaged by the holocaust they will have to be torn down, and
engineers are trying to determine whether the northbound lanes are
enough to be repaired and reopened.
thousands of vehicles
clogged major roadways from Stratford to Fairfield as commuters were
onto local streets by detours around the accident scene, between I-95
25 and 27. Numerous minor accidents resulted from the traffic
city police said. Mayor John M. Fabrizi pledged that police would
be deployed in force to manage the traffic onslaught.
trying to use the Merritt
Parkway as an alternate route were being stopped by police and sent to
Route 8 and Interstate 84. The heat of the fire that erupted when
the tanker crashed melted the heavy steel girders supporting the
causing it to sag about 7 feet toward
Howard Avenue below. As it cooled,
the roadbed resettled, but the underbelly of the overpass was a mass of
twisted and blackened metal.
Jantzen, a state Department
of Transportation engineer, said the highway buckled and the recently
Howard Avenue overpass
sagged several feet. The accident
scene is in the I-95 corridor construction zone through Bridgeport, a
rebuilding of the highway that began in 1996 and is projected to cost
engineers had earlier considered
filling in the area under the wrecked bridge and building a new road
on top of it, instead of replacing the bridge over Howard Avenue.
Instead, the replacement bridge will arrive on pallets in 10-foot by
sections. "It'll be kind of like putting an Erector Set together," said
reconstructing how the accident
ended in an immense fireball, it appeared that Robinson lost control of
the truck after being hit by Waddle's car and crashed into the Jersey
on the right side of the highway. Bridgeport Assistant Fire Chief
Fred Haschak said the tank then broke open in
two places. The fuel oil,
which is often used as home heating oil or as diesel fuel in vehicles,
was apparently ignited by sparks as the truck scraped along the
leaving a flaming trail for about 200 feet before it came to rest on
overpass above Howard Avenue.
erupted from the top of the
truck, creating a huge fireball that melted the insulation on power
more than 50 feet above the turnpike.
Haschak said flaming fuel poured
between cracks in the overpass, igniting wood framing under the
"It looked just like wood burning in a fireplace," he said.
with firefighters from Fairfield, Norwalk and Waterbury, were at the
scene into the early morning hours Friday. Fire crews were able to
the blaze from spreading to several businesses near the highway.
A Bridgeport firefighter, suffering from an upset stomach from the
fumes, was treated at the hospital and later released.
Fire Chief Michael Maglione
estimated the fire burned at 1,800 degrees to 2,000 degrees, noting
begins to weaken at 1,400 to 1,500 degrees. Maglione said cars
past the accident scene immediately after the crash created a mist of
oil in the air, which probably caused the fire. Home furnaces have a
to create such a spray, he said.
you put this type of a fuel
in a mist form, if it finds a point of ignition it will light," he
Some of the diesel fuel found its way south into Cedar Creek, where the
state Department of Environmental Protection set up booms to keep the
from spreading into Long Island Sound. Two men in a boat set out
absorbent mats to collect oil along the creek.
laid out booms in big circles
and we are making the circles smaller and smaller until we contain the
oil and it can be removed by Connecticut Tank Removal," said John
emergency response coordinator for the DEP. "We expect to get a
of it and the rest will be burned off by the sun."
said he was told the spilled
fuel caused a half-million dollars in damage to boats moored in the
I-95 has been the scene of many traffic disasters over the years,
a crash last year a short distance away that killed four Yale
students and the 1983 Mianus River Bridge collapse in Greenwich
the tragedy in Minnesota...
Courant's ideas for
in this series:
• Transit and
• A high-speed rail connection from Hartford to New York, and
• 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
improvement project in New Haven - not in this series, but related
(need the yard to repair trains).
DOT - Beleaguered By Scandal, Layoffs And Loss Of Vision - Needs A
Whole New Direction
July 15, 2007
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 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
Although road-building demands engineering expertise, the danger of
having the engineers in charge was that the entire focus would be on
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
TRANSIT AND TRANSIT-ORIENTED
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
A HIGH-SPEED RAIL CONNECTION FROM
HARTFORD TO NEW YORK (AND EVENTUALLY BOSTON)
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
MAINTAIN THE INFRASTRUCTURE, A POLICY
KNOWN AS "FIX IT FIRST"
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
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.
FULLY EMBRACE CONTEXT-SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS
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
TAKE BICYCLE TRAVEL SERIOUSLY
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?
WITH LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL, CEDE MORE AUTHORITY TO BRADLEY INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS
In 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
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,
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
Another costly surprise from the DOTStaff
Article Launched: 04/14/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
What is going on at the state Department of Transportation?
DOT officials dropped a bombshell Tuesday when they told some members
of the Legislature's Transportation Committee that the agency would
need $250 million to $300 million within the next month to keep a
Metro-North rail maintenance facility planned for New Haven on track.
The DOT said it is needed to assure the design is completed so the
project can go out to bid in November and construction can start next
This disclosure came soon after equally startling news that the overall
cost of the facility - a key element in revitalizing the New Haven Line
commuter railroad - has dramatically risen from the $300 million
appropriated in 2005. The cost estimate is now $732 million in "current
dollars," and it could exceed $1.17 billion when the facility's third
and final phase is completed in 2019.
The DOT officials disclosed the funding timetable after being summoned
by the committee members to the Capitol for an update on the rail-yard
This maintenance facility is absolutely essential for housing and
maintaining the 380 new M8 passenger cars that will begin arriving late
next year for the commuter rail line.
There are only four weeks remaining in the General Assembly session,
and the shocking revelation throws a curve at lawmakers who face tough
spending decisions during the next month in the face of declining state
Some of the escalating costs for the maintenance facility are
understandable because of inflation and continually rising prices of
materials. But a quadrupling of the original cost estimate?
led to plenty of finger-pointing at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Democratic lawmakers blamed the Rell administration for keeping the
escalation quiet, while the governor charged the DOT with adding major
elements to the rail yard that she had not seen or approved, including
a warehouse, a parking garage and a walkway over the tracks.
The finger-pointing will no doubt continue, but it seems that the
beleaguered DOT has muffed another assignment in a big way. State
officials from the governor on down must sort out this mess and figure
out how to make it work - and in the next session press forward with
Turning Toward The Future
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
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
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."
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
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.
"When there is a solution being discussed, the engagement process
becomes critical," Swaminathan said. "Part of the government's role is
to choose how to engage with a public policy on this issue. To some
extent, you can't have your cake and eat it too when you are not
collecting enough money to be commensurate with use of the roads."
Swaminathan was invited to speak at the State Transportation Strategy
Board meeting at the Capitol Thursday about IBM's experiences helping
local and national governments design and adopt toll-collection
systems. He addressed many tolling concepts included in a $1
study, commissioned by the board, evaluating the reinstitution of tolls
in Connecticut, including congestion pricing and mileage-based toll
Board Chairman Kevin Kelleher said the presentation was the first step
in further research into tolling, after the body voted in May to
postpone -- in order to gather more information -- making specific
recommendations to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the General Assembly about
possible methods to reintroduce tolls. In Oregon and Minnesota,
officials are weighing mileage-based toll systems that would use global
positioning systems to charge for the distance travelled, Swaminathan
In Stockholm, a system of electronic tolls using various fees based on
the time of day a car enters the city has reduced congestion by 20
percent and cut automobile emissions, Swaminathan said. Voters in
Sweden approved permanent implementation of the system in 2007, after a
successful trial period and an extensive government effort to highlight
the congestion and environmental benefits to the public, Swaminathan
"There was a very significant amount of time spent educating the public
and (they) also spent a significant amount to improve their public
transit system before instituting tolls," he said.
In Germany, there is nationwide toll on commercial trucks, using GPS to
transmit information about a truck's location and other details that
help prepare a toll bill. Globally, governments are
to use technology to limit traffic, less as an end in itself than to
facilitate other eventual goals like moving freight off of trucks onto
rail lines, Swaminathan said.
"Economic productivity is about moving products from one point to the
other without incurring major costs," he said. "Even in mature
companies in the U.S. and Europe there is a lot of thought going into
how they leverage the technology available that is around today to
improve the flow of traffic."
Kelleher said the presentation by Swaminathan and other transportation
management professionals would help lay the foundation for a better
informed decision on tolls.
"We are committed to continuing this stage of learning about the
different options," Kelleher said. "This presentation is another
example of the wealth of information that is available about tolling."
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
"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."
Norwalk stretch of I-95 most dangerous. State police: 'Busy,
By Dan Brechlin, Alyssa Casey, Ron Ragozzino and Christine Torrney -
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
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
In 2007, the latest year for which complete statistics are available,
735 accidents occurred on the Norwalk portion of I-95. That number
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
In each of the years dating to 2002, Norwalk experienced the most
accidents along I-95 in Connecticut. In 2002, the high-water year of
the period, 883 accidents, or 11.5 percent, took place in Norwalk.
What is it about Norwalk that makes it so dangerous?
Norwalk is a hot spot because of a high volume of traffic, said Lt. J.
Paul Vance, state police spokesman.
"It is a melting pot, for all of the major cities," Vance said. "It is
just a busy, congested area. The (Norwalk) area has curvatures and
inclines; there is no straight shot, which really doesn't help in bad
weather. In the Norwalk area, any area really, but especially Norwalk,
we try to clear (things) out quickly after accidents."
Jill Kelly, co-founder of the Connecticut Citizen Transportation lobby,
was surprised to hear Norwalk was the top accident location on I-95 and
offered her own theory.
"When I drive the area where Route 7 merges into I-95, I really have to
be aware of traffic," said Kelly. "It's very tight there and a little
confusing, and maybe just not wide enough, with people merging on from
Route 7 and others trying at about the same point to get off Exit 14 on
the southbound side."
Other high-accident stretches of the highway include Bridgeport,
Milford, Fairfield, Darien and Stamford.
In the same 2002-2007 period, 3,319 accidents occurred in Bridgeport
and 2,783 in Milford.
West Haven resident Jill St. Germain, who travels I-95 five to six days
a week to her job as a cashier at the Milford rest stop gift shop, said
she thinks the highway around her workplace is among the worst in the
She said customers -- "state residents and transients" -- constantly
complain about it.
"Always on a Sunday night," Germain said. "It doesn't matter what time
of year, it always gets backed up."
Joe Brown, taking a coffee break at the rest stop during a trip between
Springfield, Mass., and New York City, said: "The first Connecticut
exits (coming from New York) are kind of crowded. I try not to travel
at rush hour."
Linda Gahagan drives between her Maine home and New York every two to
three months. "As soon as I hit 95 (coming back from New York), it's
bumper to bumper," she said.
Known as one of the most heavily traveled highways in the nation, I-95
was built in the 1950s and stretches 112 miles through Connecticut.
From 2002 to 2007, 41,801 accidents occurred on the state's portion of
In 2005, I-95 carried in excess of 100,000 more vehicles per day than
any other highway in Connecticut, according to the DOT. In 2007, I-95
was traveled by 1.15 million vehicles daily.
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.
Connecticut coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign,
attributes the number of accidents to overall congestion of the highway.
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
Connecticut State Police Troop G, which is responsible for patrolling
from the New York line to Branford, reported 6,056 highway accidents
through the first 10 months of 2008 that involved 914 injuries and 12
Troop F, covering Branford east to East Lyme, reported 1,487 accidents,
seven involving fatalities, and 235 total injuries.
Troop E, which is responsible for East Lyme to the Rhode Island border,
handled 2,417 accidents, seven of which involved fatalities, and a
total of 321 injuries.
"Every single day, we have (troopers) out there," Vance said. "I can
put 100 people out there, but it would only add to the congestion."
To help the flow of traffic, it is important to identify areas of
concern where the state DOT can put up signs to warn travelers, he said.
"People think we give out tickets because it's a joyous thing," Vance
said. "As far as tickets for cell phones and distractions, we can't get
everybody all of the time. What is more important, a cell phone or the
Corvette speeding down the road dangerously?"
Kevin Nursick, communications officer for the state DOT, said the
agency analyzes highway data looking for any patterns that might
indicate a problem area.
"The bottom line is we look at it, and if we see something, we look at
that further and engage an informal review of the roadway to determine
if something is happening to contribute to those accidents and what we
can do to fix the problem," Nursick said. Most accidents are the result
of human error, he said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell echoed that sentiment.
"The do's and don'ts of driving on our state's roadways cannot be taken
lightly," Rell said in response to learning of this review of I-95
statistics. "The consequences of irresponsible driving and not obeying
the rules of the road can have significant and life-altering
consequences. Enforcement, education and engineering cannot, by
themselves, prevent crashes. The ultimate responsibility lies in the
hands of the person behind the wheel."
Rell said she would "continue to empower my agencies to work with
local, state and federal stakeholders in their ongoing efforts to keep
our roads as safe as possible."
Lanes Ease Traffic on Urban Highways
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:31 a.m. ET
December 30, 2008
MIAMI (AP) -- Attorney David Kubiliun is a typical South Floridian: He
lives in a suburb, works in downtown Miami and spends several hours a
week sitting in maddening traffic on Interstate 95.
Earlier this year, his 14-mile slog home took 50 minutes out of his
day, if there weren't any accidents. ''It was murder,'' he said.
But his evening commute recently got a whole lot better -- for a price.
Drivers like him can pay anywhere from 25 cents to $6.20 to drive in a
new express lane for six miles at or above 45 to 50 mph, guaranteed.
Now Kubiliun gets home in 20 minutes.
''That thing's a godsend,'' he said. ''I can even make it to my kid's
These High Occupancy Toll lanes -- or HOT lanes -- are praised by urban
planners, environmentalists and many drivers. From I-10 in Houston to
I-15 in Salt Lake City, drivers can pay extra to zip past traffic stuck
in the slower ''local'' lanes. HOT lanes also are being added in
They've been criticized by some as ''Lexus Lanes'' because of the cost,
but in Miami and other cities, it's not just the drivers with fat
wallets who can use them: Carpoolers, motorcyclists, buses and hybrid
owners drive for free.
''It's one of several huge trends in urban highway transportation,''
said Tyler Duvall, acting undersecretary of policy for the U.S.
Department of Transportation. ''You're seeing at least 10 major metro
areas with HOT lanes or HOT lane projects. If you're a major city and
you've experienced congestion, you either have a HOT lane or you're
going to have one in five years.''
But do they reduce congestion? HOT lanes haven't been around long
enough for researchers to say. Some speculate they could add to
congestion by encouraging drivers who can afford to pay the tolls to
live in far-flung suburbs.
But many experts say the option of paying for a quicker commute should
be available and the proceeds can go toward improving public
transportation or roads.
''In the future, congestion pricing is going to be the way we get
around in this country,'' said Gabriel Bernal-Lopez of Miami, a
transportation engineering student at the University of Florida and the
founder of transitmiami.com, a widely read blog in South Florida.
''It's about time that motorists pay their fair share, and HOT lanes
are a step in the right direction.''
HOT lanes began -- like many traffic trends do -- in congested Southern
California in the mid-1990s. By 2006, they were in place in Texas,
Minnesota and Colorado, and the planning of South Florida's $122
million I-95 project was under way.
Federal and state officials are big proponents of HOT lanes, largely
because they cost less and require neither new asphalt nor the lengthy
approval process for building or expanding new highways.
But groups like the AAA are a bit skeptical.
''AAA believes that all roads should be toll-free. Where toll roads are
utilized, reasonable alternative toll-free routes should always be
available,'' said Gregg Laskoski, spokesman for AAA South. HOT lanes
are only appropriate if an existing car pool lane is underutilized and
the change won't contribute to congestion, he said.
That's exactly the situation in Miami. The six-mile HOT lane was
already in place as an underused lane for cars with two or more
I-95 in South Florida is notoriously congested, with 230,000-plus
motorists using the highway on a typical weekday. Because of dense
urban development and little available cash, expansion was not an
So the state began narrowing its lanes and launched a public-awareness
campaign for the HOT lane, including how to get a remote transponder
that automatically pays the toll as cars pass toll gates.
The project hit a snag in June, when engineers first placed flexible
sticks to divide the HOT lane from the regular highway; people were
caught off guard and a few motorists darted in between the dividing
sticks, causing extensive backups and headaches for commuters. At least
one rollover injury crash was reported.
But six months later, when drivers began to pay, there were no crashes,
no road rage incidents, no problems. The tolls ranged from 25 cents to
$1.75 on that first day, varying by the amount of congestion.
Officials expect to break ground on another HOT lane in the southbound
stretch of I-95 in Miami soon.
Still, just because the lanes will get a motorist to his destination
faster, it doesn't mean people will actually use them.
Kyle Cobia, 26, of Miami drives on I-95 to visit his parents in Fort
Lauderdale several times a week. He wouldn't pay more than a quarter to
use the lanes.
''I would rather wait an extra 15 minutes and sit in traffic than
pay,'' he said.
For attorney Kubiliun, who has never paid more than $2 to go
northbound, the southbound lane will allow him to reclaim another
half-hour from the maw of traffic.
''I would pay if it was $6. I would even pay up to $10,'' he said.
''When you do a cost-benefit analysis, with gas and the amount of time
sitting in traffic, it's worth it.''
M.T.A. Shortfall Renews
Talk of Congestion Pricing as Revenue Source
By RAY RIVERA
Published: August 3, 2008
The financial crisis at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is
breathing new life into an idea the Legislature rejected just months
ago: congestion pricing.
Facing a projected $900 million budget shortfall next year, the
authority has proposed increasing transit fares twice in the coming
three years, and has asked the city and state governments to provide
hundreds of millions in additional aid.
But city and state officials, struggling with their own
multibillion-dollar deficits, have urged the authority to cut its
spending and find alternative sources of revenue. They have said they
are counting on a commission led by Richard Ravitch, a former
transportation authority chairman, to devise a plan to rescue the
agency from its deepening financial hole.
Enter congestion pricing. Asked in a recent interview how seriously the
commission was considering elements of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s
traffic revenue plan to provide money that could bail out the
authority, Mr. Ravitch replied, “Very.”
“I’m looking at a whole series of possible sources of revenue,” he
said. “It would be inappropriate to comment on that except that I have
said before publicly that we would certainly go down and look at
congestion pricing, and every member of the commission knows it.”
At the heart of the changing dynamic are the politics of transit fare
increases. Assembly Democrats killed a scaled-down version of Mr.
Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan in April when they refused to bring
it to a floor vote, even though the plan would have made the
transportation authority eligible for $360 million in federal
That plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter a congestion zone in
Manhattan south of 60th Street during peak hours. The revenues,
projected to be more than $500 million annually, would have gone toward
mass transit improvements.
Now, the authority is proposing raising transit fares and bridge and
tunnel tolls next year and again in early 2011 to help close huge
shortfalls in its operating budget. It has said it may have to raise
fares every two years after that to balance its books. In addition, the
agency is facing a projected deficit of $15 billion to $20 billion in
its forthcoming five-year capital plan. Transit riders are a powerful
constituency, and given the strong political pressure to avoid, or at
least minimize, fare hikes, proponents of congestion pricing are
hopeful that Democrats in the State Assembly will be forced to
Even some of the most ardent foes of congestion pricing acknowledge
that the current problems seem to be reinvigorating the debate, though
they wonder why that idea — and not other potential revenue sources —
gets all the chatter.
“Clearly I think that on many levels of the political class, this has
support that other taxes, for example, the millionaires’ tax, doesn’t,”
said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who was a
leader in opposing the plan. He was referring to a Democratic proposal,
opposed by Gov. David A. Paterson, to raise taxes on the wealthy.
“It’s an issue of fundamental fairness,” Mr. Brodsky added. “The
millionaires’ tax raises more revenue solely from the super rich. Yet
the political class in New York City, the mayor’s office being the head
of it, comes back with congestion pricing again.”
Mayor Bloomberg has said that he sees no alternative. “Congestion
pricing will come, in New York and lots of other cities, because it is
the only way where you were going to do the two things that you need to
do: reduce people driving and find money for mass transit,” the mayor
told reporters at the National Conference of State Legislatures in New
Orleans last week.
“Unless the commission, which is actually made up of some very smart
people, unless they can discover the fountain of youth, I think that
that’s exactly what is going to come out of it,” Mr. Bloomberg added.
The transportation authority’s deepening financial troubles, combined
with those of the city and the state, have set up a particularly
difficult choice for the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, whose
constituents in Lower Manhattan would be hit by the fare increases.
Mr. Silver never publicly came out against congestion pricing, but he
yielded to legislators outside Manhattan and in the suburbs by not
bringing it to the floor.
Mr. Silver did strongly criticize the proposed transit increases last
week, as did the mayor and the governor. But he declined to comment for
this article except to say, through a spokesman, that he had “the
highest regard for Richard Ravitch, and we await the recommendations.”
Earlier this year, when the Assembly Democrats advanced the so-called
millionaires’ tax, which would have added one percentage point to the
income tax rate of New Yorkers making more than $1 million a year, they
described it as a solution to the authority’s impending fiscal crisis.
The Democrats estimated that the plan would provide more than $1.5
billion for mass transit and transportation projects.
The proposal died in the face of opposition from the mayor, the
governor and the Republican-controlled State Senate. And apart from a
few grumblings from Mr. Silver and state Democrats, it has seldom been
Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman, a Queens Democrat who opposed congestion
pricing, said he would be surprised if the Ravitch commission proposed
an idea that had been so roundly rejected by the Assembly. “If ever
there was a dead horse that was flogged, flogged and flogged again, it
was congestion pricing.”
After all, he added, “I don’t think that when we rejected congestion
pricing, we were unaware that the M.T.A. had financial problems.”
In his and Mr. Brodsky’s view, congestion pricing would fall well short
of rescuing the agency while burdening a narrow slice of mostly
middle-class drivers from outside Manhattan.
But stimulating the belief that it could re-emerge is the makeup of the
Mr. Ravitch, who is expected to release a final report in December, was
a known supporter of congestion pricing before being named to head the
panel. The panel also includes Mark Page, the mayor’s budget director;
Laura Anglin, the governor’s budget director; Elliot G. Sander, the
authority’s executive director and a strong supporter of congestion
pricing; Peter Goldmark, director of the Climate and Air program for
the Environmental Defense Fund, a group that strongly backed the plan;
and Douglas Durst, a major developer whose family foundation provided
financial support to the congestion pricing campaign.
Some analysts suggest that the Ravitch report, if it proposes
congestion pricing, could provide a level of political cover to
Assembly Democrats to support elements of the traffic plan,
particularly if they do not have to vote on a plan until after the fall
election. Mayor Bloomberg appeared to echo that view last week.
“I think the politics of New York State are such that they will not do
anything until after the election,” he said. “In fact, I believe the
Ravitch commission was encouraged — I don’t know if they were told —
but there’s an understanding they will be coming back, unfortunately,
not before the next election.”
Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler said that if a new effort to push the plan
was undertaken in the near future, “the mechanism would have to be the
Ravitch commission, because the administration isn’t going to mount
another campaign for it.”
Even if that happens, Mr. Brodsky, for one, said he didn’t believe it
stood a better chance this time. “I think it goes nowhere,” he said.
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
The state Office of Policy and Management has contracted with Cambridge
Systematics Inc., a Massachusetts-based company, to study tolls and
“congestion pricing,” a toll program that charges different amounts at
different times of day.
The report is due by February 2009, according to OPM, in time for the
next legislative session.
of Driving Does What Law Was
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: July 3, 2008
Soaring gas prices and higher tolls seem to be doing for traffic in New
York what Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s ambitious congestion pricing was
supposed to do: reducing the number of cars clogging the city’s streets
and pushing more people to use mass transit.
In May, with gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, traffic at the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s bridges and tunnels dropped 4.7
percent compared with the same month the previous year.
Preliminary data for June shows a similar decrease in traffic, and
officials say the change is largely because of higher prices at the
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has recorded a similar
decline in travel across its bridges and tunnels since early March,
when it raised tolls. The greatest decline was in April, when traffic
fell by 4.2 percent. (The transportation authority also increased tolls
in March, but by a much smaller amount.)
At the same time, subway, bus and commuter rail ridership has
Weekday subway ridership was up 6.5 percent in April, compared with the
same month a year ago. April ridership increased 5.5 percent on the
Long Island Rail Road, 4.3 percent on the Metro-North Railroad and
almost 9 percent on PATH trains between Manhattan and New Jersey. Use
of the subways and rail lines also increased in May, compared with the
previous year, but in most cases by smaller amounts. New Jersey Transit
ridership, including bus, commuter rail and light rail, was up about
4.6 percent in April and May combined.
“We’re at the point where people really are changing habits,” said Sam
Schwartz, a transportation consultant. He said that if gas prices stay
high, the result could be close to the goal set by Mr. Bloomberg’s
congestion pricing plan, which, if it had been approved, was expected
to reduce traffic in much of Manhattan by 6.3 percent.
“If we start eclipsing $5 a gallon, which we might over the summer, I
think we might get very close,” Mr. Schwartz said.
Throughout the country, rising gas prices have had a broad economic
impact, hitting especially hard in many cities and suburban communities
where people are more dependent on cars than in the transit-dense New
York City region.
And while there is no denying that increased costs mean a certain pain
for drivers in New York, they may also have the unique effect of
meshing with the city’s goal of cutting traffic and, as a consequence,
Bloomberg administration officials, however, said the actual impact may
“The magnitude here is by no means comparable to the effect that
congestion pricing would have in reducing traffic,” said Bruce
Schaller, deputy transportation commissioner for planning and
“What congestion pricing does,” he added, “is it focuses traffic
reduction on the most congested places and times, whereas gasoline
prices spread the impact out.”
Still, the new numbers do bolster a central point of the Bloomberg
plan: that higher prices can motivate commuters to give up their cars.
“It shows that pricing matters and that people respond to it,” said
Jeffrey M. Zupan, a senior fellow for transportation at the Regional
It is hard to say exactly what the impact of lighter bridge and tunnel
traffic has been on the streets of Manhattan — or other boroughs —
since the city does not take traffic measurements that show changes
from month to month. But there are other indications.
The Metropolitan Parking Association, which represents garage and
parking lot owners, said that its members had seen about a 10 percent
decrease in daily customers. And gas station managers interviewed in
Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey said that the number of drivers buying
gas had also declined.
Interviews with drivers and transit riders indicate, however, that a
change in habits has not come easy — and might be reversed if gas
“When prices went over $4, I stopped driving,” said Scott Pisciotti,
41, a real estate portfolio manager from Somers, N.Y. Mr. Pisciotti
said he used to drive daily to his office in Midtown Manhattan but now
rides a Metro-North train from White Plains to Grand Central Terminal.
It is a new routine for him, and he has not fully embraced it. “If
prices dropped,” he said, “I would drive a lot more.”
Commuter trains have also become more crowded, riders say.
At the Secaucus Junction train station of New Jersey Transit, Brian
Simmons, 30, said that it had become much harder to get a seat on the
train in recent months. “It’s like the New York City subway,” he said.
Gas price-induced traffic reduction might have a downside. Mr.
Bloomberg’s plan was intended, among other things, to raise hundreds of
millions of dollars a year for mass transit improvements by charging
cars an $8 fee to enter the area of Manhattan below 59th Street. The
plan was defeated in April when legislative leaders in Albany refused
to bring it up for a vote.
In contrast, the current reduction in traffic at bridges and
tunnels could actually take money away from transit, because a large
portion of the tolls collected at the transportation authority’s
crossings helps to finance the subways, buses and commuter railroads.
In May, toll revenues were more than $4 million below budget
projections, and Gary J. Dellaverson, the authority’s chief financial
officer, said that June toll revenues appeared to be down even further.
So far, the drop has been more than offset by an increase in fare
collections generated by higher transit and rail ridership, but Mr.
Dellaverson said that the combination of slipping toll revenues and the
increased cost of fuel for the authority’s buses and trains could
eventually outpace ridership revenue gains.
The rise in gas prices may also be increasing something that congestion
pricing was meant to eliminate: the incentive for drivers to avoid
tolls by using the free bridges over the East River, causing heavier
traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The congestion pricing plan called for a 6.3 percent reduction in the
total miles traveled by all vehicles in the pay zone. That is different
from simply taking cars off the street since some vehicles, like taxis,
are responsible for a higher share of the total miles driven. Mr.
Schaller said that to achieve the program’s goal, the city would have
needed at least a 10 percent reduction in the number of cars entering
Mr. Schwartz estimated that a 4 or 5 percent drop at the bridges and
tunnels might mean just a 2 or 3 percent reduction in Manhattan
While some drivers have given up and switched to trains or buses, those
who are sticking with their cars say they are driving less.
Singh Bridgemohan, 50, was putting some gas, at $4.35 a gallon, in his
red 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee on a recent morning at an Exxon station in
Bay Terrace, Queens. Mr. Bridgemohan, who runs a small construction
company, said he used to drive his wife, a nanny, from their home in
Jamaica to her work in Bayside every day. Now he does it rarely, to
save on gas, while she makes a much longer commute by bus.
At a Shell station on the New Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel, Peter
Lin, 54, a sales executive from Holmdel, N.J., paid $56.18 to fill up
his 2005 Toyota Camry before heading to work in Manhattan. Mr. Lin
echoed several drivers who said that an unexpected benefit of higher
driving costs is that there are simply fewer cars on the road.
“Do I like the traffic?” he said. “Yes. Do I like the cost of gas?
Forget about it.”
Reactions to toll
editorial shows public cynicism toward elected leaders.
New London DAY editorial
Published on 6/6/2008
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
theday.com said it was a bad idea. (One commenter called for our public
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
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.
Pricing Plan Is Dead, Assembly Speaker Says
By Nicholas Confessore
April 7, 2008, 3:01 pm
Updated, 3:20 p.m. | ALBANY — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s ambitious
dream to remake New York City streets with an elaborate plan for
congestion pricing died on Tuesday in a private conference room on the
third floor of the state Capitol.
It was there that Democratic members of the State Assembly, who control
the chamber, held one final meeting to debate the merit’s of Mr.
Bloomberg’s plan, ultimately voting—in secret—against the idea. The
opposition was so overwhelming, said Sheldon Silver, the Assembly
speaker, that he would not hold an open vote of the full Assembly,
though many Republicans were supportive of Mr. Bloomberg.
“The congestion pricing bill did not have anywhere near a majority of
the Democratic conference, and will not be on the floor of the
Assembly,” Mr. Silver said following his meeting with fellow Democrats.
Today was the deadline for the Legislature to approve a congestion
pricing plan so that the city could qualify for $354 million in federal
grants for traffic mitigation and mass transit aid.
The collapse of the plan, which would have charged drivers $8 to enter
parts of Manhattan during peak hours, was a massive blow to Mr.
Bloomberg’s environmental agenda and political legacy, and his second
major defeat in recent at the hands of Mr. Silver and the state
Assembly, which in 2005 blocked the mayor’s plan to redevelop the West
Mr. Bloomberg and his supporters—including a vast array of civic
environmental organizations, as well as key city officials like the
City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, and other elected
officials—viewed the proposal as a farsighted and essential step
towards the city’s future growth. But the plan was strongly opposed by
a broad array of politicians from Queens, Brooklyn, and New York’s
suburbs, who viewed the proposed congestion fee as regressive and
“The word ‘elitist’ came up a number of times,” said Assemblyman Mark
S. Weprin, a Queens Democrat. His constituents, Mr. Weprin said, almost
uniformly opposed the measure.
“The members who oppose it did so because their constituents opposed
it,” said Mr. Weprin, who estimated that opinion among Assembly
Democrats ran four to one against the plan.
The mayor had furiously advocated state and city officials for nearly a
year and worked to assembly a coalition of business, transportation,
environmental and labor groups to support the plan.
In recent weeks, the plan had seemed to gain momentum, as the mayor
managed to secure support from Gov. David A. Paterson and from the City
Council, which on March 31 voted, 30 to 20, to endorse the plan. But up
through this afternoon the fate of the plan had seemed uncertain. The
Republican leader of the State Senate, Joseph L. Bruno, gave his
support the plan, and even Mr. Silver, the Assembly speaker, voiced
partial support for it, though adding that he did not believe the
members of the Assembly’s Democratic majority were convinced.
It was on April 22 last year — Earth Day — that the mayor unveiled his
plan for the traffic fees.
Approves Fee to Drive Below 60th
The controversial proposal to charge drivers in the busiest
parts of Manhattan took a major step forward on Monday, with Mayor
Michael R. Bloomberg and Speaker Christine C. Quinn wrenching approval
from the City Council by an unusually slim margin.
Under intense pressure from the mayor, Ms. Quinn
and their allies that continued almost until the voting began, council
members approved the plan to charge most drivers $8 to enter a zone
below 60th Street by a vote of 30 to 20, with no abstentions and one
At a news conference after the vote, where Mr. Bloomberg made
a rare appearance on the speaker’s side of City Hall, officials sought
to play down the narrowness of their hard-won victory, among the
closest of this administration in a body that typically votes in near
Approving the proposal, Ms. Quinn said, would send a message
to the Legislature that the “people who were elected to represent the
New Yorkers who live in our five boroughs are sick and tired of our
streets being clogged with traffic, we’re sick and tired of the
children who live in our city literally having to fight to be able to
breathe, and that we see congestion pricing as a solution to this
But the ultimate fate of the proposal now resides in Albany,
where the intentions of lawmakers whose approval is needed remained
unclear. Gov. David A. Paterson and the Senate majority leader, Joseph
L. Bruno, have expressed their support. But Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver, who has derailed Mr. Bloomberg’s ambitions in the past,
remained noncommittal, telling members of the Democratic conference on
Sunday night that he would not take the issue up until the state budget
If the Assembly waits to act until after the budget, it could
threaten the bill’s chances in the Senate, because it would come before
the Legislature as a stand-alone item, making approval more elusive.
Several council members complained as they voted that the mayor had
reneged on a promise that they would not be asked to take up the
measure until the State Legislature had agreed to support the proposal.
But other council members took the vote as a sign that Mr.
Silver would ultimately back the plan, since Ms. Quinn had said
privately that she would not call for a vote until she had an
indication that it would gain approval from the state.
But Mr. Silver said that he had made no such assurance.
“I told her it’s not before us until they vote on it,” he
said. “And we will deal with the issue after we pass a budget.”
Speaking to reporters with Ms. Quinn, Mr. Bloomberg seemed
particularly defensive about Mr. Silver. Asked if they had any
indication that leaders in Albany would approve the proposal, Ms. Quinn
said that she had received calls from Mr. Paterson and Mr. Bruno urging
that the Council “move as quickly as possible and do what we did today,
so I thought that was a very good sign.”
In response to a question about Mr. Silver, though, Mr.
Bloomberg approached the lectern, sidestepped the question and then cut
off the line of inquiry, saying they could not speak for Albany leaders.
Technically, the Council approved a measure known as a home
rule message, which is a request for the State Legislature to pass the
plan as outlined in a bill introduced into the Senate. The Legislature
has until April 7 to approve the program or risk losing roughly $350
million in federal money to help offset the costs of starting the plan.
Mr. Bloomberg has said that much of that money would go toward
increasing bus service in underserved areas.
Although the administration and the Council’s leadership were
able to gain support with promises of programs, projects and political
aid in upcoming campaigns — as well as threats of taking those things
away — opposition remained strong. Several council members argued that
it was unfair to essentially tax residents to move around their own
city, that even after they voted to support the proposal, the
Legislature could approve a different version, and that revenues would
not necessarily go toward the promised transit improvements.
“This plan, while wrapped up in three incredibly important
and laudable goals,” including cleaning the air, reducing traffic and
paying for mass transit, said Lewis A. Fidler, a Brooklyn councilman
who strongly opposed the plan, “is designed to deter people from coming
into a part of the city if they can’t afford it.”
He added: “What’s next? We’re going to charge a user fee to
come into Central Park because it’s crowded?”
Dodgers Get Creative, Eyes of E-ZPass Are Watching
By KEN BELSON
Published: February 11, 2008
Cameras photographing cars from just about every imaginable angle.
High-speed optical readers instantly scanning E-ZPass tags. Two dozen
“image review clerks” hunched over computers in their cubicles
examining thousands of photographs each day, waiting to pounce.
While some people want to make a killing at the tables in Atlantic
City, others have more a modest goal: saving as little as 35 cents by
trying to beat the tolls at the area’s myriad bridges, tunnels and
highways. But the skimming adds up. The operators of E-ZPass in New
York estimate that about $13 million is lost each year to artful, and
in some cases artless, toll dodgers.
When it comes to tracking down these evaders, Joseph Crosby has seen
all of the stunts to block the cameras that photograph every vehicle
with a missing or defective tag: cardboard license plates, plastic
covers obscuring numbers, and once, a baby dangled from the back of a
In some cases, tractor-trailer drivers remove the front license plate,
which is registered to the driver of the cab. The evaders hope that
without a front plate, the cameras will be able to photograph only the
back license plate, which is registered to the owner of the trailer,
who will not take the time to track down the driver.
“We’re seeing that more,” Mr. Crosby said, sitting in his cubicle at
the E-ZPass service center on Staten Island surrounded by pictures of
his dream cars — Porsches, Lamborghinis — pinned to the walls. “Of
course, the cameras capture the front and back license plates.”
The losses are hard to ignore when lawmakers across the country are
trying to squeeze whatever money they can from their roads, bridges and
tunnels, particularly in the dozen states that accept E-ZPass. Take
Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New
York, who want to raise tolls to reduce congestion and to pay for huge
That is why Mr. Crosby and the other image review clerks are on the
front lines of the never-ending battle to track down evaders who avoid
paying tolls, wittingly or not. They each examine about 1,500 photos a
day to identify the license plate numbers of the cars and trucks that
go through E-ZPass toll booths without the electronic tags, or with
ones that were broken or expired.
“If you let the bad guys get away with it, the good guys won’t pay,”
said John Riccardi, a liaison for the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey at the service center.
The chase shows no sign of slackening. The number of electronic tags
issued by the Port Authority, the New York State Thruway Authority and
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reached 9.8 million last
year, up 8 percent compared with 2006 and triple the number in 1999.
More than 71 percent of all drivers used E-ZPass at the Port
Authority’s tunnels and bridges last year, up from 45 percent in 1999.
And with all three agencies poised to raise tolls this year, the number
of evaders is likely to rise along with them.
Last year, Mr. Crosby and his colleagues reviewed 8.6 million photos of
license plates, which the agencies declined to release copies of,
citing privacy reasons. While that represented less than 2 percent of
the 460 million E-ZPass transactions the three agencies handled, it
amounted to millions of dollars in potentially lost revenue.
Over all, the agencies collected $1.6 billion in E-ZPass transactions
in 2007, the bulk of it from New York and New Jersey residents. The
three agencies and ACS, the company based in Dallas that was hired to
handle the processing of tolls, have an elaborate system in place to
track down delinquents, particularly those from outside the region. The
key is the list of valid and invalid tag numbers sent every day to
computer drives in every tollbooth.
As a vehicle drives through an E-ZPass lane, a high-speed optical
reader almost instantly identifies the tag mounted to a dashboard or
windshield and matches it against the list to see if the holder has
enough money set aside to pay the toll.
Almost 90 percent of customers link their accounts to credit cards,
which are automatically billed. The remainder use cash or a check to
pay their bills.
Of course, there are the more playful — or vengeful — customers who
mail in coins and even cookies, presumably as a bribe. One time,
$10,000 in cash arrived and was promptly handed over to the police.
Another time, a customer returned his $4 refund check with instructions
that the money be used to fix the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Assuming that the driver’s account is not overdue, a gate will swing up
or a green light will illuminate. If the account has lapsed or no tag
has been identified, as many as five cameras will snap pictures of the
front and back license plates.
Within two or three days, those pictures are forwarded to Mr. Crosby
and his colleagues, who pull them up on computers. They enter the
location of the picture, the time and date the vehicle passed through,
the license plate number and state, and the type of car or truck.
Some states have hundreds of different styles of license plates,
complicating the process and sending Mr. Crosby scurrying to his
well-worn copy of “The Official License Plate Book,” which lists
historical plates, vanity plates and a variety of others.
After the plate numbers are matched against an active account, the
customer is billed. Drivers who forget their E-ZPass tags and drive
through a toll gate will find out that they have been billed when they
receive their monthly statements.
“You wouldn’t even know if it happened,” said Helen Barton, the senior
director at ACS for the Northeast. She added that these drivers were
not assessed any penalties.
Tracking down drivers without accounts is more time-consuming. Getting
the names and addresses of delinquent drivers can take up to two weeks
if it involves calling states without computerized license plate
Then there are the disputes. Sometimes the camera malfunctions, and
sometimes it can be covered with snow or grime. Or the plates have
purposely been obscured.
“When in doubt, we reject it,” said Mr. Riccardi, of the Port
Authority, referring to pictures in which the license plates are
ACS employs 180 telephone operators; they answered about five million
phone calls last year, including thousands from drivers who insisted
that they had been wrongly charged. Another team handled more than
400,000 faxes, letters and e-mail messages.
Customers who have been confronted will often argue that they were
mistakenly billed — until they are told that pictures of their license
plates are on file. In other cases, the operators may ask callers if a
son or daughter might have surreptitiously borrowed the car. A
surprising number of customers then back down, Mr. Riccardi said.
A customer with a pattern of violations may be treated differently from
someone calling for the first time about a toll payment, Mr. Riccardi
Travel patterns are also crucial. Operators may have more sympathy for
a driver who claimed he was mistakenly billed for a trip across the
Tappan Zee Bridge, for instance, if his record showed that he used
E-ZPass to cross the Goethals Bridge every day.
“With any human task, there’s always going to be mistakes,” Ms. Barton
said. “But it’s a pretty low rate compared to the number of
transactions we handle.”
Pricing Plan Is Panned in Albany
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: January 31, 2008
A plan to ease traffic in Manhattan received harsh reviews this week in
Just 48 hours before a state commission is expected to recommend a
proposal that would charge drivers an $8 daily fee to enter the area of
Manhattan below 60th Street, the panel’s chairman, Marc V. Shaw, heard
Democratic members of the Assembly speak out against it on Tuesday.
The traffic commission is expected to vote on the plan, which would
raise money to pay for mass transit, on Thursday. The plan is a
slimmed-down version of a proposal made last year by Mayor Michael R.
“I think people expressed their concerns,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon
Silver said, in typical low-key fashion, of the meeting on Tuesday
between Mr. Shaw and dozens of Assembly Democrats.
Others had a less measured view of the exchange.
“I would say that the idea of congestion pricing and the commission’s
proposals got hammered, and it was in a comprehensive way,” said Rory
I. Lancman, a Queens assemblyman who attended the meeting. “Every
aspect of the proposals were hashed out, were analyzed and were found
to be wanting.”
Mr. Shaw has been making the rounds in Albany as he tries to drum up
support for a traffic-busting plan in advance of the commission’s vote.
“Marc stood there for three hours and took his beating like a man,” Mr.
He said more than 30 legislators expressed objections, and only one
spoke in favor of the plan.
The chorus of opposition from Assembly members, most of them from the
city and its suburbs, is significant because the support of the State
Legislature is needed to carry out congestion pricing. The Assembly is
also far less likely to pass legislation opposed by members whose
districts would be directly affected.
State law requires that the commission’s recommendation on how best to
reduce traffic in Manhattan to go first to the City Council. If it wins
approval there, and from Mayor Bloomberg, the Legislature would be
authorized to take it up.
Mr. Shaw said the Tuesday meeting allowed the legislators to raise
And he portrayed the commission’s expected recommendation as merely the
start of a new phase in the process, which will focus on how the
approximately $500 million a year raised by congestion pricing would be
used to improve mass transportation in the region.
“It’s not surprising that the members’ concerns are about how this
money’s going to be spent,” he said. But others who attended the
meeting said that many objections centered on the details of how a
congestion pricing plan would be structured.
“There was considerable opposition” said Hakeem Jeffries, an
assemblyman from Brooklyn who attended part of the meeting. “Not to the
notion of doing something, to dealing with congestion or even to
congestion pricing. But there’s opposition to the way it has been
presented and developed so far.”
Mr. Jeffries said the plan unfairly favored drivers entering Manhattan
from New Jersey because it would give them a credit for tolls paid on
the tunnels or bridges across the Hudson River. With tolls during rush
hours on those crossings set to rise to $8, that would mean that those
drivers would not make any additional payments under the congestion
plan and would not have an incentive to avoid driving into the city.
And while drivers who pay tolls on bridges and tunnels within New York
City, like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge or the Midtown Tunnel, would
also receive a credit, Mr. Jeffries said he was concerned about the
many city drivers who currently pay no toll by using the free crossings
over the East River. Those drivers, he said, most of them city
residents, would feel the greatest impact from the charge.
“For the plan to have a chance to gain majority support, then, I would
think it should be balanced in terms of who bears the burdens of trying
to reduce congestion,” he said.
Mr. Shaw said that the issue of how to treat drivers entering from New
Jersey needed to be addressed but that a solution to the problem was
probably not going to be in the plan that the commission will vote on.
Mr. Shaw has also received a letter signed by 16 of the 18 members of
the Assembly delegation from Queens opposing the congestion pricing
Members Expect to Endorse Fees on Cars
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
Published: January 25, 2008
The state commission studying ways to reduce traffic in Manhattan is
likely to recommend that lawmakers approve a slimmed-down version of
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan when it holds its
final meeting next week, according to several members of the panel.
While the mayor sought to impose an $8 fee on cars entering Manhattan
on weekdays below 86th Street, the modified plan would move that
boundary south to 60th Street. In another change from Mr. Bloomberg’s
proposal, it would not charge people for vehicle trips that take place
within the zone.
The money raised, estimated at close to $500 million a year, would pay
for expanding and modernizing the Metropolitan Transportation
Authority’s mass transit system.
People involved in the discussions, however, said that many details of
the proposal were still in flux as officials sought to address the
concerns of legislators and critics who have raised objections to the
One of the advantages of the modified plan, supporters say, is that by
eliminating the charge on trips within the congestion zone, the city
could avoid the expense of creating and operating a vast network of
E-ZPass readers and cameras to record license plates of cars traveling
around Manhattan. A result would be more revenue for the transit
Minimizing the number of cameras would also address privacy concerns.
“I think the public hearings and the research that’s taken place over
the last five months has resulted in a much better proposal than the
original one,” said Kathryn S. Wylde, a commission member and the
president of the Partnership for New York City, a business group that
has pushed for congestion pricing.
Ms. Wylde and seven other members of the commission contacted this week
said that they believed the panel was likely to recommend a modified
version of the mayor’s plan over other ideas, including a proposal for
tolls on the bridges over the East River and the Harlem River.
The 17-member commission is required to make a recommendation by next
Thursday on how best to reduce traffic while also raising money for
mass transit projects. Its proposal will be taken up by the City
Council and then go to the State Legislature, which is required by law
to consider it by March 31.
Several commission members said this week that they felt a toll
proposal was even more controversial than the congestion charge and
that it might be rejected by the City Council. Marc V. Shaw, the
commission chairman, has been the strongest proponent of tolls and said
that he was not yet ready to give up on the idea. He said that he hoped
that the commission’s recommendation would be consistent with the goal
of coordinating the toll policies of the transportation authority and
the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Told that several commission members said they expected the modified
congestion pricing plan to emerge as the commission’s recommendation,
Mr. Shaw said, “I think that you’re hearing an accurate rendition of
how people have responded thus far to the various options.”
Another option was a proposal to ban vehicles from a Manhattan
congestion zone one day a week based on the last digits of their
license plates. That plan has been promoted by Assemblyman Richard L.
Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who is a commission member. One of the
most vocal opponents of congestion pricing, Mr. Brodsky also said that
he expected the modified plan to be approved next week, although he
would oppose it.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt about it,” he said. “They’re driving
this toward the mayor’s plan with a few small modifications, most of
which make it worse.”
pricing commission members appointed
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.
The group will make a recommendation by the end of January. If it does
not approve Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, it must recommend
another solution that projects at least a 6 percent decrease in
traffic, which is the reduction forecast by Bloomberg for his plan.
The federal government has promised to kick in $354 million toward the
city's traffic mitigation plans if Bloomberg can get the commission,
the City Council and the state Legislature to sign on by March of next
year. As the commission begins the review process, Bloomberg
appears to have a majority of congestion pricing supporters. At least
10 of the appointees are in favor of the idea.
The members appointed by Bloomberg are: his Department of
Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn, Gene Russianoff from
the New York Public Interest Research Group and the Straphangers
Campaign, and civil rights attorney Elizabeth Yeampierre, who serves on
the mayor's planning board.
Gov. Eliot Spitzer's members are also in favor: Bloomberg's former
first deputy mayor, Marc Shaw, Port Authority of New York and New
Jersey Executive Director Anthony Shorris and the executive director of
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Elliot Sander.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appointed two members who staunchly
oppose congestion pricing: Assemblyman Herman Farrell Jr. and
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. He also appointed Assemblywoman Vivian
Cook, whose position was unknown.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno appointed a congestion pricing
supporter, New York City Central Labor Council President Gary
LaBarbera, and two whose positions were not known: State University of
New York Chairman Thomas F. Egan and Nassau County Council Chamber of
Commerce President Richard Bivone.
Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith appointed Gerard Romski, counsel
and project director of Arverne by the Sea, a mixed-use development. It
was not known whether he supports congestion pricing.
Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco appointed a supporter, Andy
Darrell, Environmental Defense New York regional director.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn appointed two clear supporters,
Drum Major Institute Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger and
Kathryn Wylde, president of Partnership for New York City. Greater
Allen Cathedral CFO Edwin Reed also was appointed, and his position was
Sen. McDonald not related to the fast
food company, we think.
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.
- How does helicopter-small plane crash (see
graphic above) figure into the FAA
flight path issue? CLICK HERE
for graphic illustrating how this happened.
- F.A.A. separates the issues of general aviation and
commercial flights, so we understand now, in July of 2009 - graphic here.
- Att'y General makes Federal Case;
- So what
else is news? The runway design, for one. Also, "About
Town" wonders about this "proximity event" -
NTSB to investigate?
Was it a computer system design bug (handoff from Westbury to JFK)?
EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE...
Remember Cory Lidle's crash on the East River side of town?
National Air Traffic Controllers
Association: Don't blame Teterboro controllers for Hudson collision
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
By Brian Kates
Friday, August 14th 2009, 8:51 AM
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association condemned the
suspension of two Teterboro controllers, one of whom was talking to his
girlfriend on a phone at the time of the last week's mid-air collision
over the Hudson River.
The air traffic controllers who were AWOL during the fatal mid-air
collision over the Hudson River had nothing to do with the crash and
it's "insulting" to discipline them, their union said Friday.
"For the FAA to sit there and allude or make accusations that the
controller had anything to do with this accident is absolutely absurd
and very insulting," said Barrett Burns, from the National Air Traffic
An air traffic controller at Teterboro Airport was yakking on the phone
with his girlfriend, and his supervisor wasn't in the control tower
when the crash took place, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.
The two were not identified.
While the FAA said it did not appear that they had anything to do with
the disaster, they were removed from duty immediately and the feds have
begun disciplinary proceedings.
They were on duty when nine people were killed when a single engine
Piper plane with three aboard clipped a sight-seeing Liberty Helicopter
carrying a pilot and five Italian tourists, the FAA said.
The controller had cleared the single engine plane for takeoff before
making the call to his girlfriend. He was still on the phone when he
handed off control of the plane to nearby Newark airport, which
monitors low flying traffic on the Hudson.
Wreckage from the crash will be transported to Delaware today for
further investigation, officials said.
National Transportation Safety Board and FAA investigators learned of
the telephone conversation earlier this week while examining Teterboro
Air traffic controllers are expected to be focused and alert at all
times and are given frequent breaks, at least 15 minutes every two
The news of the disciplinary action came as new amateur video emerged
showing the collision. Investigators had been searching for such
footage to aid in their investigation.
The video, taken by a tourist on a boat in the Hudson, shows the two
pilots likely couldn't see each other because of blind spots.
The plane was found Monday, 60 feet underwater, and raised later. The
helicopter was recovered in 30 feet of water Sunday.
In the wake of the accident, critics are calling for more flight
restrictions in the crowded Hudson River corridor, where aircraft
flying below 1,100 feet are virtually on their own, with no air traffic
controllers guiding them.
"It is unconscionable that the FAA permits unregulated flights in a
crowded airspace in a major metropolitan area," said Rep. Jerrold
Nadler (D-Manhattan), who serves on the House Transportation and
GUY WAS GABBING WITH GAL
New York Post
By ANDY GELLER
August 14, 2009 --
The Teterboro air traffic controller handling the single-engine Piper
plane that slammed into a chopper was gabbing on the phone to his
girlfriend when the horrific midair collision happened, sources said
In addition, his supervisor was not in the control tower at the time.
As a result, both men have been suspended and face disciplinary
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is probing last
Saturday's deadly crash, learned of the lapses while listening to tapes
of Teterboro's control tower and passed the info to the FAA.
"We learned that the controller handling the Piper flight was involved
in apparently inappropriate conversations on the telephone at the time
of the accident," the FAA said. "We also learned that the supervisor
was not present in the building as required."
The sources said the controller had his headset on to listen to
communications from the Piper, but at the same time was talking to his
girlfriend on a landline. The FAA said that while it had no
reason to believe the actions contributed to the crash, "this kind of
conduct is unacceptable."
NTSB investigators are probing whether the Piper pilot, Steven Altman,
60, received conflicting instructions from the Teterboro tower.
NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said Altman received permission to fly
in regulated space above 1,100 feet, but never contacted the Newark
tower, which controls it.
She also released a snippet of conversation in which Altman told the
Teterboro controller he wanted to fly in unregulated space below 1,100
Controller on phone during Hudson
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.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Thursday that a
controller at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and his supervisor have
been placed on administrative leave because the controller was involved
in "apparently inappropriate conversations" at the time of the crash
between a small plane and a tour helicopter that killed nine people.
The agency said while there was no reason to believe thus far that the
employees' actions contributed to the accident, such "conduct is
The controller had handed off the monitoring of the small plane
involved in the collision to another airport shortly before the plane
collided with a tour helicopter. The two employees, who were not
identified, were placed on administrative leave with pay. The FAA said
it has begun disciplinary proceedings against the pair.
Three members of a Pennsylvania family on the plane and five Italian
tourists and a pilot on the helicopter were killed when the two
stricken aircraft plunged into the river.
The FAA said the supervisor also was not in the building at the time,
The controller had cleared the small plane, a single-engine Piper, for
takeoff and then made a personal call to a woman, said sources familiar
with the investigation, who asked not to be named because they weren't
authorized to speak publicly.
While still on the phone, the controller handed off the Piper to the
control tower at Newark Liberty International Airport, which monitors
low-flying air traffic over the Hudson but doesn't actively try to keep
aircraft separated, they said. The controller was still on the phone
when the accident occurred. This sequence of events lasted only a few
National Transportation Safety Board and FAA investigators learned of
the telephone conversation earlier this week while examining recordings
of telephone calls on a landline phone in the tower that controllers
use to communicate with other parts of the Teterboro Airport. The
controller and supervisor were removed from duty immediately. Air
traffic controllers are expected to be alert at all times while on duty
and typically are given about a 15-minute break roughly every two hours
for that reason.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the labor union
representing controllers, said in a statement that it supports a full
investigation of the allegations "before there is a rush to judgment."
Teterboro Airport, located directly across the Hudson River from New
York City near the George Washington Bridge, handles corporate and
private aircraft. It is operated by the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey and handles nearly 200,000 flights a year.
Bares Longtime Rift Over Air
By AL BAKER
August 14, 2009
Roughly 15 years ago, the federal agency that investigates air
disasters made a plea for more data on the air-tour industry, to
improve safety for helicopter, airplane, balloon and airship flights
around the nation. Six years later, it asked again.
In 2007, the agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, told the
Federal Aviation Administration that it wanted to require air-tour
operators to track complaints about pilot performance. This year, it
said instruments to track a flight’s vital signs — flight data
recorders — should be customary in helicopters and other tour aircraft,
to aid in investigating fatal accidents.
To date, however, none of those recommendations have been carried out,
according to safety board officials. And when the F.A.A. or other
government regulatory agencies have acted, the board said, it has taken
them years to do.
Deborah A. P. Hersman, the safety board chairwoman, in an interview
Thursday sharply criticized a process that, she said, sometimes takes
“2 years, 4 years, 10 years” to see the board’s recommendations
“We issue them because we think they can save lives and improve
safety,” Ms. Hersman said of the board’s recommendations. The board
does not have the authority to carry out or enforce its recommendations.
A safety board team was back at work Saturday, this time investigating
the midair collision between a small fixed-wing airplane and a New York
sightseeing helicopter over the Hudson River. The safety board, its
officials have made clear, is all but sure to make another set of
recommendations specific to this crash, which killed nine people.
But the history between the safety board, an advisory body set up by
Congress four decades ago, and the F.A.A., which regulates planes,
pilots and airlines, suggests that any changes may not happen quickly.
“To its credit, the N.T.S.B. makes lots of recommendations after each
incident, and in fairness, the F.A.A. cannot expeditiously act on every
one of those,” said Patrick Smith, a commercial airline pilot and
aviation author. “Now, having said that, the F.A.A. does tend to be
slow moving on certain issues.”
Laura J. Brown, an F.A.A. spokeswoman, said that there had been fewer
accidents in the air tour industry over the years.
“We have steadily improved air tour safety,” she said.
Sometimes, to be sure, the F.A.A. can move quickly.
It did so in 2006, when it tightened air restrictions above the East
River “within two days” after the New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle
and his flight instructor were killed when their plane crashed into a
building, Ms. Brown said. “We issued the change before they issued the
recommendations,” she said. “But there are other situations that
She said the agency was considering an immediate reaction to the Hudson
crash: making it mandatory for pilots in the uncontrolled air corridor
to announce their location and intentions on a common radio frequency
whose use is now voluntary.
“We welcome their taking some action, but we certainly don’t feel it
goes far enough, said Robert M. Gottheim, district manager for
Congressman Jerrold L. Nadler, a Democrat who represents the West Side
A review of 15 years of interaction between the safety board and the
F.A.A. over the air-tour industry, and its pilots and practices,
reveals a slow-moving process.
The safety board and the F.A.A. have a long history of being frustrated
with each other in matters involving major airliners or crashes of
commercial jetliners, and there are various theories about why. On the
one hand, the safety board sometimes proposes fixes that require
technological advances or are viewed as too costly. On the other, the
F.A.A. is sometimes criticized as working too closely and protectively
with the airline industry.
In this case, the friction is arising over the much smaller air-tour
industry — which involves an uncertain but limited number of daily
flights for purposes like tourism or recreation and carries an
estimated two million passengers a year, compared with the roughly
70,000 daily commercial airline flights that move 550 million
passengers a year.
In 1995, the safety board undertook its most rigorous study of the
air-tour industry, examining 139 accidents from Alaska to Hawaii to
Maine. It called for certain steps to be carried out nationally: to
gather more data on the numbers of air-tour operations and to ensure
flight safety in scenic or closed-in areas, which suggests regulating
airspeed in some cases and flying altitudes in others.
But the recommendations that it issued in a final report on improving
safety took years to negotiate and were never carried out to the
“We know how many accidents there are, but we don’t know how many
flights there are,” Ms. Hersman said. “They are trying to make
improvements, but we would like to see better data, and that would help
us do more appropriate risk analysis.”
Ms. Brown, of the F.A.A., could not immediately address all of the
safety board’s complaints about each recommendation.
She said Saturday’s crash was the first midair collision involving an
air tour helicopter since 1998. And, after the agency put into practice
new safety rules for the industry in 2007, the number of air-tour
crashes fell to 8 annually from an average of 13 a year over the
previous five years, Ms. Brown said.
It has not been determined whether any of the prior recommendations
made by the safety board would have applied to the flights involved in
the midair crash in New York. But some people think they would have.
“In the air-tour industry, we had problems in New York and in Alaska
and over the Grand Canyon, but it was certainly not isolated,” said
James E. Hall, who was the safety board chairman who oversaw the 1995
After investigating the midair collision of two helicopters in Phoenix
in July 2007, the safety board issued a call for crash-resistant flight
recorder systems to become common equipment on a wide variety of
aircraft, including touring helicopters.
Despite their importance, flight recorders and cockpit voice recorders
have proved difficult to justify by certain cost-benefit analyses, Mr.
Ms. Hersman and Matthew S. Zuccaro, the president of the Helicopter
Association International, agreed that newer technology for helicopters
could cost up to $12,000 per unit and roughly $40,000 for older models.
In the end, said John J. Farmer, the former New Jersey attorney general
who served as the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, fixes
sometimes take time.
“I think you have to avoid the temptation every time an accident occurs
to think there is a systemic fix that will prevent any kind of similar
actions from occurring in the future,” he said.
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.
"These new flight paths are based on defective data . . . ," he said,
adding, "We will continue to fight the FAA flight plan in the political
forum, if not in the courtroom."
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the plan will be introduced in stages,
with the goal of a complete changeover to the new flight paths set for
2012. Danbury, Ridgefield, Redding, Bridgewater and nine other
municipalities formed the Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning in
2007 and sued the FAA to overturn the flight plan changes. Former
New Canaan First Selectwoman Judy Neville, who helped spearhead the
effort, said she plans to support further efforts to fight the plan.
The FAA plan pairs the introduction of about 500 additional daily
flights over Fairfield County skies, according to Neville, with the
reduction of what the FAA estimates will be 200,000 hours worth of
delays each year at New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania airports.
"People are not taking this seriously because it has not been
completely implemented," Neville said. "They will."
She added, "I'm disappointed, (but) I'm not surprised in the decision.
It was typical of the attitude when we were in Washington, D.C. (to
testify against the flight paths) in May."
New Canaan First Selectman Jeb Walker said the decision was not
unexpected, but he was surprised the Supreme Court did not release a
statement with the decision. Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy
Marconi said he was not discouraged by the news.
"If people feel that we fought the fight and it's time to let go, we'll
let go . . . but I'm not one to give up," he said.
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 August, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of
Columbia rejected Blumenthal's bid to overturn the court's earlier June
verdict that found that the Federal Aviation Administration made a
flawed environmental analysis of the impact of the plans and did not
give adequate consideration to using alternate flight paths over Long
Island Sound to mitigate the noise impact on communities.
Blumenthal said the court should look at the changed flight paths,
redesigned by the Federal Aviation Administration, because a decision
this summer by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
that affirmed the changes violated Connecticut's right to protect
residents from harmful federal policies.
"We are asking the Supreme Court to ground a bad decision - to override
the FAA and its failure to follow the law and its own rules,"
Blumenthal said Tuesday. "The FAA is flying above the law enabled by a
bad appeals court ruling."
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
The changes would bring
an additional 150 flights over Fairfield County each day.
In June, a three-judge panel concluded the FAA had performed
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.
upholds FAA flight paths
By Martin B. Cassidy, STAFF
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
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."
Blumenthal and two attorneys
representing an alliance of towns in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey
and Pennsylvania argued that the flight patterns should be struck down
for violating the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act
and other regulations because the FAA's environmental analysis
illegally downplayed how much noise and emissions the increased air
traffic would create. The
panel found that the FAA completed a flawed but generally accurate
forecast of future air traffic.
"The FAA concluded the forecast,
although not perfect, still captured the general flow and magnitude of
the traffic in a way that can show differences among the proposed
alternatives," the decision said.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the
decision "speaks for itself."
Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said he
disagrees with the flight path plan.
"We do not believe the FAA acted
appropriately under their own rules and regulations with regard to
hearings and considering the impact on residents, but ultimately that's
a decision for the courts to make," Malloy said.
Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss
said the FAA did not follow its own policies for public hearings and
addressing environmental concerns.
"It's actually pretty scary because
the FAA did not comply with the law, and it seems the court went out of
its way to ignore it and approve the plans," Bliss said.
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 New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York,
and transferred it from New York to Washington, D.C. Blumenthal
said pursuing the case is important to try to correct an inadequate
vetting of the plan, including a failure to meet a federal requirement
to consider alternative routes.
"This court decision would leave the
FAA unchecked and unaccountable for its failures to consider less
damaging alternatives," Blumenthal said.
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
Blumenthal and two other attorneys representing an alliance of towns
made their case before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia. The flight patterns should be struck down
for violating the Clean Air Act and other regulations because the
Federal Aviation Administration's environmental analysis downplayed how
much noise and emissions the increased air traffic would create, they
Under the changes, up to 150 additional planes would fly over Fairfield
County each day, and the number of holding patterns before landings
would increase, Blumenthal said. Some of the data used to
the environmental effects was inaccurate, he said.
"These FAA flight paths fly in the face of reason and law, completely
disregarding the impact of noise levels on highly populated areas
throughout the Northeast," Blumenthal said. "The FAA knew it had
defective data on noise and traffic, but then inexplicably refused to
correct the data."
If the court finds the FAA improperly approved the changes, the judges
would order the agency to do another analysis and redesign the plan,
Blumenthal said. In a brief filed with the court, the FAA said
paths have to be changed to assure safe and efficient air traffic
control procedures, accommodate growth and reduce delays in the
airspace over New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
According to the FAA, the added air and noise pollution would not be
significant, and the moves would eliminate more than 200,000 hours in
flight delays. Lane McFadden, an attorney presenting the FAA's
arguments Monday, referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice
Public Affairs Office. McFadden's co-counsel, Mary Gay-Sprague, could
not be reached for comment. Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the
Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, declined to comment.
Blumenthal said FAA administrators used questionable data, including
inaccurate statistics about the volume of flights out of Newark
International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in
2006, which skewed the report's findings.
"All of their modeling now includes this incorrect data," Blumenthal
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
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
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
"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.
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
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.
Blumenthal questioned the FAA's assessments.
”This plan reflects unfounded assumptions, selective omissions and
outright denial of facts,” he said. “In a sleight of hand, the agency
considered each impact separately instead of cumulatively - as they
would actually affect residents and fragile wildlife areas - severely
skewing its conclusions.”
The FAA began implementing the plan shortly after its adoption and
expects it to be fully implemented by 2011. The agency estimates the
new patterns will reduce delays by up to 20 percent.
At least a dozen communities in several states are suing the FAA over
the new flight pattern plan, and Congress has ordered the Government
Accountability Office to examine the agency's method for choosing the
Blumenthal's legal brief claims the alleged violations by the FAA
“prevented 30 million people living throughout the 31,180 square miles
in five states covered by the project area from fully understanding how
the project will affect the air they breathe, the noise they experience
and the parks they enjoy.”
The 10 Connecticut towns involved in the filing of the new legal brief
include New Canaan, Greenwich, Ridgefield, Weston, Wilton, Norwalk,
Darien, Stamford, Redding and Westport.
The other plaintiffs are Rockland County, N.Y.; Delaware County, Pa.;
the Timbers Civic Association; Friends of Rockefeller State Park
Preserve; Bergen County, N.J.; the town of Teaneck, N.J.; The New
Jersey and Union County Freeholders Air Traffic and Noise Advisory
Board; the town of Elizabeth, N.J.; and The New Jersey Coalition
Against Aircraft Noise.
Blumenthal said his office has been discussing the flight patterns with
the other plaintiffs in the legal brief for months.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
On international routes, U.S. airlines typically fly twin-engine Boeing
777s, 767s or 757s, or Airbus A340s. Many airlines have opted for
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, a twin-engine aircraft that will carry between
210 and 330 passengers, instead of the A380. Far behind schedule,
Boeing is not expected to deliver any Dreamliners until next year, but
about 900 are on order.
The four-engine A380 will be able to carry as many as 850 passengers,
though a bit more than 500 is typical. Analysts do not foresee a day
when airlines would use it within the United States, even
"It would be like, 'Would you use a Lincoln Town Car to drive to your
friend's house across the street?'" said Michael Miller, an airline
consultant based in Florida.
Nowadays, few, if any, U.S. airlines use the 747, the most comparable
aircraft by size, on domestic routes — or international routes, for
The A380 makes sense for Emirates, a relatively new and rapidly
expanding airline, because it is trying to gain market share from older
airlines, analysts said. Also, Emirates may not be able to get enough
landing slots at crowded airports to allow for more frequent flights on
smaller aircraft, they said. The airline has ordered 58 A380s in all.
Configured for 489 passengers, with 14 in first class and 76 in
business class, the aircraft scheduled to arrive today offers showers
to first-class passengers, among other amenities.
Emirates, which already offers twice-daily service between Dubai and
JFK on a Boeing 777, plans to add an A380 to the route three times a
week as of Aug. 8.
"The A380 is possibly right for them," Mann said. "It will be a number
of years before we know whether Singapore and Emirates and the others
who have ordered this will actually make money on it."
2nd near collision occurs at JFK airport
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
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said a Delta Flight 123 was arriving at the
airport Friday when the pilot decided to abort his landing and execute
a "go-around" - a routine procedure often used during heavy congestion.
That caused the Delta flight to intersect with the flight path of
Comair Flight 1520, a regional jet that was taking off on another
The FAA ordered new procedures Friday afternoon to change the way
takeoffs and landings on perpendicular runways are sequenced, Brown
said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The new procedures are designed to ensure "that aircraft of one runway
clear out of the path of the other runway before the second flight
comes down on the other runway," Brown said. "We've had two events
recently and I think we want to make sure the appropriate safety
margins are in place."
Last Saturday, a Cayman Airways flight was landing at JFK when the
pilot decided to abort the landing a fly around the airport again as a
LAN Chile jet was taking off. Their flight paths crossed, bringing the
planes within about 200 feet of each other vertically and a half-mile
horizontally. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating
On Friday, the Delta jet, a Boeing 757, and the Comair plane, a
Bombardier CRJ9, came within 600 feet of each other vertically and a
half-mile horizontally, the FAA said.
The agency said it was not classifying either incident as a "near
collision" because there was no violation of standards for how apart
planes can fly, Brown said.
Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin initially said the incident took place
a week ago on July 4. However, Laughlin later told The Associated Press
that the FAA was correct, and the incident took place on Friday at 1:20
p.m. Comair is a subsidiary of Delta.
"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
Dean Iacopelli, a representative for the New York National Air Traffic
Controllers Association, said the FAA has "terminated that
perpendicular simultaneous approach procedure."
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
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.
Lawmakers draft statement against FAA
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
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.
"I thought it was important that the state of Connecticut take as many
measures as possible and use the strongest of language to say how we
all feel about the wrongheaded decision of the FAA," said Sen. Bob
Duff, D-Norwalk, the committee vice chairman.
Duff said he will draft the resolution over the weekend. It would be
nonbinding but would serve as an official censure, he said.
Opponents have said that the redesign will damage the region's quality
of life and that the FAA did not sufficiently explore alternatives,
including the possibility of rerouting paths over less-populated areas.
The FAA has said the redesign will help ease congestion at New York
City area airports, among the nation's busiest and most delay-prone. A
Government Accountability Office study in 2005 estimated that the FAA's
plans, including the airspace redesign, would reduce delays in the
airports by 1 percent to 7 percent.
"As we have seen with the Broadwater plan in Long Island Sound, federal
officials give very little thought not only to their own facts, but to
public opinion," Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said in a statement.
Duff said he hopes the resolution, which will have to survive a vote by
the committee before it reaches the General Assembly, would help
support the plan's local opponents.
"It gives them an additional leverage to say that this is not just a
few people who care about this, but this is something that the entire
state feels is important," he said
Commuter Jet and Boeing 747 in Near Miss
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: December 11, 2007
A 37-seat commuter jet arriving at Kennedy Airport nearly collided with
a Boeing 747 cargo jet on Sunday afternoon when the Boeing, which was
supposed to land on a perpendicular runway, failed to do so and
continued across the smaller jet’s path, controllers at the airport’s
tower said yesterday.
Controllers were using the perpendicular runways to keep up with the
stream of arrivals. The runways are separated by a few feet of grass,
but the flight path from one leads directly across the other.
“These airplanes hooked up as much as you could hook up without
actually hooking up,” said Barrett Byrnes, the president of the Kennedy
tower chapter of the controllers’ union, the National Air Traffic
Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration,
said yesterday that the agency was reviewing radar data to see how
close the airplanes were, but was not immediately able to characterize
the situation. She said, “This was a controlled situation,” with both
planes given instructions after they aborted their approaches.
A spokesman for American Airlines, the commuter jet’s owner, said the
company’s crew members left at the end of their shift without filing
any reports of an unusual event. But Senator Charles E. Schumer, in
response to the news of the event, said he would meet with the acting
F.A.A. administrator to demand that new anticollision equipment be
installed at the airport.
Mr. Byrnes said the cargo plane, operated by EVA Air and arriving from
Anchorage, had been assigned to land on Runway 13 Left, but touched
down too far along the runway, so the pilot decided to take off again.
But the commuter plane, American Eagle Flight 753, arriving from
Montreal, was approaching Runway 22 Left. Although the runways are
perpendicular, the pavement is separated by several feet of grass and
do not intersect.
According to Mr. Byrnes, a controller in the tower told the American
Eagle plane, an Embraer 135, that the 747 would be passing in front of
it but that the American Eagle plane was cleared to land.
“Eagle comes back and says, ‘We’re going around,’” Mr. Byrnes said. He
told the commuter jet that it was cleared, but the pilot said again
that he would go around. The plane made a tight turn to the right, to
pass behind the 747, Mr. Byrnes said.
He said he did not know precisely how close the two planes came or how
much clearance the commuter jet would have had to land under the 747.
The turbulent wake of the 747 would have been a concern at low
altitude, Mr. Byrnes said.
Kennedy is increasingly using perpendicular runways to manage the flow
of traffic, which, controllers argue, adds risk to its operations.
From the "Jet Lagged" Blog
Traffic Jam in
By Patrick Smith
December 7, 2007, 7:40 pm
In case you haven’t noticed, flying has become more delay-prone than
ever. So far, 2007 has been the most delay-plagued year since the
government began keeping records, punctuated by a disastrous summer in
which millions of people around the country were stranded. How we got
to this point, and what can be done about it, aren’t always understood.
Step one is acknowledging what the trouble is. Contrary to what the
media, industry trade groups and certain politicians assert, there is
not an airspace crisis in this country. The problem exists in and
around major airports, not along the high-altitude flyways that connect
them. We are led to believe that if only our air traffic control system
could be modernized, the gridlock would disappear. This is a fallacy.
Yes, our air-traffic infrastructure is underfunded, outmoded and
inefficient. Fixing it will indeed pay certain dividends, including
shorter flight times, fuel savings, reduced emissions and somewhat
better traffic management during inclement weather. Those are good
things, but they ignore the fact that a runway can accept only so many
arrivals and departures per hour. Ultimately, we are dealing not with
an airspace problem so much as a groundspace problem.
Thus it was both puzzling and irritating when, just before
Thanksgiving, President Bush announced that several offshore air
corridors, usually restricted to military operations, would be opened
for civilian use. This “gift to the American people,” we were told,
would ease congestion during the year’s heaviest travel push. An
equally relevant option would have been organizing a group prayer or
rubbing a plastic airplane for good luck. To begin with, although
cabins tend to be fuller during the holidays, the overall number of
flights does not change significantly. Even if it did, the benefits of
Bush’s initiative would have been minimal.
Unfortunately for the airlines, the pressure is on to reduce and/or
consolidate flights. They can do this voluntarily, or the government
might force them to by imposing caps. For now at least, the industry
remains married to a somewhat self-defeating insistence that frequency
of flights, more than anything else, is the key to success. Record
numbers of people are traveling by air, but they are doing so in
smaller planes making more departures. The average jetliner has 137
seats — 23 fewer than five years ago. The use of regional jets, which
carry anywhere from 35 to 70 passengers, has increased nearly 200
percent in that span.
At least in theory, regional jets provide a valuable service —
connecting small, outlying markets with major cities. The thing is,
airlines have taken to using them on mainline trunk routes. Today you
can fly from New York to Miami or Houston to Toronto in what we used to
call a “commuter plane.” At La Guardia and Reagan-National in
Washington, regional jets can account for upwards of half of all
traffic. During a ground delay at La Guardia last summer, I watched a
dozen regional jets taxi and take off in a row.
Of course, it’s hard to fault the airlines entirely. After all, this is
what passengers say they want. Frequency, if you believe the surveys,
sells tickets. People want as many flights to choose from as possible —
neglecting to consider only a fraction of them might arrive when
they’re supposed to.
In the end, it’s difficult to say what the answer is. Still, the most
important step toward fixing the problem is understanding how not to
• Modernizing the air traffic
control system will have limited impact where it is needed most — in
and around airports.
• Because of limited space and enormous price tags, the
construction of new runways is all but impossible.
• Encouraging the growth of satellite airports, a common
suggestion, ignores the fact that millions of fliers need to transfer
and connect at major hubs to get to smaller towns. Moreover,
fragmenting a major market into several mini-markets spawns the use of
more small planes, and will make the problem worse, not better.
• Charging high landing fees to
dissuade peak-period operations is another bad idea. With overall fares
so low, costs can easily be passed to consumers.
If you ask me, the last best hope is for airlines to better
organize their schedules and wean themselves away from their reliance
on regional jets. Consider Delta at John F. Kennedy airport in New
York. The airline has come up with a plan to spread a number of its
evening overseas departures into non-rush hour slots, when the airport
is much quieter. That alone will not solve the airport’s notorious
nightly conga lines, but if together the industry thinks more
creatively, things can improve.
• The idea of mandatory flight caps for carriers is appealing,
but it’s fraught with complications and bitterly opposed by the
industry. I have little faith in regulators coming up with a means of
fairly and equitably imposing restrictions among several competing
Julius Marcus, 69, a retired Xerox executive, uses his
sound meter to track noise made by planes over his North Stamford home.
(Chris Preovolos/Staff photo)
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.
Last week, residents complained that they are seeing more flights at
altitudes of 600 feet or lower, well below the FAA's minimum of 2,000
Julius Marcus, a member of the group from North Stamford, said that
readings on a decibel meter he purchased in 2008 to monitor low-flying
aircraft show a fourfold increase in noise.
Marcus said the FAA has not heeded legal arguments that it should route
more flights over Long Island Sound, which he said could reduce delays
with less noise impact.
"There are some intelligent alternatives which they are not
considering, and they should," he said.
Ralph Tamburro, traffic management officer for the FAA's New York
region, said the agency could identify which planes were responsible
for any violations, as well as retrieve information on them.
"We're willing to look at the information, and we're open to speaking
with residents about their complaints," he said.
Last month, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal filed an
appeal asking federal circuit court judges in Washington, D.C., to
reconsider a verdict that upheld the flight plan changes the FAA
approved for the tri-state region in 2006.
Blumenthal said the FAA failed to give proper consideration to
monitor airplane noise
By Neil Vigdor, Staff
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
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.
They volunteered to serve on a noise monitoring group of residents
organized by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who has joined the
fray against the new aircraft routes. The group has 47 members
scattered throughout Fairfield County, a number of whom take the job
"Especially as the house rattles, I run outside to see what's above
me," said Kearns, 52, a homemaker from the Silvermine section of
Norwalk. "Most of the time you don't even need binoculars."
Harking back to World War II and the Cold War, plane spotting is hardly
a new phenomenon.
"My mother was a plane spotter," U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.,
told his constituents last week during a public hearing on the FAA
Selectman Peter Crumbine of Greenwich said the plane spotters will play
an important role, albeit a different one than their forebears.
"We're not expecting these planes to bomb us," Crumbine said. "The idea
is to create a body of evidence to show that it's a serious issue, and
that part of the area is heavily impacted by the (air) traffic from
Westchester (County) and LaGuardia (airports)."
The new routes are supposed to save 200,000 hours of delays per year at
John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York, Newark Liberty
Airport in New Jersey and Philadelphia airports by 2011, according to
the FAA. One controversial aspect of the plan would shift arrivals for
LaGuardia Airport east over Fairfield County from the current track
over Westchester County. Marcus, 69, a retired Xerox Corp. executive
who lives north of the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, said his
neighborhood is already bombarded with aircraft noise.
"I'm not normally an activist," Marcus said. "I wanted to make sure
people knew about it. Basically, there's almost never a period of time
when you can't hear airplanes in your backyard."
Kearns cited similar reasons for getting involved with the noise
monitoring group, which is still seeking more volunteers.
"It was more than a nuisance. It was actually keeping me awake at
night," Kearns said.
The 13-town alliance, which includes Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, New
Canaan and Darien, sued the FAA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Second District of New York in early November. The group argued that
the FAA failed to take residents' noise and other environmental
concerns into account when developing new flight paths. Connecticut
filed a similar lawsuit against the FAA the same day over the plan,
which was adopted by the federal agency in September and could start
being implemented in January 2009.
The FAA has said that it held more than 100 public hearings before
adopting the plan, including one in Stamford. With the help of an
Internet site that shows radar images for the past year, the group's
members have been able to tie noise activity to specific flights.
Marcus has been inputting the readings from his noise meter into a
spreadsheet program. He also bought a special watch that synchronizes
itself every day with an atomic clock that keeps the official time to
ensure his observations are accurate. The data, he said, helps add
credibility to the alliance's argument.
"People go out there and say, 'This bothers me. It's loud.' Well,
what's loud? You have to prove at some point to the FAA that it was
loud," said Marcus, who keeps a 3-by-5-inch note card in his shirt
pocket to jot down times when planes fly overhead.
The FAA has said the noise increases are not significant under
government standards, but that there could be a noticeable difference
for those not currently exposed to the noise. The alliance claims
that noise levels will increase dramatically throughout much of
southwestern Connecticut, quadrupling in places such as New Canaan,
Wilton and Ridgefield, if the new routes are allowed to go into effect.
Jim Campbell, 43, a CEO of an advertising display company who lives in
southern Wilton, said it is important to be able to quantify the level
"I think it will lend some gravity to the complaint," Campbell said.
"It's not just Fairfield County not wanting planes in their area, but
it's people who have had a disruption in lifestyle."
Campbell typically spends an hour every weekend logging planes that fly
over his house.
"If I'm barbecuing for a family dinner, I just keep a pad there,"
Not all plane spotters are upset by the sound of jet engines or
Phil Derner Jr., 27, runs NYCAviation.com, a Web site devoted to plane
"Obviously, I kind of enjoy the noise," said Derner, a Queens, N.Y.,
resident. "Some people find it relaxing. Sometimes I'll just read a
book near the airport."
Having grown up near LaGuardia Airport, Derner said he can even tell
the type of aircraft flying overhead just by listening.
"I can sit there and I can tell that's an MD-80 because its extra
loud," Derner said. "Depending on the hour, you can tell if it's a
Delta Shuttle. Airbus engines tend to have a little extra whine to the
engine, which I can tell as well."
Derner, who works as an operations controller for a charter airline,
said he supports the redesign.
"You're talking about something I think many feel should have been done
a long time ago," Derner said.
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 Alliance for Sensible Airspace Planning announced yesterday it has
elected Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi as chairman. The
alliance also named Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss and Darien First
Selectwoman Evonne Klein as vice chairmen.
Former New Canaan First Selectwoman Judy Neville was appointed chief
The alliance filed a lawsuit Nov. 1 to stop the plan, which the FAA
said is designed to reduce flight delays at airports in New York City,
Newark and Philadelphia by shifting flight paths. Some arriving flights
at New York City's LaGuardia Airport would fly over Fairfield County.
Alliance members are concerned the rerouted flights, as well as
low-altitude holding patterns, could create health, safety and
The alliance plans to spend up to $1.2 million fighting the FAA's plan,
Bliss said. Besides the lawsuit, it also plans to lobby Congress and
educate residents through a Web site, Bliss said.
"The real underlying concern is once they start implementing the plan,
it is very hard to undo it," he said.
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
"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.
Oversees Aerial Ballet and Foot
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: November 20, 2007
HERNDON, Va., Nov. 21 — The Federal Aviation Administration’s Strategic
Command Center here got started early on Wednesday, with the first
conference call with the airlines at 5:15 a.m. instead of the usual
7:15, a head start usually used only when there is a prediction of
snowstorms or thunderstorms.
To alleviate the anticipated pre-Thanksgiving jam in the New York area,
traffic to there from Texas, which would normally come up through
Washington, was routed on a dog-leg path to the north, not turning east
until a radio beacon near Dayton, Ohio. They borrowed airspace from
Canada, directing westbound domestic flights from New York and New
England to fly over Ontario. Military airspace off the Atlantic coast
that was supposed to be opened for civilian use by 4 p.m. was grabbed
by the F.A.A. before noon.
It was not enough; by noon, Dan Smiley, the manager at the center,
clicked on a computer and called up a map of the air traffic sectors
for 24,000 feet and above, and three were already red, indicating
saturated, and about 20 more were yellow, meaning they were close to
it. They were clustered over eastern Virginia, Pennsylvania and New
Jersey. Each of those sectors, long and skinny like shards of a
windshield shattered by a rock, mostly oriented to face New York, held
about as many planes as a single controller could talk to and give
Before noon, there were four airports nationally that were saturated,
with controllers telling planes bound there to stay put at their
departure airports. All four were in the New York area: Newark,
LaGuardia, Teterboro and White Plains. The second two are used by
hundreds of corporate jets, time-share jets and charters that
collectively add about 10 percent to the national volume of flights on
days like today. Airliner traffic was not much different from a normal
Wednesday, since the airlines always fly almost everything they’ve got.
“They don’t manufacture a lot of planes at Boeing for this one day,”
said Mr. Smiley. Of course, each of those Boeings is more likely to be
full on a day like this, he said, so while the number of airline
flights is the same, crowds at security checkpoints and at the gates
are larger, and if a plane is canceled or a connection missed, there is
no spare capacity on other flights.
The corporate, charter and time-share planes look smaller on the runway
but are about the same on a radar screen. “A plane is a plane is a
plane, and you have to keep them separated by five miles,” said Mr.
Smiley, referring to the standard separation for planes in cruise
The F.A.A. is predicting that thousands of new “very light jets,” some
seating five or six people, including the pilot, will soon be joining
The airliners and the other jets also create congestion at a Mexican
airport, Cabo San Lucas, which has a single runway and no taxi-way, so
the runway is sometimes taken up by planes taxiing to the terminal, or
to the end of the runway to begin their take-off rolls. By noon, the
F.A.A. was metering all planes going from American airspace to Cabo,
holding them to 8 or 9 an hour.
But the pattern changes in holiday periods. According to Mr. Smiley,
high-altitude traffic on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, was up
10 percent, but traffic into the 45 biggest airports was up only 1.5
percent, meaning that most of the extra planes were landing at tiny
airports, thus adding to congestion at high altitudes but not at major
airports. The air traffic system handles 50,000 to 55,000 flights a
day, with more than 7,000 simultaneously aloft in the continental
United States during busy times. (There are thousands more flights by
propeller-driven private planes at lower altitudes, outside the air
traffic control system.)
In a large darkened room dominated by floor-to-ceiling display panels
that showed national traffic and text descriptions of delay programs in
force, 20 to 30 controllers watched flows, and made new decisions on
routing, or on holding planes on the ground. Sometimes they approved
decisions made by controllers at the 20 Air Route Traffic Control
Centers around the country, which handle high-altitude traffic.
Sometimes they countermanded those orders.
At about 1 p.m., New York lost its monopoly on misery, as controllers
began holding traffic bound for Boston’s Logan airport at many airports
around the United States and Canada. Mr. Smiley was anticipating that
bad weather in the Midwest would add other airports in that region.
The F.A.A. told the airlines on Nov. 15 that it would be spacing out
the southbound departures from the Boston area so that southbound lanes
would not be saturated by the time New York-area airplanes tried to
join the flow. Mike Robicheau, vice president of the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association for the New England region, said the
planes would be spaced at 40-mile intervals instead of 30. “New England
passengers will be taking a back seat,” he said in a telephone
Mr. Smiley, at the Command Center, said the reason was to spread the
pain and smooth out flows. Planes leaving New York extremely late would
be late on their subsequent flights, which could be back to New York or
some other part of the country, he said.
The goal, though, is not to eliminate delay, but merely to minimize it
and balance it, he said. “This is big business we’re talking about,”
said Mr. Smiley, speaking of aviation. Along with the frustrations of
leisure passengers and business travelers, he said, “There’s a lot of
money being made, or on bad days, a lot of money not being made.”
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 Experts.com, 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
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
"The government is not in this to make money or friends," Winton said.
"Unfortunately, they'll fight an issue to the death."
Earlier this month, Stamford lawmakers approved spending $30,000 to
join the lawsuit. Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said last month he will
ask the Common Council to approve $30,000 to $50,000 to share the
burden. Darien First Selectwoman Evonne Klein said last month she will
ask finance officials for $30,000 with the intention of requesting
another $20,000 later. Last month, Westport officials approved $79,000
to participate in the suit.
New Canaan First Selectman Judy Neville has estimated the coalition's
lawsuit will cost $1 million. Neville has said the costs likely will be
shared among the towns based on population and geographical size.
Stamford Director of Economic Development Michael Freimuth estimated
the city's share of the lawsuit eventually will be $190,000.
The 11 towns in the coalition are Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, New
Canaan, Wilton, Darien, Westport, Weston, Ridgefield, Redding and Pound
Ridge, N.Y. Greenwich officials voted this month to spend $64,100
lawyers' and lobbying fees as part of the effort, but not before a
debate over the chances of success.
"Based on the information that I've been given, the FAA carries great
weight," First Selectman-elect Peter Tesei said. "But I think the
intent is to work to mitigate some of the impact of what they're
proposing and make sure that we're represented."
Outgoing First Selectman Jim Lash said the plaintiffs don't have to win
in court to succeed.
"I think there's a 100 percent chance that we will persuade the FAA to
change its plan by going down this road. There's simply too much wrong
with the approach they've taken and too many people opposed to it,"
Lash said. "I think it's a certainty by bringing these suits we will
get a better plan than the one we have now."
Connecticut is the first state to sue over the plan, adopted by the FAA
in September after more than 100 public hearings, including one in
Stamford on April 24. One controversial aspect of the plan would
arrivals for LaGuardia Airport in New York eastward over Fairfield
County from the existing track over Westchester County, N.Y.
The new routes are designed to save 200,000 hours of delays per year at
John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York, Newark Liberty
Airport in New Jersey and Philadelphia airports by 2011, according to
the FAA. The FAA has said the noise increases are not significant
under government standards but there could be a noticeable difference
for those not now exposed to it.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters had no comment on whether the FAA would be
willing to accept a settlement and said he did not know the legal
history of the agency's record in the courts.
Michael Hynes, founder of the Branson, Mo., consulting firm Hynes
Aviation Services, questioned the cost to the state and towns.
"The irony of some of this is it's not really going to be win or lose.
They may influence the routing a little bit," Hynes said. "You're going
to spend all this money and what do you think you're going to get in
the end? You're either going to delay the inevitable or (cause) the
minor rerouting of a route. People are spending an awful lot of money,
and I don't think they're going to get their money's worth in the end."
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the cost will be minimal
to the state, which has had success fighting federal entities such as
the federal Environmental Protection Agency on greenhouse gas standards
and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on vehicle fuel
"I'm very proud of our record against the federal government,"
Blumenthal said. "Many of these federal agencies are absolutely
lawless. They break the law with impunity. Someone has to stand up to
them, and they look bigger than they are because sometimes they are
Blumenthal said the FAA neglected environmental and quality-of-life
effects when it adopted the new routes.
"We intend to rely on our congressional delegation to carry our ball in
Congress," Blumenthal said.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, said the FAA holds most of
the chips, but it is critical to stand up to the agency.
"Does that mean that the towns and states shouldn't be doing everything
that it can do to persuade the FAA to change its plan? It should be
doing everything it can," Shays said.
State sues to block flight traffic
Susan Tuz STAFF WRITER
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.
Rell said that the lawsuit against the new flight paths was filed on
behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection. The suit
signals a joint state-municipal alliance. The suit was announced at a
press conference in New Canaan.
The governor called the increased air traffic -- which would route as
many as 150 additional planes a day over many Fairfield County towns --
"The FAA Redesign Plan would bring unacceptable impacts to Connecticut
and particularly to this region of the state," Rell said, "and we will
do everything we can to derail this plan."
"We have forged a powerful partnership against the FAA's ill-conceived
plan to route too many planes too low over southwestern Connecticut,"
he said. "As I have pledged before, I will fight as long and hard as
necessary, even to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Blumenthal said the FAA "rushed to reroute, failing to consider
alternatives and environmental and quality of life impacts."
Towns joining Blumenthal and Rell in the action are Ridgefield, Wilton,
Weston, Westport, Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Purchase,
Trying To Ease
Gridlock In N.Y. City Skies:
Pricing' Enters The Discussion As FAA, Task Force Target Chronic Delays
At Three Metropolitan Airports
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.
The talks, led by the Federal Aviation Administration, have been closed
to the public, but participants report that one of the primary topics
will be "congestion pricing," a scheme to reduce delays by making
airlines think twice about scheduling flights during the busiest times
of the day. Generally, the plan would implement higher fees for
planes operating at the airports during the aviation rush hours, which,
in New York, coincide roughly with morning and evening commutes.
Supporters of the idea say the extra cost of flying in prime time might
lead airlines to shift some flights to less busy periods, and leave
rush hour to the biggest jets with the most passengers.
Travelers might opt for off-peak hours too, if tickets for those
coveted early evening flights suddenly got more expensive. But limits
on the number of planes flying at hours popular for business travelers
could hurt the city's economy. Congestion pricing faces strong
opposition from airlines, who say it will raise costs, discourage
airlines from serving smaller cities, and make it harder for passengers
to fly when they want. R. John Hansman, director of the
International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, said congestion pricing could have benefits at
JFK, but would be tough to implement.
The challenge, he said, "is that landing spots in New York are so
valuable, it is hard to have a price high enough that would change the
Many of JFK's international flights, he said, also can't simply be
shifted to another part of the day because they need to leave at
certain hours so they don't arrive at their destinations in the dead of
night. Some airline officials say the better solution is to make
better use of New York's inefficient, convoluted airspace. For
decades, jetliners traveling over the dense Eastern Seaboard have been
directed to use a small number of old flight paths, some laid out in
the days when pilots still navigated by signal fires.
Those routes jam up quickly on most days, and delays can ripple
throughout the country when one or more of the air highways is blocked
by a thunderstorm. Air traffic controllers monitoring those
corridors also complain that they are stretched to the limit in command
centers that are understaffed. In August, only 59 percent of
arrivals and 63 percent of departures at JFK were on time, according to
the U.S. Department of Transportation. Newark was only a little better,
with 62 percent of arrivals and 66 percent of departures on time.
LaGuardia saw only 58 percent of its flights land on schedule.
Those numbers chronically rank among the top five worst in the country.
Delays at those airports regularly run to two or three hours, even on
days when the closest bad weather is hundreds of miles away.
The FAA has already come up with a sweeping redesign for the airspace
around New York and Philadelphia. Both the agency and the airlines say
it could cut delays by as much as 20 percent. But the plan has been
repeatedly delayed due, in part, to opposition from lawmakers whose
communities that might hear more plane traffic. Members of the
flight delay task force say they have other ideas that might
help. Some airlines have asked that a rarely used section of the
skies off the East Coast, now reserved for the military, be opened up
to commercial carriers.
The airlines have also asked the FAA to appoint a "czar" to oversee the
independent control centers that coordinate traffic in the region -
someone who would have the authority to address delay problems
August 2012 close
call in Denver (photo of that plane after it landed, below)...
N E W S - E A R T H - S H A T T E R I
N G V A R
I E T Y . . . L O C A L F O C U
Hole in Qantas plane (one of the older ones in fleet), left;
Airbus A320 in the Hudson - "landing"
and map from NYTIMES! Culprit?
Yup. Plural. Birds to blame in Brazil event?
No extra charge for the
This photo provided by passenger Christine Ziegler, shows an apparent
hole in the cabin on a Southwest Airlines aircraft Friday, April 1,
2011 in Yuma, Ariz. Authorities say the flight from Phoenix to
Sacramento, Calif., was diverted to Yuma due to rapid decompression in
the plane. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the cause of the decompression
isn't immediately known. But passengers aboard the plane say there was
a hole in the cabin and that forced an emergency landing.
(AP photo/Christine Ziegler)
Fuselage hole forces Southwest emergency landing
By WALTER BERRY and LIEN HOANG, Associated Press
2 April 2011
PHOENIX – A "gunshot-like sound" woke Brenda Reese as her Southwest
Airlines flight cruised at 36,000 feet. Looking up, she could see the
sky through a hole torn in the cabin roof.
The Boeing 737 lost cabin pressure after the hole developed Friday,
prompting frightened passengers to grope for oxygen masks as the plane
made a terrifying but "controlled descent."
A passenger called it "pandemonium." Another watched as a flight
attendant and another passenger passed out, apparently for lack of
oxygen, their heads striking the seats in front of them.
Officials said Flight 812 lost pressure because of a fuselage rupture.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the pilot
made a "controlled descent from 36,000 feet to 11,000 feet altitude."
His safe emergency landing at a military base in Yuma, about 150 miles
southwest of Phoenix, drew applause from relieved passengers.
No serious injuries were reported among the 118 people aboard but a
flight attendant was slightly hurt, according to Southwest Airlines.
The cause of the hole was not immediately known. The FBI called it a
"mechanical failure," not an act of terror or other foul play.
Reese said the plane had just left Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport for Sacramento, Calif., when the "gunshot-like sound" woke her
up. She said oxygen masks dropped as the plane dove.
Seated one row from the rupture, Don Nelson said it took about four
noisy minutes for the plane to dip to less than 10,000 feet. "You could
tell there was an oxygen deficiency," he said.
"People were dropping," said Christine Ziegler, a 44-year-old project
manager from Sacramento who watched as the crew member and a passenger
nearby faint. Nelson and Ziegler spoke after a substitute flight took
them on to Sacramento.
Reese described the hole as "at the top of the plane, right up above
where you store your luggage."
"The panel's not completely off," she told The Associated Press. "It's
like ripped down, but you can see completely outside... When you look
up through the panel, you can see the sky."
Cellphone photographs provided by Reese showed a panel hanging open in
a section above the plane's middle aisle, with a hole of about six feet
The National Transportation Safety Board said an "in-flight fuselage
rupture" led to the drop in cabin pressure aboard the 15-year-old
plane. A similar incident on a Southwest plane to Baltimore in July
2009 also forced an emergency landing when a foot-long hole opened in
Four months earlier, the Dallas-based airline had agreed to pay $7.5
million to settle charges that it operated planes that had missed
required safety inspections for cracks in the fuselage. The airline,
which flies Boeing 737s, inspected nearly 200 of its planes back then,
found no cracks and put them back in the sky.
Julie O'Donnell, an aviation safety spokeswoman for Seattle-based
Boeing Commercial Airplanes, confirmed "a hole in the fuselage and a
depressurization event" in the latest incident but declined to
speculate on what caused it.
Reese said passengers applauded the pilot after he emerged from the
cockpit following the emergency landing at Yuma Marine Corps Air
"It was unreal. Everybody was like they were high school chums,"
Ziegler said, describing a scene in which passengers comforted and
hugged each other after the plane was on the ground.
"I fly a lot. This is the first time I ever had something like this
happen," said Reese, a 37-year-old single mother of three who is vice
president for a clinical research organization. "I just want to get
home and hold my kids."
Gregor said an FAA inspector from Phoenix was en route to Yuma. The
NTSB said it also was sending a crew to Yuma.
Holes in aircraft can be caused by metal fatigue or lightning. The
National Weather Service said the weather was clear from the Phoenix
area to the California border on Friday afternoon.
In 1988, cracks caused part of the roof of an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737
to peel open while the jet flew from Hilo to Honolulu. A flight
attendant was sucked out of the plane and plunged to her death, and
dozens of passengers were injured.
Three years ago, an exploding oxygen cylinder ripped a gaping hole the
fuselage of a Qantas Boeing 747-438 carrying 365 people. The plane
descended thousands of feet with the loss of cabin pressure and flew
about 300 miles to Manila, where it made a successful emergency
landing. No one was injured.
Officials Detail Peril of Qantas Jet Saved by Crew
By MERAIAH FOLEY and NICOLA CLARK
December 3, 2010
SYDNEY, Australia — A report by Australian aviation investigators on
Friday provided fresh insight into the Qantas A380 jet that experienced
a midair engine explosion last month, describing in vivid detail the
damage sustained to the plane’s wing and fuel systems and lauding the
crew’s calm and professionalism in bringing the crippled jet with 469
people aboard to a safe landing in Singapore a mere 150 yards from the
end of the runway.
The interim report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau —
the first official account of the drama that unfolded on board Flight
32 — echoed safety recommendations and airworthiness directives issued
Thursday for the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines after investigators
found a potential manufacturing defect that may have contributed to an
“The aircraft would not have arrived safely in Singapore without the
focused and effective action of the flight crew,” the bureau’s chief
commissioner, Martin Dolan, told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
The investigator’s report confirmed that metal fragments from the
splintered turbine of the plane’s No. 2 engine tore holes in the left
wing and fuselage minutes after takeoff from Changi International
Airport as the plane ascended to about 7,000 feet. The explosion set
off a cascade of electrical and hydraulic failures and emergency
warnings in at least 10 other areas of the aircraft, leaving the plane
with limited flight controls, the report said.
Safety aboard the huge craft — the largest airliner to date — has been
an overriding concern since its inception. The very idea of a plane
that can carry more than 500 people raised unique issues. How fast
could such a plane be evacuated in an emergency? If one were to crash
and cause numerous injuries, how could so many people be cared for?
Minutes after take-off, the crew of five pilots reported hearing “two
almost coincident ‘loud bangs,’ followed shortly after by indications
of a failure of the No. 2 engine” and intermittent warnings of an
engine fire, the report said. After several attempts, the pilots were
able to shut down the damaged engine and, despite a cacophony of alarms
and warnings flashing on the cockpit computers, were able to maintain
control of the plane as they alerted air traffic control in Singapore
of their problem.
The extent of the damage only became clear after the plane’s co-pilot
entered the cabin to visually assess the situation. A passenger,
another Qantas pilot, showed him video from a camera mounted on the
plane’s tail that fed into the plane’s in-flight entertainment system —
a feature unique to the A380. That display showed a half-meter wide
gush of liquid — most likely a mix of fuel and hydraulic fluid —
streaming from underneath the left wing.
As the plane lost fuel, its center of gravity began to shift,
potentially threatening the plane’s stability. But damage to fuel and
hydraulic lines made it difficult for the crew to transfer fuel to
The report said the crew faced so many alerts that it took nearly an
hour to respond to them before they could begin coordinating plans for
landing with air traffic controllers. During that time, the plane
circled in a holding pattern close to the airport with the autopilot
In fact, the number of warnings was such that the plane’s computers
could not initially make an accurate calculation of whether the jet —
still laden with fuel and 50 tons over its maximum landing weight —
would be able to slow itself enough on landing to avoid overshooting
the end of the runway.
In the end, the pilots — who had a combined 72,000 hours of flight
experience — removed some variables from the landing calculations. The
computer indicated a safe landing would be possible, but the pilots,
nonetheless, instructed flight attendants to prepare for an emergency
evacuation if the plane ended up in the water beyond the runway’s end.
Fortunately, that contingency plan proved unnecessary. An hour and a
half after the explosion, the plane stopped with just 150 yards of
concrete to spare, its brakes heated to 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit, and
four of its 22 tires blown. The 469 passengers and crew disembarked
about an hour later via stairs from the jet’s main deck forward door.
The safety board said its “very complex investigation” would continue,
in close cooperation with safety regulators and accident investigators
in Europe and Singapore. The agency said it expected to complete its
inquiry by November 2011.
On Thursday, investigators said that uneven boring inside an oil tube
within a combustion chamber had caused thinning of the metal on one
side of the tube. Investigators believe that the fault may have led to
a fatigue crack from which oil could have leaked into the super hot
engine, creating the explosion that caused one of the turbine discs to
splinter and fly off the engine, damaging the plane’s left wing and
Twenty-one A380s operated by Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa
use the Trent 900 engine. Eighteen other A380s, operated by Air France
and Emirates, use a different engine.
In response to the safety recommendation, Qantas briefly grounded its
two A380s that are currently in service and subjected them to special
tests to see whether the misaligned boring was present in the oil
tubes. The two jetliners were cleared to return to service on Friday
with the approval of Australia’s airline safety regulator, the Civil
Aviation Safety Authority.
Four Qantas A380s that normally fly the lucrative Sydney to Los Angeles
route remain grounded, under the airline’s voluntary agreement with
Australian regulators not to fly the A380s on any route that requires
the engines to operate at full thrust until further notice.
In a brief statement, Rolls-Royce said it would continue to cooperate
with international investigators, and would work with aviation
regulators, Airbus and its airline customers to “progressively allow
the whole fleet of Trent 900 powered Airbus A380s to return to service.”
Testing for the misaligned boring, which was discovered at the
Rolls-Royce plant in Britain on Wednesday, has required “a very highly
specialized inspection procedure and equipment,” Mr. Dolan said. “Given
that no one was aware that the potential problem existed, it’s highly
unlikely that any maintenance would have been able to establish that
this was a potential problem.”
John Page, a senior lecturer in aeronautics at the University of New
South Wales, with more than 50 years experience in aviation mechanics,
said that fatigue failures were often hard to detect.
“The trouble with fatigue is that when it goes, it goes very suddenly.
It wears very gradually and you don’t notice it,” he said. “You would
assume that there may have been a very slight oil sweating beforehand,
but you’d never notice that. This is not a clean part of the engine.”
Meraiah Foley reported from Sydney,
Australia, and Nicola Clark from Paris.
Qantas superjumbo jet makes
emergency landing in Singapore after
blowing out an engine
New York Post
Last Updated: 9:40 AM, November 4, 2010
Posted: 4:05 AM, November 4, 2010
SINGAPORE — Qantas grounded all six of its Airbus A380 superjumbos
after one blew out an engine Thursday, shooting flames and raining
large metal chunks before the world’s largest airliner made a safe
emergency landing in Singapore with 459 people aboard.
It was most serious midair incident involving the double-decker A380
since it debuted in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines flying it to
Sydney — the same route that Qantas flight QF34 was flying when it was
stricken over western Indonesia.
Qantas said there had been no explosion, but witnesses aboard the plane
and on the ground reported blasts. Officials in Indonesia said the
engine trouble could not have been related to eruptions in recent days
of the country’s Mount Merapi, some 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) to the
After the plane touched down in Singapore, the engine closest to the
fuselage on the left wing had visible burn marks and was missing a
section of plate that would have been painted with the red kangaroo
logo of the airline. The upper part of the left wing also appeared
One passenger, Rosemary Hegardy, 60, of Sydney, told The Associated
Press that she heard two bangs and saw yellow flames from her window.
“There was flames — yellow flames came out, and debris came off. ...
You could see black things shooting through the smoke, like bits of
debris,” she said.
In another seat, Tyler Wooster watched as part of the skin of the wing
peeled off, exposing foam and broken wires.
“My whole body just went to jelly and I didn’t know what was going to
happen as we were going down, if we were going to be OK,” Wooster told
Australia’s Nine Network news.
Hegardy said the pilot informed passengers of the engine trouble and
that the plane would have to dump fuel before it could land.
Residents on the western Indonesian island of Batam, near Singapore,
helped authorities pick up more than 100 pieces of debris scattered in
15 locations in Batam. The pieces, mostly small, torn metal but some
the size of doors, were brought to police headquarters for the
The engine trouble happened 15 minutes after takeoff from Singapore at
9:56 a.m. The plane landed after one hour and 50 minutes.
“The shutdown of the Qantas engine had no connection with Mount
Merapi,” said Bambang Ervan, a spokesman for the Indonesia’s
Transportation Ministry. “It was too far from the volcano — the sky
over Singapore and Sumatra island is free of dust. “
The flight is a regular service between Sydney, Singapore and London.
Qantas’ A380s can carry up to 525 people, but flight QF34 was carrying
433 passengers and 26 crew, all of whom were evacuated by a step ladder
in an operation that lasted two hours.
Qantas spokeswoman Emma Kearns in Sydney said there were no injuries
and no explosion on board. The airline described the problem as an
“engine issue” without elaborating.
“We will suspend those A380 services until we are completely confident
that Qantas safety requirements have been met,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce
told a news conference in Sydney.
Joyce appeared to blame the engine, made by Rolls-Royce.
“This issue, an engine failure, has been one that we haven’t seen
before. So we are obviously taking it very seriously, because it is a
significant engine failure,” he said.
Experts said the problem appeared to be an “uncontained engine
failure,” which occurs when turbine debris punctures the engine casing
and the light cowling that covers the unit.
Aviation expert Tom Ballantyne told the AP that Thursday’s troubles
were “certainly the most serious incident that the A380 has experienced
since it entered operations.”
But “it’s not like the aircraft is going to drop out of the sky,”
Ballantyne, Sydney-based chief correspondent at Orient Aviation
Magazine, said by telephone from Brunei.
He said the engine shutdown couldn’t have caused a crash. The planes
are designed to fly on just two engines, and pilots are trained to
handle engine failures, he said. Rolls-Royce said it was aware of
the situation, noting that the investigation was still at an early
stage. Airbus said in a statement it was providing all necessary
technical assistance to an investigation by Singaporean authorities.
Consortium spokesman Martin Fendt declined to comment on Qantas’
grounding of all its A380s, but he said no airworthiness directives
were issued mandating a halt to flights by the superjumbo. Still,
the incident is likely to raise safety questions about one of the most
modern aircraft, which has suffered a series of minor incidents.
In September 2009, a Singapore Airlines A380 was forced to turn around
in mid-flight and head back to Paris after an engine malfunction. On
March 31, a Qantas A380 with 244 people on board burst two tires on
landing in Sydney after a flight from Singapore. Last August, a
Lufthansa crew shut down one of the engines as a precaution before
landing at Frankfurt on a flight from Japan, after receiving confusing
information on a cockpit indicator.
The other issues with the A380s have all been relatively minor, such as
electrical problems, Ballantyne said. Qantas’ safety record is
enviable among major airlines, with no fatal crashes since it
introduced jet-powered planes in the late 1950s.
But there have been a run of scares in recent years across a range of
plane types. The most serious — when a faulty oxygen tank caused an
explosion that blew a 5-foot hole in the fuselage of a Boeing 747-400
over the Philippines — prompted aviation officials to order Qantas to
upgrade maintenance procedures.
Airbus has delivered a total of 37 A380s so far. Thirteen are in
service with Emirates, 11 with Singapore Airlines, six with Quantas,
four with Air France and three with Lufthansa.
Emirates airlines, which has 13 A380s in operation, said all of them
are flying as scheduled. It noted that its planes are powered by Engine
Alliance GP7200 engines. Thursday’s incident appeared unrelated
to mail bombs sent recently on cargo planes, allegedly from Yemeni
Captain Testifies at Flight 1549
By MATTHEW L. WALD and LIZ ROBBINS
June 10, 2009
WASHINGTON — When Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III
spoke to the 150 passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 on the La Guardia
runway on the afternoon of Jan. 15, he remarked what a nice day it was
to fly. And soon after they took off, he remarked to his co-pilot,
Jeffrey B. Skiles, “What a view of the Hudson today.”
In retrospect, those words, released in the full transcript from the
air traffic control of the fateful flight during Tuesday’s hearings by
the National Transportation Safety Board, were prophetic.
The aircraft, an A320 Airbus, struck Canada geese at 2,700 feet, within
1 minute 37 seconds after takeoff, and Captain Sullenberger told the
air traffic controller that “we lost thrust in both engines.”
Despite initiating the engine’s restart program immediately and
examining his options for landing at a nearby airport, Captain
Sullenberger was forced a few minutes later to issue the now familiar
calm, clipped words signaling that he was ditching the plane in the
river: “We’re going to be in the Hudson.”
Captain Sullenberger testified Tuesday morning as the first witness at
the hearings, recounting what happened when, determining that he could
not land at a nearby airport, he instead glided the plane safely into
the river and enabled all 155 passengers and crew to survive.
“The only option remaining in the metropolitan area that was long
enough, wide enough and smooth enough to land was the Hudson River,” he
Captain Sullenberger said that with no simulation training for a water
ditching, he used his experience of more than 40 years of flying and
common sense to derive a successful outcome.
He revealed that he knew the Hudson would be the best — and only —
option because he recalled the support available from the heavy boat
traffic he viewed from having visited the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space
Museum on a day off in New York City.
Since the accident, Captain Sullenberger, 58, a gray-haired man with
nearly 30 years of experience at the airline, has become a symbol of
stoic calm and courage in the face of an emergency. The transcript of
the cockpit voice recorder, also released on Tuesday, showed that
Captain Sullenberger had a human side.
The flight had gone smoothly until the plane hit the birds, with a few
exceptions. One was the bulletproof cockpit door, which was apparently
sticky. Captain Sullenberger complained soon after the recording began,
“oh, that # door again.” (The transcript uses the “#” sign to denote
“What’s wrong?” asked the first officer, Mr. Skiles.
“Have to slam it pretty hard,” Captain Sullenberger said.
A little more than five minutes after takeoff, Captain Sullenberger had
something different to tell his first officer. Upon landing in the
Hudson, Captain Sullenberger said he recalled turning to Mr. Skiles and
saying, “That wasn’t as bad as I thought the entry would be.”
Robert L. Sumwalt, the vice chairman of the National Transportation
Safety Board, was the chairman of the Board of Inquiry, moderating the
hearings. He asked Captain Sullenberger one crucial question:
“This event turned out differently than a lot of the situations the
board has looked at,” Mr. Sumwalt said. “What made the critical
difference in this event? How did this event turn out so well?”
Without missing a beat, Captain Sullenberger responded: “I don’t think
it was one thing, it was many things. We had a highly experienced,
well-trained crew. The first officer, Jeffrey Skiles, and I worked
together well as a team and we solved each problem as it presented
itself to us.”
According to the transportation safety board, the impact with the birds
came at a spot about 4.5 miles from the approach end of Runway 22 at La
Guardia. Runway 24 at Teterboro, N.J., where the crew briefly
considered diverting, was 9.5 miles away. The spot where the plane
touched down in the Hudson was 8.5 miles away. But according to Mr.
Sumwalt, it was not clear if the crew had sufficient control over other
parts of the plane — like the landing gear brakes — to manage a landing
on a runway.
Captain Sullenberger said he had never experienced a bird strike like
the one on Jan. 15, where there were so many large birds that were
“filling the entire windscreen.”
On Monday, Mr. Sumwalt said engineers were trying new technologies to
scare away birds in flight, including using landing lights as strobe
lights. He said turning the landing lights into strobe lights could
make a plane, closing in on the birds at more than 100 miles an hour,
more conspicuous to them. But he said that that was only one solution
that should be investigated and would probably be discussed during the
“Maybe there’s some other technology out there, a radar that some
innovative company can come up with to zap the birds out of the way,”
Mr. Sumwalt said. Some pilots believe that birds try to avoid emissions
from the planes’ on-board weather radar, he said, and “we need to find
out, is that an urban legend or is there some truth to that?”
“We need to be innovative when we’re looking for solutions here,” he
The happy outcome in Flight 1549’s splashdown into the frigid Hudson
involved not only the skill of the crew, but also a lot of luck,
experts say: In the last 20 years, researchers counted 229 people
killed and 210 aircraft destroyed as a result of bird strikes.
In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration already has an extensive
program for what it calls “wildlife hazard mitigation,” but it seems
ill suited to the problem that faced the US Airways flight, which
struck geese five miles from the runway — too far for the New York
airports to take action — at an altitude of 2,900 feet — too high for
radars being installed around the country to detect birds.
Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution announced Monday that
isotopic analysis of the goose remains found in Flight 1549’s two
engines showed that habitat destruction would be impractical because
the birds were migratory and not part of the population that has
settled permanently in the New York area.
They were probably in flight that morning because snow had covered the
grass where they usually graze, said Peter P. Marra, a research
wildlife biologist based at the National Zoo in Washington, and they
were looking for open feeding grounds. Native populations can be
displaced by a few miles to keep them away from runways, but biologists
do not want to disrupt birds that migrate.
Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration,
said that biologists follow the patterns of resident birds and try to
dissuade them from living where they would be a problem. But, she
added, “what kind of program can you have for migratory birds?”
Disrupting habitats close to airports that are attractive to birds,
like ponds, can be helpful for discouraging both resident and migratory
birds, she said.
The Smithsonian determined that the geese involved in Flight 1549 were
migratory by looking at the ratio between two kinds of hydrogen in
their feathers. That ratio reflects the one found in grasses that the
birds ate while they grew their feathers after the annual molt. A type
of hydrogen called deuterium, which was low in this case, is more
prevalent in grasses in latitudes like New York’s than in northern
Another area to be covered in the three days of safety board hearings
is how engine standards are set. There is a rule for how big a bird an
engine must be able to take in and spit out while continuing to produce
thrust, and another for the maximum size it must be able to take in
without breaking up and throwing off dangerous shrapnel. The hearings
will look into whether engines can be built to withstand birds as big
as the Canada goose. Mr. Sumwalt said the answer was probably not.
Ms. Brown said engine standards had to be balanced with other concerns
like fuel economy and thrust level.
From A.P.: Update: Body count hits 17 in Atlantic Air
Air France switches to new plane
The Associated Press
Updated: 06/15/2009 08:01:12 AM EDT
PARIS—A pilots' union official says Air France has replaced the air
speed sensors on its entire fleet of Airbus A330 and A340 long-haul
Investigators looking into the crash of Air France Flight 447 last
month have so far focused on the possibility that external speed
monitors—called Pitot tubes—iced over and gave false readings to the
Air France pledged to replace older models of the Pitots on its A330
and A340 planes by the end of this month, after pilots complained that
the change, which began in May, was not proceeding quickly enough.
Eric Derivry, a spokesman for the SNPL pilot's union, said Monday the
entire fleet is now equipped with the newer sensors.
Divers Recover Telling Debris
From Air France Flight
By ANDREW DOWNIE
June 9, 2009
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Brazilian divers have recovered a
distinctive red- and blue-striped section of the tail of the Air France
jetliner that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean last week, a find that may
help investigators narrow the hunt for the plane’s voice and data
Also on Monday, Brazilian military lowered its count of the number of
bodies recovered so far to 16 from the 17 it had announced on Sunday.
All 228 people who were aboard the plane are presumed dead.
Photographs released Monday by the Brazilian military showed a team of
divers and sailors on a rubber dinghy tying a rope around what appeared
to be the vertical stabilizer from the tail section of the plane. The
part, which bears the trademark stripes and logo of Air France, bore no
evident burn marks and retained its triangular shape, save for a chunk
missing where it appeared to have been torn from the body of the plane.
Another photograph of recovered debris released by the military showed
chunks of orange, white and cream-colored wreckage amid a tangle of
wires and crushed tubes.
The flight recorders are generally kept in the tail section of the
plane, so the finding of the tail section may help to narrow the search
in the ocean’s deep waters. The flight recorders represent
investigators’ best hope for discovering why the plane went down on May
31, in stormy, turbulent weather.
A team of American Navy searchers is being flown in along with two
devices that can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 20,000 feet,
according to the Pentagon, The Associated Press reported. They will be
delivered to ships that will then listen for transmissions from the
black boxes, which are programmed to emit signals for at least three
The Brazilian frigate Constituição was carrying the
recovered remains, officials said, and was scheduled to arrive Tuesday
on the island of Fernando de Noronha, a few hundred miles from where
officials are centering the search for wreckage. From there, the
remains will be flown to Recife to be examined by forensic and medical
experts. Wing fragments and hundreds of personal items believed to be
from passengers have also been found.
France is leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, while
Brazilian officials are focusing on the recovery of victims and
wreckage. Officials said that five ships from the two countries are
combing a defined search area, and 14 airplanes are scouring that area
and adjacent ones.
“The government is going to continue with its efforts, via the navy and
via the air force, to find, if possible, all the bodies, because we
know what it means for a family to receive the remains a missing loved
one,” Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said Monday
in his weekly radio address. “At this painful time it won’t solve the
problem, but it is an immense comfort to a family knowing that is
burying its loved one.”
On Sunday, Dominique Bussereau, the French secretary of state for
transportation, told RTL radio that the authorities were focusing on a
transmission from the plane, during the last minutes of flight,
indicating that airspeed readings on its onboard systems were
“The series of readings represent the only real element for
investigators at this moment,” he said. In particular, they were
reviewing the performance of a Pitot tube, part of the speed
“There have been situations on Airbus planes, and perhaps on others,
where these tubes no longer indicated the airspeed because it entered a
humid area, a low-pressure area, an area of turbulence,” he added. If
the Flight 447 pilots could not read the correct speed, the plane could
have been flying too slowly or too fast, with deadly results.
French investigators announced Saturday that the plane had been
scheduled to have its Pitot tube replaced, but it remained unclear
whether the part had malfunctioned or had anything to do with the crash.
The ocean floor where the debris is being recovered is a tangle of
mountains towering two miles above ocean valleys, which will make the
recovery of the flight recorders — or black boxes — very difficult. The
recovery, however, is paramount for investigators, as without them,
said James T. Francis, a member of the National Transportation Safety
Board, the Air France case will be “a tough, tough cookie.”
7 June 2009
Brazilian searchers found confirmed
debris from the plane on Saturday
bodies found' from plane
Three more bodies have been recovered from the Atlantic
Ocean near where the Air France flight is thought to have crashed last
week, Brazil's navy says.
That raises the total to five, after two bodies were
found on Saturday.
Officials say other bodies have also been spotted in
the area and ships are being sent to recover them.
They were found some 800km (500 miles) north-east of
Brazil's Fernando de Noronha islands where the AF Flight 447
disappeared in turbulent weather.
Also on Saturday, the Brazilian navy recovered the
first confirmed debris from the plane, including a briefcase containing
a ticket for Flight 447.
Other found debris thought to be linked to the flight
included a blue seat and a backpack containing a computer.
The remains were found not far from where the last
signal from the plane was received on Monday.
They were taken to the islands of Fernando de Noronha,
where they were to be examined by experts
Bodies of victims from Air France
flight 447 recovered after mysterious crash over ocean
BY Christina Boyle , DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, June 6th 2009, 12:35 PM
Search teams have retrieved the bodies of people aboard a doomed Air
France jet which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, officials said
"We confirm the recovery from the water debris and bodies from the Air
France plane," Brazilian Air Force Col. Jorge Amaral said.
Crews have been scouring the water for wreckage since the plane
disappeared June 1 on its trip from Rio de Janiero to Paris.
Until now, rescuers had not recovered any confirmed debris, including
the black box recorders that would provide vital clues about what
caused the crash.
Investigators revealed Saturday the jet sent 24 error messages moments
before it crashed and its autopilot was shut off.
The Airbus A330 was fitted with faulty speed monitors which have failed
on other planes and which Air France had not replaced.
"We have seen a certain number of these types of faults on the A330,"
said Paul-Louis Arslanian, chief of the French civil aviation
ministry's bureau of investigation.
"There is a program of replacement, of improvement," he said.
He said that planes not yet equipped with replacement speed monitors
are not necessarily dangerous and that other pilots using the old
monitors have been able to regain control of their jets.
The error messages were transmitted in a four-minute period, just
before it vanished, and indicated the autopilot was off.
It was unclear if it turned itself off, as it's designed to do when
suspect data is detected, or whether the pilot had switched it off
deliberately, Arslanian said.
Debris May Not Be From Air France Jet
By NICOLA CLARK and MATTHEW L. WALD
June 6, 2009
PARIS — The French government expressed deep disappointment Friday over
the news that ocean debris recovered by the Brazilian military this
week appeared to be the remains of a shipwreck and not from an Air
France jet that crashed in the South Atlantic on Monday.
In radio interviews, the transportation minister, Dominique Bussereau,
urged “extreme prudence” about judging the source of any debris that is
recovered until it could be properly analyzed. “The main objective is
to get our hands on the black boxes, the flight data recorders,” Mr.
“French authorities have been saying for several days that we have to
be extremely prudent. Our planes and naval ships have seen nothing.”
He said it is “bad news” that the Brazilian teams were mistaken. “We
would have preferred that it had come from the plane and that we had
The search for clues into the crash of Air France flight 447 was thrown
into confusion Thursday, after the Brazilian military said initially
that it had recovered the first piece of floating debris from the
plane, a structural support piece about eight feet long that might have
come from the jet’s cargo hold. But by Thursday evening, the military
said that information had been incorrect, and that the debris had
probably come from a ship or another source.
Based on the initial reports from the military, experts postulated that
the plane had broken up in flight, an idea for which there is now less
The revelation came as Airbus, the manufacturer of the missing jet,
issued a warning on Thursday to all its customers to follow established
procedures when pilots suspect airspeed indicators are not functioning
properly. The bulletin appeared to be the first hint that
malfunctioning instruments indicators might have played an important
role in the crash.
The message, approved by French investigators, said that the message
had been sent “without prejudging the final outcome of the
investigation,” but clearly it pointed to the possibility that
mismanaging the plane’s speed could have been one step in a cascade of
on-board failures, leading to the crash northeast of Brazil on Monday
and the death of all 228 people on board.
The message noted that “there was inconsistency between the different
measured airspeeds” in the Airbus 330 that crashed, one of several
error messages that were sent by the plane’s automatic systems to an
Air France maintenance base.
Airspeed on jets is measured by the combination of a tube that faces
forward, called a Pitot tube, and an opening on the side of the plane
known as a static port. The plane’s speed is determined by comparing
the pressure in the Pitot tube that is created by the oncoming wind
with the pressure from the static port.
The model that crashed, an A330, has three pairs of tubes and static
ports. But other instruments can also be involved in calculating air
speed, and the notice to airlines, called an Accident Information
Telex, did not specify the nature of the inconsistency.
The message went to airlines that operate all Airbus models, from
narrow-body A318 models to the double-decker jumbo A380.
Failure to manage an inconsistency properly has been cited in several
crashes of big jets from various manufacturers. In 1996, a Boeing 757
taking off from the Dominican Republic crashed because the airspeed
indicators of the captain and the first officer disagreed, and the crew
mismanaged the problem. Mud wasps had nested in one of the Pitot tubes.
A plane that flies too slow can lose lift and crash; too fast and it
can break up in the air.
The Airbus notice referred to the Quick Reference Handbook and the
Flight Crew Operating Manual, which is a more detailed volume that is
also kept in the cockpit. For all the models, however, the advice is
the same: keep the plane level and keep the throttle setting in place
while troubleshooting. The ability to fix the problem in flight would
depend, of course, on its source.
With only limited information available, and without the flight data
recorder or cockpit voice recorder, experts around the world could not
do much more than speculate. A series of system failures could be set
off by an on-board fire, by a failure that allowed ice buildup on a
critical instrument, or by a variety of other causes, experts said.
The Airbus notice pointed out that the airplane was crossing an area of
multiple thunderstorms at the time of the accident early Monday. Severe
thunderstorms can cause crashes, although it is not clear whether the
conditions that the flight encountered, on its planned route from Rio
de Janeiro to Paris, were unusual.
At AccuWeather.com, a commercial weather service, forecasters
calculated that thunderstorms in the region of the crash could have
generated updrafts in the range of 100 miles per hour, although Daniel
G. Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist, conceded that this was not
He noted that one message sent out automatically by the plane indicated
the cabin had depressurized, and he suggested perhaps this had forced
the crew to descend into breathable air — and a more intense part of
Stamford commuters tell DOT
head: Let us in on plans for new parking
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.
"The reason why we're so frustrated and we really want more information
is because we want to make sure you all understand how precious every
minute is for our commute," testified William Tong, a state
representative from Stamford.
"The commuters on those trains, they have to be a part of this process
... that has to happen."
It was unclear how much the public input from the hearing -- the only
one scheduled for the project -- would actually influence the state's
final decisions. While Redeker insisted comments would be heard, final
proposals from developers in the running are due Oct. 9, four days
after the public comment period on the project closes. After that, the
state will enter into confidential negotiations to pick a winner.
"The bids are being worked on now [without any public input]," said Jim
Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, to
scattered applause from the audience. "The time for public input would
have been a year ago ... not while [the project] is already in process.
It's a done deal."
Redeker continued to defend the confidentiality of the process,
explaining that the state Department of Transportation is asking the
private sector for ideas rather than spending tens of millions in state
money to design the garage itself. Those ideas need to remain
confidential because they're proprietary, he said.
In fact, Redeker added, the state had tried a similar process years ago
where it did "try to solicit proposals that were public proposals."
"How many did we get? Zero," he told the audience. When DOT asked
developers why they wouldn't submit proposals, Redeker said, they
responded, "Well, our proposals have value."
The DOT has said the public will be informed of all the specifics of
the plans once the agency chooses a final one -- and that changes could
be made after that. Jack Condlin, president and CEO of the
Stamford Chamber of Commerce, wasn't buying it. After the winner is
chosen, he said, the public's chance to weigh in would be even more
"No pun intended, the train has left the station at that point," he
said, to more applause from the audience.
Thursday night's hearing was supposed to focus narrowly on the
"potential environmental impact" of the final project. But since no
specifics on the project have been released, commuters couldn't say
much on the topic. Instead, they implored the state to take their
thoughts into account. Almost everyone who testified said that
when the 727-space current garage in place now is torn down and
replaced with a 1000-space garage, the new garage must not be farther
away from the train station. The state's request for proposals included
an option for developers to build the garage as far as a quarter-mile
"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," said Stamford resident Esther
Giordano. "So walking a quarter-mile, forget it. That's outrageous."
Giordano said she lives just a few miles away from the station, but has
to leave 20 minutes early to catch a 7:50 a.m. train to Manhattan. She
is currently on the waiting list -- along with 857 other people -- for
a $70 monthly parking permit at the station, and so she has to pay
between $8 and $10 per day to park there, depending on how long her car
The DOT says it has given developers leeway with where to build the
garage in part because it wants to encourage "transit-oriented
development," which could include residential, office, or retail space
near the station as well. But commuters said their interests should be
paramount, before any other development ideas.
"You've got to get your priorities straight," said David Martin, a
former president of Stamford's Board of Representatives who serves on
the Board of Finance. "... What scares some of us is that
[transit-oriented development] is an excuse to put more development and
not solve the fundamental problems of our train station."
Many also criticized the lack of input from Stamford officials in the
process. Because the state owns and operates the train station, the DOT
will take the lead on the project. Top elected and unelected officials
in Stamford, when asked earlier this week, didn't know who the
potential developers were and did not expect to find out anytime soon.
Responding to that specific concern, Redeker said, "I just reject
that." He said the DOT took all recommendations that were put into a
study the city commissioned on the train station years ago. "We're not
ignoring, we're partnering," he said.
Still, Redeker had acknowledged in an earlier interview with The Mirror
that the city will not know the identities of developers, or their
proposals, before the state picks a final one.
"The city is not part of the public-private partnership in a direct
way," he said in the interview.
'We need to fix that'
Once testimony had finished, Redeker took the podium again to say that
he understood that the state's new process was "totally disconcerting"
-- especially "from a public involvement point of view."
"We need to fix that," he said.
Martin said he found those words encouraging, and that the stakes for
Stamford -- and the state -- were incredibly high. Metro-North has
counted 27,000 daily boardings and disembarkations at Stamford
Transportation Center. It is the busiest train station in the state and
the second-busiest (after Grand Central Station) on Metro-North's New
"Is there a more important transportation facility in all of
Connecticut than the Stamford rail station?" Martin asked DOT
officials, adding, "Is there a transportation facility in all of
Connecticut that has more problems than the Stamford train station?"
Still, many were not convinced anything would change.
"It seems that the taxpayers and citizens of the city are under assault
by Hartford," said Barry Michelson, a member of Stamford's zoning
board, in his testimony. Leaving the hearing, he expressed more
"There's no proposal [to talk about,]" Michelson said. "They're doing
an environmental impact statement and they don't have a proposal. So
what are you evaluating?"
The Commuter Rail Council's Jim Cameron bluntly asked Redeker if he
would let other stakeholders in the project besides DOT, such as
commuters themselves, see and review proposals before making a
decision. Others also asked if there would be additional public
hearings. Redeker did not respond directly to either of those
questions, saying only that he would work to improve public involvement
in the process.
"I can't be put on the spot tonight for an answer on exactly how to do
that," he said.
Commuters call for action, not more
By ROBERT KOCH
Posted on 05/19/2009
Commuters, their advocates and elected officials told the Connecticut
Public Transportation Commission at Norwalk City Hall on Tuesday night
to speed along commuter rail improvement projects and other
alternatives to automobiles.
"We need a sense of enormous emergency. We don't have 10 years," said
Harold E. Clark, a Wilton resident. "Provide public transportation. I
don't care if it's more buses, until you can build the trains."
Michael Perrella, also of Wilton, said he has seen incremental
improvement in train service but added, "in real terms, very little has
The comments came after Peter A. Richter of the state Department of
Transportation gave an update on the State Rail Plan, which will lay
out rail policy, priorities and strategies to channel state and federal
"You're going to see this railroad get ... better," said Richter, who
pointed to improvements while acknowledging their slow pace.
"Continue to hammer away," said Thomas A. Cheeseman, transportation
commission chairman. "Something will get done."
About three dozen people attended the hearing, including state Sen.
Toni Boucher, R-26; Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss; and Wilton
First Selectman William F. Brennan, who complimented the DOT for
widening Route 7.
"Unfortunately, I cannot say the same things about the rail line and
some of their facilities. The Wilton train station has been locked up
tight for over three and a half years," Brennan said. "Get this train
Boucher said upgrading the Norwalk-Danbury line has been her priority
and is now advancing after being ignored for years.
Jim Cameron, Connecticut Metro North Commuter Rail Council chairman,
said he's pleased that more than 300 new rail cars are slated for
delivery. But he added that nothing has been done to boost parking at
train stations. Cameron took aim at the state Transportation Strategy
Board and asked the transportation commission to be more aggressive.
"Something has to come out of this other than a written report that
doesn't get acted on," Cameron said. "Take what you hear tonight, put
it in front of Gov. Rell."
Tuesday night's hearing was one of seven such hearings the
transportation commission will hold this year prior to submitting its
annual report to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the DOT and the General Assembly's
"It is very important that what you say here doesn't disappear into
this room," said Gail Lavielle, transportation commission member from
Wilton. "We will be following up."
Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi pleaded with the transportation
commission to speed DOT projects.
"The DOT has lost its credibility with the taxpayers. We have no faith
with the DOT's projects," Marconi said. "When are we going to see
LINK HERE TO SUPER NYTIMES COVERAGE OF 2009
MIRACLE ON HUDSON
For a goose-free JFK
Last Updated: 11:24 PM, July 13, 2012
Posted: 10:39 PM, July 13, 2012
Capt Sullenberger was hailed as a
hero after landing his plane on the Hudson
pilot urges safety funding
The pilot of a plane that ditched into the
Hudson River in New York has called on US airlines to invest more in
recruiting and training pilots.
Capt Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger told Congress his pay
had been cut by 40% in recent years, and the industry might not attract
the "best and brightest".
"The single most important piece of safety equipment is
an experienced, well-trained pilot," he said.
He was hailed as a hero after January's
landing, which all on board survived.
At the hearing, an air traffic controller recalled the
captain telling him he would land in the river, and thinking this was a
Controller Patrick Harten said it felt like hours
before he heard of the plane's "heroic landing".
Earlier, Capt Sullenberger told the House aviation
subcommittee that he was "deeply troubled" about the future of the
He said pay cuts had placed "pilots and their families
in an untenable financial situation", and that this was deterring
Companies should refocus on the recruitment and
retention of well-trained of pilots, and this should be "at least equal
to their financial bottom lines", he said.
Capt Sullenberger said the airline industry had been
facing severe economic challenges for the last eight years.
"We've been hit by an economic tsunami: September 11th,
bankruptcies, fluctuating fuel prices, mergers, loss of pensions and
revolving door management teams," he said.
He added that his decision to stay in the airline
industry had come at "a great financial cost to me and my family", with
his pay cut and pension downgraded.
Security camera footage of the Hudson
The committee was sitting to examine what lessons could
be learned from the 15 January accident.
Capt Sullenberger urged "collective solutions"
involving management a labour to ensure that pilots are sufficiently
valued and to avoid "negative consequences to the flying public and to
"The current experience and skills of our country's
professional airline pilots come from investments made years ago," he
"We must not let the economic and financial pressures
detract from a focus on constantly improving our safety measures and
engaging in ongoing and comprehensive training."
Investigators have confirmed that Canada geese collided
with both of the engines of Flight 1549 shortly before it ditched,
causing them to lose power.
"At the point of impact we heard thumps of the birds
striking the aircraft," Capt Sullenberger told the Congress committee
"I immediately began to feel vibrations - abnormal,
rough vibrations coming from both engines," he said.
"And I quickly began to smell in the cabin
circulated air, what I've experienced before, and that's a burned bird
smell going through the engines."
a nap on U.S. Airways? http://www.usairways.com/awa/content/traveltools/intheair/foodandbeverages/powernapsack.aspx
Bird Remains Found in Plane’s
By Matthew L. Wald
February 4, 2009, 4:40 pm
A feather found in the
left engine of US Airways Flight
1549.WASHINGTON — The left engine from US Airways Flight 1549, pulled
from the Hudson River, has “organic material” in it, the National
Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday, and the “organic
material” in the right engine, which remained attached to the plane
after its Jan. 15 ditching, is, in fact, bird remains, the agency said.
Material from both engines has been sent to the bird lab at the
Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History to
determine its species; geese are suspected.
The board also released information that seems to show that two
possible engine problems were unrelated to the accident. Two days
earlier, the same plane took off on the same route, La Guardia to
Charlotte, N.C., and suffered an engine surge; the crew consulted with
maintenance people on the ground and decided to continue the flight.
The safety board said that the surge was caused by a faulty temperature
sensor, which was replaced, and that the engine did not appear to have
And on Dec. 31, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an
inspection of engines like the ones on the plane that crash-landed,
because some had wear that made them prone to engine stalls. But the
inspections were completed before the accident and the engines were
cleared, the board said.
The plane has been moved to a “secure salvage yard” in Kearny,
from a dock in Jersey City, the board said. The engines are at the
manufacturer in Cincinnati, where they are being disassembled.
Police Divers Find Left Engine of Flight
By Matthew L. Wald AND Christine Hauser
January 21, 2009, 3:47 pm
Updated, 5:45 p.m. | Two important developments occurred
the investigation into the cause of the crash-landing of US Airways
Flight 1549 in the Hudson River last week. Police divers found the left
engine of the plane, an Airbus A320, in the river, while the National
Transportation Safety Board announced that the right engine, which
stayed attached to the plane, showed “evidence of soft body impact
Some blades were cracked and others missing, the board said.
Investigators found “what appears to be organic material,’’ which they
sent to the Department of Agriculture for DNA analysis and a single
feather, which they sent to the Smithsonian Institution for
The right engine “experienced a surge” on a flight two days
crash, after which maintenance personnel replaced an internal part, a
temperature probe, the board said. It did not specify whether there was
likely to be any connection to the bird encounter two days later, but
other experts said that such a surge could have many causes. The
investigators said they would examine the maintenance records.
And, they said, they were removing carry-on and checked bags,
work with USAirways to return them. Investigators usually weigh such
items as they calculate whether the plane’s weight and balance were
Earlier on Wednesday, the city’s Police Department confirmed
large object detected by sonar was the missing left engine that broke
off from the jet after it landed in the waterway last week.
Two divers, equipped with hand-held sonar, followed an anchor
more than 60 feet to the 16-foot-long and 8-foot-wide object, first
detected on Monday. There, they came within a few feet of the object
and were verbally directed closer to it by a police official on a
launch who was monitoring their progress by watching the images from
The divers went into the water at 2:35 p.m and confirmed they
engine within 10 minutes, surfacing by 3 p.m., a police spokesman, Paul
J. Browne, said. Visibility was six inches in front of them.
Investigators want to examine the left engine of the plane, an
A320, which lost power in both engines 90 seconds after taking off from
La Guardia Airport last Thursday and apparently striking birds. The
pilot brought the plane down in the river, and all 155 passengers and
crew survived after the plane settled on the river surface.
The detection of the aircraft part took careful execution in
be dangerous conditions. On Wednesday, a Police Department chief,
Charles Kammerdener, watched as two divers slipped into the icy water.
Chief Kammerdener, speaking by telephone from the launch, said
was also watching closely for any migrating fields of ice to make sure
that the packs did not encroach on the diving site.
“We are monitoring the water in front of us,” he said. “Should
pack move down we have plenty of time to get them up.”
It was not immediately clear when the engine would be brought to
surface. For that operation, the divers will have to fix straps around
the engine, and an Army Corps of Engineers vessel, the Hayward, will
use its 20-ton crane to lift the engine from the water and bring it to
a marina in Jersey City where the rest of the aircraft is being
examined by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The engine is estimated to weigh about four tons, and the crane
was on standby and N.T.S.B. officials were onboard, said Thomas M.
Creamer, chief of the operations division for the Army Corps in New
Jersey and New York.
Cockpit Tape Reveals Engine Loss
and a ‘Mayday’
By MATTHEW L. WALD and AL BAKER
January 19, 2009
The cockpit voice recording from the plane that landed in the
Hudson River on Thursday captured both the sound of an impact on the US
Airways jet, presumably by birds, and the efforts of a crew that was
going through what a senior investigator called a “very calm, collected
exercise,” even though they were gliding lower and had no way to reach
The plane lost thrust in both engines soon after takeoff, and
reached an altitude above 3,200 feet, officials of the National
Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday.
“About 90 seconds after takeoff, the captain remarks about
Kathryn O. Higgins, one of the agency’s five board members, in
characterizing what could be heard on the cockpit voice recording. The
recording was played in the board’s laboratory in Washington on Sunday
and described to Ms. Higgins, who has been assigned to the scene. “One
second later, the cockpit voice recorder recorded the sound of thumps
and a rapid decrease in engine sounds,” she said.
The recorder helped illustrate how the crew departed from the
script once they realized their dire circumstances.
Usually, one pilot flies the plane and the other works the
in this case, it was Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III doing both,
while the first officer, Jeffrey B. Skiles, rushed to try to accomplish
a “restart” checklist. But even if the engines could have been
restarted, he had very little time: Flight 1549 ditched into the river
three and a half minutes after the engines lost power.
The voice recorder also captured the captain declaring “Mayday,”
the tape of air-to-ground communications did not, possibly because he
said the word before he pressed the button on the microphone that would
begin a radio transmission. Still, Ms. Higgins said, when she listened
to that tape, “It was a very routine conversation, that’s how I would
characterize it. I was more nervous than they appeared to be, listening
Typically, the full air-to-ground tape is released by the
Aviation Administration within weeks of an incident; the safety board
generally releases a transcript of cockpit voice recordings in a few
On first examination, the two recorders, which were recovered
plane early Sunday, confirmed details given by the cockpit crew in
interviews, she said.
Robert Benzon, the safety board investigator in charge,
cockpit conversation as calm and collected. He said that an initial
look at the right engine, the only one still attached to the plane,
showed a few dents on the cowling but not much damage to the fan blades
at the front. But foreign objects can sometimes do greater damage
deeper inside the engine, he said.
As the plane was hauled out of the water late Saturday in
City, where it had been moored, the right engine showed debris that
“looked like grunge to me,” he said, but that might have been mud or
seaweed, rather than bird remains.
The search for the left engine, which is believed to be in the
area of where the plane landed, has been delayed by ice in the river.
Ms. Higgins said that New York Police Department searchers had a
“positive hit” on an object on the river bottom that was the right size
to be an engine, and was in a plausible spot, but that using better
sonar or a remote-controlled camera would probably have to wait because
of heavy ice. They marked the spot for exploration, she said.
The police, she said, were “quite familiar with the bottom out
and had not seen this object before. The police, however, seemed less
certain that the “hit” was the engine.
Progress on examining the plane has been slow because the deck
barge where it is being kept is slippery with ice and fuel, Mr. Benzon
said. The fuel tank in the right wing has a small leak, and
investigators and salvagers decided to empty it before moving the barge
to a Jersey City marina, where it was to be inspected by investigators.
The now-familiar images of passengers standing on the wings,
for boats to rescue them, raised the question of whether the plane, an
Airbus A320, carried enough life rafts. Mr. Benzon said that there was
room for all the passengers on the emergency slides, which in a water
landing become rafts.
Ms. Higgins said one reason everyone survived was that the plane
carried “very senior flight attendants.” All were in their 50s,
according to US Airways. “This is a testament to experienced women
doing their jobs, because they were, and it worked,” said Ms. Higgins,
who has worked for several federal agencies since 1969.
On Sunday night, the US Airways plane gleamed under the lights
rested on the barge, before it left Battery Park City. The windows from
the wing exits were missing, the right front door hung askew and a
deflated slide from a rear door trailed from the plane’s body. The
heavy hum of a tugboat’s diesel engine was a reminder that this was an
accident scene, not a surreal sculpture. Ms. Higgins, asked if the
plane would every fly again, said, “Only in the movies.”
White-Knuckled Minutes Aboard Flight
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:49 a.m. ET
January 18, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) -- The birds flew majestically, in perfect
the co-pilot saw them coming. For a moment, it looked like they
would pass beneath US Airways Flight 1549, but when Capt. Chesley B.
Sullenberger looked up, they were there in his windscreen. Big. Dark
brown. Lots of them. His first instinct was to duck. Then
there were thumps, a burning smell, and silence as both jet engines cut
out. For a moment, the Airbus A320 hung in the sky 3,000 feet
above the Bronx, its engines knocked so completely dead that one flight
attendant said it sounded like being in a library.
Investigators provided this dramatic new description Saturday of
unfolded on the flight in the five brief minutes between its takeoff
from LaGuardia Airport on Thursday and its textbook splashdown in the
The plane had been in the air for only 90 seconds when disaster
Air traffic controllers hadn't picked up the birds on their radar
screens and were still giving climbing instructions when the pilot
radioed that something had gone very wrong.
''Aaah, this is Cactus 1549,'' he said. ''We lost thrust in both
engines. We are turning back toward LaGuardia.''
But he announced a new destination within moments. LaGuardia was
So was Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Sullenberger reasoned
that his jet was ''too low, too slow'' and near too many tall buildings
to reach any airport. And heading for Teterboro would mean risking a
''catastrophic'' crash in a populated neighborhood.
''We can't do it,'' he told air traffic control. ''We're gonna
National Transportation Safety Board member Kitty Higgins
those radio transmissions and gave a detailed summary of Sullenberger's
testimony to the investigation team on Saturday. She also recounted the
NTSB's interview with the plane's first officer, Jeff Skiles, and three
flight attendants. Their account illustrated how quickly things
deteriorated during the flight, and laid out the split-second command
decisions that ultimately ensured that everyone aboard the plane
The flight was supposed to have been the last leg of a four-trip
The crew had begun the day in Pittsburgh, flown to Charlotte, N.C.,
then to LaGuardia, and were to head back to Charlotte in the afternoon.
They got departure clearance at 3:25 p.m., and a minute later the jet
was 700 feet in the air, heading north.
The birds came out of
Higgins said. They hadn't been on the radar screen of the air traffic
controller who approved the departure, although other radar facilities
later confirmed that their path intersected the jet as it climbed past
Back in the cabin, the passengers instantly knew something was
They heard a thump, then eerie silence. A haze hung in the air. The
flight attendants smelled something metallic burning.
''I think we hit a bird,'' said a passenger in first class.
In the cockpit, Sullenberger took over flying from Skiles, who
handled the takeoff, but had less experience in the Airbus.
''Your aircraft,'' the co-pilot said.
While the pilot quickly leveled the plane off to keep it from
and thought about where to land, Skiles kept trying to restart the
engines. He also began working through a three-page list of procedures
for an emergency landing. Normally, those procedures begin at 35,000
feet. This time, he started at 3,000. Sullenberger made a
sweeping left turn and took the gliding jet over the George Washington
Bridge, and scanned the river, his best bet.
Pilots are trained to set down near a ship if they ditch, so
be rescued before they drown or freeze to death in frigid seas.
Sullenberger picked the perfect spot. The channel was 50 feet deep and
clear of obstructions, but only minutes by boat from Manhattan's
commuter ferry terminals. It happened so fast, the pilots never
had time to throw the aircraft's ''ditch switch,'' which seals off
vents and holes in the fuselage to make it more seaworthy.
Sullenberger issued a command over the intercom, ''Brace for
Only 3 1/2 minutes had elapsed since the bird strike.
''Brace! Brace! Head down!'' the flight attendants shouted to
Security cameras on a Manhattan pier captured the spectacular
The jet came in easy, like it was coming down on land, and threw up
spray as it slid on its belly. Two flight attendants likened it
to a hard landing -- nothing more. There was one impact, no bounce,
then a gradual deceleration.
''Neither one of them realized that they were in the water,''
That changed quickly. The crew got two doors open. One water
deployed automatically. The other had to be activated by hand.
Passengers grabbed life preservers and seat cushions. At the rear
of the plane, a third flight attendant stopped a passenger from opening
a rear door and letting in a gush of water, then made her way
forward. As the passengers made their way out onto the wings, she
started to feel woozy. Only then did she notice that her leg had a
severe cut -- the most serious wound to anyone on board.
Sullenberger walked the cabin twice before abandoning ship.
He hadn't spoken to reporters yet on Saturday, but Higgins said,
could not be more happy that he got everyone off the airplane safely.''
The plane, too, was finally pulled from the river late Saturday
night. The bottom of the fuselage appeared to have been shredded
and torn. Big chunks of loose paneling peeled away as it was lifted
onto a barge -- a sign, perhaps, of how close the jet came to breaking
apart during a landing hard enough to rip metal, but slow and low
enough to save 155 lives.
Proposal for more garbage and thus more potential bird strikes
No Trash, No Crash
By JAMES E. HALL
June 27, 2011
TWO years ago the world was amazed when US Airways Flight 1549
safely in the Hudson River after striking a flock of geese upon takeoff
from La Guardia Airport. Through the heroic actions of Capt. Chesley B.
Sullenberger III and his crew, and more than a little luck, all 155
people aboard survived in what was called the Miracle on the Hudson.
Incredibly, the Federal Aviation Administration has ignored the
from that episode and approved construction of a garbage transfer
facility, known as the North Shore Marine Transfer Station, in College
Point, Queens, less than half a mile east of La Guardia. Even though
the facility is to be enclosed, the sight and smells of garbage passing
through it will be irresistible to birds, as a possible food source,
and are likely to draw birds into the path of approaching and departing
aircraft, endangering the lives of passengers and people on the ground.
The Bloomberg administration and the New York City Department of
Sanitation should never have proposed putting a bird-drawing garbage
transfer station so close to an airport. But even more clearly, the
F.A.A. never should have allowed the project to go forward.
F.A.A. guidelines normally call for a minimum of 10,000 feet
“bird attractant” like this garbage-transfer station and an airport
runway, yet the proposed station is being built about 2,200 feet from
Runway 13/31 at La Guardia.
Moreover, each runway has an F.A.A.-mandated protection zone, a
buffer that must be kept clear of aviation hazards, including
structures. Given plans drawn up by the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey, which runs La Guardia, that zone should be set at 2,500
feet for that runway — which would place the trash station squarely
within it — rather than the 1,700 feet currently used.
Rather than follow its own regulations, the F.A.A. seemingly
of its way to approve this facility. Initially, it failed to even
consider the facility’s potential to increase catastrophic bird strikes
to aircraft at one of the world’s busiest airports. Only under
Congressional pressure did it finally conduct a bird-strike threat
Usually, such studies examine a five-mile radius around the
over a full year to assess all factors relating to weather, migration,
available food and bird species diversity. But the official report of
the study, submitted to the United States Department of Transportation
by the F.A.A., presented data on bird activity only within a
quarter-mile radius of the garbage facility, and indicated that the
study was conducted over only two months, in the dead of winter.
The project’s defenders have offered arguments that do not stand
The city formerly operated a garbage transfer station at the
location, without incident. But the margin of safety for aviation is
necessarily small; the fact that no one was killed because of a bird
strike there before is no more persuasive than an uneventful car trip
in which no one wore a seat belt.
While the F.A.A. panel recommended mitigation measures like a
reduce the hazards associated with wildlife — an implicit
acknowledgement of the potential dangers — bird strikes around La
Guardia have been increasing for years despite such steps.
The proposed station is designed to be “enclosed.” But a recent
F.A.A.-sponsored study found that transfer stations that were fully
enclosed were just as attractive to birds as those that were not.
It’s true that the birds that brought down Flight 1549 were
geese, not birds residing in Flushing Bay, which surrounds La Guardia.
But the Flushing Bay area is a haven for geese and other bird species,
and in any event, the birds that brought down Flight 1549 could just as
easily have been resident gulls, which can weigh three pounds, more
than large enough to disable an aircraft engine.
This garbage facility is not just a safety hazard. Its proximity
height would prevent the Port Authority from using new navigation
equipment when clouds are low in the sky and visibility is poor. That
equipment is vital to reducing delays and increasing capacity; La
Guardia is among the worst airports in delays and cancellations, with
Those who know firsthand just how deadly this facility may prove
have not been fooled. That’s why Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot,
Jeffrey B. Skiles, both oppose this project. (Full disclosure: My
consulting firm does work for Kenneth D. Paskar, a pilot and Manhattan
resident who opposes construction of the station and has challenged the
project in court.)
The F.A.A. and the Port Authority should prevent the
this threat to public safety and economic well-being. If they don’t,
Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Christopher J. Christie of New
Jersey need to step in. If not, we will be left praying for another
miracle on the Hudson.
James E. Hall, a safety and
management consultant, was chairman of the National Transportation
Safety Board from 1994 to 2001.
Hazard Is Persistent for Planes
By MICHELINE MAYNARD
January 17, 2009
Federal investigators are pursuing early indications that the US
Airways jet that crash-landed in the Hudson River was struck by geese
shortly after taking off — a type of collision that has caused problems
for pilots since soon after the first airplane flight. The
accident involving the jet, which took off from La Guardia Airport,
would be unusual, though, because both of the plane’s engines appeared
to have been damaged by birds, aviation experts said on Thursday.
Representatives from CFM International, which produced the
the US Airways jet that made a midafternoon splash landing in the
Hudson, have been asked to participate in the investigation of the
incident, a spokeswoman for the company said. Some of the
evidence that investigators might normally look for, in the form of
bird remains, might have washed away by now, however, given that the
plane spent the night moored on the river. But once the plane has been
lifted out of the river and moved indoors, the investigators will be
able to dissemble the engines and study them for damage.
Since 2000, at least 486 commercial aircraft have collided with
according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Of those incidents,
166 led to emergency landings and 66 resulted in aborted takeoffs.
Canada geese, a frequent visitor to golf courses and open spaces
metropolitan New York area during the winter, pose a particular danger
to planes because of their size. The impact of a 12 pound bird hitting
a plane traveling at 150 miles per hour is equal to that of a 1,000
pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet, according to experts on
The earliest known fatal airplane crash involving a bird took
1912, nine years after the first flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty
Hawk, N.C. That plane crashed into the surf off Long Beach, Calif.,
pinning its pilot under the wreckage. The most deadly crash
involving a bird strike occurred in 1962, when 62 people were killed on
an Eastern Air Lines propeller plane that crashed upon takeoff from
Boston. That plane collided with a flock of starlings, sucking the
birds into three of its four engines, causing the plane to stall and
plunge into Boston Harbor.
In the New York area, the most recent incident took place at
Airport in December 2006, when a great blue heron was drawn into the
engine of a Boeing 767 jet shortly after takeoff. The plane returned to
the airport, and passengers were put on another flight. There was
another incident at La Guardia as recently as 2003, when an American
Airlines Fokker 100 plane hit a flock of geese upon takeoff, causing
the right engine to fail. The flight was diverted to J.F.K.
All commercial airplane engines are required to pass a “bird
test before they can be certified for use. Engine manufacturers,
including CFM International, which produced the engines on the US
Airways Airbus A320 involved in Thursday’s sudden landing, test the
engines physically and through computer simulation. In the
physical tests, the engines are revved to full power inside a test
facility and absorb various kinds of birds, from those the size of
sparrows to those the size of herons, one at a time. (The birds are
already dead.) The engines also ingest multiple birds meant to simulate
a collision with a flock, said Matthew Perra, a spokesman for the
engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
To pass the test, engines must keep operating after the
maintaining enough power to take off, fly around the airport and land
the plane safely, he said. That is because a jet with two engines has
to be able to take off on 50 percent power. Engines are tested
one at a time, so manufacturers cannot measure what would happen if a
flock of birds hit both engines at once. However, they do study that
situation through simulation tests.
“It’s a rare thing to see two engines go out at the same time,”
Airports around the world have encountered bird collisions
years, making them a standard hazard for commercial, military and
private pilots alike.
“Any time you get an open field and grass, you’ve got birds,”
Robert W. Mann Jr., an aviation industry expert in Port Washington,
N.Y. Mr. Mann said birds pose the greatest threat during takeoff, when
jets use the most engine power in order to become aloft. Birds are also
a hazard as the planes climb to cruising altitudes. Bird strikes
are frequently reported around 8,000 feet, especially during migration
Although birds generally do not fly higher than 12,000 feet, there has
been a report of a bird strike at 37,000 feet. New York’s
airports are particularly vulnerable to ocean-loving birds, according
to Susan Elbin, director of conservation at New York City Audubon.
Indeed, there are colonies of gulls on islands adjacent to J.F.K.
For years, the F.A.A., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
and the United States Department of Agriculture have tried “to minimize
the conflict between birds and planes,” Ms. Elbin said. Falcons, along
with pyrotechnics, recordings of wild animals and propane cannons that
create loud, startling noises, have been used to scare bird populations
away from runways. But sometimes, the airports have been forced
to relocate the flocks, or in the most extreme cases, kill them.
“As a last resort you have to do lethal control to convince the rest of
the flock that we mean business,” said Russell DeFusco, a member of the
steering committee for Bird Strike Committee USA, a group that collects
data on bird strikes.
Mr. Mann said pilots can do only so much to train for a possible bird
strike. He called the response by the US Airways crew to the emergency
Said Mr. Mann: “It was a great piece of flying, both for putting it
down where they would not endanger a lot of people, and for putting it
down in one piece.”
Pilot Is Hailed After Jetliner’s Icy
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
January 17, 2009 - another
look ahead by the NYTIMES
A US Airways jetliner with 155 people aboard
power in both engines, possibly from striking birds, after taking off
from La Guardia Airport on Thursday afternoon. The pilot ditched in the
icy Hudson River and all on board were rescued by a flotilla of
converging ferries and emergency boats, the authorities said.
What might have been a catastrophe in New York — one that evoked the
feel if not the scale of the Sept. 11 attack — was averted by a pilot’s
quick thinking and deft maneuvers, and by the nearness of rescue boats,
a combination that witnesses and officials called miraculous.
As stunned witnesses watched from high-rise buildings on both banks,
the Airbus A320, which had risen to 3,200 feet over the Bronx and
banked left, came downriver, its fuselage lower than many apartment
terraces and windows, in a carefully executed touchdown shortly after
3:30 p.m. that sent up huge plumes of water at midstream, between West
48th Street in Manhattan and Weehawken, N.J.
On board, the pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, unable to get
back to La Guardia, had made a command decision to avoid densely
populated areas and try for the Hudson, and had warned the 150
passengers to brace for a hard landing. Most had their heads down as
the jetliner slammed into the water, nose slightly up, just three
minutes after takeoff on what was to be a flight to Charlotte, N.C.
Many on board and watching from the shores were shocked that the
aircraft did not sink immediately. Instead, it floated, twisting and
drifting south in strong currents, as three New York Waterway commuter
ferries moved in. Moments later, terrified passengers began swarming
out the emergency exits into brutally cold air and onto the submerged
wings of the bobbing jetliner, which began taking in water.
As the first ferry nudged up alongside, witnesses said, some passengers
were able to leap onto the decks. Others were helped aboard by ferry
crews. Soon, a small armada of police boats, fireboats, tugboats and
Coast Guard craft converged on the scene, and some of them snubbed up
to keep the jetliner afloat. Helicopters brought wet-suited police
divers, who dropped into the water to help with the rescues.
Over the next hour, as a captivated city watched continuous television
reports and the Hudson turned from gold to silver in the gathering
winter twilight, all of the passengers, including at least one baby,
and both pilots and all three flight attendants, were transferred to
the rescue boats — a feat that unfolded as the white-and-blue jetliner
continued to drift south.
When all were out, the pilot walked up and down the aisle twice to make
sure the plane was empty, officials said.
Brought ashore on both sides of the river, the survivors were taken to
hospitals in Manhattan and New Jersey, mostly for treatment of exposure
to the brutal cold: 18 degrees in the air, about 35 degrees in the
water that many had stood in on the wings up to their waists.
Still, most of them walked ashore, some grim with fright and shivering
with cold, wrapped in borrowed coats. But others were smiling, and a
few were ready to give interviews to mobs of reporters and television
cameras. Some described their survival as a miracle, a sentiment
repeated later by city and state officials; others gave harrowing
accounts of an ordeal whose outcome few might have imagined in such a
Even the aircraft was saved for examination by investigators — towed
down the Hudson and tied up at Battery Park City. In the glare of
floodlights, the top of its fuselage, part of a wing and the
blue-and-red tail fin jutted out of the water, but its US Airways logo
and many of its windows were submerged.
“We’ve had a miracle on 34th Street,” Gov. David A. Paterson said at a
late-afternoon news conference in Manhattan. “I believe now we’ve had a
miracle on the Hudson. This pilot, somehow, without any engines, was
somehow able to land this plane, and perhaps without any injuries to
the passengers. This is a potential tragedy that may have become one of
the most magnificent days in the history of New York City agencies.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that there had been few injuries and
that the pilot had done “a masterful job.”
W. Douglas Parker, chairman and chief executive of US Airways, and
officials of the Federal Aviation Administration said that Flight 1549
had taken off from La Guardia at 3:26 p.m., bound for Charlotte. It
headed north, across the East River and over the Bronx on a route that
would involve a sweeping left turn to head south. But both engines lost
power about a minute into the flight.
The National Transportation Safety Board and state and local agencies
are to investigate the cause of the crash, which could take months, but
early indications were that the plane’s engines had shut down after
having ingested a flock of birds — variously described as geese or
gulls. It was not clear where the birds were encountered.
The pilot radioed air traffic controllers on Long Island that his plane
had sustained a “double bird strike.” Without power, returning to the
airport was out of the question, aviation experts said. He saw a small
airport in the distance, apparently at Teterboro, N.J., but decided to
head down the Hudson and make a water landing, a rare event that is
mentioned in the safety instructions given by flight crews to all
passengers on every flight.
Aviation experts said such a maneuver is tricky. An angle of descent
that is too steep could break off the wings and send the aircraft to
Neighbors of the pilot, who lives in Danville, Calif., about 40 miles
east of San Francisco, described Mr. Sullenberger as calm, controlled
and the kind of person who handles emergencies well.
“If anybody could do it, it would be him," said one neighbor, Frank
Witnesses in high-rise buildings on both sides of the Hudson River
described a gradual descent that appeared to be carefully controlled,
almost as if the choppy surface of the Hudson were a paved tarmac.
Susan Obel, a retiree who lives on West 70th Street and Amsterdam
Avenue in a 20th-floor apartment, saw the plane flying amazingly low.
“When you see a plane somewhere that it isn’t supposed to be, you get
that eerie feeling,” she said. “I didn’t think it was a terrorist, but
I did worry.”
On the plane, passengers heard the pilot say on the intercom, “Brace
for impact.” One passenger, Elizabeth McHugh, 64, of Charlotte, seated
on the aisle near the rear, said flight attendants shouted more
instructions: feet flat on the floor, heads down, cover your heads. “I
prayed and prayed and prayed,” she said. “Believe me, I prayed.”
Fulmer Duckworth, 41, who works in computer graphics for Bank of
America — coincidentally, more than 20 of the passengers work for the
bank, which is based in Charlotte — was in a meeting on the 29th floor
of a building at 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas when he saw the
plane hit the water.
“It made this huge, gigantic splash, and I actually thought it was a
boat crash at first,” he said. “It didn’t occur to me that it was a
plane in the water.”
Neil Lasher, 62, a consultant for Sony Music Publishing who lives in a
27th-floor apartment near the shore in Guttenberg, N.J., watched the
plane go down.
“As soon as the plane hit the water,” he said, “I could see the New
York Waterway ferries from New York York and the Jersey side, within a
minute, heading toward the airplane.”
The aircraft began to spin counterclockwise in the water and to drift
south with the current.
“As soon as we hit, we all jolted frontward and sideways, and then the
water started coming in around my feet,” Ms. McHugh said. She got up
and was pushed along the aisle and out an exit, then slid down an
inflated slide into a life raft.
One of the passengers who scrambled out onto the wing was Jeff
Kolodjay, 31, who had been in Seat 22A in the rear. He said that after
the emergency doors were opened, the plane began to take on water. In
what he described as “organized chaos,” the passengers, all wearing
life vests, “just walked through the water” toward the exits.
“We were just looking to be calm, and walking a straight line,” he said.
Dozens of survivors were taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center
and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. Jim Mandler, a spokesman at
Roosevelt, said 10 patients, ranging from their early 30s to a woman
about 85, had been treated, mainly for hypothermia. A flight attendant
had suffered a lacerated leg.
At the Weehawken ferry terminal, passengers shivered under blankets. A
woman on a stretcher was carried from the terminal to an ambulance, a
dazed look on her face.
Airbus issued a statement saying that the plane had been delivered to
US Airways on Aug. 2, 1999, and that the company would send
investigators to New York to help determine the cause of the accident.
F.A.A. records showed that the aircraft involved in the crash had made
at least two other emergency landings in this decade. On Feb. 2, 2002,
pilots spotted flames in the left engine, and on June 23, 2003,
indicators warned about problems with a landing gear. A later
inspection showed it was a false warning.
Tom Fox, president of New York Water Taxi, which sent boats to the
scene in the Hudson but did not participate in the rescues, said the
setting was, in a sense, ideal for a crash landing on water. “It
couldn’t have gone down in a better location because there are so many
water-borne assets there,” he said. “The pilot must have been both
talented and charmed.”
Reporting was contributed by
Michael Barbaro, Carla Baranauckas, Ken Belson, Viv Bernstein, Ralph
Blumenthal, Cara Buckley, Russ Buettner, Glenn Collins, Jim Dwyer,
Kareem Fahim, Kevin Flynn, Anemona Hartocollis, Christine Hauser,
Javier C. Hernandez, C. J. Hughes, Tina Kelley, Corey Kilgannon,
Patrick LaForge, Andrew W. Lehren, Patrick McGeehan, Jo Craven McGinty,
Mick Meenan, Christine Negroni, Kenny Porpora, William K. Rashbaum, Ray
Rivera, Liz Robbins, Marc Santora, Nate Schweber, Kirk Semple, Joel
Stonington, A. E. Velez, Mathew R. Warren and Margot Williams.
Do you think CT
will get any $$? Southwestern Region now has a Democrat in
Rell wants list of 'shovel ready' projects
By Susan Haigh
Published on 11/29/2008
Hartford - Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked state agencies to come up with a
list of projects that are ready to be built if the state receives
federal stimulus funding.
Rell directed the departments of Public Works,
Transportation and Economic and Community Development to prioritize any
“shovel ready” projects. They may include road, bridge, rail and
public-buildings projects, and economic development and housing
initiatives in the final design stages.
”I want them ready to go, so if the money comes through, then we're
ready to put the shovel in the ground,” Rell said Friday.
The Republican governor is scheduled to attend a meeting of governors
from across the country in Philadelphia on Tuesday. President-elect
Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are expected to talk
with governors about how the economic crisis is crimping states and
Obama has asked Congress to ready an economic stimulus program for him
to sign as soon as possible after he takes office on Jan. 20.
Many economists think that aid to state and local governments should be
tops on the agenda for any new stimulus spending, as they have less
borrowing authority than the federal government during an economic
downturn. That means states are slashing budgets as the slowdown causes
tax revenues to fall.
Singapore Air, Qantas say cracks found in Airbus A380
6 January 2012
SINGAPORE/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Qantas
Airways said on Friday they discovered cracks on the wing ribs of their
Airbus A380s, but said the cracks pose no threat to safety and repairs
have been carried out.
The remarks came after Airbus said on Thursday that engineers
discovered minor cracks in the wings of a "limited number" of A380s,
but said the cracks were not affecting the safety of the aircraft.
"Cracks were found on a small number of wing rib feet on an Airbus A380
during inspections in the second half of last year. These pose no
safety issue and repairs were carried out on the aircraft," SIA's
spokesman Nicholas Ionides said in an email to Reuters.
"Repairs were subsequently carried out on a second aircraft. We have
kept the relevant regulatory authorities fully informed and will be
carrying out inspections and any necessary repairs on other A380s as
they go in for routine checks," he added.
Qantas separately said that "minuscule cracking" was found in the wing
ribs of the Qantas A380 being repaired in Singapore after one of its
Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines suffered a mid-air blowout in 2010.
"Investigations have found that the cracking is unrelated to the engine
failure incident experienced by this aircraft in November 2010 and is
not unique to Qantas. It has now been repaired," the carrier said in a
"No immediate action is required by A380 operators because the cracking
presents no risk whatsoever to flight safety," Qantas said.
Airbus said it has traced the origin of the problem and developed an
inspection and repair procedure that will be done during routine,
scheduled four-year maintenance checks.
SIA, the world's second-biggest carrier by market value and the first
operator of such aircraft, operates 14 A380s and has five on order,
while Qantas has taken delivery of 10 of its 20 A380 aircraft on order,
according to the airline's website.
Both Singapore Airlines and Qantas are using Rolls-Royce Trent 900
engines on their A380 fleets.
reveals oxygen bottle burst on
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
The plane - en route from London to Melbourne, Australia - rapidly
descended thousands of feet and flew about 300 miles to Manila, where
it made a successful emergency landing.
No one was injured, but questions were raised about the much-lauded
safety of Qantas Airways, which has never lost a jet aircraft because
of an accident.
In the weeks after the incident, Qantas planes experienced a number of
other problems, including a loss of hydraulic fuel that led to an
emergency landing, failure of landing gear, and detached panels.
The problems prompted the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Australia's
aviation agency, to launch a review of Qantas Airways' safety standards.
Qantas earlier this month temporarily pulled six planes from service
because of irregularities in maintenance records. Qantas said it was a
record-keeping issue and there were no safety implications for the
Qantas Jet Is Investigated
By TIM JOHNSTON and MICHELINE MAYNARD
Published: July 27, 2008
SYDNEY — Investigators sought Saturday to determine why a section of
the fuselage of a Boeing jumbo jet burst open in fight, forcing an
emergency landing in Manila with 365 people aboard.
A hole the side of a sedan was ripped from a cargo area under the
business class area of the cabin, officials said. The plane, a 747-400
operating as Qantas Flight 30 from Melbourne to Hong Kong, landed
safely, and no one was hurt.
One person close to the investigation, who was not permitted to speak
to the media while it was continuing, said “some kind of explosion”
might have occurred, because the floor above the hold had been pushed
up. Two oxygen bottles that supply the pilots are stored in that area.
“The dangerous goods manifest is going to be very closely inspected to
see if there was anything that might have caused the oxygen bottles to
explode,” the person said, adding that metal fatigue was also a
Metal fatigue was blamed in a 1988 accident in which a gash opened in
Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in flight over Hawaii, causing a loss of air
pressure. A chunk of the plane’s roof and the cockpit door were blown
out. One flight attendant was killed when she was swept out of the
plane, and 65 passengers and crew members were hurt. The accident
prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to inspect Boeing planes
Aviation experts said the hole in the Qantas jet, which went into
service in 1991, might have appeared when a part of the plane meant to
reduce wind resistance pulled away from the fuselage, although they
cautioned it was too soon to draw conclusions. In Washington, a senior
counterterrorism official said there was no indication of terrorism in
The hole appeared to encompass a part of the plane called a fairing,
which is meant to smooth out the surface of the fuselage and reduce
drag. Fairings, which are installed on various parts of an aircraft, do
not normally suffer metal fatigue, said Robert Mann Jr., an industry
consultant based in Port Washington, N.Y.
That raised the question of whether the aircraft might have been
damaged on the ground or from inside the cargo compartment, possibly
when bags were being loaded, Mr. Mann said.
The Daily Telegraph of Australia reported Saturday that a great deal of
corrosion had been found in a recent inspection of that hold, but
safety experts and airline officials debunked the report.
“The particular incident of corrosion that was reported was found
during a routine check in February of this year,” Peter Gibson,
spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said by telephone.
“The corrosion was very minor and was found in a seat track in economy
class, so it is in a completely different part of the aircraft. That
corrosion can in no way be connected to the accident.”
Geoff Dixon, chief executive of Qantas, agreed with Mr. Gibson at a
news conference Saturday.
“Our preliminary checks on this indicate that there was no corrosion
anywhere near where this hole appeared,” he said. “This was a very,
very serious incident. It was one that was handled exceedingly well by
those in charge of the aircraft.”
Investigators from the Australian Air Transport Safety Bureau were in
place Saturday, Mr. Gibson said, and Boeing and the United States
National Transportation Safety Board were sending teams to aid. Under
international treaty, the United States, as the country where the plane
was built, will be an official participant in the investigation.
Passengers described hearing a loud bang and seeing debris fly into the
cabin. As the plane depressurized, oxygen masks dropped from the
ceiling and cabin crew members shouted to passengers to put them on.
Cellphone video taken by one passenger, Rob Henshaw, 45, a
Melbourne-based freelance news producer, and widely distributed, showed
passengers sitting calmly, wearing their yellow masks and watching the
seat-back screens showing the plane’s altitude as the aircraft
“We were just about to have lunch — the stewardesses had already put
the food on our tables — when there was a very sharp explosion sound
and the plane lurched to the left and the wind and the decompression
came on immediately,” Mr. Henshaw said by telephone Saturday. “There
was a bit of an initial feeling of panic, but that was allayed after it
appeared there was some control over the plane.”
The landing in Manila came a little over an hour after the plane took
off. After leaving the plane, Mr. Henshaw saw the hole for the first
“Seeing what we went through,” Mr. Henshaw said, “it was a miracle that
we got down in one piece.”
Fuselage Forces Qantas Jet to Land
By TIM JOHNSTON
Published: July 26, 2008
SYDNEY — A Qantas airliner en route from Hong Kong to Melbourne in
Australia was forced to land in Manila, the Philippines capital, on
Friday when the cabin decompressed after a hole appeared in the
Passengers described a loud bang and the emergency oxygen masks
deploying in the cabin before the plane, a Boeing 747-400, started a
controlled descent to a lower altitude and changed course for Manila.
“There was a terrific boom and bits of wood and debris just flew
forward into” the first class area “and the oxygen masks dropped down,"
a passenger, Dr. June Kane, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp from
“Just forward of the wing, there’s a gaping hole from the wing to the
underbody," she said. "It’s about two meters by four meters and there’s
baggage hanging out so you assume that there’s a few bags that may have
The Australian Air Transport Safety Board issued a brief statement on
its Web site Friday, describing the forced landing as a “serious
“At approximately 29,000 feet, the crew were forced to conduct an
emergency descent after a section of the fuselage separated and
resulted in a rapid decompression of the cabin,” the safety agency said.
“The crew descended the aircraft to 10,000 feet in accordance with
established procedures and diverted the aircraft to Manila where a safe
landing was carried out. The aircraft taxied to the terminal
unassisted, where the passengers and crew disembarked. There were no
A spokeswoman for Qantas confirmed that the plane had been forced to
land, but declined to give details. The company gave no information on
the probable cause of the accident.
The airplane, which was registered in June 1991, is one of the older in
the Qantas fleet.
The forced landing was a blemish for Qantas, which has one of the
world’s best safety records and prides itself on never losing a jet in
a major crash. However, the airline — originally called the Queensland
and Northern Territory Air Service — had some fatal accidents when it
flew biplanes and flying boats before the jet era began in the 1950s.
Qantas also has had some close calls. In 1999, a Qantas jet overran a
runway at Bangkok’s airport while landing during heavy rain. There were
no reports of serious injuries.
More recently, a Qantas-operated Boeing 717 was damaged in February
when it sustained a hard landing at Darwin, Australia. The landing
gear, tires and fuselage of the plane, flown by QantasLink, the
airline’s regional carrier, were damaged.
The forced landing at Manila on Friday immediately brought to mind the
1988 drama involving Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in Hawaii.
That plane, a Boeing 737, was on a flight from Hilo to Honolulu,
Hawaii, when an explosion occurred at 24,000 feet that caused the plane
to decompress. A chunk of the plane’s roof, as well as the cockpit
door, was blown out of the plane. One flight attendant was killed when
she was swept out of the plane, and 65 passengers and crew members were
Federal investigators said the accident was caused by metal fatigue,
which was exacerbated by corrosion caused by salt water in the Pacific
Ocean. The accident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to
launch an inspection of Boeing planes for possible cracks.
In 1986, a bomb tore a hole in a Trans World Airlines plane flying over
Greece. The Boeing 727 landed safely, but four people, including an
8-month-old baby, were killed when they were sucked out of the