THE "WE NEED ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS PAGE."
TABLE OF CONTENTS HERE.
(In addition to and other
than Metro North
EXAMPLE OF NORTHEAST
CORRIDOR HIGH-SPEED TRANSIT?
NOTE: photos above of enjoyment of train travel (as
opposed to some other modes and types) and the new and improved service
promised by the new Administration comes from
NYTIMES/Internet and is not part of the AMTRAK deal
discussed here...former Commissioner of CTDOT.
to news of Metro North. Hot
links immediately below describe and are related to photos above...
We remember. Snowy night, slick highway.
Fraternity can be sued in 2003
crash that killed 4 Yalies, Connecticut Supreme Court says
New Haven REGISTER
By The Associated Press
Thursday, September 20, 2012
HARTFORD — A fraternity can be sued for alleged negligence in
connection with a 2003 crash that killed four Yale University students,
including two members of the school’s baseball team, the Connecticut
Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The students were returning from a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity event
for pledges in New York City on Jan. 17, 2003, when their SUV slammed
into a tractor-trailer that had crashed on Interstate 95 in Fairfield
at around 5 a.m.
Relatives of one of the victims alleged in a lawsuit that fraternity
leaders failed to provide safe transportation home from the event. They
said the driver, who was a Yale student and fraternity member, was
sleep-deprived during the fraternity’s so-called “Hell Week,” when its
pledges are allegedly hazed.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court ruling in favor
of the fraternity and said the lawsuit can proceed.
The crash killed the driver, Sean Fenton, 20, of Newport Beach, Calif.,
and three of four back seat passengers — Andrew Dwyer, 19, of Hobe
Sound, Fla.; Nicholas Grass, 19, of Holyoke, Mass; and Kyle Burnat, 19,
of Atlanta. Grass and Burnat were pitchers on the baseball team.
Five other Yale students in the SUV were injured, including members of
the football team.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the
administrator for Grass’ estate, attorney Marc Grenier, against the
national office of Delta Kappa Epsilon, the fraternity’s Yale chapter,
the state Department of Transportation and two construction companies
that had worked on the highway. The lawsuit claims the fraternity
had a duty to provide safe transportation home and negligently chose
Fenton as the driver, even though he had had little sleep that week and
had been up for nearly 20 hours before the accident.
“It’s a sad case,” said Michael Stratton, a Stamford attorney for the
Grass family. “We have a Yale fraternity here with lots of resources
that, instead of getting a car service back from the city, the
fraternity leaders instructed ... pledges to get in the back of an SUV
with a very young, inexperienced driver.”
Messages were left Wednesday for Delta Kappa Epsilon attorneys and for
officials at the fraternity’s national office in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Lawyers for the fraternity said in court documents that Delta Kappa
Epsilon shouldn’t be held liable because it couldn’t have foreseen the
“series of unfortunate events” that led to the accident.
The lawsuit also claimed the state DOT and two construction companies
were liable for alleged safety hazards at the highway construction site
where the tractor-trailer crashed. Other victims’ families sued the
state and the two companies. Claims against the state were dismissed
because of government immunity from lawsuits, while the construction
companies entered into settlements, lawyers in the cases said.
Superior Court Judge John F. Blawie found in favor of the fraternity in
September 2009, saying national and local fraternity leaders didn’t owe
Grass a “duty of care” while transporting him back to New Haven from
New York. Grenier appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.
Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr. wrote that the fraternity had no duty
to provide transportation, but once it decided to, “it assumed a duty
to do so safely.” The court said it was up to a jury to decide whether
the fraternity was negligent in having Fenton drive the students home.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and
found plenty of blame, including poor highway conditions, speeding,
fatigue and lack of seat belt use. The agency concluded that the
tractor-trailer driver probably was driving too fast on ice and snow
when he lost control of his vehicle. Part of the tractor-trailer, which
was traveling north, went over the median barrier and collided with two
other vehicles in the southbound lanes.
Fenton probably was suffering from a combination of fatigue, lack of
highway lighting and distraction from the collisions in the southbound
lanes, and likely did not see that part of the tractor-trailer was in
the northbound left lane, the NTSB said.
Relatives of all the crash victims, including Fenton, also have a
pending federal lawsuit against the tractor-trailer manufacturer for
not putting enough lights on the truck’s trailer, Stratton said.
Metro-North plans for winter
Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Updated 11:34 p.m., Sunday, November 27, 2011
STAMFORD -- After harsh winter storms and freezing temperatures knocked
out more than half the fleet last year, Metro-North and state
transportation officials are finalizing plans to cut rail service
during extreme conditions this winter to protect its aging railcars.
"We learned a lot last year," said state Department of Transportation
spokesman Judd Everhart. "It was probably the toughest winter we've
ever had for the New Haven Line."
The draft plan calls for Metro-North to more quickly reduce or suspend
service during blizzard-like conditions and improve communications
about any service changes.
Last winter, more than 80 inches of snow paralyzed the New Haven Line,
and at some points kept more than half the state's fleet of 320 M-2,
M-4, and M-6 cars -- the oldest of which, the M-2s, are between 33 to
40 years old -- out of service for repairs.
Though the number of the state's new M-8 railcars, which are less
weather sensitive, should help improve but not resolve reliability
issues, Everhart said, limiting damage to the older cars through
maintenance and curtailing service when harsh conditions warrant it
will be crucial to maintaining service.
"As more and more M-8s are put into service, fewer issues are to be
expected," Everhart said. "But we still have a fleet dominated by much
older cars. So the biggest challenge remains constant readiness, and
expecting the unexpected."
Metro-North expects to be close to getting 60 of the state's new, more
weather-resistant M-8 cars into service by the end of December. The
debut of the cars in March was put off for more than a year due to
computer and electrical problems.
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said the
widespread breakdowns last winter demonstrate the wisdom of preparing
plans to reduce or suspend service and protect cars from damaging
"Railroads are not weatherproof, and it would be foolish to try to run
the old, M-2, M-4, and (M-6s) in bad weather if they were going to
break down," Cameron said. "I think they are wise in pulling the plug
on service if the weather conditions look like that is going to happen."
The winter will also be an important test of the performance expected
from the M-8 cars, which are more resistant to hot and cold extremes
and designed to withstand temperatures as low as 40-below zero, Cameron
"I hope they try running the M-8s in the worst weather conditions and
see if they live up to expectations and parameters for which they were
designed to live up to," Cameron said.
Caroline Egan, 22, a senior at Fordham University, said she hoped the
railroad's plans to limit the extent of car outages this winter will
lessen the service outages that made traveling to and from the Bronx
campus to Stamford and Manhattan difficult last winter.
"The New Haven Line cars are awful," Egan said. "They are much better
on the Hudson and Harlem lines. Being in the Northeast, I hope they do
a better job."
Ashley Kammerer, 27, of Greenwich, said last week that when service
problems came up during the winter of 2010 or 2011, she was able to
adjust her travel plans to work at home.
"There weren't too many delays, and I was able to work from home when
there was a service suspension," Kammerer said.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for Metro-North Railroad, said beyond
service reduction plans and improved communications, the railroad will
also suspend work on a project to revamp the railway's overhead
catenary system to close one rather than two tracks between Southport
and Bridgeport during the winter.
Keeping an additional track open will hopefully lessen problems created
by weather related outages due to disabled trains, breakage of catenary
wire or other causes, Donovan said.
"Suspending work during the winter will help alleviate the situation
and allow more flexibility to run trains through this area during
weather emergencies," Donovan said.
Officials at Metro-North and DOT also said they are confident that
snow-related service outages will not hinder the placing of new, more
weatherproof M-8 cars into service through the winter.
The state's M-8 acceptance facility and other facilities at the New
Haven Rail Yard should be able to address any maintenance and repair
issues on the new M-8 cars that could arise in the winter, according to
Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
The M-8s shield some of the more critical components, such as speed
controls, in cabinets, while other functions, like the interaction of
circuits, are controlled by computers instead of by mechanical parts
that can be fouled in snowy weather. The cars also have AC traction
motors, which will not be prone to ingesting snow like the DC traction
motors in the M-2, M-4 and M-6 railcars, according to Anders, though
extreme amounts of snow and ice can still interrupt connections with
"There is no maximum snow depth, per se, beyond which M-8s cannot go,"
Anders said. "The third rails are about a foot above the ties, and they
have to be kept clear, which we do with plow trains, switch heaters,
snow blowers (and other methods)."
Cameron said that commuters who are concerned about the forecast and
possible service problems should plan in advance to make alternate
plans to work from home, or have plans to fall back on if train service
"From the commuters' point of view, they have to be flexible and have a
Plan B and not count on the railroad being there in any and all kinds
of weather conditions as the railroad has attempted to do with some
success and failures in the past," Cameron said.
THE TRAIN EXPERIENCE ALONG THE BOSTON-WASHINGTON CORRIDOR STILL
STANDING (ABOVE GROUND)
Visit major works of Henry Hobson Richardson and Daniel Burnham - an
architectural history tour in the travel path of the Acela - but not in
N.Y.C., where Penn Station bit the dust.
Police: Man Dead After
Car Strikes Bicyclist, Gas Station
By AYANA HARRY, firstname.lastname@example.org
10:51 AM EDT, July 17, 2011
A man riding his bicycle was killed early Sunday morning in Manchester
after being struck by a car.
The crash happened on Hartford Road near Palm Street, just by the exit
2 offramp of Interstate 384. Manchester Police said a Subaru traveling
east on Hartford Road struck another car befor hitting the bicyclist.
The car continued, out of control, hitting a gas station fixture before
striking a gas pump and flipping onto its side.
The bicyclist was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, where he
was declared dead. The driver of the car is in serious condition at
Hartford Hospital, police said.
Relatives of the victim arrived at the crash site Sunday morning,
identifying the bicyclist as 18-year-old Steven Henry Jr.
The car was towed from the scene around 8:30 a.m. Police remained on
scene well into Sunday morning reconstructing the crash scene.
Hit, Killed By Train In Windsor Locks
By AYANA HARRY and HILLARY FEDERICO, email@example.com
2:45 PM EDT, July 16, 2011
A man riding a bicycle on Route 140 was killed when he was hit by an
Amtrak train early Saturday afternoon, authorities said. The
was a middle-aged man, police said. Amtrak police are investigating the
Stamford Bicyclist, 24, Struck By Motor
Vehicle; Sustained Serious Head Injury
By HILLARY FEDERICO,
1:00 PM EDT, July 16, 2011
A 24-year-old city resident is in serious condition at Stamford
Hospital after a motor vehicle struck him while he was riding his
bicycle on Atlantic Street early Saturday morning, police said.
Officers said the victim sustained a serious head injury and was found
lying in the roadway near the intersection of South State Street and
Atlantic Street around 2:45 a.m.
A preliminary investigation indicates that the victim was riding his
bike on Atlantic Street and was crossing South State Street when he was
hit by an unidentified vehicle. Police said the vehicle was turning
onto South State Street from Atlantic Street or was exiting the I-95
North exit ramp.
The vehicle fled the scene, police said.
Members of the Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad said they
are reviewing video footage of the accident, which was captured on
closed circuit video cameras in the area. The driver of the car
involved in the collision, or his attorney, is asked to contact police
Anyone who may have witnessed or has information on the crash is also
asked to contact police.
And now, in 2011 in CT, fares go
up for the reason that...the state is broke
A commission established by Congress to study options for
financing the nation’s roads and bridges recommended on Thursday
raising the federal gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.
Panel Suggests Higher Gas Tax
By KATE GALBRAITH
February 27, 2009
In a report, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure
Financing Commission cited a “crisis” of neglect for infrastructure,
and also called for an eventual switch to a tax based on miles driven,
rather than gasoline consumed.
Raising the federal gas tax, now 18.4 cents a gallon, is so politically
tricky that the idea has gone nowhere in 16 years. The tax is the main
source of federal dollars for fixing roads and bridges. The commission
said that a 10-cent increase would cost the average household $9 a
The report also called for raising the federal diesel tax, now 24.4
cents a gallon, by 15 cents.
Yale Surgeon Recounts Moments After Train Crash
WILLIAM WEIR, firstname.lastname@example.org
6:36 PM EDT, May 20, 2013
Dr. Daniel Solomon, a chief resident in general surgery at Yale-New
Haven Hospital, was on the first car of the train heading toward New
Haven for his 7 p.m. shift last Friday when the train started to shake.
"It was not significant — the train bucked a little bit and it felt
like it was on a track change," he said. "It shook a little bit harder
and then a little harder and then it came to a stop. At that point, I
think the worst any of us expected was to be late to home or to get to
After a minute, though, he saw people from another car screaming, "We
have to get out of here!"
He approached the third car and told officials he was a trauma surgeon.
The first badly injured person he saw was a woman on the tracks.
"When I saw her down there I was convinced she was dead, but when I
called to her she responded," Solomon said.
He and a few other passengers carried her to a dirt road where the
badly injured passengers were being taken. Solomon also helped a man
was a severe cut on his hand. With no other resources, Solomon took off
his sweatshirt to protect the wound from the dirt road. He also helped
the man's wife.
"She had a bad dislocation of the ankles and her feet were bent
outwards and it was pretty horrific to look at," Solomon said. She was
able to wiggle her toes, though. Otherwise, he said, her situation
would have been much more dire.
He told passengers to hold up the head of another woman in case she had
a cervical spine injury.
Overall, he said, it was only minutes before emergency workers showed
up and did triage. He and other passengers were evacuated shortly
after. He managed to get a ride from Bridgeport to Yale-New Haven,
where he started his shift an hour later than scheduled. Solomon said
he wasn't particularly shaken.
"To me it felt like a regular shift on the Yale trauma service," he
said. "We see these injuries all the time, so while I didn't have my
colleagues, nurses and diagnostic equipment, the situation was the
same. It didn't feel all that different."
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford
it happens, Metro North announce that return of normal service would
commence Wendesday A.M.
Jim Cameron, from a 2007 "About Town"
interview and right, great q&a from
Commuters Face Nightmare As Search
Begins For Cause Of Metro-North Crash
Warn Of 'Overloaded' I-95 Commute Monday; Malloy To Announce Plan For
Service At 6 P.M. Briefing
The Hartford Courant
By NICHOLAS RONDINONE, email@example.com
4:09 PM EDT, May 19, 2013
BRIDGEPORT — The roughly 125,000 commuters who rely on the Metro North
rail line – as well as thousands of other travelers -- face a potential
nightmare of detours and traffic jams after the collision of two trains
shut down tracks between the Fairfield and Bridgeport rail stations
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will hold a news briefing updating the plans for
rail service and how to accommodate passengers on Sunday at 6 p.m. at
the State Armory on Broad Street in Hartford, according to a press
release. Those plans may include buses covering the sections of track
that are impassible, officials said. Plans provided by the
state's Department of Transportation show that during the morning
commute train service will run every 20 minutes from New Haven to
Bridgeport on the New Haven commuter line. Two buses will run from
Bridgeport to Stamford Station – one will be express and a second will
make stops at Fairfield Metro, Fairfield and Westport Stations –
bypassing the site of the accident.
Regular service will run from Stamford station and South Norwalk
sdtation to Grand Central Station; limited service will run from
Westport station. The state DOT is warning that commute times
will be "considerably longer in many cases."
Fairfield police were preparing for a frenzied commute on Monday. On
the department's Facebook page Sunday, it warned: "Commuters need to be
prepared for a long commute on Monday. Please make alternate plans and
please consider staying home if possible."
The department said I-95 is expected to be "overloaded," and that Metro
North will have buses available -- but not enough for the 20,000
passengers that travel through the area by train. Fairfield
police said they are waiting to hear back from Metro North so they can
finalize their preparations. Stephen J. Humes, a Hamden resident,
said he practices law in New York and takes the train from New Haven
into the city three to four days a week. He was working from home on
Friday when the accident happened, but said he's concerned about
"I am certainly waiting with great interest… I do rely on that service
to get New York," Humes said. He added that his son John, a freshmen at
Fairfield College Preparatory School, uses the train to get to school.
Humes added that Monday's commute is going to be "hellacious," with
people taking I-95 to get to the train station in Stamford.
Average weekday traffic on the New Haven line is 125,000 passengers,
according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA,
which operates the Metro-North trains, began removing the trains
Saturday night; by Sunday morning 18 cars had been removed and MTA
officials said crews should complete the removal by early afternoon.
Of the more than 70 people injured in the crash, nine people remained
hospitalized on Sunday, with one reported in critical condition,
officials said. National Transportation Safety Board officials,
who have been on the scene since Saturday, said they have ruled out
foul play as a cause of the derailment, but would not speculate beyond
that. They said it may take up to two days to finish their work.
After the trains are removed Sunday, MTA officials said crews face the
longer, more difficult task of repairing the damage to the track
"Our crews will essentially be rebuilding 2,000 feet of damaged track,
and overhead wires and signal system," said Metro-North Railroad
President Howard Permut in a statement. "This amounts to the wholesale
reconstruction of a two-track electrified railroad. It will take
multiple days of around-the-clock work to do that, and then to inspect,
test and requalify the newly rebuilt infrastructure. Unfortunately,
service disruptions on this section of the New Haven Line are expected
to continue well into the coming week."
said on Saturday evening that they found a fracture in a section of the
eastbound track, where the derailment apparently began. But the
investigators are unsure whether the fracture happened before the
derailment or as a result of it.
Meanwhile, Metro-North train service between New Haven and South
Norwalk is indefinitely suspended, as is all Amtrak service between New
York and New Haven, because no trains can get through the crash site.
Officials said Saturday that they do not know when service will be
"You should begin making plans ... for alternate travel," Malloy said
at a Saturday morning briefing near the site of the crash.
NTSB officials said the investigation
is "still in the very early stages." They said the fractured portion of
rail was sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.
NTSB investigators have requested full inspection reports on the cars
of the two trains involved, and will conduct a full inspection as soon
as the cars can be removed from the track. The train that previously
traveled that route also will be inspected.
Starting Monday, commuters who normally park at stations to the east of
Bridgeport to head south toward Fairfield County and New York City will
have to use other transportation to get around the blocked tracks, or
drive to already crowded stations like South Norwalk or Stamford to
park and ride.
That could clog I-95 and other roads along the coast.
chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, said
these "refugee commuters" should not assume that a solution will be in
place after the weekend.
"None of this is
going to happen quickly," he said, adding that the NTSB investigation
can't be rushed because the cause of the accident needs to be
discovered to prevent it happening again.
leave early, think creatively and don't all drive to Stamford," Cameron
driving to one of the stations farther south on the line, or head west
to catch a train on the Harlem line, which runs north and south in New
York State. Cameron said he hopes there will be continued communication
from all the agencies involved so commuters are aware of possible
travel and parking options.
"This is unknown
territory to a lot of these people," he said.
The derailment took place at 6:10 p.m. on Friday, when the eastbound
4:41 p.m. train out of Grand Central Terminal in New York went off the
tracks just east of the Fairfield Metro station, said Marjorie Anders,
an MTA spokeswoman. It then hit the side of a westbound 5:35 p.m. train
from New Haven on the adjacent track. Some cars on the second train
also derailed, Anders said.
Of the 46 people brought to St. Vincent's Medical Center, six people
were still at the hospital Sunday morning and remained in stable
condition, spokeswoman Dianne Auger said. At Bridgeport Hospital,
23 people were treated and released. One person remains there in
critical condition with traumatic, impact-related injuries, and two
others are in stable condition, hospital officials said Sunday morning.
Passengers said they felt a harsh bump and saw a lot of dust and smoke
in the air as the train derailed. Malloy said it appeared that one
train began to derail as it approached the other, and the trains hit
Malloy said most of the injuries were in the cars that collided with
each other, mainly the front car of one train and the third car of the
other. All passengers were taken off the trains, and buses were
brought in to carry them to other stations so they could reach their
NTSB investigators will evaluate what Weener described as "perishable
evidence." The scene will then be turned back over to the railroad so
that the damaged equipment can be removed and the rails rebuilt.
About 200 yards of track were damaged in the crash, Malloy said.
"The damage is absolutely staggering," said U.S. Sen. Richard
Blumenthal, who viewed the scene Saturday. The sides of some train cars
were pulled away, he said.
informed speculation focuses on the track at this point," Blumenthal
said. "The trajectory of the train going off the track suggests that
the derailment was caused by some breakage, fault or default in the
track itself. But, again, it's only speculation."
Construction work has been ongoing in the area, mostly to the catenary
system that provides electrical power to the trains, Malloy said. That
work had already limited traffic to two of the four rails that normally
would be available, and those two rails were destroyed by the collision.
Earl Weener of the NTSB said the agency will examine braking
performance, the condition of the tracks and the cars and signal
information in its investigation.
Officials have already downloaded data on speed, braking and other
parameters from recorders on board the trains, Weener said.
The MTA said that in addition to the shutdown between New Haven and
South Norwalk, Metro-North is running a reduced schedule between South
Norwalk and Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Buses are running
between Waterbury and Bridgeport, with no train connections.
On Amtrak, limited Northeast Regional service is available between
Boston and New Haven. Trains continue to run on Amtrak's New
"We will set up a system to move people from Bridgeport to the next
closest station," Malloy said.
He did not specify whether buses or other methods would be used to move
people to and from stations on either side of Bridgeport. The
state DOT has already hired contractors to remove the damaged equipment
so that repairs can begin. Connecticut owns the tracks between New
Haven and the New York state line. Officials said Friday and
Saturday that as bad as the crash was, it could have been worse. That
the trains had mostly a side impact versus a head-on crash prevented
even more injuries.
"We dodged a bullet," Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch said.
The trains involved in the crash consisted of the new M-8 commuter
cars, which started operating on the New Haven line in 2011.
Connecticut and Metro-North are buying 405 of the cars to replace a
fleet that dates to the early 1970s. Malloy and Blumenthal said
the new cars, built to high safety standards, may have helped limit
serious injuries in the crash.
The DOT and Metro-North are junking hundreds of battered rail cars from
the busy New Haven line as they phase in 405 sleek, high-tech new M-8s.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expedited the long-overdue fleet replacement, and
as of mid-October nearly 140 of the new cars were in daily operation.
"The newly constructed cars, the higher standards of quality, seemed to
have made a difference," Blumenthal said.
"The crash worthiness of the cars seemed to be remarkably good," added
the NTSB's Weener.
"These are new cars designed to the latest standards," Malloy said.
The Federal Railroad Administration, part of the U.S. Department of
Transportation, sets those crash worthiness standards. The agency has
been criticized for its high standards, which make equipment commonly
used in Europe unsuitable for use in the U.S.
The higher standards increase costs for equipment used in the U.S. The
FRA continues to research ways to increase survivability in train
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford
Commuter mess "Well into next week"
Libor Jany, CT POST
Updated 8:39 am, Sunday, May 19, 2013
Metro-North's efforts to restore normal service to a stretch of track
between Bridgeport and South Norwalk after Friday's train crash that
left more than 70 people injured "looks to continue well into next
week," according to an agency spokesman.
"As of 9 o'clock last night, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety
Board) allowed us to begin the process of removing the damaged cars
from the track," the spokesman, Aaron Donovan, said on Sunday. The last
of the damaged train cars are expected to be removed by Sunday
afternoon. Officials will then begin the arduous process of "rebuilding
from scratch hundreds of feet of track," he said.
Since the crash, trains have been running on a normal schedule between
Grand Central Station and Stamford. Service along the Danbury and New
Canaan branches has also remained unimpeded. Donovan said that trains
were running on an abbreviated schedule to South Norwalk.
Train passenger: 'I thought it was a bomb
Brian Lockhart, CT POST
Updated 12:58 am, Saturday, May 18, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Barbara Bolden thought it was a terrorist attack.
"Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. I'm still shaking," Bolden said, her
right arm in a sling, as she was transported by wheelchair to a waiting
minivan outside Bridgeport Hospital's emergency room.
The Hamden resident was among the two dozen passengers of the
two-train, rush-hour collision on the Fairfield border rushed to
Bridgeport Hospital on Friday night.
Another 40 passengers were treated at St. Vincent's Medical Center.
"We train for emergencies like this year-round," Bridgeport Hospital
spokesman John Cappiello said calmly as a state police cruiser, lights
and sirens blaring, arrived with a blood delivery from the American Red
Cross to bolster the supply.
Authorities said five passengers were in critical condition. Two of
those were being treated at Bridgeport Hospital.
While the hospital discouraged interviews in order to protect patient
privacy, Bolden and another commuter quickly recalled the terrifying
experiences for the Connecticut Post while on their way out of the
Bolden was on the northbound train, commuting home from her job in
Wilton, when the crash occurred.
At first, she said, passengers experienced some shaking in their car,
but nothing alarming.
"Then it just kept rocking, rocking, rocking. Then it started whipping
people around," Bolden said in a brief interview.
She tried to hold tight to the seat in front of her, but she was
And there she stayed, fearing the worst.
"I hid," Bolden said. "I thought it was a bomb or something ... Then
this loud noise went `Bam!'"
Authorities at the scene believe Bolden's train struck a derailed
Another Hamden resident -- Susanne -- who declined to give her last
name, walked out of Bridgeport Hospital with a male friend and no
visible injuries. She had boarded the southbound train in Milford for
an evening in New York City.
"Everything happened really, really fast," said Susanne, who was eager
to get home.
Like Bolden, she tried to brace herself on the seat in front of her.
"There was a lot of dust. Some screaming," Susanne said. "It went
really, really fast."
M.T.A. President visits site
Investigators find broken rail at
scene of train wreck
Brian Lockhart, CT POST
Updated 10:37 pm, Saturday, May 18, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- After a day of combing through the wreckage of two trains
that collided during Friday evening's rush hour, federal investigators
have found a broken rail, but they do not know if it was a factor in
the eastbound train's derailment.
Federal investigators combed through Metro-North train wreckage
Saturday in what promises to be a lengthy investigation into the cause
of Friday night's rush-hour collision. National Transportation
Safety Board staffers pulled up in a caravan of cars along Commerce
Avenue, joining an awaiting group of state and city officials for a
mid-morning tour of the crash scene. NTSB member Earl Weener told
reporters the probe is focusing on the train's brake performance,
condition of wheels, condition of tracks and signals.
"We'll also be looking at how the crew behaved (and) operated the
train," Weener said. He said data recorders should have been on
board both trains, collecting their rate of speed and other
information. The goal is not only to determine what happened, he
said, but seek to prevent it in the future.
The NTSB's working theory is that a Metro-North train heading east from
New York City's Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed at about
6:10 p.m. just outside Bridgeport and was struck by a westbound train
from New Haven to Grand Central on an adjacent track. About 700 were on
board, 70 were taken to the hospital with two in critical
condition. The site of the wreckage is, essentially, being
treated like a crime scene, with the media and curious onlookers kept
at a distance while NTSB experts begin sifting through the debris for
Weener said Day 1 is focused on time-sensitive, "perishable
evidence." That is going to be a daunting task, based on the
descriptions from the elected officials who viewed the wreckage.
"The scene down there is enormously violent," said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said it looked like giant toys had been
strewn throughout the area.
"The sides of cars are torn away like ribbons of cloth," Blumenthal
Weener added, "The tracks are very much torn up."
Asked about possible foul play, Weener said nothing could be ruled out
at this stage. With the Metro North line out of service between
Bridgeport and Norwalk, Gov. Dannel Malloy and other lawmakers urged
commuters to be patient. Malloy said as of mid-Saturday morning he
could not provide good information on when train service would return
"We will set up a system to move people from Bridgeport to the next
closest station that can handle that traffic," he said, adding right
now that is South Norwalk. "Folks east of Bridgeport, you should being
making plans for alternative travel."
Malloy said the city and state are trying to stay out of the NTSB's way.
"People will have to be patient," said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. "We
want to get this investigation right."
The elected officials also said it was fortunate there were not more
injuries considering the scale of the destruction.
"It's frankly amazing there weren't more serious injuries and lives
lost on scene," Murphy said.
The crash occurred right behind Steve Junker's car customizing shop,
Sunlimited, on Commerce Drive just below the I-95 overpass. It
was mostly business as usual for Junker as Saturday's investigation
continued. He did allow some media onto his property to take photos of
"We heard a big boom" Junker recalled from night before.
But he said he and his staff were used to the noise because of ongoing
construction in the vicinity of the train bridge where Commerce Drive
meets Fairfield Avenue.
"They're doing construction, pounding beams into the ground. All day
long all you hear is, `Boom, boom, boom.' We assumed it was the grand
finale," Junker said.
Curious onlookers made their way down to the accident site Saturday
morning to see the wreckage in person.
"This is just unbelievable," said Steve Traski, a Wilton resident, as
he aimed his camera at the train.
Traski grew up in Bridgeport.
Traski recalled playing as a child in a vacant lot at the corner of
Commerce Drive and Fairfield Avenue, now home to a McDonald's.
"We used to play in there where the trains came by," he said.
Metro-North train derails; 60
reported; service disrupted
By The Forum Staff on May 17, 2013
Two Metro-North trains collided at the Fairfield Metro Station Friday
night at approximately 6:10 p.m., injuring at least 60 passengers and
train crew members. No fatalities have been reported.
Gov. Dannel Malloy was at the scene at about 9:30 this evening, and
said five people were critically injured, with one in “very critical
There is “pretty devastating damage” to the rail cars with a side
ripped off and “extensive damage” to the front, Mr. Malloy said.
“We have no reason to believe it was anything but an accident but
obviously that is something that needs to be looked at,” Mr. Malloy
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
The governor said the area is being secured and that the investigation
is expected to last into Saturday morning. The MTA reports
service is suspended in both directions between South Norwalk and New
Haven. Westbound service will originate out of South Norwalk making all
stops to Grand Central Terminal. Eastbound service will make all stops
to South Norwalk.
Passengers are reporting there is bus service eastbound from Stamford
A Metro-North spokesman told Hersam Acorn newspapers that an eastbound
train was derailed at the Fairfield Metro Station, causing it to
collide with a westbound train.
The governor said he promises a “full and robust” investigation and
said “nothing can be ruled out, but nothing is being promoted as a
Mr. Malloy said travelers should anticipate that train service will end
at Bridgeport (westbound) and South Norwalk (eastbound) at least
through Monday. This includes Amtrak service between New York and
“In a perfect world, we would be up and running by Monday morning, but
I’m not saying that,” Mr. Malloy said.
Millions more needed to
Fairfield Metro station (is this near the accident of two Metro-North
trains May 17, 2013?) - more
on the troubled construction here...
Genevieve Reilly, Staff Writer
Published 06:58 a.m., Tuesday, June 28, 2011
FAIRFIELD -- The news was like a train wreck: Fairfield may have to
ante up an additional $2 million -- possibly $6 million in the worst
case -- to complete Fairfield Metro, the town's third railroad station.
Members of the Representative Town Meeting were stunned by news of the
funding gap Monday night as interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau
delivered a report on the status of the project. However,
recently departed First Selectman Kenneth Flatto soon became the target
of blunt criticism for failing to keep the legislative body informed of
the funding problem. For months, Flatto had given regular updates
to the RTM on the rail station off lower Black Rock Turnpike that
indicated the project was on time and on budget -- reports that several
RTM members called "fluff."
Tetreau said he began gathering information since taking over the job
17 days ago, after meeting with Selectman Sherri Steeneck. Steeneck had
begun to get an inkling of possible cost overruns while serving as
acting first selectman since May. Tetreau said one of the biggest
factors adding to costs is that much more contaminated soil -- though
not polluted to the extent that it has to be removed from former
industrial site -- was discovered. The problem is finding a place to
put that soil on the property interfering with required grading and
drainage. The alternative of removing it would be very costly, he said.
"As many of you are, I'm a bit shocked, appalled and disgusted," said
Selectman James Walsh.
What surprised many was learning not only was the project overbudget,
but a modified agreement on the project signed last year by Flatto
gives up revenue from the commuter parking fees at the depot. It also
made the town liable for any cost overruns. Town Attorney Richard
Saxl said those were the requirements from the state in order for the
Department of Transportation to chip in $19.8 million to jump start the
The contract modification was not brought to the RTM or Board of
Finance for approval. Walsh said he was sworn in to take has appointed
seat on the Board of Selectmen the day the modification was approved,
but not until after that action had already been taken. A call to
Flatto's cell phone Monday night was not returned.
Tetreau said he also was taken by surprise by the discovery of the
budget overruns, and promised he will examine what options are
available, including seeing what state or federal funding grants might
be available to help close the gap. He also said a construction manager
will be hired to oversee the project on site.
RTM member Edward Bateson, R-3, said he went to the Board of Selectmen
last year, seeking to postpone action on the modification. "We lost the
revenue stream and we picked up the environmental liability," he said.
"I'm really going to have a problem with this appropriation ... I want
this project. I'm really torn over the way its been handled."
Tetreau would like to see the extra cost -- whatever it ends up being
-- voted on at the July RTM meeting. He said the currently available
money probably be used up by August, at which point construction crews
would leave for other jobs. Getting them back to work to complete the
station, and getting the project restarted would be costly, Tetreau
"I don't see this as an emergency," said RTM member Kathryn Braun, who
has been a vocal critic of the project.
City wins federal funding for
East Side train station
Elizabeth Kim, Staff Writer, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published: 10:38 p.m., Sunday, October 17, 2010
STAMFORD -- The city is set to receive federal funds to pursue a
feasibility study for building a new train station on the East Side.
The money, the exact amount of which is yet to be determined, is part
of a larger $3.5 million grant that was awarded Friday by the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development to a consortium of nine
cities, two counties and six regional planning organizations in the
metropolitan region. The group, known as the New York-Connecticut
Sustainable Communities Consortium, had initially applied for $5
million in funding from HUD's Sustainable Communities Regional Planning
A total of nearly $100 million will be available for regional planning
initiatives related to affordable housing, economic development and
transportation in areas surrounding commuter rail networks.
Laure Aubuchon, the city's economic development director said that as a
member of the consortium, Stamford had requested $225,000 for the
feasibility study. However, it will be up to the Consortium on how to
divide the funding. She added that there may also be opportunities to
collaborate on similar studies being pursued by neighboring cities.
"I think it's the kind of collaboration that certainly HUD likes to
see," she said about the overall grant. "We keep saying we have
transit-oriented development and it's all along a spine called I-95.
Wouldn't it be great if we all worked together?"
For several years, the city and the East Side Partnership have been
exploring the possibility of creating a Metro-North train station on
East Main Street. Although the project does not rank as high in
priority as redeveloping the existing downtown train station or
widening the Atlantic Street railroad bridge underpass, Aubuchon said
it would be good to commission "an objective study on what the merits
The proposal for an East Side train station gained steam last year
during a series of public discussions called Reinventing Stamford.
Organized by the Stamford Urban Redevelopment Commission, members
involved in Reinventing Stamford have taken part in several
brainstorming sessions to come up with projects designed to make the
city more sustainable and competitive.
The creation of a regional consortium to apply for federal funding was
one of the ideas that came out of the events. Kip Bergstrom, the
executive director of the URC, said the coalition resulted after about
six months of meetings between municipal and planning groups stretching
from as far north as New Haven and as far south as Newark. The latter
city, however, did not apply as part of the consortium.
In addition to Stamford, other participating cities are: New York, New
Haven, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Yonkers, White Plains, New Rochelle and
Mount Vernon. The group also includes Nassau and Suffolk counties.
New Haven Line Shuts Down
By M. AMEDEO TUMOLILLO and COLIN MOYNIHAN
July 10, 2010
Trains on Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven line stopped running for
several hours on Saturday afternoon after the power supply was
disrupted, and service remained spotty throughout the night.
The problems, which began about 4:30 p.m., stranded thousands of people
at stations in Connecticut and Westchester County and led to a chaotic
scene at Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, where would-be
passengers rushed from track to track in an effort to find seats on any
New Haven-bound train.
Passengers aboard trains that were in service when the power went out
were forced to sit inside cars with no air-conditioning for more than
two hours. One trip from New Haven to Grand Central, usually a two-hour
journey, took five hours.
A Metro-North spokesman said the problem was caused when the devices on
top of several trains that pull electricity from the overhead lines
tore down the wires just west of the Greenwich, Conn., station.
Railroad officials were unsure on Saturday how the devices — known as
pantographs — were able to bring down the power lines, but they
suspected the recent heat wave might have played a role. “That can
cause those wires to be very droopy,” said the spokesman, Dan Brucker.
Eventually, the lines came down on three of the New Haven line’s four
tracks, littering them with debris from the pantographs and overhead
wires, Mr. Brucker said. The fourth track had already been shut down
Cleanup crews quickly went to work, and one track was cleared by 7:34
p.m. Metro-North soon began running diesel-powered locomotives that
provided limited service. Until service with electric-run trains was
restored, travelers at Grand Central Terminal had the option of taking
a diesel train to Stamford, Conn., then boarding an electric train to
their destinations. Shuttle buses also were pressed into service
between Grand Central and Stamford.
Mr. Brucker said travel delays lasted up to 90 minutes. Amtrak also
reported delays that affected more than 1,500 passengers.
Metro-North reported that service was restored at 10:48 p.m. after two
of the three tracks that had been blocked began running
electric-powered trains again. The third track was expected to be up
and running Sunday.
At Grand Central Terminal about 8:30 p.m., knots of passengers stood
gazing at displays that showed train departures.
One electronic announcement told passengers: “There is limited train
service to Stamford. Customers for Rye, Port Chester, Greenwich change
at New Rochelle for bus service.” At the same time, however, a man
wearing a Metropolitan Transportation Authority uniform was weaving
through the crowd saying that the board was not necessarily accurate
and that passengers should listen instead for announcements over the
public address system.
Agents inside the information kiosk faced a barrage of questions. One
woman wanted to know if she had to take a bus to Greenwich; another
sought advice on the fastest way to Mamaroneck, in Westchester County.
One man indignantly wanted to know why there had been no notification
of delays for passengers waiting in Pelham.
Among the people waiting for information was Evan Hindman, 25, of Old
Greenwich. “Fortunately, I don’t have anywhere real important to be,”
he said. “It’s just keeping me from getting home.” A moment later in a
softer voice, almost to himself, he said, “Stay calm, stay collected.”
Others, however, seemed more anxious about the delay, including Derrick
Watson, 20, a photographer who had been working at a wedding in SoHo
and said he had to shoot portraits in Branford, Conn. Mr. Watson said
he was trying to get to New Haven, at the end of the line, which he
estimated would take until about midnight.
“Right now, this is aggravating me more than anything,” he said. “I’m
trying to make the rush to get back home and get my equipment together
for early tomorrow morning.”
A passenger traveling from New Haven to New York described being stuck
on a train, without air-conditioning, for roughly two hours and 20
minutes. He said the train’s doors were opened to let in fresh air, and
passengers strenuously objected when the crew tried to close them in
advance of the arrival of a backup train.
Connecticut residents who were waiting at Grand Central for trains to
take them home wondered aloud about what had caused the delay. “We have
no idea what caused this,” said Susan Slaga, 40, of New Haven.
Just before 9 p.m., a voice echoed through Grand Central’s Great Hall:
“The 9:07 to New Haven will not be operating today. Please take the
9:11 train on Track 27.”
Passengers rushed to Track 27 from every part of the station. Soon it
was standing room only.
Before boarding, many of them clustered around a conductor who leaned
out a train window answering questions. She explained that the train
would make its regularly scheduled stops up to New Rochelle. At that
point, she told them, passengers traveling further north would have to
transfer to a diesel-powered train that would slowly wend its way to
New Haven as a local.
A question rang out: “Should I get on here to get to Rye?”
Inquiries about other stations followed: Stamford, Darien, Westport.
Each time, she replied: Get on board. “There’s no other way out of
here,” she said.
A moment later, a bell rang, the doors closed, and the passengers
aboard the 9:11 began their long-delayed trip.
Town" finds driving and talking on the cellphone, even hands-free,
Driving While Distracted: Ray
government guy, targets our cell phones.
BY Andrew Ferguson
February 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 22
If you want to know why it may soon be illegal for you to use your cell
phone when you drive your car, you have to remember that Ray LaHood,
the secretary of transportation, is a government guy. It’s all he knows.
As a young man LaHood taught for six years in a private school, but
since then it’s been government all the way—a few years as a planner
for the state planning commission, a term in the Illinois legislature,
nearly 20 years as a congressional aide, and 14 years in the big time,
as a Republican congressman, piping federal grants into a derelict
district in central Illinois. Though he’s driven many automobiles and
ridden in countless airplanes, he has no particular expertise in the
nation’s transportation systems, and some kibitzers wondered aloud why
President Obama appointed him secretary. But the kibitzers miss the
point: As a government guy LaHood doesn’t need any expertise beyond
being a government guy.
This is where you and your cell phone come in. Over the last several
months LaHood has mobilized his vast and lavishly funded ($70 billion)
department behind a high-minded goal: “to put an end to distracted
driving.” Those are his words—not curtail, not discourage, not even
reduce by 50 percent. No: Put an end to. In its ambition and method,
LaHood’s initiative is a kind of textbook example of how government
guys create work for themselves, manage to keep themselves busy, and
put the rest of us on our guard.
The government guy’s first step, always, is to raid the language of
epidemiology and declare a problem—any problem, from anorexia to
obesity—an “epidemic.” And so: “Distracted driving is a serious,
life-threatening epidemic,” LaHood said at one of his big events last
month. (By definition, of course, epidemics are serious and
life-threatening, but since distracted driving isn’t really an
epidemic, the adjectives are needed to juice it up.)
Even imaginary epidemics need victims. The next step is for the
government guy to identify dead people whose relatives are willing, for
unknown reasons, to let him publicly exploit their unutterable grief
for his own purposes. To advance his distracted driving campaign LaHood
keeps several of these abject relatives handy, so his publicists can
position them just behind him and slightly to the right, where the
cameras catch them gazing at him with liquid, upcast eyes. The
relatives are particularly useful if some cynic or pantywaist naysayer
questions the urgency or logic of a government initiative. When his use
of statistics was called into question a few weeks ago, LaHood fired
back on his website. “Ask Shelli Ralls,” he said, “who lost her son
Chance Wayne Wilcox on March 22, 2008” in a “crash caused by a cell
phone driver.” Here he inserted a tasteful picture of Wilcox’s crash
site. And then he invoked the deity. “Ask any one of the hundreds of
people who have poured out their stories of loss on Oprah.” Nothing
shuts up a cynic like a grieving mother.
Epidemic isn’t the only essential term for a government guy. Certain
phrases act as a kind of dog whistle for bureaucrats, activists, and
sympathetic reporters, to let them know an important initiative is
afoot. In seeking to end distracted driving in the United States,
LaHood has used them all. He has issued a “call to action,” vowed to
“raise awareness,” invoked a “national network” of “stakeholders”
pursuing “best practices,” insisted that “the American people” “demand
action” and “commonsense solutions.”
The most valuable term for LaHood is “distracted driving.” It is an
expansive phrase that a deft government guy can play like an accordion,
stretching or squeezing it as his argument demands. The immediate
upshot of LaHood’s initiative, he said last month, is that he wants
laws that will make it illegal for drivers to use handheld cell phones
behind the wheel. State laws, local laws, federal laws, whichever, it
seems not to matter to him—just so long as this little slice of
unregulated human behavior is prohibited and punished. Already seven
states and the District of Columbia have outlawed the use of handheld
cell phones by drivers, and dozens more are entertaining similar
legislation. LaHood urges Congress to push all states to pass cell
phone laws or, if the states fail him, to pass a law of its own.
It’s a big step, telling people that they can’t hold a cell phone in
their car, but the fuzzy phrase “distracted driving” makes it look
smaller, more reasonable, and much less intrusive than it is.
Department of Transportation literature defines distracted driving as
“any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to
distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the
risk of crashing.” Elsewhere the department offers a partial list of
those dangerous nondriving activities in addition to holding a cell
phone: “eating, drinking, conversing with passengers, interaction with
in-vehicle technologies [I think this means changing the radio
station], daydreaming, or dealing with strong emotions,” along with
other activities unspecified.
Quite a list! But LaHood doesn’t mention it when he appears at events
designed to “raise awareness” about the dangers of handheld cell phone
use. At a typical event last month he announced that “nearly 6,000
people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive
driver,” with the implication that a cell phone driving ban would halt
I mean epidemic.
The real-world situation, you won’t be surprised to learn, is more
complicated. The precise number of these fatalities in 2008 was 5,870.
According to the official tables, they occurred in “police-reported
crashes in which at least one form of distracted driving was reported
on the crash report.” The fatality statistic doesn’t tell us anything
about cell phone use because it doesn’t mention cell phone use. It
doesn’t even tell us whether “distracted driving,” in any of its dozen
or more manifestations, was the cause of the fatal crash. An
Alzheimer’s sufferer who got hit by a dump truck while driving through
an oil slick and taking blows from his angry wife with the family dog
perched on his shoulder sticking its disgusting tongue in his ear would
become, in LaHood’s statistical accounting, another piece of evidence
for a ban on cell phone driving.
So what do we know about the safety of using cell phones in cars? Aside
from the intuitive understanding that we all share—that anyone who
can’t wait till he’s done driving to talk on his cell phone is a
jackass—we don’t know a lot for certain. The number of fatal crashes
“involving distraction” has increased in the last four years; but the
overall number of such crashes has declined. Nationwide, car crashes
have fallen dramatically while the use of cell phones has jumped
dramatically (from 195 billion minutes in June 2000 to 1.1 trillion in
June 2008). Last month the Highway Loss Data Institute issued a report
comparing collision rates for states before and after they passed bans
on drivers using handheld cell phones. The bans showed no effect on the
number, frequency, or severity of collisions.
LaHood’s reaction to this latest report showed why he’s the government
guy. It should have been a devastating blow; the institute’s evidence
severely undercuts the logic of his initiative. Instead he took to his
blog—yes, even Ray LaHood has a blog—and summarily declared that the
new study provided still more evidence that government action was
“The surprising data,” he wrote, “encourages people to wrongly conclude
that talking on cell phones while driving is not dangerous! Nothing
could be further from the truth. Just ask Jennifer Smith . . . ”
Smith, of course, is another grieving mother. He went on to equate cell
phone driving with drunk driving. “If anything, the study suggests we
need even tougher protections.”
How so? LaHood had an explanation for why the state bans had not
reduced collisions. In states that banned handheld cell phone use, he
said, drivers probably began using hands-free cell phones. And
“research tells us hands-free is just as dangerous as handheld.”
Thus the call to action escalates, and the needed prohibitions grow
more comprehensive. A ban on handheld cell phone use will be
insufficient if we are to cure the epidemic. Only a total ban on
drivers’ use of cell phones, handheld and hands-free, will bring
LaHood didn’t go further, at least for the moment. He might have
mentioned that “research” also tells us that talking on a cell phone,
hands free or handheld, is just as “dangerous” as having a spirited
conversation with a passenger, which can be just as dangerous as drunk
driving . . . and so on through the official list of distractions:
eating, drinking, daydreaming. . .
We are, in other words, going to need a very big ban, and Ray LaHood is
just the guy to give it to us. “Studies of cognitive distraction,” he
wrote on his blog, “tell us that it’s not about where your hands are,
but where your head is.” It is a dream almost too big even for the most
ambitious government guy: a National Initiative for Head Relocation.
BUT CAN HE DO THE WEATHER?
Can you believe this? The President uses his teleprompter for
$26 million approved for work on rail
By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register Metro Editor
Saturday, January 9, 2010
HARTFORD — The state Bond Commission Friday approved $26 million for
work on double-tracking the rail line between New Haven and
The money, which will go toward design, environmental documentation and
construction, is a step toward creating a 62-mile commuter line between
the two cities, with stops in Hartford and up to 12 other towns, as
well as connections to buses and Bradley International Airport.
“This is a crucial step forward for one of the most important
transportation improvements we have made in decades,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell
said in a statement. “Along with the new M8 passenger cars coming to
Metro-North’s New Haven Line and the highway upgrades we have made
across Connecticut, this project will truly transform public transit in
Now, the line carries Amtrak passenger trains and freight trains, and
would have to accommodate commuter service, which makes double-tracking
Both Rell and House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden,
emphasized the line would enhance development and reduce highway
“Bookended by Boston and New York, our location is one of Connecticut’s
great assets,” Donovan said, also in a statement. “If we remove one of
the great impediments to growth — traffic congestion along the corridor
— with high-speed rail, our economic future improves exponentially.”
The New Haven-Springfield line would have four or five new stations
built to add to the existing eight. Trains would run up to every 30
minutes during peak periods, according to state Department of
Donovan said he and the state’s congressional delegation have been
pushing for the Bond Commission’s approval since last spring. The item
was on the agenda of the commission, of which Rell serves as
chairwoman, in October, but state Sen. Eileen M. Daily, D-Westbrook,
asked that it be postponed because of questions she had.
Rell canceled the Dec. 11 meeting, prompting Donovan to write the
governor a letter asking her not to delay further. “I believe we are at
a critical point in terms of the availability of federal funding for
high speed rail,” he wrote. Design and environmental work must be
completed before the state can apply for federal matching funds, he
Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said Friday the January meeting was moved
up in order to increase the chance of federal financing.
Liegeot said the governor’s office already has applied for $50.4
million in federal stimulus money for the New Haven-Springfield line,
as well as for Metro-North’s New Haven Line and Waterbury branch,
freight lines and parking at the Branford station.
U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., said in a statement that he is
pleased by the bond commission’s decision and would continue to work
for federal funding for the rail line.
“Commuter rail linking New Haven and Springfield will not only create
jobs for our state, but will alleviate the often-tedious commute on
I-91 that so many Connecticut commuters face every day,” Dodd said.
The state’s 2005 study can be found at www.nhhsrail.com.
Obama Unveils High-Speed Rail Plan
By BRIAN KNOWLTON
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday highlighted his
ambition for the development of high-speed passenger rail lines in at
least 10 regions, expressing confidence in the future of train travel
even as he acknowledged that the American rail network, compared to the
rest of the world’s, remains a caboose.
With clogged highways and overburdened airports, economic growth was
suffering, Mr. Obama said from the Eisenhower Executive Office
Building, shortly before leaving for a weekend trip to Latin America.
“What we need, then, is a smart transportation system equal to the
needs of the 21st century,” he said, “a system that reduces travel
times and increases mobility, a system that reduces congestion and
boosts productivity, a system that reduces destructive emissions and
And he added, “There’s no reason why we can’t do this.”
Mr. Obama said the $8 billion included for high-speed rail projects in
his stimulus package — to be spent over two years — and an additional
$1 billion a year being budgeted over the next five years, would
provide a “jump start” toward achieving that vision.
The stimulus money has yet to be allocated to specific projects, but
Mr. Obama said that the Transportation Department had expedited this
process and would begin awarding funds to “ready” projects by the end
The government has identified 10 corridors of 100 to 600 miles in
length with greatest promise for high-speed development.
They are: a northern New England line; an Empire line running east to
west in New York State; a Keystone corridor running laterally through
Pennsylvania; a southeast network connecting the District of Columbia
to Florida and the Gulf Coast; a Gulf Coast line extending from eastern
Texas to western Alabama; a corridor in central and southern Florida; a
Texas-to-Oklahoma line; a California corridor where voters have already
approved a line that will allow travel from San Francisco to Los
Angeles in two and a half hours; and a corridor in the Pacific
Only one high-speed line is now operating, on the Northeast corridor
between Washington and Boston, and it will be eligible to compete for
funds to make improvements.
Mr. Obama’s remarks mixed ambition and modesty, reflecting the fact
that American high-speed rail is in its infancy compared with far-flung
systems of technological virtuosity like those in France and Japan as
well as the network China is rapidly building.
"Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour,
walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just
blocks from your destination," Mr. Obama said. "It is happening right
now, it’s been happening for decades. The problem is, it’s been
happening elsewhere, not here."
The president noted that his administration’s investments in improving
roads, bridges and ports constituted “the most sweeping investment in
our infrastructure since President Eisenhower began the interstate
highway system in the 1950s.” Still, spending on rail travel in the
United States remains a tiny portion of what Eisenhower spent or what
Europeans or some Asians are spending.
The president defended his plan both against those who say it seeks to
do too much and those who said it does too little.
“This plan is realistic,” he said, calling it a “first step that is
quickly achievable.” Rail spending, he said, would not only provide
jobs that “can’t be outsourced” but also help reduce the pollution from
cars and planes while enhancing the ability to compete.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers welcomed the
president’s remarks, saying it was “thrilled with this initiative.”
“It focuses the administration effort and commitment to high-speed rail
and to passenger rail in general,” said David Johnson, a vice president
of the association. He acknowledged that overall financing was “tiny”
compared with European-style train systems but described it as an
important start. The fierce competition for resources in a time of
economic crisis has strapped the administration’s rail ambitions,
though it has made no secret of its inclinations.
In making the announcement, the president was joined by Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom Mr.
Obama joshingly referred to as “America’s No. 1 train fan.”
In the Senate, Mr. Biden earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe” for his
regular train use between Washington and his home in Delaware over
decades and for his strong support for increased rail financing.
laws or government pronouncements:
proposals announced by Transportation Dept.
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
Posted on Dec 16, 7:52 AM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The release of deadly chemicals from a rail car in a
densely populated city could have catastrophic consequences, whether
it's caused by a terrorist attack or a derailment. On Friday,
transportation and homeland security officials proposed ways to make it
harder for terrorists to attack rail cars - and less likely that an
accident would result in mass casualties.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters wants rail companies to send
poison gases, like chlorine or anhydrous ammonia, and other hazardous
cargo along routes that pose the least danger for nearby
residents. Under the plan, railroads would have to identify the
amount of hazardous material carried over each route, then use the
information to select the safest way to move it.
The announcement of Peters' plan Friday followed Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff's proposal to tighten rail security. The
public has 60 days to comment on each. Democratic lawmakers
immediately denounced the Homeland Security plan as too little, too
"This rule is long overdue," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "We need
to be doing so much more to protect our communities from potential
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he was dumbfounded that the rules
only apply to high-threat urban areas - of which his state has none.
"New Haven and other cities where tens of thousands of citizens could
be harmed by a chemical release should not be ignored," Lieberman said.
The Homeland Security plan would require freight and passenger rail
systems to inspect rail cars and keep them in secure areas when not in
use. Railroads also would have to lessen the amount of time that cars
carrying dangerous chemicals are allowed to stand still, which is when
they're most vulnerable to sabotage or attack, Chertoff said.
Democrats, set to take control of Congress next month, said they'd file
bills to require stricter safety and security measures for railroads.
Schumer wants to double the number of hazardous materials inspectors
and limit the age of rail cars carrying dangerous cargo. He also wants
to raise the penalty for railroads found guilty of negligence in a
fatal accident to a maximum of $10 million. Several Democratic
proposals would reroute hazardous materials away from places where an
attack could do the most damage.
The District of Columbia passed a law in 2005 banning hazardous
material shipments within 2.2 miles of the Capitol. CSX Transportation
sued; the case is pending.
The rail industry fears that other cities would follow Washington's
lead if the city prevails. Eight other cities - Chicago, Boston,
Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis and Albany and Buffalo,
N.Y. - have introduced legislation to ban hazardous shipments.
Railroads say forcing trains to take longer, circuitous routes would
create a safety hazard by increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Ed Hamburger, president of the Association of American Railroads, said
railroads have already taken steps to tighten security. They have
increased rail car inspections, set up an operations center to share
intelligence with the government and improved the security of
information systems, he said.
Drivers barred from talking on cell
phone while behind the wheel (if cellphone is hand-held);
on the public R.O.W.
Gas prices force new work routes
Article Last Updated: 05/22/2008 12:23:07 AM EDT
More and more Connecticut commuters are racing to catch trains, buses
and the Web to work in order to escape the financial beating they are
taking from $130-a-barrel oil and $4-a-gallon gas. Metro-North
Railroad, bus operators, vanpool organizers and Telecommute Connecticut
reported surges in contacts with people seeking alternatives to driving
to work alone.
Dan Brucker, a Metro-North spokesman, said the figures for May are not
available, but April 2008 ridership on the New Haven Line jumped 4.3
percent from April 2007. That's an increase of 128,561, or more than
the population of Stamford, riding the train in one month.
There is a financial difference between driving and taking buses and
trains, according to MetroPool, the Stamford-based van and carpooling
MetroPool's Web site has a feature to compute how much a daily commute
costs. For instance, a 30-mile roundtrip commute by car costs
$305.55 a month. That's using the Internal Revenue Service's latest
50.5 cent per mile reimbursement cost for a vehicle. It also takes into
account a 21-day work month. The IRS figure includes insurance and
By comparison, a monthly pass on Metro-North between Bridgeport and
Grand Central Terminal in New York — a round trip of more than 120
miles — is $329.28. A monthly pass to ride from the Milford station to
the Stamford station is $87.22. This does not include parking costs or
the trip to and from home, the station and the office.
At $4.06 per gallon — the average for regular unleaded gas in
Connecticut on Wednesday according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge — a person
driving a car that gets 33 miles to the gallon would spend $18.45 per
week just for gas for a 30-mile daily commute.
Ron Kilcoyne, chief executive officer of the Greater Bridgeport Transit
Authority, said a 31-day pass to ride his buses costs $60. Like
railroad, GBTA's fare boxes are ringing more often these days, Kilcoyne
said. April ridership was up 3.5 percent compared to the same
2007, Kilcoyne said. This might not seem like a big jump, but Kilcoyne
said April 2007 represented a rise of more than 10 percent from April
Kilcoyne was at a regional meeting of transit agencies in Massachusetts
on Wednesday and didn't have access to exact figures. One thing
can do to help ease the burden on their family budgets is to use the
public transit system, he said. GBTA offers many routes into major work
centers, including Trumbull and Shelton. It has connections with
Milford and Norwalk and provides service to Metro-North train stations.
"Busy, busy," that's how MetroPool President and Chief Executive
Officer John Lyons summed up activity at the Stamford-based group's
office. MetroPool has already had 90 contacts in May for
on various ridesharing programs, he said. That's compared to 41
contacts in May 2007. The organization is also offering
get people to share the ride.
MetroPool is giving out free 10- or 7-day bus passes, depending on the
bus system, to people new to public transit, he said. That promotion
began last year. MetroPool also hands out a $20 gift certificate to
people who set up and actually complete the first trip of a carpool,
But $4 gas is also incentive.
"It's a motivation," agreed Jean Stimolo, executive director of New
Haven-based Rideworks. Like MetroPool, Rideworks helps people create
van- and carpools, but concentrates on the New Haven County market. It
also can arrange for free 10-day passes on buses in its area to people
new to public transit. Rideworks also manages the statewide
Stimolo said people aren't just looking to cut their costs. She
credited Connecticut residents with being concerned about the
environment and wanting to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
"Everybody's sensibilities are being sharpened to what we can do," she
said. That includes working from home. Stimolo said her
helped eight companies create telecommuting programs this year. Since
its inception a decade ago, TelecommuteCT! has helped 206 companies
establish these programs, she said.
Telecommute staff will talk to companies and employees about the
benefits of working from home, but also evaluate the needs of both the
business and the worker. And it's not usually an all or nothing
"Typically a person works two days a week from home," Stimolo said.
That's also how carpooling can be most effective, according to both
Rideworks and MetroPool. The two groups recommend carpooling to
at least once a week. It would not only cut expenses, but Stimolo said
carpooling would also cut congestion on the highways. The key to
programs is flexibility, Stimolo said.
While some people are pairing up for the ride into work, or taking mass
transit, the state has seen a big increase in motorcycle
registrations. As of Wednesday, the Department of Motor Vehicles
there are 79,129 active motorcycle registrations, compared to 74,935 at
the same time a year ago. Motorcycles typically get better gas
than cars and Harley-Davidson advertised its Sportstar 883C on
Wednesday as getting 60 miles to the gallon.
big squeeze on parking; Town to revise policy on parking space rentals
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published May 26 2007
Thou shalt not park in front of Saks Fifth Avenue.
That's what the pastor of St. Mary Church is telling families who want
to rent parking spaces on Greenwich Avenue by the day for weddings or
funerals at his parish.
Monsignor Francis Wissel issued the directive after a wedding party
took up more than 40 spaces in front of and across the street from the
Roman Catholic church at 1 p.m. last Saturday during the height of
The town received a number of complaints about the takeover from
merchants, prompting a meeting between Parking Services Director Allen
Corry and Wissel. Wissel acknowledged the merchants' gripes were
legitimate and said the church will no longer allow wedding parties and
funeral processions to rent so many spaces. They will be limited
to four spaces -- enough for a limousine or a hearse.
"Some of these weddings, they can get out of hand," Wissel said. "Am I
supposed to tell the merchants that they can't have parking all day
because someone has 10 bridesmaids? This is not a country parish. This
is like St. Patrick's Cathedral."
Corry said the town is developing its own policy on the number of
meters that can be rented because of the "fiasco," albeit more generous
than the limits set by Wissel. Churchgoers will be limited to 10 spaces
under the new policy.
"That's the livelihood of those businesses in the downtown," Corry
said. "It's tough enough to find parking."
Corry said several factors were to blame for the incident, which he
explained occurred while he was away at a parking industry conference.
"We shouldn't have rented them as many spaces as we did," Corry
said. The wedding party was allowed to rent 26 metered spaces at
the standard daily rate of $15 each -- the hourly rate for regular
parking is 75 cents.
Instead of supplying the wedding party with bags to cover the
individual meters, the town gave them signs to use, making it hard to
tell exactly which spaces were reserved.
"I feel that our business was definitely impacted by that last
Saturday," said Billie Messina, general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue.
While she has no problem with the town renting spaces immediately in
front of the church, Messina said a number of spots across the street
in front of the store were unavailable because of the wedding.
"Parking in Greenwich is challenging as it is," Messina said. "It was
all blocked off."
John Ferguson, who rented the spaces for his daughter's wedding at the
church, said the situation highlighted a larger problem in the downtown.
"They need more parking," said Ferguson, a lawyer and former probate
judge candidate. Ferguson said he did empathize with the
"I feel badly that the merchants were put out for a period of time,"
To avoid misunderstanding in the future, Corry said he will use bags to
cover the meters instead of the signs. The town will require a $5
deposit for each bag on top of the $15 daily rental fee per parking
space. Corry said families could also make it easier on the town.
"Their wedding should have been earlier in the morning," said Corry,
who also suggested that large wedding parties car pool to the church.
Wissel put it more bluntly.
"They can come on motorcycles for all I care," Wissel said, explaining
that he was not at the church the morning of the wedding. The
priest sent out a letter to downtown merchants this week explaining
that the parish was sensitive to their parking needs. Wissel, St.
Mary's pastor for 10 years, said he often reminds churchgoers about the
limited availability of parking in the business district.
"Every time they have something here, they experience a miracle, and
the miracle is to find parking," Wissel said.
The "dirty little secret" about station
parking on Metro North...
on right track with its trains
Norwalk HOUR editorial
December 21, 2006
The growing attention paid by the state to expanding rail service is
looking more and more like the right course of action.
We look to the reports of growing numbers of commuters — not just to
New York City — who take the train daily within the state's borders.
Metro-North, operator of the commuter line in Fairfield County, reports
an increase of 6.5 percent in ridership within the state over the first
10 months of 2006.
That's good news because it means more and more commuters are choosing
not to be a part of that daily grind on the Lodge turnpike (I-95).
There is no doubt that the increase in gasoline prices may be a factor
in commuters' choices. That, coupled with additional train service and
an improved-on-time record, enter into the picture.
Metro-North has shown some flexibility in promoting its service for
those heading into the Big Apple for a one-day jaunt, especially during
It has added extra trains to handle the 10 percent increase in weekend
train riders in recent weeks.
That brings us to the question of expanding rail service elsewhere in
the state, not just along the coastline. A Metro-North Link — or an
Amtrak one — from New Haven north to Hartford and beyond seems a
The state Department of Transportation along with Metro-North, should
also turn its attention to improving service on the Danbury branch line.
This should include restoring the rail service beyond that point, a
service that once carried skiers to Pittsfield, Mass., area.
We are aware of the limitations of the existing Danbury line — trains
limited to a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour on its single track.
We've often called for the re-electrification of the line.
We never understood the thinking behind the move years ago to take down
the wires in the first place.
One of the tougher problems in increased use of the rails is the need
for more parking at the stations along the line.
There is an alternative, one that is offered here in Norwalk and in
some other towns — that's the bus. Norwalk's Transit District is
keeping the buses rolling, adding three state-of-the-art buses to its
fleet. According to Wheels Director Louis Shulman, the bulk of the
city's buses are two years old, reducing maintenance costs.
A bus ride to the train of an easy way to go — you should try it.
says no to last call on bar
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published December 9 2006
State Department of Transportation officials say they intend to keep
the New Haven Line's bar car stocked and in service for the foreseeable
future, despite a New York proposal banning liquor sales on Long Island
and Metro-North railroads. Because of the state's agreement with
the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York-based agency
that runs Metro-North, the New Haven Line would not be affected by any
legislation coming out of the Empire State, said Eugene Colonese, rail
administrator for DOT's rail bureau.
"We recognize how important the bar car is and we plan to continue
running it," he said yesterday.
If any liquor ban was authorized by the MTA, the state would "have to
talk to Metro-North about any legal issues" in selling alcohol on the
New Haven Line on New York property, but "under our agreements with
Metro-North, there are ways to resolve these type of issues," Colonese
The New Haven Line is mainly subsidized by Connecticut. Earlier
this week, Mitchell Pally, an MTA board member from Long Island, made
the recommendation to ban liquor sales on Metro-North and LIRR
properties. The suggestion came four months after an 18-year-old
woman was fatally struck by a LIRR train when she fell through the gap
between the platform and the train at the Woodside, N.Y., station.
The New York Public Transportation Safety Board cleared the railroad of
any blame in the incident, but the woman's blood-alcohol level was .23
percent, which may have contributed to her fall, the report said.
The MTA executive board will review Pally's proposal at its monthly
meeting next week. Connecticut does not have a seat on the MTA board.
The New Haven Line is one of the last commuter lines in the country to
have an on-board bar service serving drinks and snacks.
Metro-North eliminated the bar cars on its New York Hudson and Harlem
lines to free up seats for commuters, but they have remained popular in
Connecticut, even getting a Web site dedicated to their fans,
The state operates 10 bar cars and plans to get new, upgraded ones when
it starts receiving new rail cars as part of its $881 million contract
with Kawasaki Rail Cars Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y. Customers can view
which New Haven Line cars offer bar car service by checking the
timetable, which prints a martini glass icon next to the scheduled
train. In addition to the New Haven Line's bar cars, Metro-North
has bar service counters on many of its platforms in Grand Central
These carts could be affected by the New York legislation.
Bar-car enthusiasts said they were pleased that the New Haven Line will
continue to offer bar service on trains regardless of any legislation,
but found the MTA proposal disconcerting.
"We don't want this to affect us in Connecticut, and this (proposal)
made me stop and think of what could happen in the future," said Terri
Cronin, a Norwalk commuter and co-vice chairwoman for the Connecticut
Rail Commuter Council.
Most people who are intoxicated on the bar car were likely drinking
before they got to the train, said Cronin, who, through the commuter
council is spearheading an effort to get new bar cars for the New Haven
Line. And because commuters are only in the bar car for their
hourlong ride, the law would do little to change people's drinking
behavior, she said.
Ferry to kick off service in late July
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
Posted on 06/06/2010
In late July, kayakers, rowers, shell fishermen and other boaters using
Norwalk Harbor will see a unique vessel pulling into and out of Norwalk
Cove Marina on Thursday afternoons and Sunday evenings.
Last month, the city's Zoning Commission gave SeaStreak LLC the green
light to dock a 130-foot, 400-passenger high-speed ferry at Norwalk
Cove Marina in East Norwalk.
The ferry is scheduled to dock late Thursday afternoons and take on up
to 100 passengers en route to Martha's Vineyard. The vessel will return
Sunday evenings on the way back to Manhattan and Atlantic Highlands,
SeaStreak must, among other conditions, shut the ferry's engines off
while passengers are boarding, and notify kayaking, rowing or sailing
clubs of the service. Ferry service is set to begin on a test basis in
Charles Huthmaker, Norwalk River Rowing Association director of rowing,
said the ferry service -- if extended into the spring and fall -- will
affect many rowers who use the harbor. But he added that those rowers
already deal with large boats.,
"(In spring and fall) you can probably count on 200 or 300 kids on the
river, Monday through Friday," said Huthmaker, referring to the
association and three other rowing clubs. But "if we know (the ferry)
is coming Thursday evenings, as coaches we'd make sure we're aware of
it. It would just be another boat to look out for. Every afternoon,
we're looking for oyster boats. If (the ferry) is coming in and out of
Cove Marine, they would barely interact with our coaching. Only the big
eight-man boats go out that far."
Under the approved plan, which has been vetted by the Norwalk Harbor
Management Commission and Shellfish Committee, the ferry will approach
the marina from the west, past Green's Ledge Lighthouse. A U.S. Coast
Guard-licensed captain will be at the helm, and he or she will have to
throttle back upon entering the harbor's no-wake zone.
"Prior to the area of the Manresa Power Station, at that point in time,
that area was designated as a no-wake of 6 mph. It means that once that
boat starts into the inner harbor, they're going to have to operate at
a speed that leaves no wake and they'll have to exit at those same
conditions," said Michael Griffin, state of Connecticut harbormaster
for Norwalk. "The vessel, operated properly, can fit into our heavy
mixed use boating environment without jeopardizing public safety."
In a letter to the Harbor Management Commission last month, Norwalk
resident and kayaker David W. Park wrote that he is not opposed to the
ferry service, but said he has concerns "regarding the safety of rowers
"There are currently four Norwalk rowing clubs and many recreational
kayakers in the Norwalk Harbor area that are not familiar with basic
boating navigation and safety," Park wrote. "Unlike motorized boats and
sailboats over 19 feet, these types of self-propelled boats are not
required to pass a state Department of Environmental Protection safe
boating course. Most are not knowledgeable in the location of channels
marked by buoys and basic Coast Guard rules such as not impeding the
navigation of a boat restricted to a channel."
James A. Barker, SeaStreak president and Darien resident, acknowledged
that kayaking and large vessels often don't mix well -- "We work with
the clubs in New York City to inform (kayakers) to play by the rules of
But Barker said the Norwalk ferry will operate in less difficult
conditions than there. He said SeaStreak commuter ferries running
between Manhattan and Atlantic Highlands, N.J., deal with more than
1,000 boats in the latter harbor.
"(In Norwalk) we'll be coming in at a low speed, we're highly
maneuverable. We have two licensed captains on board and we'll be
maintaining a sharp lookout," Barker said. "We're coming in at a time
which I don't think is going to be prime time, and the traffic should
be fairly light in the water. We are working with the marine police to
notify all the clubs."
In pitching the plan to the city, SeaStreak representative met with
officers of the Norwalk Police Department's Marine Division. Sgt. Peter
Lapak, head of the division, said police will be ready to escort the
ferry into and out of the harbor until other boaters become accustomed
to seeing it coming and going. He foresees no problems.
"All of our exchanges to date with the people representing SeaStreak
have been very positive," Lapak said. "They seem to be very
professionally run, so I don't have any significant concerns."
Some East Norwalk residents have a different view of the planned ferry
service. Speaking at a public hearing prior to the plan's approval,
they predicted that the service will bring a rush of cars down
Proposed city ferry
picks up steam
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
Posted on 05/01/2010
Plans for a high-speed ferry
stopping at Norwalk Cove Marina on the way to Martha's Vineyard is
advancing through the review process, according to Michael Griffin,
state of Connecticut Harbormaster for Norwalk.
"It's moving through the system, as
far as the public hearings and the permitting requirements. At this
point in time, it seems to be moving ahead. They made presentations
before the Shellfish Commission and before the Harbor Commission,"
Griffin said. "It seems to be fitting into both the Shellfish plan and
the Harbor Management plan. There was one concern expressed by the
Shellfish Commission and that was the route that the vessel would take
entering and exiting the harbor."
The concern, Griffin said, was
whether the vessel might harm shellfish beds by using the east passage
when entering Norwalk Harbor. He said SeaStreak, LLC, the ferry
operator, has agreed to include in its application to the state
Department of Environmental Protection a restriction limiting the ferry
to use of the west passage.
"Beyond that, I haven't heard any
other concerns expressed," Griffin said.
Under the plan, SeaStreak, which
runs a high-speed ferry from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., to the Vineyard,
would add a stop in Norwalk. The ferry operator has submitted a plan to
the city's Department of Planning and Zoning. The 141-foot vessel would
travel between Atlantic Highlands, East 34th Street in Manhattan,
Norwalk Cove Marina and Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
The 400-passenger vessel with crew
of six would stop at Norwalk Cove Marina for 30 minutes on Thursday
afternoons en route to Oak Bluffs, Mass., and again for 30 minutes on
Sunday evenings on the way back to New York City and New Jersey.
SeaStreak anticipates approximately 100 passengers would use the
Norwalk location, and the company has negotiated 100 parking spaces in
the southeastern part Norwalk Cove Marina, according to the Norwalk
Harbor Management Commission.
Vessel availability and the
anticipation that passengers would prefer long weekends on Martha's
Vineyard are behind the decision to have the ferry stop in Norwalk on
Thursdays and Sundays, rather than on Fridays and Sundays, according to
James A. Barker, president of SeaStreak and a Darien resident.
Barker anticipates SeaStreak will
begin several test runs in mid-July -- tentatively beginning July 8 or
July 15 -- if the city boards and commissions approve the plan.
"I think we've got a good plan.
We've got our ducks in a row. We've got parking. We've done the traffic
studies. So our paperwork is in order. We'll be answering any questions
the public has," Barker said. If the plan is approved "we would commit
to a test of probably two or three runs over the summer, maybe more. If
it's successful, we can evaluate whether we want to do Fridays in the
Barker also feels a connection to
the area. He said he grew up on the water, worked as a lobsterman and
sits on The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk board of directors. He added
that his children row in Norwalk.
"We are sympathetic to the yachting
community and we'll be slowing down for any slow craft," Barker said.
In discussing the plan in March, a
consultant for SeaStreak pitched the high-speed ferry as a much
preferable alternative to Interstate 95. That has been borne out,
according to Barker, who went on a test run in February.
"It took an hour and ten minutes to
run from Wall Street to Norwalk," Barker said.
No change in the existing in-water
structures or existing parking lot is proposed under the plan. The plan
is consistent with city building zone regulations within the Marine
Commercial Zone, according to staff for the Norwalk Harbor Management
Elizabeth B. Suchy, the local
attorney representing SeaStreak, said the city's Zoning Commission will
review the application May 13 and has scheduled a public hearing for
May 19. She is hopeful the plan will be approved.
"It is my client's goal to have this
service operate this year," Suchy said.
Griffin, at this time, is endorsing
the proposed ferry service.
"Given the elimination of the
concerns by the Shellfish Commission, I feel that the vessel, although
it will be contributing additional traffic, presenting additional
challenges in an already mixed-use harbor environment, I believe that
it can function without creating additional safety concerns," Griffin
said. "We feel that properly managed, it can be done in a way that it
doesn't create any additional safety concerns."
Interest in ferry service strong
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published May 29 2007
At Long Island Sound's widest point, Connecticut's coastline is 21
miles from Long Island, N.Y. That's about the same distance between
Stamford and Bridgeport, a commute tens of thousands of motorists and
rail riders make every day.
But crossing the Sound barrier and opening the state up to a new source
of labor, retail trade and tourism, while taking cars off Interstate 95
and other traffic-jammed highways, is an idea that has never been able
to stay afloat. Besides the long-standing ferry service between
Bridgeport and Port Jefferson, N.Y., there has been nearly a century's
worth of failed cross-Sound ideas that could have connected lower
Fairfield County to Long Island and New York City by boat or bridge.
"We just haven't found the right way to do it," said Franklin Bloomer,
a Greenwich resident and co-chairman of the Coastal Corridor
Transportation Investment Area, an advisory group to the Transportation
"Waterborne transportation remains an underutilized resource for this
state," said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for the
Business Council of Fairfield County. "Going to Long Island has a lot
of promise. The same with going to (La Guardia) airport."
The latest proposal that appears stuck is a ferry service that could
connect Bridgeport and Stamford to Manhattan and La Guardia.
The idea was first proposed in 1996 and has received more than $6
million in federal grants. But the plan remains without a docking site
in Stamford, and little has been done the past 10 years to resolve
that, said Roger Fox, chairman of Stamford's Harbor Commission.
"We need a dock, and we need a place to park" commuters' cars, Fox
said. "And who's going to give up waterfront parking? Who wants this
thing bad enough?"
A recent study from the Bridgeport Port Authority shows the idea has
potential. Nearly 80 percent of commuters between Bridgeport and
Stamford would consider using such a service, the study said. It would
cost about $50 a week, compared with $28 a week by train and $163 by
car. Ferry service to Manhattan would cost about $150 a week, compared
with $83 by train and $230 by car, according to the study.
Some have criticized the ferry idea because it would serve a market
already covered by Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line. But to be
financially successful, it would only need to capture about 4 percent
of the commuting market -- including road and rail commuters -- between
Connecticut and New York, the study said.
"Money is not the issue," Fox said. "It's a profitable venture for
In its search for a dock site, Stamford has turned its attention away
from the Admiral's Wharf area in the South End, which was purchased by
Greenwich developer Antares Real Estate Services. Many on the harbor
commission have viewed that as a tough spot to launch a high-speed
ferry service because it's too far inland.
Alternative sites include the east side of the peninsula near
Kosciuszko Park; near Brewer Yacht Haven on the east side of the canal;
and near Cummings Park Beach in Westcott Cove, Fox said. But finding a
place to park 150 cars remains difficult, he added.
Bridgeport Port Authority officials are more optimistic.
"As we've begun to visualize the service, it seems as if it would work
from an operator's point of view," said Joseph Riccio, executive
director of the port authority. "With traffic on I-95, we need to turn
over to our waterways to alleviate congestion."
Using the Sound as a transportation source is not a new idea. Since the
Bridgeport, Port Jefferson & Steamboat Co. was founded in 1883,
dozens of ideas to link lower Fairfield County to New York have been
proposed -- and all have failed. After some short-lived excursion
boats and ferry services in the 1930s and 1940s, the idea really
started to percolate again in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But at
that time, people were looking to connect Connecticut to New York by
road and bridge instead of by boat. umber of bridges were studied
by New York and Connecticut and planners ruled out including a
14.5-mile bridge between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport. There was also
a study of a bridge linking Northport, N.Y., and Norwalk at Route 7,
which was ruled economically unfeasible.
The idea that had the most promise was a bridge connecting Oyster Bay
and Rye, N.Y. The 6.1-mile span was strongly backed by New York Gov.
Nelson Rockefeller but faced opposition from Connecticut officials,
including then-U.S. Rep. Stewart McKinney, Stamford Mayor Julius
Wilensky and the Business Council of Fairfield County, then known as
SACIA. Opponents said the bridge would have created dangerous
conditions for marine traffic while increasing road traffic on I-95.
Floyd Lapp, executive director for the South Western Regional Planning
Agency, worked for Westchester County at the time of the bridge debate.
He said the "economic linkage" between the two areas made sense.
"That's where I always thought it was going to be," he added.
While some groups continued studying bridge possibilities, others went
back to finding boat services that could work. In 1975, an organization
called the Tri-State Regional Planning Commission recommended many new
ferry routes, including Stamford to Lloyd Point, N.Y., and Sherwood
Island in Westport to Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island.
The same year, Norwalk and the town of Northport had seemingly agreed
on an excursion boat that would cross the Sound between the two towns,
but the idea was eventually voted down by Northport trustees, who
thought the outside traffic it would bring could hinder their
That has not been the case with the ferry between Bridgeport and Port
Jefferson. That service has been relatively successful because it
appeals to day-trippers and other niche markets, Riccio said.
While the Bridgeport Port Authority doesn't track user demographics, it
has noted truck traffic increasing on the ferry service since the
clearance height for the entrance and exit viaduct was raised in 1998,
Last year, the service attracted 1.37 million riders, down 3.4 percent
from the year before, but up 27 percent from 1999, when the company
added a third daily vessel.
Use of the service usually spikes during the summer months, and during
holiday weekends and school vacations, Riccio said. Monthly passes
remain a small part of overall sales, but the service works for those
"willing to pay the price" to get around traffic between Connecticut
and Long Island, he added.
These kinds of ferry services, geared more toward day-trippers, may be
the best way to go, Lapp said.
"The ferry is a different sell for a few reasons," he said. "You have a
commuter rail that already takes people to most places where they want
to go. And across the Sound is a reach, because it's a broken market."
Perhaps with more leadership behind the ferry issue, it could succeed,
"There needs to be an overall state strategy," he said. "At the end of
the day, we need a major state subsidy so the ferry will be more
competitive price-wise with the railroad. Without that leadership,
we've been left with a ferry system for which we don't know what the
So despite its history, more ferry service is one idea that may never
be truly sunk.
"It's like unrequited love, I guess," Lapp said. "People still feel a
love for these things, even if there are reasons to believe it's not
going to happen."
Alaska cruise ship taking
on water, evacuated
May 12, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A cruise ship with about 280 people on board ran
into trouble off the Alaskan coast and began taking on water early on
Monday, forcing passengers and crew to evacuate, the U.S. Coast Guard
Coast Guard craft were sent to the 360-foot-long (110-meter-long)
Empress of the North, about 15 miles southwest of Juneau on Alaska's
eastern peninsula in an area called Icy Straits, Coast Guard spokesman
Christopher McLaughlin told Reuters by telephone.
The ship was listing at about 8 degrees after hitting a rock but Dan
Miller, a spokesman for owner Majestic America, told Fox News it was
not in danger of sinking.
"It is stable and is under its own power and as soon as all the guests
and crew are transferred off, she will make her way under her own power
over to Juneau where we will assess the damage," Miller said.
Coast Guard Commander Jeff Carter told CNN the ship was carrying 281
passengers and crew. McLaughlin said about 30 passengers had been
evacuated so far, with nearby commercial vessels helping the Coast
Guard, including a cruise ship that was due at the scene shortly to
help evacuate remaining passengers.
"Several Good Samaritan boats are on the scene and taking passengers
off," McLaughlin said. He said it was unclear how much water the boat
was taking on.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or what caused the ship to
run into trouble in 3-foot (0.9-meter) seas in icy waters.
"We're not sure what they hit," McLaughlin said.
The ship has 112 staterooms and an old-fashioned rear paddle wheel,
according to the Web site of its owner, the Majestic America cruise
line. Majestic America is a division of Ambassadors Cruise Group,
a wholly owned subsidiary of Ambassadors International Inc.. Its decor
includes Native American totems and masks, as well as Faberge eggs and
other Russian artwork.
will restart at Keystone
By South Whidbey RECORD STAFF
Mar 14 2007
The ferry M/V Klickitat was repaired Tuesday night and will return to
service Wednesday afternoon, state ferry officials said this
morning. Ferry sailings will start at 2:15 p.m. from Port
The Klickitat was pulled from service on Monday after an inspection by
the state ferry system and the Coast Guard. Water was found seeping
through the hull of the ferry on Saturday. Ferry officials initially
said there was no timeline for resuming service on the Keystone-Port
Townsend run. But Todd Shipyard in Seattle made repairs overnight
Tuesday, and work was finished this morning.
"Testing was successful and the vessel crews are preparing for transit
from Seattle to Port Townsend," said Traci Brewer-Rogstad, director of
marine operations for Washington State Ferries.
The crack found in the vessel was 6 inches long, and a 3-inch-long
crack extended up the bulkhead of the Klickitat. A portion of the hull
plating was replaced, and the state said the total cost of repairs will
be roughly $50,000. The Klickitat is a 256-foot-long
car/passenger ferry that was built in 1927 and extensively rebuilt in
It can carry a maximum of 617 passengers and 64 vehicles, and has space
for 24 commercial vehicles.
ferry route cancelled
By RECORD STAFF
(Whidbey Island, WA)
Mar 12 2007
Ferry service on the Keystone-Port Townsend run has been suspended
after water was found seeping through the hull of the ferry M/V
Inspectors from the state ferry system and the Coast Guard examined the
ferry Monday afternoon during a round-trip sailing. Ferry officials
said based on that examination, the Klickitat will be pulled from
service until it can be repaired in a local shipyard. The state does
not have another ferry available to substitute for the Klickitat.
The ferry is expected to go into drydock once space is available, but
ferry officials warned that drydock space is in high demand due to the
upcoming summer season.
Ferry officials said service has been suspended indefinitely.
"We know the suspension of the run will inconvenience travelers,
truckers and commuters," said Traci Brewer-Rogstad, director of marine
operations for Washington State Ferries.
"Unfortunately, with other vessels in drydock for annual inspection and
repair, there is no available spare vessel at this time. We are working
to review all options for service on this route as quickly as possible,
but we are currently out of service," Brewer-Rogstad continued. "We at
Washington State Ferries are committed to returning the Klickitat to
service as fast as we can."
The 256-foot-long Klickitat was built in 1927 and extensively rebuilt
in 1981. The vessel can carry a maximum of 617 passengers and 64
vehicles, and has space for 24 commercial vehicles.
Backers Float High-Speed Ferry
November 26, 2006
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
A new study endorses a high-speed commuter ferry traveling among
Bridgeport, Stamford and lower Manhattan, saying there is a viable
market for the service that could take cars off Interstate 95.
The service could be a quick, comfortable and affordable alternative to
commuting by automobile and may ease gridlock on lower Fairfield
County's highways, according to a Bridgeport Port Authority feasibility
"It's a quicker ride than driving and only a little slower than rail,"
said Joseph Riccio, executive director of the port authority. "There
will be no overbooking like there is on a train, so no one will be
The analysis, done by TPA Design Group of New Haven and Martin
Associates of Lancaster, has been in the works for nearly two years. A
survey, conducted for the study, found 80 percent of commuters in the
Stamford-Bridgeport area would consider using the service. But
while the study determines the service to be viable, little progress is
being made to find a ferry landing site in Stamford.
The study proposes two ferry boats operating during the morning and
evening peak commuting hours on weekdays. Eventually, a weekend service
could be developed to function as a tourist boat throughout New
England, the study said. Commuting from Bridgeport to Stamford by
ferry should cost about $50 a
week, compared with $28 a week by train and $163 by car, according to
the study. Ferry service from Stamford to Manhattan would cost $150 a
week, compared with $83 by train and $230 by car.
The service would serve about 600 to 700 people a day initially, Riccio
The ferry would not compete with Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line,
he said. While the New Haven Line primarily serves commuters in midtown
Manhattan, the ferry would service the financial district in lower
Manhattan. Only about a third of Metro-North riders connect with
subways or buses
once they reach Grand Central Terminal, according to railroad
The ferry would likely service commuters between Bridgeport and
Stamford, and Stamford to New York, Riccio said.
For years, Stamford pegged the Admiral's Wharf site at Washington
Boulevard and Atlantic Street in the South End as the ideal spot, but
the site's acquisition by Antares Real Estate
Services LLC, a Greenwich
developer, has put that plan in doubt.
The city's harbor commission recently recommended four new dock sites,
including the east side of the peninsula near Kosciuszko Park; near
Brewer Yacht Haven on the east side of the canal; at the southern tip
of the Antares property in the South End; and near Cummings Park Beach
in Westcott Cove.
Until a site is found, that would also provide ample parking for
commuters, little can be done to establish ferry service, said Roger
Fox, chairman of the harbor commission.
"The service is a real good thing because it will take cars off I-95
and it looks like it will work for a number of passengers," Fox said.
"But there are some hangups finding a place for cars to park. We need
still need to figure out where we're going to put it (the ferry) and
who's going to be responsible for it."
FERRY FUNDING, J. Richard Capka,
head of the Federal Highway Administration,
answers questions with U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport...how is this
getting on after the election?
proposal gets a boost
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published July 8 2006
STAMFORD -- The Federal Highway Administration chief visited Stamford
yesterday to announce more funding for ferry service between Bridgeport
and Manhattan, and to discuss ways to alleviate traffic in lower
Flanked by U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, and state
Department of Transportation officials, Federal Highway Administrator
J. Richard Capka complimented the "passion" of the dozens of
transportation advocates and planners who attended the meeting and said
the solution to congestion lies in improving many modes of
"Ferry, rail, buses and highways all play a role," said Capka after the
meeting at the University of Connecticut's Stamford campus. "These all
have to play a huge role. It is a multi-modal solution."
The proposed high-speed ferry between Bridgeport, Stamford and New York
City received a $2.2 million federal grant yesterday, Capka announced.
While the status of the Stamford ferry site remains unresolved, Capka
said resources would remain available to the city as it makes progress
on developing a dock and choosing an operator to run the service to
LaGuardia Airport and lower Manhattan.
Appointed administrator on May 31, Capka was also deputy commissioner
of the agency for nearly four years.
Before his service with federal highway, he was the chief executive
officer of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, where he directed the
oversight of the $14.5 billion "Big Dig" project in Boston. The budget
he established on the project in May 2001 has held through today.
The biggest question from many local transportation advocates yesterday
was where the funding was coming from. While Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the
state legislature have approved $3.6 billion for transportation
improvements the past two years, many advocates were curious how much
the federal government could contribute.
Capka said that many states faces this problem and the Federal Highway
Administration is working to try and find the right "tools and
resources available" to provide financial assistance.
Federal highway has recently set up a 12-member committee to study
state needs for the next six-year transportation funding bill.
In the last federal bill, the fourth congressional district received
$93 million, including $35 million for Stamford, $50 million for
Bridgeport and $4 million for Norwalk.
ferry proposal drawing support, but also questions
New London DAY
March 12, 2006
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A proposal for high-speed ferry service
linking southwest Connecticut and Manhattan is gaining support and
financial backing, but also raising concerns about whether enough
passengers would use it.
A recent report by several regional planning agencies found potential
demand for a high-speed ferry to link Bridgeport and Stamford with
Manhattan and possibly LaGuardia Airport. However, the report
stops short of recommending whether to pursue the project, saying more
research is needed and local communities will have to determine whether
they want the service.
The Bridgeport Port Authority is awaiting results of a study to answer
several of those questions. The proposal also has already won nearly $9
million in federal grants that could be used to launch the ferry
service. However, questions remain about whether enough
passengers would use the service to make it feasible, considering the
rides are likely to cost more and take longer than those on Metro-North
Joseph A. Riccio, executive director of the Bridgeport Port Authority
and chairman of the Long Island Sound Ferry Coalition, said he sees a
market in corporate workers who live in Fairfield County and work in
New York City's financial district.
"This is not going to be for everyone; it's going to be probably for an
executive market to get into Manhattan," Riccio told the Connecticut
Post. The ferry is one of several options reviewed in the
planning agencies' report, which explores options to use waterways to
cut the region's reliance on highways and rails. The report also
says the fast-ferry service from Bridgeport to Manhattan would be
feasible only if it stopped in Stamford. Stamford officials said they
like the idea, but need more information before committing to it.
"Stamford to Manhattan is difficult economics. Bridgeport to Manhattan
is a non-starter. But Bridgeport to Stamford to Manhattan, there might
be a market for that," said Michael Freimuth, Stamford's economic
Connecticut House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, said high-speed
ferries are not included in the 10-year, $6 billion statewide
transportation plan he's supporting in the General Assembly.
However, he said, he likes the idea and might include funding for it as
the process progresses.
Not everyone is confident about the feasibility of the ferry idea,
Jim Cameron, vice chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Shore Line
East Commuter Council, believes the state's priority should be
improving commuter rail if it wants to ease the burden on highways.
"If we could do it on an experimental basis and see if there's a market
for it, I'd be comfortable with that," he said of the high-speed ferry
But, he added: "If you can't get people out of their car to get on a
train, why would we assume people would get out of their car to get on
a ferry boat that would be slower and undoubtedly more expensive?"
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published November 30 2005
Ferry service from Stamford to New York got more support yesterday,
this time from a coalition of New York and Connecticut officials who
studied how to use Long Island Sound for transportation.
The Southwestern Regional Planning Agency, the Greater Bridgeport
Regional Planning Agency and its New York counterpart, the New York
Metropolitan Transportation Council, released results from a three-year
study of ferry services on the Sound. The Long Island Sound
Waterborne Transportation Plan calls for an enhancement of existing
service and four new sites for fast passenger service, including a
Bridgeport to Stamford to Manhattan ferry.
The service could cost $10 to $20 per trip, attract 600 to 2,340 riders
a day, and take about 21Ú2 hours, according to the study.
Transportation planners said the proposal warrants consideration.
"I think it's a route that has intrigued people for a long time," said
Joseph Riccio, executive director of the Bridgeport Port Authority.
"The trains (into New York) are packed . . . and there is so much
excess capacity that a high-speed ferry service presents another
option. The question is if it can be done economically." The
transportation plan, which also recommends ferries from Rye, New
Rochelle and Glen Cove, N.Y., into Manhattan, mapped out a number of
scenarios for the Bridgeport to Stamford service.
Under the "base model" for service -- $15 a trip traveling at 35 knots
-- attracting riders for a Bridgeport to Stamford to midtown Manhattan
ferry would be difficult because it would be the same price as
Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line, only slower, according to the
study. If service were extended to Wall Street, demand would
increase, but still would carry only about 290 passengers because the
service is slower, the study showed.
Ridership growth is contingent on the boat's speed, the study said.
Morning ridership ranges from 175 passengers at 25 knots to 950
passengers at 55 knots, the study said. Eliminating Stamford
likely would increase demand from Bridgeport and shave about 25 minutes
of travel time, but the study showed the number of passengers picked up
in Stamford would offset those lost in Bridgeport.
"I can't say that all the legs of the proposal have potential, but the
potential from Stamford to lower Manhattan is pretty good," said Robert
Wilson, executive director of SWRPA. The Bridgeport Port
Authority is conducting its own study of ferry service from Bridgeport
to Stamford to Manhattan, Riccio said.
Stamford, meanwhile, has received more than $3 million from the federal
government to pursue ferry service. The city's ferry plans have been
stalled for years because of legal squabbles over who has the right to
run the service at the proposed Admiral's Wharf site in the South
End. The Long Island Sound transportation plan proposes ferry
service from Bridgeport and Stamford to LaGuardia Airport in New York.
The study determined water taxis are not a solution to transportation
woes, although they could be useful for short distances, such as
Norwalk to Stamford and Stamford to Port Chester, N.Y.
Wilson said the viability of such services may hinge on whether the
ferries are subsidized by the state or federal government.
"It becomes a premium service if it's subsidized," he said. "If you're
talking about service without a subsidy, that could be different."
Splendor catches fire, adrift off Mexican coast. All
things considered, a rather better outcome than in the three films made
about make-believe as well as real ships and their stories.
Return plan changed: no bus ride to the US border - instead,
passengers stay aboard with Spam, fresh water, no lights, toilets, no
Internet, yes on some cell phone service,
Stricken cruise ship
Diego amid cheers
By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
11 November 2010
SAN DIEGO – Six tug boats pulled a stricken cruise ship to shore
Thursday morning amid cheers from a waiting crowd, bringing the nearly
4,500 passengers and crew closer to freedom after three days of limited
food, smelly toilets and dark cabins.
Escorted by Coast Guard cutters, the nearly 1,000-foot Carnival
Splendor reached the dock at about 8:30 a.m. PST. and passengers were
expected to begin disembarking about two to three hours later, port
About 100 people onshore cheered loudly as the ship reached shore,
while all along the harbor, tourists, joggers and fishermen stopped to
"We're so happy to be getting off. Everybody's been cheering and
clapping," passenger Sahizah Alim, 26, of Sacramento, said by cell
cruise ship nears San Diego harbor
By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press
11 November 2010
SAN DIEGO – Six tug boats pulled a stricken cruise ship to San Diego
Bay early Thursday, bringing the nearly 4,500 passengers and crew
closer to freedom after four days of limited food, smelly toilets and
dark cabins. The nearly 1,000-foot Carnival Splendor was about
miles off the harbor mouth Thursday morning, said Coast Guard Petty
Officer Rachel Polish. Two tugs hauled it slowly up from the Mexican
coast, and four more were hooking up to help gently steer it to the
The rigging is expected to take about an hour and the ship will need
another two hours to reach dock. Coast Guard cutters will escort
ship around the tip of the Coronado Peninsula to San Diego's downtown
harbor, a tricky operation because the vessel has no propulsion and
can't steer, Polish said.
"It has to come in at a certain angle," she said. "You can't just pull
it in as you would at a parking spot."
It is expected to take several hours for everyone to get off the ship.
"Every day is getting more frustrating for some people. You can tell
some people are just angry," passenger Kate Kapelka told CBS's "Early
Show" on Thursday morning.
Just about anything that requires electrical power was knocked out by a
Monday morning fire in an engine room. There was no air conditioning,
no hot food, no hot water, no casino. The swimming pool was off-limits
because there was no way to pump chlorine. Lines for cold food
for hours. Navy helicopters flew in Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab
meat and other goods for the passengers and crew, passengers said.
"We're eating spoiled turkey sandwiches and warm milk and warm yogurt,"
passenger Joey Noriega told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday.
"Everything smells like it's spoiled... Nothing's cooked. It's all
sandwich meat. It's disgusting. You're afraid to eat it 'cause it's
been left out and touched by everybody else on the ship."
The bathrooms are dark and toilets no longer flush, passenger Valerie
Ojeda told "Good Morning America."
"It was bad, but now that I think back to it, it was really bad," she
Still, she said people were trying to make the best of the trip,
dancing, laughing and singing along to "Sweet Caroline." The bar was
open and offering free drinks, and there were musical bands and
cell phone service returned Wednesday, and Carnival made
eight satellite phones available for passengers to make quick calls
Cruise Director John Heald said in comments posted in a blog on
Carnival Lines website that the people aboard "have risen to the
obvious challenges and difficult conditions onboard."
"Obviously it has been a challenge but let me tell you the most
important facts and those are that the ship is safe, the guests are
safe and that nobody was injured," he said.
Seth Grabel, 28, a Las Vegas magician, waited for his parents, who were
on the cruise with hundreds of magicians participating in a convention
put on by David Sandy Productions of St. Joseph, Mo.
"My dad is an amateur magician, but my mom hates magic. She was
fighting this tooth and nail. She did not want to go on this thing. She
had an intuition. I don't think my dad's going to live down this one,"
The Splendor left Long Beach on Sunday for a seven-day trip to the
Mexican Riviera. The ship was 200 miles south of San Diego and about 44
miles off shore when the fire killed its power. Gerry Cahill,
executive of Carnival Corp.'s Carnival Cruise Lines, said the crankcase
on one of six diesel generators "split," causing the fire. He said he
doubted other ships in the Miami-based company's fleet were at risk.
"We've never had anything like this happen before, so I really don't
think we have any risks to other ships," he said at a news conference
Wednesday. "This is a very unusual situation."
Gina Calzada, 43, of Henderson, Nev., said her diabetic sister, Vicky
Alvarez, called her Wednesday on her cell phone and started sobbing.
She said she has not been able to take her insulin for her diabetes
because she is not eating enough. She told Calzada all that she
eaten was some bread, cucumbers and lettuce.
"She said it stinks of rotten food and smoke," Calzada said. "It's
dark, and it's cold.'"
Alvarez's husband said that when he went looking for food for his wife,
a crew member told him to give her a Tic-Tac. Carnival officials
they could not confirm Alvarez's report. Carnival first planned
haul the ship to the Mexican port of Ensenada, not far from a movie
studio complex used to film "Titanic," and bus passengers to the
But the cruise line decided it would be better to go a little further
to San Diego, sparing passengers the 50-mile bus ride to the border.
San Diego also offers more transportation and hotel options.
"The conditions on the ship have been challenging and we are very, very
sorry for the discomfort and the inconvenience that our guests have had
to deal with in the past several days," Cahill said. "They signed up
for a great cruise vacation and obviously that is not what they
In his comments Heald defended the ship and crew. There will be
who will say this has been "`the cruise from hell,'" he wrote. But he
continued that there are "many more who will tell you what they have
been telling me and the crew and that is that Carnival as a company
have done everything they can and continue to do so."
9 November 2010 Last updated at 16:26 ET
Cruise ship fire leaves 4,500 stranded
off Mexico coast
A cruise ship which sailed from California has caught fire and is
having to be towed back to shore, with 4,500 people on board but
unharmed. The Carnival Splendor was 200 miles (310km) south of
San Diego, when the blaze broke out on Monday morning, said owners
Carnival Cruise Lines. US Navy helicopters are shuttling in
supplies and tugboats are expected to bring the ship to the Mexican
port of Ensanada by about 0300GMT on Wednesday.
Passengers will get a full refund. They will be returned to
California by bus. The boss of Carnival Cruise Lines admitted the
conditions on board were "very challenging".
The 952ft (290m) Carnival Splendor sailed from Long Beach, California,
on Monday for a seven-day cruise of the Mexican Riviera. There
are 3,299 passengers on board, along with 1,167 crew.
The fire in the engine room cut off most power supplies. Toilets and
cold running water were restored on Monday night. Air
conditioning, hot food service and telephones are not working.
The ship has been drifting 55 miles (90km) off the coast of
Mexico. When the fire started, passengers were initially asked to
move from their cabins to the open upper deck.
Later, they were allowed to go back to their rooms. Bottled water
and cold food items were provided, the cruise company said.
The US Navy has sent the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to help.
Its helicopters are in the process of ferrying supplies.
Sixteen Britons are among the passengers on board.
Carnival President and CEO Gerry Cahill said in a statement: "We know
this has been an extremely trying situation for our guests and we
sincerely thank them for their patience.
"Conditions on board the ship are very challenging and we sincerely
apologise for the discomfort and inconvenience our guests are currently
Judge torpedoes move of ferry
Daniel Tepfer, CT POST
Updated 12:23 a.m., Thursday, July 26, 2012
BRIDGEPORT -- The ferry boat terminal will stay docked downtown.
Superior Court Judge Richard Gilardi on Wednesday torpedoed the ferry
company's proposed move to Seaview Avenue, noting the Bridgeport and
Port Jefferson Steamboat Co.'s plan to relocate the terminal would not
only blow a hole in the city's development master plan but didn't have
the support of the Bridgeport Port Authority, the Harbor Management
Commission and state agencies.
In his 60-page decision, Gilardi upheld the July 12, 2010, decision of
the city's Planning and Zoning Commission to deny the ferry company's
applications for a special permit, site plan and coastal site plan for
Seaview Avenue. However, he did overturn the commission's rejection of
the ferry company's proposal to subdivide the Seaview Avenue property.
The ferryboat company, which has been operating out of its terminal on
the west side of Bridgeport Harbor since 1968, had been seeking to move
across the harbor to a 6.5-acre plot of land on Seaview Avenue that it
claimed would result in a 10- to 20-minute reduction in the time of the
run, decreasing fuel consumption. The company also complained that the
current site is hemmed in by the Metro-North train tracks and old,
narrow city streets, making access difficult, particularly for trucks.
"The judge issued a very thorough and clear decision that there was
substantial evidence to support the commission's decision to not
approve the special permit, the site plan and the coastal area permit,"
said Assistant City Attorney Ed Schmidt.
Charles Willinger, who represented downtown merchants opposed to the
move, also called the judge's decision well reasoned.
"We are confident this brings an end to the current chapter in the
ferry boat saga to leave downtown Bridgeport," Willinger said. "The
relocation would have severely jeopardized the rebirth and renewal of
The ferry company has said that the $30 million East End facility would
have included a waterfront park, a dock for commercial ships and a
small supermarket to help relieve the "food desert" conditions in that
part of the city. Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the
ferry company, said the ferry company would have provided either a
shuttle bus or a water taxi for passengers on foot arriving from
The new dock would have been at the former Turbana Corp. banana
importing dock. Turbana weighed anchor for the last time in Bridgeport
in 2008; its new ships needed a deeper harbor.
On Tuesday, lawyers for the ferry company did not return calls for
comment on the judge's decision.
Following the zoning commission's denial of its applications that, in
essence, would have cleared the way for the move to Seaview Avenue, the
company appealed to Superior Court. In its appeal, it claimed the
commission failed to state valid reasons for denying the applications,
the decision is an abuse of the commission's discretion and is contrary
The city responded that the applications were inconsistent with the
city's master plan, the harbor management plan, was opposed by state
legislators and state agencies and was not compliant with the coastal
area management act.
India (l); Bangladesh: MV Coco
capsized ferry, Philippenes;
collision, 1 Oct. 2012;
6 Crew Members Detained in Hong Kong
Ferry Disaster That Killed Dozens
By BETTINA WASSENER, NYTIMES
October 1, 2012
HONG KONG — Six people were arrested in Hong Kong on Tuesday in
connection with a ferry accident that caused at least 37 deaths in one
of the worst disasters the city has seen in years.
Three crew members were arrested from each of two boats that collided
just off the coast of Lamma, one of the largest of Hong Kong’s many
outlying islands, at about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, as the city was gearing
up for a mammoth fireworks display that marked China’s National Day.
The six were suspected of endangering passengers by operating the
vessels unsafely, senior police officials said at a news conference
here in Hong Kong that was widely reported on local radio. More arrests
may follow, they added.
The accident happened when a boat carrying more than 120 people
collided with a passenger ferry coming the other way and quickly sank.
Thirty-seven people, some of them children, were confirmed to have been
killed, and more than 100 people were hospitalized, some with serious
The Hong Kong government on Tuesday convened a top-level
interdepartmental meeting on the accident and pledged a thorough
The collision involved a vessel belonging to Hong Kong Electric, which
operates a power station on Lamma Island and is part of the billionaire
Li Ka-shing’s sprawling business empire. The vessel, the Lamma IV, had
been taking staff members and their families to see the fireworks
display in Victoria Harbor — for many, the highlight of a four-day
holiday weekend in the city.
The Lamma IV, which according to Hong Kong Electric was built to carry
200 passengers, sank quickly after colliding with a ferry operated by
Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry, which runs regular services between
Lamma and Hong Kong Island. The Hong Kong & Kowloon ferry sustained
some damage, but no one onboard was seriously hurt.
Witnesses said the Lamma IV sank rapidly, trapping passengers inside.
“Within 10 minutes, the ship had sunk. We had to wait at least 20
minutes before we were rescued,” Reuters quoted one survivor as saying.
The collision triggered a search-and-rescue operation involving divers,
helicopters and numerous police and marine department vessels that
picked scores of survivors from the sea Monday night. Currents and poor
visibility underwater were hampering the search, which was to continue
for two more days, government officials said at the news conference
Photos taken Monday night showed the boat half-submerged, its bow
pointing nearly straight up, not far from one of the two ferry piers on
Lamma. Salvage crews were raising the vessel on Tuesday.
Connected to Hong Kong Island by regular, half-hour-long ferry
services, Lamma is home to about 6,000 people, many of them
expatriates. Its relaxed atmosphere, scenery and seafood restaurants
make it a popular tourist destination.
“I am very shocked. This was supposed to be a happy day to see the
fireworks,” said Anita Yu, who was on her way to Lamma with friends on
Tuesday. “I am from Hong Kong, and I have never heard of anything like
this happening here.”
Still, there appeared to be no sense of general unease about the ferry
services, which were running normally Tuesday. Many people were milling
around at the ferry piers on Hong Kong Island, home to the city’s
financial center, soaking in the holiday atmosphere.
Asked whether the disaster had made her afraid to take the ferry, Ms.
Yu replied that she had faith in the safety of the boats.
Fatal ferry accidents are common in developing Asian countries, where
infrastructure development often has not kept pace with population
growth and increased demand for travel. Overcrowding and poor
maintenance often lead to high death tolls. At least 117 people died
when a ferry capsized in Bangladesh in March, and scores were killed in
a similar incident in India in May.
In Hong Kong, however, where infrastructure and weather-warning systems
are highly developed, such disasters are extremely rare. A severe
typhoon caused a ferry to capsize in 1971, killing 88 people.
Major disasters on land include a stampede that killed 20 in Lan Kwai
Fong, a busy bar area in the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, on
New Year’s Eve of 1992, and a fire that raged through an apartment
building in 1996, killing dozens of people.
Hong Kong’s maritime safety standards are generally high and accidents
rare, despite the fact that the waters surrounding the Asian financial
and trading hub are often busy with commercial shipping traffic from
regional and transcontinental cargo lines.
Hong Kong’s port and nearby mainland Chinese ports in the Pearl River
Delta rank among the busiest in the world. Numerous passenger ferries,
private leisure boats and fishing vessels add to the traffic.
Hong Kong ferry passenger search
1 October 2012
Last updated at 13:27
At least eight people have died after a ferry collided with another
boat off Hong Kong, hospital officials have told the BBC.
A rescue operation is continuing for passengers still missing five
hours after a boat half-sank following Monday night's collision near
Lamma island. One of the vessels was carrying 124
passengers. Search teams had rescued more than 100 people from
the water, local media reported. More than 20 injured people had
been taken to a hospital on Lamma island, a police spokesman was quoted
as saying. Lamma lies some three kilometres (two miles)
south-west of Hong Kong island, and is popular with tourists and
The crash happened around 2030 (1230 GMT) on Monday. It came
during a busy period for passenger travel in Hong Kong, at the end of a
long holiday weekend to mark the mid-autumn festival that this year
coincides with China's National Day on 1 October.
Power company Hong Kong Electric was reportedly using a commercial boat
to take 124 staff and family to watch National Day fireworks in
Victoria Harbour. The vessel and another boat - reportedly a
ferry operated by Hong Kong and Kowloon Ferry - collided, causing the
HK Electric vessel to list, a company official was quoted as saying.
One survivor told The South China Morning Post: "After 10 minutes out a
boat crashed into ours from the side at very high speed. The rear...
started to sink. I suddenly found myself deep under the sea.
"I swam hard and tried to grab a life buoy," added the man. "I don't
know where my two kids are."
Hong Kong is one of the world's busiest shipping channels.
Boat With 200 Aboard Capsizes Off
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
June 21, 2012
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A boat carrying about 200 people
capsized south of Indonesia and scores were feared drowned Thursday in
an apparent attempt to reach Australia to seek asylum. Indonesian and
Australian navies launched efforts to rescue survivors.
Australian Broadcasting Corp. cited the Australian Maritime Safety
Authority as reporting that an Australian navy ship and a cargo ship
had rescued 73 survivors. The authority's spokeswoman could not be
immediately contacted for comment.
"We're doing all we can to get as many vessels and aircraft to the
scene to assist as possible," AMSA spokesman Jonathan Wills told ABC.
The boat capsized about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of the
Australian territory of Christmas Island — and about the same distance
south of Indonesia — with "up to 200 people" on board, the Australian
Customs Service said in a statement. It was not immediately clear
where the passengers were from.
Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, is closer to Indonesia than the
Australian mainland. It is a popular target for a growing number of
asylum seekers, many from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who attempt
to reach Australia on overcrowded fishing boats from Indonesia —
sometimes with deadly consequences.
"There's about 40 on the hull and the rest are in the water," Western
Australia state Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said earlier.
"Some of the very early reports suggest that up to 75 people may have
drowned, but I do stress that they're unconfirmed at this stage."
O'Callaghan said bodies had been seen in the water. "We can't confirm
that they've died, but it's likely," he said.
Western Australian police were being sent to Christmas Island to
attempt to identify bodies, he said. Gagah Prakoso, a spokesman
for Indonesia's Search and Rescue Agency, said two Indonesian warships
have been dispatched to scene. He said Indonesia has sent notice to all
cargo ships passing near the area to help, but he was not sure whether
any had reached the disaster scene.
Prakoso said the boat was reportedly carrying 206 people, but added
that he could not yet say their country of origin or from where they
Australian aircraft and navy ships were helping with the rescue, the
Customs statement said. They include a defense aircraft equipped with
life rafts, a Customs surveillance aircraft and two navy patrol
boats. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is seeking
ways to stem the flow of asylum seekers to Australia, discussed the
apparent tragedy with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in
Brazil where they are both attending a United Nations environment
"At this stage, details are sketchy but what is apparent is there has
been a large loss of life at sea," she said. "This is a very
distressing and tragic incident."
In December 2010, an estimated 48 people died when an asylum seeker
boat broke up against Christmas Island's rocky coast. Last
December, about 200 asylum seekers were feared drowned after their
overcrowded ship sank off Indonesia's main island of Java.
Scores Missing in Fatal Ferry Sinking
By HARI KUMAR and SRUTHI GOTTIPATI
May 1, 2012
NEW DELHI — Rescuers in eastern India continued to search for survivors
on Tuesday after a ferry, overcrowded with more than 300 passengers,
capsized during a severe storm. The authorities estimated that at least
40 people died and up to 200 were missing, suggesting that the death
toll could climb.
The accident occurred on Monday afternoon, on the Brahmaputra River, as
the double-decker ferry was approaching shore near Buraburi, in the
state of Assam. Police officials said the passengers were plunged into
the water, with some able to swim to the bank, while others were either
swept downstream or perished in the wreckage.
News agencies reported that more than 100 bodies had been recovered.
But the authorities offered conflicting accounts on the circumstances
of the accident. J.N. Choudhury, the state police chief in Assam, said
in an interview on Tuesday that the ferry broke into three pieces
during the storm. He said investigators would try to determine whether
the accident was caused by the storm or structural problems with the
However, Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, said reports that
the vessel had shattered were inaccurate and blamed the accident on the
weather. He predicted that more than 100 people likely died in the
accident and said corpses were already being discovered downstream, in
“This is the most tragic incident,” Mr. Gogoi said in an interview,
adding that he had already contacted officials in Bangladesh and begun
making arrangements to reclaim the bodies swept across the border.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement on Monday night
expressing his condolences and announcing that the government would
make payments of about $3,800 to assist the families of the dead. Mr.
Gogoi said the Assam government would add about $950.
Ferry accidents are a recurring problem in the border region, though
the majority of fatal accidents have occurred on the Bangladeshi side.
The Ganges and the Brahmaputra Rivers converge in the region, along
with their myriad tributaries. Ferries are indispensable for
On Tuesday, dive teams from India’s Border Security Force were
searching for bodies or survivors, while a special federal disaster
team was also at the scene. A state government agency, the Inland Water
Transport, operated the ferry, and Mr. Gogoi, the chief minister, said
the vessel was not equipped with life jackets. He said he would convene
a commission to determine whether an early-warning system should be
created to warn about severe storms.
“So that such incidents don’t happen in the future,” he said.
30 April 2012 Last updated at 14:43 ET
'More than 100' feared dead in Indian ferry sinking
At least 103 people have died after a ferry capsized
in north-eastern India, local police say. The vessel was reported
to be carrying at least 300 passengers on the Brahmaputra river in
Assam state. Reports say more than 100 other passengers are
missing, while dozens more were either rescued or made it to safety.
Police officials said the accident happened in the remote district of
Dhubri during heavy winds and rain. Dhubri is about 350km (215
miles) west of Assam's main city, Guwahati. The vessel capsized
and broke into two pieces during a powerful storm, police said.
"I could see people being swept away as the river current was very
strong," a witness to the accident, Rahul Karmakar, told AFP news
Assam state Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told AFP: "Army, Border Security
Force and other rescue teams with mechanised boats have moved to the
site but nightfall and bad weather are hampering rescue efforts."
Correspondents say poor safety standards mean ferry accidents are
common on the river, but that this is one of the worst disasters in
The ferry carried no lifeboats or life jackets, and was overloaded with
people and goods, with passengers sitting on the roof, according to a
police officer quoted by the Reuters news agency. In a statement,
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was "shocked and grieved"
by the incident.
Mr Singh has "given instructions for all possible assistance to the
government of Assam in relief operations", the statement added.
Boats are a common mode of transport in the area, which is dotted with
small islands and villages along the banks of the river, reports the
BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi. Many of the boats are overcrowded with
poor or minimal safety features, our correspondent adds.
Dozens Dead After Ferry
Capsizes in Bangladesh
By NIKHILA GILL and SRUTHI GOTTIPATI
March 13, 2012
NEW DELHI — Rescuers were searching for survivors on Tuesday after a
ferry carrying as many as 200 passengers capsized in Bangladesh,
killing at least 24 people with many more feared dead.
The ferry, the MV-Shariatpur-1, was traveling along the Meghna River
when it sank at about 1:40 a.m. on Tuesday, roughly 30 miles south of
the capital, Dhaka. At least 35 people were rescued as divers combed
the waters in search of survivors, as well as the bodies of the dead.
“Rescue work is still on, and we fear that the death toll will go up,”
said Saiful Islam, a police superintendent in the district of the
Ferry accidents occur with a grim frequency in Bangladesh, a poor
nation with an extensive network of rivers and waterways. In 2009, two
separate ferry accidents claimed more than 100 lives, while at least 23
people were killed when a ferry capsized last year. Usually, the
accidents are blamed on overcrowding or poor safety procedures.
But Tuesday’s accident occurred after the ferry traveling to Dhaka
collided with a cargo boat, officials said.
“I was awakened with a big jolt,” Dulal Dewan, a survivor, told The
Associated Press. “I jumped into the river in darkness as the ferry
started going down. In minutes, there were screams all around. People
were shouting for help.”
Mr. Islam, the police official, estimated that 100 to 200 passengers
would have been aboard the vessel. It is difficult to estimate the
exact number of passengers since tickets are sold onboard and people
embark or disembark at several different ports along the route.
least 12 dead as ferry sinks in Bangladesh storm
8 June 2010 Last updated at 10:56 ET
At least 12 people have died and five are missing after a packed ferry
capsized in storms in north-east Bangladesh, officials say. The
ferry was carrying about 35 passengers including many school children,
local official Mohammad Babul Mia told the BBC. The accident took
place in Sunamganj district, about 140km (85 miles) north of the
Ferry accidents are fairly common on Bangladesh's vast river
network. Last November, 118 people were killed in two ferry
accidents in Bangladesh within a week.
Mr Mia said that most of the dead in the latest disaster were school
He said that passengers on the roof of the vessel managed to swim
ashore. A rescue operation is still continuing, he said, with the
help of local people and police. But it was hampered by the lack of
divers in the north-east of the country who could search for those
In recent days Bangladesh has been hit by bad weather which local
people say created big waves and made the boat capsize in a huge
ferry sinks - at least 46 are dead
4 Dec 2009
A river ferry has capsized and sunk in Bangladesh, killing at least 46
people - the second such incident in a week. Half of the victims
of the latest accident were children, and most of the rest were women.
The boat they were travelling on collided with another vessel on the
Daira river, about 100km (62 miles) north of the capital Dhaka.
According to police, the boats struck each other on a bend in the river
in foggy conditions.
As many as 100 people were travelling on the vessel which sank and it
is feared the number of dead will rise. Rescue operations are
The BBC correspondent in Dhaka says ferry accidents are fairly common
on Bangladesh's vast river network. Last week more than 80 people
drowned when an overcrowded ferry capsized.
Bangladesh ferry death roll rises to 72
Monday, 30 November 2009
The number of people dead after a ferry capsized in Bangladesh has
risen to 72 with the recovery of more bodies, officials say.
Rescuers found the bodies floating on the Tetulia river where the
overcrowded ferry capsized on Friday, a police official said.
Earlier, rescuers working on the capsized vessel were pelted with
stones by relatives angry at delays.
There have been complaints that workers took too long to get to the
scene. More than 1,000 people were thought to be on board, many
heading home for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. On Sunday a
salvage ship managed to give rescuers access to the sunken vessel's
lower deck where dozens of bodies were discovered.
Rescue officials said that "dozens of people are still missing."
The vessel, MV Coco-4, started to sink as it tried to anchor late on
Friday, at a terminal in the south of the country. Local
residents joined divers to help search for survivors, but once access
to the ferry came on Sunday, 21 bodies were discovered inside the
cabins, a local police chief told AFP news agency.
The ferry - like many others in Bangladesh - did not have a detailed
passenger list so it is impossible to know exactly who is missing.
On Sunday some people who had been waiting for hours for news briefly
threw stones at rescuers.
No one was injured.
"The ferry sank just before midnight Friday, but rescuers did not
arrive until the morning," Reuters news agency reported survivor Sohel
Hossain as saying.
Local police chief Zakir Hossain told AFP: "They pelted rocks and brick
pieces at the divers and rescue workers.
"They are unhappy that the divers and the rescue vessel could not
complete work quickly. Some of them have yet to find their missing
It was unclear exactly how the vessel came to capsize, but an
investigation had been launched, Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan told
"Officials had locked the ferry's exit gate as it approached the shore
to find out whether anyone was travelling without a ticket," he said.
"This triggered a stampede, causing the boat to tip."
The MV Coco-4 is one of Bangladesh's largest inland vessels.
Ferry accidents occur frequently in Bangladesh, and are typically
blamed on unsafe, ageing boats and overcrowding.
Ferry Capsizes at Dock
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:42 a.m. ET
November 28, 2009
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- A triple-deck ferry packed with hundreds of
travelers heading home for an Islamic festival capsized as they
disembarked in southern Bangladesh, leaving at least 37 dead and scores
missing, authorities said Saturday.
M.V. Coco, traveling from the capital Dhaka, went down late Friday as
it arrived at Nazirhat town in the coastal district of Bhola, 64 miles
(104 kilometers) to the south. Some survivors said the boat hit a river
shoal as it approached the terminal, breaking the hull and allowing
water in. As passengers scrambled to disembark, the vessel then tipped
and partially sank in the Tetulia River.
''As I saw water in the lower deck I jumped through the window and swam
ashore,'' said Shahidul Islam, a survivor. ''Also, many passengers were
frightened after seeing water in the lower deck and started rushing out
causing the boat to tilt on one side.''
The ferry was crowded with people heading home to celebrate the Eid
al-Adha festival, but it is unclear how many were on board. Dhaka's
private ETV television station said the ferry was carrying more than
1,500 people but many had already disembarked when the vessel went down.
The ferry had a sanctioned capacity of 1,000 passengers, police
officials said. Authorities usually don't keep passenger lists to make
clear how many are on board.
Gas torches were used to cut open submerged cabins, and local residents
joined divers to search for survivors inside the ferry. Police and fire
brigade divers pulled 37 bodies from the sunken part of the vessel
before darkness halted rescue work for the night, said Saiful Islam and
Showkat Hossain, local police officials supervising the effort. Many of
the dead were women and children.
Officials did not say how many people were missing. ATN television
station said up to 80 people were still unaccounted for. Police
said they were waiting for a rescue vessel coming from the southern
city of Barisal to pull the submerged ferry from the water.
''The picture about the death toll will be clear once the ferry is
salvaged,'' Islam said.
Hundreds of anxious relatives massed on the sandy river bank and
searched for missing loved ones. Some complained that rescue work
was slow as officials were on holiday for Saturday's Eid celebration.
''The ferry sank just before midnight Friday, but rescuers did not
arrive until the morning,'' said survivor Sohel Hossain.
Ferries are a key mode of transport in this delta nation of 150 million
people. Accidents blamed on lax rules, overcrowding and faulty boats
926 Rescued From Capsized Philippine
By Jim Gomez , Associated Press
Published on 9/7/2009
Manila, Philippines - Passengers leapt into the dark sea and parents
dropped children into life rafts when a ferry carrying nearly 1,000
people capsized in the middle of the night in the southern
Philippines. Nine people died and more than 30 were missing
though rescue efforts saved about 900 terrified victims on the
Superferry 9 early Sunday after it turned on its side 9 miles (15
kilometers) off Zamboanga del Norte province.
The vessel's violent rotation roused frightened passengers from their
sleep and sent many jumping in the darkness into the water, coast guard
chief Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said. Many aboard panicked as the
huge ferry listed, said passenger Reymark Belgira. He said he saw
parents tossing children to people on life rafts below, but he could
not immediately jump himself.
”I held on to the ferry for hours until daybreak. I couldn't jump into
the water in the dark,” Belgira said.
Rescuers transferred 926 of 968 passengers and crewmen to two nearby
commercial ships, a navy gunboat and a fishing boat, Tamayo said.
A search was under way for 33 missing people.
”We really hope they're just unaccounted for due to the confusion,”
Tamayo told The Associated Press.
A coast guard statement said rescue efforts were continued through the
night. Passenger Roger Cinciron said he felt the ferry tilting at
about midnight but was assured by a crewman that all was well. About
two hours later he was awoken by the sound of crashing cargo below his
cabin, he told DZMM radio.
”People began to panic because the ship was really tilting,” he said as
he waited for rescuers to save him and a group of more than 20 other
Navy ships were deployed and three military aircraft scoured the seas,
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said. American troops providing
counterterrorism training to Philippine soldiers in the region deployed
a civilian helicopter and five boats, some carrying paramedics, to
help, U.S. Col. William Coultrup said. Teodoro said two men and a
child drowned during the scramble to escape the ship. The bodies of two
other passengers were later plucked from the sea by fishermen, the
coast guard said, adding three people were injured.
A Canadian tourist, Jeffrey Predchuz, was among the survivors,
The cause of the listing was not clear. The ferry skipper initially
ordered everyone on board to abandon ship as a precautionary step, said
Jess Supan, vice president of Aboitiz Transport System, which owns the
steel-hulled ferry. There were reports the 7,268-ton vessel
listed to the right because of a hole in the hull, the National
Disaster Coordinating Council said.
Aerial photos from the navy showed survivors holding on to anything as
the ferry tilted. Others climbed down a ladder on the side as a lone
orange life raft waited below. The ferry left the southern port
city of General Santos on Saturday and was scheduled to arrive in
Iloilo city in the central Philippines on Sunday but ran into problems
midway, Tamayo said. There were no signs of possible terrorism,
Al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants bombed another Superferry in
Manila Bay in 2004, setting off an inferno that killed 116 people in
Southeast Asia's second-worst terrorist attack. The weather was
generally fair in the Zamboanga peninsula region, about 530 miles south
of Manila, although a tropical storm was battering the country's
mountainous north, the coast guard said. Sea accidents are common
in the Philippine archipelago because of tropical storms, badly
maintained boats and weak enforcement of safety regulations.
Last year, a ferry overturned after sailing toward a powerful typhoon
in the central Philippines, killing more than 800 people on board.
In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel
tanker in the Philippines, killing more than 4,341 people in the
world's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
A great book that begins with a ferry tragedy...similar
to some described below.
Hundreds Missing After
By PETER GELLING
January 12, 2009
JAKARTA — More than 200 people are missing and feared dead after a
passenger ferry sank in high seas off the coast of the Indonesian
island of Sulawesi on Sunday morning, police and government officials
The officials said the ferry had been carrying about 250 passengers and
17 crew members, but more people could have been on board because
ferries in Indonesia are often overcrowded. A fishing boat found 18
survivors, including the captain, who had been drifting on life rafts
for hours in rough seas.
The captain later told officials that 100 or more people had jumped off
the boat in panic before it sank but did not know what had happened to
A port official in Parepare, where the ferry first departed late
Saturday afternoon, said that rescuers had been dispatched but were
having trouble reaching the scene because of bad weather.
The last contact with the boat was made by by radio at about 2 a.m.
Sunday morning, when the ship’s captain reported huge swells of more
than two meters, or seven feet. Another survivor told local media that
the waves reached as high as 14 feet.
“We have sent people to Majene, the closest town to where the ship
sank, but we have been unable to get any more information,” said Alwi
Tika, the port official. “The storm is making it difficult to get in
contact with anyone in that area.”
The region had been struck by a series of storms in recent days, but
another port official in Parepare said the weather was fine when the
boat departed. The same storm caused flooding and mudslides in Sulawesi
that killed at least six people on Sunday.
The ferry, traveling from Parepare to the city of Samarinda in East
Kalimantan, got caught in the storm and sank about 50 kilometers, or 30
miles, from the coast.
The Indonesian archipelago has the largest area of territorial waters
in the world. Ferries are a necessary form of transport but poor safety
standards and overcrowding cause numerous accidents every year. The
worst Indonesian ferry disaster in recent years occurred on Dec. 30,
2006, when more than 300 people died when a boat sank in the Java Sea.
Egyptian ferry verdict
26y July 2008 I-BBC
Relatives of the victims reacted
with anger and dismay at the verdicts
There have been angry scenes at a
court in Egypt after a ferry-owner was cleared of all charges over a
2006 sinking in which more than 1,000 died.
Relatives of the victims scuffled with security forces
while others denounced the judges and defendants.
The ferry's owner, a rich businessman close to Egypt's
political elite, and four others were acquitted.
A captain of another ship was found guilty
of failing to help the stricken ferry and was jailed for six months.
"We are stunned. There can't be a ruling like this,"
said Asaad Heikal, a lawyer for several victims' families.
"We will not give up and will appeal the ruling," he
told reporters outside the Cairo courthouse on Sunday.
'This is awful'
Dozens of relatives, many carrying photographs of their
dead loved ones, were crammed into the court building, despite a heavy
More than 1,000 people died when
the ferry sank in February
One man told al-Jazeera TV: "The day of the accident
everybody saw that the ship was in bad shape and two years later they
say the boat was in good shape. It doesn't make sense.
"This is awful. My wife and children died and after two
years everyone responsible is found to be innocent."
The sinking of the al-Salam was Egypt's worst maritime
A fire broke out in its vehicle bay. Most of the
victims were Egyptian workers returning home.
A parliamentary inquiry blamed the ferry company for
the disaster, saying it had continued to operate the boat despite
The vessel's owner, Mamdouh Ismail, is a member of
parliament's upper house, and his son Amr was a top executive in the
They fled Egypt after the disaster and
reports have claimed that senior Egyptian officials helped them escape.
Ferry Sinks, Over 700
Published: June 22, 2008
Filed at 11:16 a.m. ET
CEBU, Philippines (Reuters) - More than 700 people were missing on
Sunday after a Philippine passenger ship capsized in a typhoon that has
killed scores and left a trail of destruction across the
Only four people are so far known to have survived the ferry disaster
and they said many passengers did not make it off the MV Princess of
Stars in time. Crowded life-rafts sank in the cold, storm-tossed
"Many of us jumped, the waves were so huge, and the rains were heavy,"
a survivor identified only as Jesse told local radio. "There was just
one announcement over the megaphone, about 30 minutes before the ship
tilted to its side."
"Immediately after I jumped, the ship tilted, the older people were
left on the ship."
Four people have been confirmed dead but most of the 620-plus
passengers and 121 crew remain missing. Children's slippers and life
jackets have washed ashore. According to the ship's manifest,
there were 20 children and 33 infants on board. In the central
city of Cebu, where Princess of Stars was meant to dock, dozens of
relatives maintained a vigil at a small passenger terminal, waiting for
"The last time I heard from my son was on Friday evening when the ship
left Manila. He texted to say he was coming home," said Celecia Tudtud,
a mother of four.
"I really hope he's ok," she said, wiping away tears.
A spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who flew to the
United States on Saturday night, said she would not cut short her
eight-day state visit, which includes meeting U.S. President George W.
Bush in the White House on Tuesday.
A coastguard vessel was trawling the waters around the 23,824 gross
tonne ferry, which is upside down with only its bow above the waves,
trying to confirm reports some passengers had made it to a small island.
"We are hoping more people will have reached the shoreline," Vice
Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, the head of the coastguard, told Reuters.
Princess of Stars ran aground on Saturday but the coastguard was unable
to reach it because of huge swells and bad weather caused by Typhoon
Fengshen, which crashed into the central Philippines on Friday.
At least two other coastguard vessels were en route to help in rescue
efforts and Tamayo said he hoped divers would be able to scour the
submerged ship on Monday. He said there was no sign fuel was
leaking from the ferry but said an oil-spill response team would arrive
with one of the two coastguard ships before dawn on Monday.
Princess of Stars sank 3 km (2 miles) from Sibuyan island in the centre
of the archipelago.
Typhoon Fengshen, with maximum gusts of 195 kph (121 mph), has killed
at least 155 people in central and southern Philippines, with the
western Visayas region, famed for its sandy beaches and sugar
plantations, the worst affected. In Iloilo province, 101 people
were reported dead after flood waters over two meters high engulfed
communities, forcing tens of thousands to scramble onto the roofs of
"Iloilo is like an ocean. This is the worst disaster we have had in our
history," Governor Neil Tupaz told local radio.
In neighboring Capiz, more than 2,000 houses were destroyed in the
provincial capital and officials were struggling to make contact with
communities further afield.
"We got hit real bad this time," said Richard Gordon, the chairman of
the Philippines' Red Cross.
After battering Manila on Sunday, Fengshen was expected to exit the
north of the country and head into the South China Sea by Monday. The
storm was en route to Taiwan, where it could make landfall in the next
few days, according to storm tracker website
www.tropicalstormrisk.com. More than 30,000 people were being
housed in evacuation centers in the centre and south of the archipelago.
An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is hit by an
average of 20 typhoons a year.
Indonesian passenger ferry
fire kills 16
By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer
February 22, 2007
JAKARTA, Indonesia - A fire broke out on an Indonesian ferry carrying
300 passengers Thursday, killing at least 16 people and sending scores
of passengers jumping into the sea, officials said. One women slipped
beneath the waves while clutching her 18-month-old daughter. More
than a dozen people remained unaccounted for following the country's
second major maritime disaster in as many months.
The pre-dawn fire started in a truck on the Levina 1's car deck, hours
after the 2,000-ton vessel left the capital, Jakarta, for the
northwestern island of Bangka, said port official Sato Bisri.
Aerial footage showed flames and heavy black smoke pouring from the
27-year-old ferry as authorities launched a massive rescue operation,
plucking 275 survivors from the Java Sea and the ship's charred hull.
A cargo hand said a woman handed him her 18-month-old baby and then
"I tried to scale a rope, but was knocked into the water by a falling
passenger, still clutching the baby," said Heru, 29, who like many
Indonesians goes by only one name. "I swam to a water cooler and then
spotted the mother clinging to another cooler nearby
"The baby was crying 'Mama! Mama! and she insisted I hand over the
child," he said, adding that 15 minutes later, large waves pulled them
both under. "Now they're gone. I still haven't seen them."
Two warships, three helicopters, a tug boat and nine cargo ships were
taking part in the rescue operations, scouring surrounding waters for
more survivors, said Hambar Wiyadi, another port official.
"It was terrifying," said Yas Rijal, 33, who was with his wife and son
on the upper deck when the fire broke out. "Suddenly flames bust from
the lower deck. The crew ordered us to put on yellow life vests and we
Transportation Minister Hatta Rajasa told el-Shinta radio 15 bodies
were recovered and that at least 275 people were rescued. Rajasa
said the ferry was carrying 300 passengers, but the ship's log
indicated 228 passengers, 42 trucks and eight cars were on board.
Tallies are often incomplete and boats overloaded.
In the vast nation of 17,000 islands, ferries are the cheapest and most
popular form of public transportation. But safety standards are poor,
leading to hundreds of deaths each year. Indonesia has been hit
by a string of transportation disasters in recent months. In late
December, a passenger ferry sank in a storm in the Java Sea, killing
more than 400 people. Days later, a Boeing 737-400 passenger plane
crashed into the ocean, killing all 102 people on board.
Thursday's accident occurred 50 miles north of Jakarta's port.
survivors found adrift 9 days
Mon Jan 8, 4:27 AM ET
MAKASSAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Fourteen survivors of an
Indonesian ferry sinking have been rescued after drifting on a life
raft for nine days, a top search and rescue official said on Monday.
The ferry sank in the Java Sea with more than 600 aboard after it
capsized in mountainous seas around midnight on December 29.
"They were found yesterday, 15 of them. One of them died this morning.
He had been in critical condition. They were found by a ship called KM
Mandiri, and they are now being transported to Makassar," Bambang
Karnoyudho said, referring to the main city in the south of Sulawesi
It was not immediately clear what the survivors did for food and water
during their ordeal, although at least some of the life rafts had
rations and water aboard.
The latest survivors were found some 480 km (300 miles) from the
accident site early on Sunday morning, according to Karnoyudho, who is
head of the national search and rescue agency.
At least 248 survivors have been found, some clinging to wreckage or
floating in life vests, and others on life rafts.
Rescuers have had difficulty reaching some survivors spotted from the
air because of rough weather, and said strong winds and currents were
taking survivors and the dead hundreds of kilometers from the accident
Indonesian rescue aircraft and helicopters also dropped food and water
to some of those who were spotted but could not be immediately rescued.
Survive Indonesian Ferry Accident
By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer
8:44 AM EST, January 3, 2007
SEMARANG, Indonesia -- Rescuers found a 6-year-old boy and 11 other
survivors clinging to an offshore oil rig Wednesday about 120 miles
from where their ferry sank during a storm four days ago in the Java
Sea, navy officers said.
Lt. Col. Tony Syaiful said the weakened survivors were found on the
unmanned rig after the ferry sank Friday, leaving more than 400 others
dead or missing. Those rescued on Wednesday were among several groups
that were air-dropped water and food in recent days. It was not clear
when they reached the rig or how they managed to stay afloat. The
survivors, including a woman, said little as they arrived at a port in
the coastal city of Surabaya before being taken to hospital for
checkups, witnesses said.
"Even though I was weak, I never let go of my boy and held him tight,"
said Suyatno, the father of the 6-year-old. "In the rolling seas, I
never let him out of my sight and am now grateful to be on land."
Suyatno, who gave a single name, said his wife was still missing.
Authorities say 628 people were on the ferry when it sank late Friday
during a violent storm en route from Indonesia's section of Borneo
island to the main island of Java.
At least 212 people have been found alive so far, most of them plucked
from life rafts or clinging on to debris, but some 400 remain missing
in still-heavy seas, said Navy Col. Jan Simamora, the head of the
search and rescue mission.
"We are trying our utmost to find more," Simamora told The Associated
Press. "We still hope that those in lifeboats are still alive."
People who have something to keep them afloat can survive for days in
Indonesia's warm tropical waters. At least two survivors said
that many of the victims were trapped in the ship when it sank.
Simamora said only 12 bodies have been recovered, though others have
been spotted. Survivors recalled the horror of the boat's last
minutes and the struggle to stay alive afterward.
"I just prayed that God would give me life and thought about my
4-month-old baby," said Ribut, a plantation worker who arrived at
Surabaya hospital Tuesday. He said he ate or drank nothing for three
days, apart from one sip of sea water. Evi Susilowati, a
23-year-old computer student, was the only woman on a raft with 30 men.
She was tasked with rationing out the craft's supply of drinking water
and sago palm flour, which ran out after two days. On the final day,
two exhausted people fell from the raft.
"We could not save them," said Susilowati, whose mother and father are
still missing. "They were young men; I just hope they survive."
Relatives of the missing have converged on hospitals and ports along
Java's coast, hoping their loved ones will turn up alive. The
Senopati Nusantara was built in Japan in 1992 and had a capacity of 850
people. Officials say bad weather was the cause of the accident,
one of several deadly maritime incidents in Indonesia in recent
150 Survive Indonesia Ferry
By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer
9:13 AM EST, December 31, 2006
SEMARANG, Indonesia -- Rescue boats picked up scores of exhausted
survivors Sunday from an Indonesian ferry that sank in the Java Sea,
but they also recovered dozens of bodies and around 400 people remained
A fleet of navy ships, fishing vessels and aircraft has been scouring a
large section of the central Indonesian coastline since the Senopati
Nusantara capsized around midnight Friday after being pounded by heavy
waves for 10 hours. By late afternoon Sunday, authorities had
found 177 survivors, either clinging to pieces of wood, packed into
life rafts or on beaches after swimming ashore, the state news agency
Antara quoted a transport department official named Soeharto as saying.
At least 66 bodies also had been found, said Soeharto, who goes by one
name, like many Indonesians.
Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa said at least 157 survivors had been
found. It was not immediately possible to explain the discrepancy,
though Indonesian government agencies and officials often give
differing death tolls during disasters due to poor communication and
coordination. A helicopter dropped food and water to a group of
around 30 survivors in three rafts to keep them alive while boats
attempted to reach them, Radjasa said.
"Pictures from the air showed they were all alive and waving for help,"
Survivors recounted the horror of the ship's last minutes, when the
crew told passengers, many of them praying or screaming, to put on life
vests. Shaking violently, the vessel veered to one side before being
swamped by high waves.
"The wave was so high and the ship's crew told us not to panic," Bekti
Riwayati told Associated Press Television News. "But we were panicked
and the ship went down. It took two hours to sink."
Indonesia's tropical waters are warm -- ranging from 72 to 84 degrees
-- and people have been known to survive for days at sea.
"I don't want to speculate on how long people can survive floating on
the sea, we only hope they can survive," said Karolus Sangaji, a search
and rescue worker. Budi Susilo, who survived by grasping an
overturned raft, said he saw three people drown after losing their
"We told them to hold on, but they ran out of energy," he said.
Dozens of relatives were gathered at Semarang seaport, desperate for
news of loved ones. Neneng, a 35-year-old homemaker, stood
weeping on a street corner.
"I'm worried about my husband, there has been no word if he is safe or
not," she said. "I'll wait here until I get confirmation."
Four naval ships, police boats, and commercial vessels and three
helicopters have been combing the area where the ship last made radio
contact with port authorities.
Officials said the car ferry, built in Japan in 1990, had a capacity of
850 passengers and had been in good condition. They said bad weather
likely caused the accident.
The ship ran into trouble 24 miles off Mandalika island, about 190
miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta, while en route to Semarang in
Central Java province.
Weeks of seasonal rains and high winds in Indonesia have caused deadly
floods, landslides and maritime accidents. Antara reported a cargo ship
carrying 11 people sank off Bali island on Sunday and two survivors
swam to shore. The rest were missing.
Ferries are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, a vast
archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with a population of 220
million. Accidents are common because of overcrowding and poorly
enforced safety regulations.
In 2000, almost 500 people died when a ferry carrying Christians
fleeing religious violence in the eastern Maluku islands capsized. A
year later, 350 were killed when a boat carrying asylum seekers from
Iraq and Afghanistan sank after setting sail from Java to Australia.
Missing After Ferry
By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer
Posted on Dec 30, 9:56 AM EST
SEMARANG, Indonesia (AP) -- A crowded Indonesian ferry broke apart and
sank in the Java Sea during a violent storm that sent towering waves
over its deck, and the vast majority of the nearly 640 passengers were
still missing a day later, officials said Saturday.
Raging seas hampered rescue efforts and about 14 hours after the
disaster, just 66 survivors had been found, many drifting in lifeboats
or clinging on to driftwood, officials said. No bodies had been
recovered, leaving nearly 600 passengers unaccounted for.
"We all just prayed as the waves got higher," said Cholid, a passenger
who survived by clinging to some wooden planks but who lost his
People fought over lifejackets as the boat capsized, sending cars
crashing into one another in the cargo hold, he said.
"I was going upstairs to try to help my daughter, but the ship suddenly
broke up and I was thrown out. I lost her," said Cholid, who like many
Indonesians uses one name.
Waves of up to 16 feet crashed over the deck of the ship around
midnight Friday during the final leg of a 48-hour journey from the
island of Borneo to the main island of Java, said Slamet Bustam, an
official at Semarang port, the ferry's destination, where hundreds of
distraught relatives and friends waited for news about their loved ones.
"We're afraid many have died," Bustam said.
Four naval ships were searching the area, but poor visibility was
hindering their search.
Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa said late Saturday after talks with
rescue officials that 638 passengers and crew were on board the vessel
and that 59 people had been rescued. Earlier, officials had put the
number on board at more than 800.
Ships in Indonesia often carry far more passengers than recorded,
making it hard for authorities to say with accuracy how many people are
on board. Ferries are a main source of transportation in Indonesia, a
vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands with a population of 220
The ferry ran into trouble off Mandalika island, some 190 miles
northeast of the capital, Jakarta. In a final radio contact, the
captain informed port authorities that the ship was severely damaged
and capsizing, said local navy commander Col. Yan Simamora.
Worried family members gathered at the main office of ferry operator PT
Prima Fista, weeping and demanding details about the fate of their
"I am waiting for my mother, auntie, sister and nephew who were on
their way to celebrate New Year's Eve at my house," said Yulis, 25.
Seasonal storms have wreaked havoc across Indonesia in recent days,
unleashing flash floods and landslides that have killed more than 145
people and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes on Sumatra.
Earlier Friday, a different vessel carrying around 100 people capsized
in bad weather off the coast of northwestern Sumatra, killing three and
leaving 26 missing, Radjasa said.
lost on doomed
By MARIAM FAM, Associated Press Writer
4, 3:51 PM EST
SAFAGA, Egypt (AP) -- Rescue boats picked up at least 376 survivors
from an Egyptian ferry that caught fire and sank in the Red Sea,
apparently so fast there was no time for a distress signal. But more
than 1,000 missing passengers and crew were feared drowned, officials
Transport Minister Mohammed Lutfy Mansour said investigators were
trying to determine whether the fire, which he described as "small,"
led to the sinking. He also denied survivor accounts of an explosion on
board. Weather may also have been a factor. There were high winds
and a sandstorm overnight on Saudi Arabia's west coast. The ship
sank in the dark hours of Friday morning while ferrying people and cars
between the Saudi port of Dubah and Egypt's port of Safaga. Survivors
said a fire broke out, got out of control and an explosion was
Mahfouz Taha, head of the Egyptian Red Sea Ports authority in Safaga,
reported that 376 people were saved by both Egyptian and Saudi rescuers.
Hundreds of relatives desperate for news of their loved ones tried to
push their way into Safaga, where survivors from "Al-Salaam Boccaccio
98" ferry were being brought ashore. Port officials were not
distributing lists of survivor names to the crowd, which repeatedly
tried to break through a line of helmeted police with sticks.
"No one is telling us anything," said Shaaban el-Qott, from the
southern city of Qena, who waited all night for news of his cousin.
"All I want to know if he's dead or alive."
Riot police with truncheons pushed the frantic crowd away from the port
compound. Some police could be seen hurling stones back toward the
crowd. A spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak said the ferry did not
have enough lifeboats, and questions were raised about the safety of
the 35-year-old, refitted ship that was weighed down with 220 cars as
well as the passengers.
Many survivors said the fire began about 90 minutes after departure,
but the ship kept going. Their accounts varied on the fire's location,
with some saying it was in a storeroom or the engine room.
"Fire erupted in the parking bay where the cars were," said passenger
Ahmed Abdel Wahab, 30, an Egyptian who works in Saudi Arabia. "We told
the crew: 'Let's turn back, let's call for help,' but they refused and
said everything was under control.
"We heard an explosion and five minutes later the ship sank," he
added. Wahab claimed that as passengers began to panic, "crew
members locked up some women in their cabins." He did not explain if
the women were confined as a matter of modesty or because they were
causing a disturbance.
"After a while, the ship started to list and they couldn't control the
fire. Then we heard an explosion and five minutes later the ship sank,"
Wahab said. Bakr el-Rashidi, the governor of Egypt's Red Sea
province, said that as the crew was fighting the fire, "the ship tipped
over, the wind was very strong, and people moved to one side, so all of
that caused the ship to sink. It happened so quickly."
Wahab, a martial arts trainer, said he spent 20 hours in the sea,
sometimes holding onto a barrel from the ship and later taking a
lifejacket from a dead body before he was hauled onto a rescue
boat. Ahmed Elew, an Egyptian in his 20s, said he went to the
ship's crew to report the fire and they ordered him to help put it out.
He also said there was an explosion.
When the ship began sinking, Elew said he jumped into the water and
swam for several hours. He said he saw one lifeboat overturn because it
was overloaded with people, but eventually got into another lifeboat.
"Around me people were dying and sinking," he said. "Who is responsible
for this? Somebody did not do their job right."
Mubarak flew to the port of Hurghada, about 40 miles further north, to
visit survivors in two hospitals, Egypt's semiofficial Middle East News
Agency reported. Some survivors were taken from the ferry's
lifeboats, others from inflatable rescue craft dropped into the sea by
helicopters, and others were pulled from the water wearing life
jackets, el-Rashidi said.
Rescue efforts appeared to have been confused. Egyptian officials
initially turned down a British offer to divert a warship to the scene
and a U.S. offer to send a P3-Orion maritime naval patrol aircraft to
the area. In the end, the Orion - which can search under water from the
air - was sent, but the HMS Bulwark was not, said Lt. Cdr. Charlie
Brown of the U.S. 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain.
Four Egyptian rescue ships reached the scene Friday afternoon, about 10
hours after the ferry likely went down nearly 60 miles off the Egyptian
port of Hurghada. The ship left Dubah at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on
the 120-mile trip to Safaga, where it was scheduled to arrive at 3 a.m.
It disappeared from radar screens between midnight and 2 a.m. and no
distress signal was received.
The ferry was carrying 1,200 Egyptian and 112 other passengers as well
as 96 crew members, the head of Al-Salaam Maritime Transport Company,
Mamdouh Ismail, told The Associated Press. The passengers included 99
Saudis, three Syrians, two Sudanese, and a Canadian, officials said. It
was not clear where the other passengers were from.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia and other Persian
Gulf countries. They often travel by ship across the Red Sea, a cheaper
option than flying. The Saudi port of Dubah is a major transit point
for them. But some on board the ferry were believed to be Muslim
pilgrims who had overstayed their visas after last month's hajj.
The agent for the ship in Saudi Arabia, Farid al-Douadi, said the
vessel had the capacity for 2,500 passengers. But the owner's Web site
said the ship could carry 1,487 passengers and crew. A ship owned
by the same company collided with a cargo ship at the southern entrance
to the Suez Canal in October, causing a stampede among passengers
trying to escape the sinking ship. Two people were killed and 40
O U T E S E V E N
Selling off the right-of-way is a
bad move, just our opinion, tho'!
Route 7 expressway unrealistic, leaders say
By Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/06/2009 10:23:23 PM EDT
Updated: 10/07/2009 07:12:29 AM EDT
WILTON -- State Sen. Toni Boucher and other leaders rallied Tuesday to
take aim at the decades-old concept of a superhighway between Norwalk
and Danbury and berate recent efforts to present the project as a
viable solution to congestion in the corridor.
Tuesday morning at Wilton Town Hall, Wilton First Selectman Bill
Brennan said a recent public campaign by state Sen. Bob Duff,
D-Norwalk, to revive the long-rejected concept of a four-lane
expressway linking Interstate 95 in Norwalk to I-84 in Danbury as
misguided and economically destructive.
"I urge Senator Duff to use his passion for roads and spending to fix
I-95 first," Brennan said. "...For almost 40 years this road has been
discussed, but never constructed. Why? The people most strongly
impacted by it are opposed to it."
On Tuesday morning, Boucher, a Republican legislator from Wilton was
joined by Brennan, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, and state
Reps. John Hetherington, R-New Canaan, and Peggy Reeves, D-Norwalk to
promise staunch legal and community opposition to squelch consideration
of the long-delayed highway.
For now, the state must focus on its investments to widen Route 7 and a
$35 million project to upgrade signals on the Danbury to Norwalk rail
line, officials said.
"This road would never come into being for at least a generation and
the benefits would never be felt by anyone here during their working
life," Hetherington said. "But unfortunately the pain would start right
During the 2009 legislative session, Boucher successfully sponsored
legislation to lift a previous bar on selling hundreds of acres of land
being held by the state for possible construction of the highway.
In July, Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie wrote Gov. M. Jodi
Rell to tout the benefits of selling off some of the land to raise
revenue for the state and free transportation workers from the
obligation of caring for the properties.
The Department of Transportation controls more than 890 acres of vacant
land along the right-of-way for the Route 7 expressway, with an
estimated value of $80 million to $150 million, according to the
DOT. Boucher also said that a state-funded poll conducted by the
University of Connecticut done at the request of Duff was also
inaccurate and used methods that could lead to a biased result.
The poll indicated that more residents between Norwalk and Danbury
support the idea of the highway than oppose it.
Yesterday Duff defended the survey of 483 residents as statistically
valid. Duff maintained that the officials are part of a minority
group that has thus far successfully blocked the highway project which
is vital for the state's economy. Duff said even with rail-line
improvements and the current widening; without the highway the corridor
will be dead economically if it can't handle traffic smoothly.
"It is imperative to get the road built for our economic success," Duff
said. "This isn't an either or, but for the residents of the affected
towns it would be much better to get the through traffic onto a highway
and let the regular Route 7 become a local road."
hit roadblock in Silvermine
By James Lomuscio, Special
Article Launched: 05/30/2008
01:00:00 AM EDT
NORWALK - Eleanor Sasso said
residents "are being hoodwinked into thinking there are only two
options" when it comes to putting Merritt Parkway entrance and exit
ramps in their Silvermine neighborhood.
"The third option is not to have an
interchange," Sasso said. "I do not want an interchange."
The first state Department of
Transportation proposal - which some residents find more acceptable -
would place the interchange from Route 7 to northbound Merritt closer
to the parkway.
The second option, which would cost
$30 million less, is a cloverleaf design routing the interchange
through Perry Avenue. The Merritt Parkway Conservancy prefers this
plan; it successfully challenged the original interchange design in
federal court, arguing it would hurt the Merritt's historic character.
Sasso, who lives in the Wilton
portion of Silvermine, a historic neighborhood of about 1,700 homes in
Norwalk, Wilton and New Canaan, was one of more than 100 people who
attended a public hearing at Norwalk City Hall Concert Hall last night
to hear DOT engineers describe both plans.
Most believed an interchange is
needed but said the cloverleaf was unacceptable. It was the third
public hearing on the matter in the last three months.
"We're looking for some form of
consensus tonight," said Richard Armstrong, DOT's principal engineer on
the project. "We're going to schedule more meetings with smaller groups
over the next several months. We're trying to strike a balance with a
lot of competing constraints."
Armstrong said the first option,
called 12A, would cost $128 million to $150 million, including a series
of ramps and bridges.
The cloverleaf interchange, would
cost $100 million to $120 million, he said. But residents object to the
cloverleaf, which would be constructed on state-owned land but would
infringe on a residential neighborhood.
"This is the third time I'll be
sitting through this, only this time we have so many residents who are
engaged and recognize what is at stake," said state Sen. Bob Duff,
D-Norwalk. "(The DOT) shouldn't move forward on this until there is a
sign off from the Silvermine community. And, the cloverleaf plan is
dead on arrival at this point."
Peter Viteretto, a Silvermine
Community Association board member, called the 12A plan "the lesser of
two evils, but neither one is particularly appropriate for the Merritt
"We're anti-cloverleaf," Viteretto
said. "It's an inappropriate intrusion into the Silvermine landscape,
and it's far too disruptive."
The other design, he added, is too
large, built more in keeping with the Route 7 connector highway than
the quaint, scenic Merritt.
Keith Simpson, the conservatory's
vice chairman, said that his group had favored the cloverleaf but on a
much smaller scale.
"It was smaller, simpler and farther
way from the Silvermine area," he said.
Simpson also criticized the 12A
design because it would require more road surface and three more
Robert Larsen, who lives on Red Barn
Lane, far from the proposed interchange, said he attended "because I
care about Silvermine." As he studied the large DOT maps on display in
the City Hall atrium, he said he favored 12A.
"This one, 12A, accomplishes the
full interchange but stays essentially within the already developed
area instead of creating enormous ecological damage, aesthetic damage
and property-owner damage to homeowners on Perry Avenue and neighboring
roads," he said. "When you look at these side-by-side, it's a
Douglas Vanderau of West Norwalk
said he would like to see either plan. He said the lack of a Route 7
interchange to the northbound Merritt causes increased traffic thorough
his neighborhood as motorists use Route 123 to get to the parkway.
"I just want them to do it as soon
as possible," he said. "There would be less traffic on Route 123."
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.
Senator Bob Duff announces $10,000
7 interest revived
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
June 29, 2008
A committee of lawmakers, business leaders and others may launch a
survey to solicit public sentiment on Super 7 and other regional
At issue is Super 7, the long-planned-but-never-built expressway
between Norwalk and Danbury. Although the state years ago assembled
swathes of land to construct the roadway, opposition from communities
along its path and perhaps the sheer logistics of the project prevented
it from getting off the ground.
"The idea is to do a survey of people in that corridor to see if there
is any interest, or to see what the interest is on Route 7 and Super
7," said Jack Condlin, a member of the study committee and president of
the Stamford Chamber of Commerce. "This is just purely a survey to get
consumer, resident and businesses' feelings about Super 7. I'm sure it
will be fairly comprehensive."
Neither Condlin nor other committee members would comment on details of
the survey, which they described as in the planning phases.
The committee includes state Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, majority whip; Ed
Musante Jr., president of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce; Tad
Diesel, the city's director of marketing and business development; and
Chet Valiante, publisher of The Hour Newspapers.
Valiante, citing his position as publisher, said it would be
inappropriate for him to comment for this story.
Diesel spoke broadly about the purpose of the committee.
"The committee was formed to include a group of government and business
people who have made clear their support for an extension of the Route
7 highway (Super 7)," Diesel said. "Members of the committee are eager
to find out if the committee's support for that extension is broad in
terms of the communities' support."
At present, some supporters of Super 7 say the roadway will never be
built. Others, such as Duff, haven't given up. When announcing his
re-election bid to fellow Democrats at Mill Hill Historic Park in May,
he vowed to continue to fight for Super 7.
The survey, if conducted, would be fueled by $10,000 from Hartford.
Last year, Duff sought money for a Super 7 study. And while the bonding
bill passed by lawmakers last fall didn't include any dollars, Duff
received confirmation from Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E.
Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, afterward that $10,000 would be secured to
enlist a third party to conduct a study.
Duff declined to comment about the survey.
Earlier this month, Duff said the study is not solely about Super 7.
Rather, the committee is taking a broad look at transportation in the
region and "what the potential solutions are out there," he said.
"I want to look at transportation in southwestern Connecticut as a
whole," Duff said.
Duff is not alone in championing construction of the expressway to
better move the large volumes of traffic that travel the existing Route
7. Members of Norwalk's legislative delegation, Republicans and
Democrats alike, as well as the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce,
have deemed the roadway necessary.
Super 7, if built, would go through Wilton, which is represented by
state Rep. Toni Boucher, R-143. Boucher has long opposed its
construction. By 2005, she had introduced legislation seeking to permit
the state Department Transportation to sell right-of-way land needed to
build Super 7. Proceeds would be used to widen the existing Route 7.
That project is now well under way.
Boucher said Friday that money should be spent on the Danbury line of
Metro-North Railroad, which she labeled the "most important regional
asset," rather than on a Super 7 survey. While promising to read the
results of such a survey, she expressed doubt whether those results
would be objective.
"I'm questioning whether it would be an objective study and whether it
would cover just road projects. We have to look at (transportation)
globally and more multi-modal," Boucher said. "I'll look at (the
survey) and consider everything -- I'm am never not open to an idea --
but it should ... impartial and objective."
returns Duff's serve
September 30, 2007
WILTON — During a special legislative session last week, Sen. Bob Duff
[D-25] tried to revive the study of an expressway connecting Route 7 in
Norwalk to Wilton, known in theory as Super 7. Intended to ease traffic
between Norwalk and Danbury, the expressway has been proposed, on and
off, for over four decades.
Duff inserted language on line 3,046 of a bonding package that would
require the state Department of Transportation to report, using
available funds, on the viability of Super 7 by the end of 2008.
The move riled Rep. Toni Boucher [R-143] who tried to introduce several
amendments to the language and threatened to tie up legislation with
hours of debate on the house floor. She later received a pledge from
Speaker of the House Jim Amman and Transportation Committee Chairman
Antonio Guerrera to remove the language if the bill passed.
"Revisiting this issue at this time is irresponsible," Boucher said in
a written statement. "To have this language inserted during this
special session by Senator Duff was a surprise as the concept of a
Super highway was soundly defeated in committee."
Other lawmakers weighed in with their own comments. Sen. Judith
Freedman [R-26] called the plan "ancient and environmentally
destructive," and Rep. John Hetherington [R-125] called it "meaningless
In a letter to politicians, town officials and the press, Wilton First
Selectman William Brennan lauded Boucher for fighting Super 7. He said
the proposal was "ill timed and devious," as well as a "self serving,
publicity stunt" for Duff.
In an interview, Boucher agreed with the sentiment. "It seems to me
that any time the Senator likes to get publicity, all he has to do is
sneeze the words Super 7, and he gets in the paper again," she said.
Duff said in an interview he wasn't surprised to face opposition from
"They're holding on to an old idea that their communities are against
Super 7, when in fact it is a vocal minority," Duff said. He added that
the widening of Route 7 from two to four lanes currently underway in
Wilton is a waste of money that will harm the town in the long term. By
comparison, he said an expressway would keep traffic off of Wilton's
While Duff said he simply aimed to keep the issue alive by inserting
language in bonding package, Boucher disapproved of even considering it.
"What he does by doing this is, he turns peoples lives upside down,
people that live right in that corridor, people who have had nothing to
do but turn their stomachs over every time this issue comes up," she
Boucher said she wouldn't oppose a "multi-modal" study of congestion in
the Route 7 corridor, including trains, boats and busses as
transportation alternatives. In fact, she'd be willing to work with
Duff on those options.
"If you want to talk about smart growth, have people live and work and
transport themselves on public transportation," Boucher said. "That's
where the focus should be."
The Super 7 language may be ill-fated anyway, as Gov. M. Jodi Rell is
expected to veto the bonding package for unrelated reasons, but Duff
isn't removing the expressway from his agenda.
"I'm going to keep bringing it up as long as I'm elected," he said.
interchange may be
delayed another year
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published April 2 2007
Construction of the Merritt Parkway-Route 7 interchange in Norwalk
likely will not restart this month as projected and could be delayed
for the rest of the year or longer, state officials said.
Merritt Parkway preservationists, who blocked construction last year
through litigation, and state Department of Transportation officials
will meet again next month to discuss design proposals, DOT officials
said. If both sides agree on a radically different design for the
interchange, construction could be delayed for months or another year,
DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said.
"The goal is to get something done as soon as possible," Nursick said.
"But I hesitate to say we can roll something out this year. There are
some big variables to consider."
Last year, a federal judge halted construction on the $98 million
project to connect both directions of the parkway to Route 7 in
Norwalk. The Merritt Parkway Conservancy and other preservation
and community groups sued the Federal Highway Administration, saying
the agency did not consider plans that would cause less damage to the
parkway's historical features. The state's two-phase project
would have destroyed parkway bridges and landscape features. The
Merritt Parkway is federally protected on the National Register of
When construction was stopped last year, DOT officials said they were
aiming to restart in April. Now, depending on the final design,
the state may have to open the project up to new bidders, hold another
public hearing and get new environmental permits, Nursick said.
He would not estimate how long that could take. Both sides
believe an agreement will be settled.
"We're sharing ideas as to how to do it," said Keith Simpson, the
conservancy's vice chairman and a landscape architect in New Canaan.
"We both talked about where the problems are. They've been good people
to work with."
Simpson would not say how far they are from agreement. The conservancy
submitted an alternative design drawn up by engineers, but it has not
been made public. State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said more
pressure must be put on the state and the conservancy to agree.
"I really wish the DOT and the conservancy would meet more often and
treat this like the priority it should be," Duff said. "We should
really hold everyone's feet to the fire to get them to sit in a room
and reach a solution."
Other Norwalk officials are less concerned by the delays and hope that,
when there is an agreement, construction can restart without further
"It's better they take the time to make sure it's done right and to
everyone's satisfaction," said Ed Musante, president and chief
executive officer of the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. "A longer delay
is not necessarily a bad thing."
Duff to hold rally for
'Super' Route 7 plan
By PATRICK R. LINSEY, Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Despite criticism north of Norwalk's border, state Sen. Bob
Duff is continuing his drive for a four-lane, limited-access highway to
link Norwalk with Danbury.
Duff is organizing a rally in Norwalk Sunday to energize supporters of
the long-stalled "Super" Route 7 plan.
"Wherever I go, people are so positive in talking about this and asking
what they can do," said Duff, D-25. "It's an opportunity for people to
come together and we can strategize a little bit."
The one-hour event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn on the
Norwalk-Wilton border — a line that divides not only a city and a town,
but also views on whether Super 7 is needed. Norwalk
officials argue the highway is vital for the region's economy, while
officials in Wilton call it unnecessary given a widening project on the
existing Route 7. Most of Route 7 from Norwalk to Danbury runs as a
two-lane thoroughfare, though portions are being widened to four lanes.
Norwalk Mayor Richard A. Moccia said he will try to make an appearance
at Duff's rally, as will Ed Musante, president of the Greater Norwalk
Chamber of Commerce.
"One of our chief problems here in keeping a prosperous economy is
bringing people into Norwalk," Musante said. "There are more jobs in
Norwalk than there are people. We have to import labor. We need better
connectivity to the north. The completion of Route 7 would make it much
easier for people to travel to Norwalk."
But Wilton officials have dismissed Duff's efforts as pointless, noting
that while Super 7 has been on the books for decades, there is neither
money nor a plan to build it at the state Department of Transportation.
The highway is also opposed by the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected
Officials. The HVCEO is a regional coordinating body including
Ridgefield and Redding, through which Route 7 also runs.
"I think that Bob Duff is totally unrealistic on this whole matter,"
said Wilton First Selectman William Brennan. "He's proposing a road
before we've even given a chance to finish the widening of the current
Route 7. We've only got about 25 percent of that completed and it's
coming along just fine."
Last month, Duff proposed legislation that would direct the DOT to
produce a timeline for completing Super 7. Meanwhile, state Rep.
Toni Boucher, R-143, is pushing legislation to upgrade the Danbury
Branch rail line, which runs roughly parallel to Route 7.
Boucher, who represents Wilton, said expanded rail service will help
ease congestion from Danbury to Norwalk. An electrified Danbury line is
preferable to Super 7, she said, deeming the highway "an absolutely
Boucher cited "a folder full of letters" from her own constituents,
who, she said, are voicing their opposition to Super 7.
Duff has been uncowed by criticism from the north, calling Super 7
"what's best for the region."
On Sunday, Duff hopes to demonstrate "how citizens can help out and how
they can lobby the state legislature," he said. "If people can spare an
hour on an issue that is very important, that's a good thing."
group meet to jump-start interchange
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published September 29 2006
For the first time since a federal judge's ruling halted construction
at the Merritt Parkway-Route 7 interchange in Norwalk, state officials
and parkway preservationists met yesterday to discuss possible
solutions so the project can resume next year.
Officials from the state Department of Transportation and Merritt
Parkway Conservancy described the meeting as productive and amicable,
and they plan to get together again next month to discuss design
proposals for the site.
"The commissioner (Ralph Carpenter) thought hearing the concerns of the
conservancy was very enlightening," DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said.
"It was encouraging that all parties agreed that the project is a
Carpenter, newly appointed Deputy Commissioner James Boice and DOT's
chief engineer Art Gruhn represented the agency at the meeting, which
was ordered by Gov. M. Jodi Rell last month. Conservancy
executive director Laurie Heiss was optimistic after the meeting, and
said she was encouraged that DOT representatives are willing to show
"some flexibility for change," she said.
The conservancy, and other local and national preservation groups
blocked the state's interchange construction plans earlier this year
with a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven.
The two-phase, $98 million project would have connected the parkway to
Route 7 to and from the east in Norwalk. The first phase was supposed
to widen the parkway interchange at Main Avenue and the Glover Avenue
bridge. The second phase would construct cloverleaf ramps, fully
connecting the two roads. The conservancy said the design
violated federal preservation law because it would destroy historic
bridges and landscaping on the Merritt and install tall lighting
fixtures that would harm the parkway's aesthetics.
The Merritt Parkway is on the National Register of Historic Places, an
official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.
In April, a federal judge ruled the state and Federal Highway
Administration did not fully explore alternative construction plans
before agreeing on the contested design. He suggested both sides work
together before the DOT restarts the project next year, but there had
been no meeting until yesterday. The DOT told the conservancy
yesterday it would not be able to radically change the design because
it must abide by the "purpose and need" statement that is attached to
the project during the application for federal funding.
This statement, which was not available yesterday, details features of
the project that can not be changed or federal funds would be lost,
Despite having no updated design in place, the state is optimistic that
construction can restart in Norwalk this April, he said. The
interchange has remained a priority for the DOT and was recently
included in the engineering and highway operations bureau's Top 10
initiatives presentation, given to the state Transportation Strategy
Route 7 widening project begins
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
September 13, 2006
NORWALK — The long-awaited widening of U.S. Route 7 through Wilton will
begin today with surveying work, followed by tree removal, according to
state Transportation Commissioner Ralph J. Carpenter.
An engineer close to the project outlined the work schedule.
"They're going to be starting at the southern end, surveying the area,
staking the work limits," said Paul Breen, assistant district engineer
for the state Department of Transportation. "We're going to be
following that up with tree meetings. We meet with local tree warden
and make a determination as to which trees really have to go."
Actual road reconstruction will begin by year's end, according to Breen.
The $35 million widening project, awarded in August to Tilcon
Connecticut Inc. of New Britain, will reconstruct and widen Route 7,
from two lanes to four lanes, from Wolfpit Road to Olmstead Hill Road.
Completion is slated for December 2009, according to the transportation
Over the next several weeks, contractors will survey and stake work
areas. Following that, erosion and sedimentation controls will be
installed in preparation for a new water main, sewer and drainage
installations and ultimately the widening itself.
The construction work will require lane closures (see below). The
transportation department is asking motorists to use caution when
driving through the work zone. Breen asks motorists to be patient, pay
attention to the signs and police officers' direction, and obey the
posted speed limits.
"First and foremost, watch where you're driving. Don't watch what we're
doing," Breen said. "There might be some (lane) shifts, depending on
the particular operation, but they should be minimal."
The Wilton project is part of a larger $140 million project that will
widen and reconstruct Route 7 from Norwalk to Danbury.
The widening emerged in 1999 as an alternative to Super 7, a proposed
four-lane expressway that would have connected Norwalk and Danbury,
said state Rep. Toni Boucher, R-143, in whose district the project
"This was a compromise reached in 1999," Boucher said. "Instead of
Super 7, the town and the state agreed to — and the citizens supported
— a widening that would not only help to improve the flow of the
traffic, it would help improve safety."
Boucher, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, credited
Carpenter for today's start date.
"I am very heartened to know that we have a new DOT commissioner, who
is working extremely hard to get DOT back on track," Boucher said. "I
give him all the credit for moving forward, after many projects have
been on the books for a number of years."
Construction work requiring lane closures:
*Danbury Road (U.S. 7, Routes 7, 33,
Monday - Friday 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
* Route 33, Ridgefield Road
Monday - Friday 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday 8 p.m. to 10 a.m.
Connecticut Department of Transportation
No chance Route Seven will ever become
Super Seven now (the opinion of this website)!
Work Is Stopped: Redesign Planned For Interchange
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
April 11, 2006
The state Department of Transportation has agreed to rethink
construction plans for the Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange in
Norwalk, delaying the project indefinitely and handing a victory to
preservationists who said the work would ruin the parkway's historical
The agency terminated its contract with O&G Industries Inc. of
Torrington for the $98 million project that would have connected the
parkway to Route 7, DOT officials told a federal judge yesterday,
according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven.
Last week, the judge ruled that the Federal Highway Administration and
the state did not provide sufficient evidence that they explored all
options for minimizing harm to the parkway in building the interchange
and the DOT decided it would be wasting taxpayers' money if it
continued to pay the contractor, officials said.
The DOT "made this decision because the delays the contractor has
experienced to date and may experience due to the severe restrictions
placed upon the contractor's construction activities would expose the
(DOT) and the state taxpayers to delay damage claims of approximately 5
million to 10 million dollars," according to court documents.
The state's original plan was challenged last year in U.S. District
Court in New Haven by parkway preservationists who claimed construction
would violate federal law by irreversibly damaging the historical
character of the parkway, including four historic bridges and
The Merritt Parkway is on the National Register of Historic Places, an
official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The
plaintiffs, which included the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, the
National Trust for Historic Preservation and other preservation groups
and landowners, sought an alternate construction plan.
The groups filed suit last year after appealing to the DOT and Gov. M.
Jodi Rell during public hearings.
Conservancy officials said yesterday they hope the state's decision to
terminate the contract will give preservationists a chance to weigh in
on the plan. The state and Federal Highway Administration will
work together to design an interchange that complies with federal
preservation law, court papers said.
"Hopefully, this will result in a project that is good for commuters
and respectful of the Merritt," said Laurie Heiss, executive director
of the conservancy. "We would love to be a part of the process and will
be happily standing by."
Conservancy Co-chairman Peter Malkin of Greenwich said "we tried our
best to persuade (the DOT) that an efficient interchange could be
achieved without the design they had been contemplating."
With construction stopped indefinitely, conservancy members want the
state to restore some of the landscaping that was destroyed during
early stages of construction, Malkin said. DOT officials said
their goal is to start construction as early as possible, perhaps after
next year's construction season begins in April.
Last summer, DOT voluntary stopped construction on the interchange
until a judge ruled on the civil case.
The state's plan has been under development for more than a decade.
During court proceedings, DOT officials said the designs were approved
by other state and environmental agencies, and public hearings were
held in 1998 and 1999.
DOT Must Design
Hartford Courant editorial
April 7, 2006
If nothing else, you have to applaud the state Department of
Transportation's tenacity. Department officials are continually
criticized for over-designing highway projects, but they keep doing it
anyway. A recent federal court decision about a DOT project on the
historic Merritt Parkway in Norwalk is illustrative.
The DOT and Federal Highway Administration plan to build a massive $100
million interchange where the Merritt meets Main Avenue and the nearby
Route 7 connector. When community groups got a look at the final plans,
they were aghast.
The proposal would take out four historic bridges and nearly a mile of
mature landscaping along the parkway, and run ramps alongside and 30
feet higher than the road, obliterating the view of the attractive
The interchange was once part of a plan to continue the major "Super 7"
highway from Norwalk, where part of it is built, north to Danbury.
Although the project was canceled in the late 1990s, the huge
interchange remained, apparently still designed to accommodate the
Last year, seven community and historic preservation groups sued to
scale down the project.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Kravitz ruled in their
favor. Because the 37.5-mile parkway is listed on the National Register
of Historic Places, state and federal authorities had to show there
were no "feasible or prudent alternatives" and that "all possible
planning to minimize harm" to the scenic thoroughfare had taken place.
Kravitz said state and federal officials failed to show they complied
with the law. He sent the project back to them for corrective action.
The plaintiffs, like most others in the Norwalk area, agree that the
intersection is congested and needs work. The issue was the size of the
project, a recurrent theme in other DOT highway projects. Time and
again, the department comes in with big, complex designs, even for
relatively minor road projects, and then sometimes backs off in the
face of local opposition.
This "design and defend" approach, as the Norwalk case illustrates, is
a huge waste of time and money. The DOT brass must realize that their
constituents are not the road builders but the citizens of the state,
and when their constituents are suing them, at considerable expense for
nonprofits, there is a problem.
Now state and federal officials must work with the plaintiffs in good
faith on a compromise design. The plaintiffs' requests, which mostly
involve keeping historic stone bridges and getting rid of seemingly
unnecessary ramps, are reasonable, and the DOT's own goals include
preservation of the Merritt Parkway.
More broadly, the DOT has to change its planning process and involve
the public from the beginning. Judge Kravitz criticized the department
for moving ahead with the Norwalk project although it knew community
opposition could lead to a lawsuit and delay. The nonprofit Merritt
Parkway Conservancy, one of the plaintiffs, actually had to purchase a
copy of the final plans for the project in 2004 to see them, said
executive director Laurie Heiss. That's not quite the collegial spirit
we'd like to see.
State, feds lose Merritt Parkway ruling
By Lisa Chamoff
Published April 4 2006
NORWALK -- Preservationists are claiming victory after a judge ruled
the Federal Highway Administration did not provide sufficient evidence
that it had explored all options for minimizing harm to the Merritt
Parkway in building a Route 7 interchange.
Work on the federally funded project was halted voluntarily by the
state Department of Transportation last year after preservationists
filed the lawsuit, arguing that the project as proposed violated
national preservation law. Construction of the parkway's
interchange with Route 7 would destroy four historic bridges,
preservationists say, including a distinctive overpass on Main Avenue.
"This is exactly what we were looking for," said Andrea Ferster, a
Washington, D.C., attorney representing the plaintiffs -- the Merritt
Parkway Conservancy and other preservation groups and landowners.
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz in New Haven determined in his
ruling, issued late Friday, that the information he has did not show
that the Federal Highway Administration had complied with a federal
regulation that requires all planning in a project that uses land in a
historic site to minimize harm to the land.
Federal transportation officials must "cure the defects in its
compliance" with the regulation, Kravitz said. The judge ordered
the defendants, the DOT and the FHA, to report to the court by Monday
on whether they will continue the voluntary moratorium on construction.
In a statement yesterday, state lawyers did not say whether the judge's
ruling would cause any further delays to the project.
Chris Hoffman, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office,
said, "we are working with the Department of Transportation in putting
together a plan to conform with the judge's order. We expect that we'll
have something to file with the court by next Monday."
Federal Highway Administration officials must also give the court a
deadline for showing compliance with the regulation. In his
ruling, Kravitz expressed concern about the increased costs caused by
the delay to the $98 million project. Preservationists said they
viewed the ruling as an opportunity for federal and state
transportation officials to work with the public on the interchange
Leigh Grant, a Norwalk resident and board member of the Merritt Parkway
Conservancy, said the group did not want to prevent the project, just
ensure that it caused minimal harm to the historic roadway.
"We feel that (the ruling is) an opportunity for the DOT to move ahead
and come up with some other decisions," Grant said. "We do feel that
the interchange is necessary. We're against the size of the
interchange, the construction of the interchange."
The two-phase project would widen the parkway interchange at Main
Avenue and the Glover Avenue bridge and connect Route 7 to the parkway
northbound. Ferster said a large concern is 32-foot-high elevated
ramps that would require the destruction of landscaping and are "really
incompatible with the historic scale of the parkway."
New scrutiny for Merritt overhaul
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
April 4, 2006
NORWALK — U.S. District Court in New Haven has directed the Federal
Highway Administration to review the state's Route 7-Merritt Parkway
interchange overhaul, which ground to a halt last fall in the face of a
The Merritt Parkway Conservancy, one of seven plaintiffs in the
lawsuit, welcomed the decision as an opportunity for the state
Department of Transportation to redesign the roughly $100-million
"We and our co-plaintiffs are delighted with Judge Kravitz's decision
and will continue to work to reduce the unrestrained and destructive
Department of Transportation interchange design," said Laurie Heiss,
conservancy executive director. "We are hopeful that an alternative
design will not harm the historic integrity of the Merritt and will
provide a more site-sensitive design."
Heiss described the court decision as a small legal victory. "We'll
consider it a victory only when we get a road that works for everyone,"
U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz has given the transportation
department until Monday to tell the court whether its will continue its
voluntary construction moratorium, or tailor work in a manner that is
acceptable as the Federal Highway Administration conducts its review.
In the 53-page decision, reached late Friday and made available Monday,
Kravitz has asked the Federal Highway Administration to review the
administrative record leading up to the overhaul being launched last
"The court concludes that the Federal Highway Administration has not
met its (legal) obligation to ensure that all possible planning was
done to minimize harm prior to approving the interchange project,"
Kravitz wrote. "The court wishes to emphasize once again that it
expresses no view one way or the other on whether the final design for
the interchange project in fact minimizes harm to the Merritt Parkway
or complies to the extent feasible with the Merritt Parkway guidelines."
"The court holds only that the administrative record before it does not
show that the FHA made such a determination or on what basis the FHA
did so," Kravitz wrote.
Chris Cooper, transportation department spokesman, said Monday that he
did not know whether the department will redesign the overhaul.
"My understanding would be (the court) did not question the decision we
made on the final design, but they did find defects in the
administrative record," Cooper said. "By Monday we'll know if we're
going to continue (work) as the administrative record is being
corrected, or whether we'll go forward with aspects of the project."
Seven preservationist groups — including the Parkway Conservancy, The
National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Norwalk Land Trust —
sued the transportation department and Federal Highway Administration
in June 2004, barely a month after the state launched Phase One of the
overhaul, which is designed to fully connect the parkway and Route 7
Last October, a day before Kravitz was to rule on the lawsuit, the
transportation department voluntarily halted work on Phase One, which
entails rebuilding the Main Avenue interchange and the Glover Avenue
Bridge, as the court delved deeper into the matter. By then, trees near
the interchange already had been felled.
Local elected officials and business groups, including the Greater
Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, have endorsed the overhaul — more than a
decade in planning — as needed to seamlessly connect the parkway with
Interstate 95, reduce accidents on Main Avenue, and retain and attract
employers to Norwalk.
"To my knowledge this did not deviate one iota from the public hearing
process, the approval process, the time for public comment and input,"
said House Deputy Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-142. "This
is a clear case of a protest as an afterthought. There were certain
people who were disgruntled because they did not get their way. This is
a shame that this project will be delayed."
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, said he believes that the state
transportation department and plaintiffs in the lawsuit will come to an
agreement that will improve traffic flow and preserve the historic
character of the parkway. Built in the 1930s, the parkway is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places.
"I want to see this project move forward. I'm optimistic that an
agreement can be worked out," Duff said.
Mayor Richard A. Moccia, like his predecessor Alex Knopp, supports the
overhaul. Moccia said Monday that the court decision leaves Norwalk
"sitting there with that exposed scab" in the wake of the tree removal
and construction work started last year. He suggested that fault lay
with the transportation department.
"I was in favor the interchange (overhaul), but for a judge to come in
and say (the transportation department) didn't do anything right, after
they put that rock pile there and cut down the trees, reinforces my
opinion of the Department of Transportation," Moccia said.
Andrea C. Ferster, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said
Kravitz' decision will allow the highway agencies to "go back and look
at a way to balance the values of preservation with the needs of the
modern transportation system."
In the court decision, Kravitz wrote that "the longer any injunction or
work stoppage is in place, the greater the burden on the citizens of
halt Merritt work as court case continues (items
in red below added by webmaster)
October 8 2005
Groups trying to downsize a planned Route
7-Merritt Parkway interchange yesterday won a partial victory when the
state Department of Transportation formally agreed to halt work until a
federal judge rules on whether the project can move forward. The
self-imposed injunction came a day before U.S. District Court Judge
Mark Kravitz in New Haven was to have ruled on whether to impose a
court-ordered injunction preventing the DOT from moving forward on the
interchange connecting Route 7 in Norwalk to the parkway northbound.
"This is a significant victory for those who want to preserve the
Merritt Parkway (and) who want to reduce the cost of the solution,"
said Peter Malkin, co-chairman of the Merritt Parkway
Conservancy. Malkin said the suspension of work will force the
DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, which is footing the bill
for the $98 million project, "to consider other feasible alternatives
that could permit the interchange between the Merritt Parkway, coming
from the east, and the Route 7 connector, without the massive and
excessively expensive and
tremendously-destructive-to-the-Merritt-Parkway plan that they have
The DOT had already informally agreed to halt construction and blasting
while the case brought by the seven organizations against the Federal
Highway Administration and the DOT continued. As a result of the
agreement, Kravitz issued no ruling. Instead, he told the parties he
would rule sometime next week on the DOT's motion to dismiss the case
entirely, according to ("what's
in a name?")
Elizabeth Merritt (they
have to be joking--small world coincidence???), deputy general
counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the
At the same time, the rest of the case would move forward, including
the release of newly discovered documents by the DOT that it claims
will shed more light on why it chose the design for the
interchange. Merritt said the plaintiffs will get the documents
on Friday. The court will receive them Nov. 7. The plaintiffs will then
argue Nov. 28 whether the documents should or should not be included in
the case. After that, Kravitz is expected to make a final ruling,
perhaps by the end of the year or early January.
The plaintiffs claim that the "Los Angeles freeway" style design, with
36-foot-high ramps, is much too large and will damage the aesthetic
nature of the parkway and its surrounding landscape. The parkway
earned the 1938 motorway a listing on the National Register of Historic
Places, the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of
preservation authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of
1966. The historic Glover and Main avenue bridges on the parkway
would be demolished during the project as now designed.
According to the plaintiffs, DOT plans -- which would also destroy some
parkway landscape -- violate sections of the federal Department of
Transportation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the
National Historic Preservation Act. The Transportation Act says
construction that would deface or destroy a nationally recognized
historic place is prohibited unless all other options have been
explored. State DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said the department
will re-examine its stance on Jan. 2 if there still has not been a
final determination by the court.
"We decided to voluntarily place a moratorium on any work," he said.
"Now we understand the court should have a final decision in early
January," Cooper said the DOT has reduced an earlier estimate
that halting work on the project could cost the state $500,000 or more
a month in extra costs. Contractor O&G Industries has been
cooperative and extra costs will be much lower, although how much had
not been estimated as of yesterday, Cooper said.
As part of the agreement, the DOT will be performing remedial work to
stabilize areas that have been excavated and to pave and restore some
of the existing roadway that has been affected.
The conservancy, a nonprofit group that wants to preserve parkway
history, filed the suit in May with the National Trust for Historic
Preservation, the Norwalk Land Trust, the Norwalk River Watershed
Association Inc., the Norwalk Preservation Trust Inc., the Connecticut
Trust for Historic Preservation and the Sierra Club.
lawsuit in court today
Hour Staff Writer
September 27, 2005
NORWALK -- U.S. District Court in New Haven is scheduled to hear
arguments today in a lawsuit aimed at downsizing the state's $98
million overhaul of the Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange.
"The court will decide the merit of our complaint, that (the state
design) violated federal environmental and historic preservation laws,"
said Andrea Ferster, attorney for a coalition of preservationist groups
that sued the state Department of Transportation and Federal Highway
Administration in early June.
"Also, we'll be asking for an injunction against the ongoing blasting
work in the northeast quadrant of the Main Avenue. We're asking for
work on this interchange to be halted, because the more investment of
taxpayer money ... the more taxpayer dollars will be wasted when the
highway agencies have to go back and consider a less obtrusive and less
massive design," Ferster added.
At issue is the state Department of Transportation's redesign of the
Main Avenue-Merritt Parkway and Route 7 Connector-Merritt Parkway
"We have still voluntarily restricted certain work. Some other
preliminary work, such as some ledge blasting and some other
site-preparation work, have gone forward," said Chris Cooper, spokesman
for the transportation department.
Cooper said Deputy Transportation Commissioner Carl F. Bard and lawyers
from the state attorney general's office have declined to comment on
the lawsuit until after today's hearing.
The preservationist groups filed the lawsuit a month after the state
signed a $34 million construction contract with O&G Industries
launching Phase I, which involves rebuilding the Main Avenue
interchange and Glover Avenue bridge.
The Merritt Parkway Conservancy and other plaintiffs in the lawsuit
maintain the design is overbuilt, too costly and damaging to the
parkway, a roadway built during the 1930s and known for its scenic
landscaping and historic bridges.
Local elected officials and business leaders say the overhaul -- a
decade in planning -- has been properly aired to the public and is
critical to retaining jobs, reducing traffic accidents on Main Avenue,
and making the Route 7 Connector-Merritt Parkway interchange
immediately west of Main Avenue fully directional.
"It is a major transportation issue. The majority of people coming to
work in Norwalk and even further down in Fairfield County come from the
north and east. Right now there is no good connection between the
Merritt Parkway and Route 7 Connector," said Edward J. Musante Jr.,
president of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. "They connect
from the west, but they do not connect from the east."
That disconnect channels traffic onto local roads, particularly Main
Police have counted 2,082 traffic accidents over the last five years on
Main Avenue, between Route 123 and Grist Mill Road. Of those, 22
involved life-threatening injuries and another 71 were serious,
according to Norwalk Police Chief Harry W. Rilling, who spoke in favor
of the overhaul during a public information meeting called by the state
transportation department in April.
This month, the transportation department began daytime lane closures
and temporary traffic stops on the north and southbound lanes of the
parkway. The departments says the closures and stops are necessary for
drilling and blasting work related to the reconstruction of Exit 40 at
The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today at U.S. District Court in
New Haven, 141 Church St.
Engineer faces few detours
in rebuilding Route 7 bridge
By Mark Ginocchio
Published July 25 2005
was a disaster all too familiar
to Art Gruhn.
a tanker truck carrying thousands
of gallons of heating oil overturned on Route 7 in Ridgefield two weeks
ago, it ignited a fireball, melted pavement and closed the busy state
A year ago, Gruhn, the chief engineer who oversees highway construction
for the state Department of Transportation, handled a fiery tanker
at the Howard Avenue overpass on Interstate 95 in Bridgeport.
again," Gruhn said to himself
when he heard about the Ridgefield crash.
we finished our work in Bridgeport,
I thought that was it, I was done. I had finished taking care of the
disaster I would face in my career," Gruhn said Friday. "To face two of
them? I don't think any other engineer in the country has had to deal
two of these within a year of each other."
March 25, 2004, Bridgeport crash
was a dubious landmark in Gruhn's career. At first, state officials
the highway could be closed for weeks, snarling traffic on
main thoroughfare. The overpass was charred and sagging, and the
lanes were destroyed. But the less-damaged northbound lanes were
reopened within days, and a temporary bridge on the southbound side was
built within a week. Gruhn said it was a valuable learning
for him and the DOT. They just didn't think they would have reason to
what they learned.
Within a few hours of the Route
7 crash, in which the truck driver was killed, state officials wanted
know how long the road would be closed.
we had the experience responding
to Bridgeport, in some ways it was easier for us because we had been
fire before," Gruhn said. "When we got to the site, we were not as
And they knew what to do. A temporary bridge was assembled and Route 7,
northbound and southbound lanes, was reopened within days.
were differences between the
Route 7 and I-95 damage, Gruhn said.
span in Ridgefield was not made
with steel, so it did not completely melt like the Howard Avenue
And the damaged road in Ridgefield was 45 feet long, compared with 80
in Bridgeport, he said. As for the traffic volume, the damaged
of I-95 carries about four times as many cars each day as the damaged
of Route 7. I-95 between Greenwich and Bridgeport carries more than
cars, according to DOT statistics. Route 7 between Danbury and Norwalk
carries about 30,000.
closures were crippling for
motorists, but that would be true anywhere, Gruhn said.
like other states, the diversionary
routes around these main roads are limited," he said. "We know how
are an inconvenience, but that's why we tried to work quickly so they
only be set up for a short period of time." A few days after
7 reopened, he got calls from other engineers in the region, Gruhn
He had earned a reputation.
lot of them asked me why I'm always
burning my bridges behind me," he said. "It was all in good nature.
I think that's how we were all able to get through this again. In spite
of the seriousness of the situation, we all tried to remain
By NOELLE FRAMPTON Hour Staff Writer
July 25, 2005
RIDGEFIELD -- Emergency responses
to a recent tanker truck explosion that damaged a Route 7 bridge over
Norwalk River and spilled gasoline into the water are over, and a more
long-term repair and cleanup effort is progressing that involves both
parts of the bridge and dealing with water and soil contamination.
truck was filled with 8,800 gallons
of gasoline, but it appears that most of its contents were consumed in
the fire, and the incident probably didn't cause much long-term
harm, said Matthew Fritz, a spokesman for the state Department of
Protection. "Overall implications, actually, to the environment have
minimal," he said.
don't believe that there was
a lot of gasoline that fell into the river. This will probably not be a
long cleanup. We're not talking decades. Probably no more than a couple
of months." Fritz said the department is taking steps to absorb the
in the water, which created a sheen on the river for the first several
days, by placing absorbant booms -- made of a foam product --
to clean the water as it travels through them. A system of "recovery
-- pumping water out, treating it and returning it to the river -- is
being used to remove pollution from the water table, he said, adding
department officials haven't seen any fish dying or other wildlife
affected by the spill, concentrated specifically around the bridge
and river bank, where some soil is "saturated."
department will continue to monitor
the area in the long-term, to ensure that everything is done to improve
the conditions that can be, Fritz said. Norwalker Diane Lauricella, an
environmental consultant and member of the Norwalk River Watershed
board of directors, said the association is planning to cooperate with
the state to schedule short- and long-range soil and sediment samples,
determine the extent of pollution and assess if soil replacement is
said the assocation also
hopes to work with Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner
Bard regarding restoration of the site's landscaping to attract native
wildlife. "We would like them to plant as much vegetated buffer as
she said. "It's a very special spot. We really do not want to see them
just putting a hard rip-rap everywhere along -- extending 20, 30, 100
downstream and upstream."
spill site is very close to a
"river study site," where school children have come for 15 to 20 years
to study the river and its habitat, Lauricella said. Fritz did not know
what the environmental cleanup would cost, saying that immediate
come first and the department will address money issues later. Perhaps
the more substantial task will be fixing the bridge, which will be
to its original condition.
Federal Highway Administration's
emergency funding program has pledged to cover the repair costs,
at about $3 million. During the reconstruction, drivers can expect lane
closures between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and possibly at night too, said
Engineer Daniel Foley of the state Department of Transportation.
morning and evening commutes
will be left alone," he said, explaining that a northbound one-lane
bridge will be constructed, and one southbound lane will remain open on
the existing bridge during peak travel hours. Traffic patterns will
to be moved a few times before the project is finished with paving. The
project, which will occur almost completely above the water, will
replacing the bridge's concrete deck, railings and pavement, Foley
adding that the steel rods within the concrete beams that support the
were probably compromised by the intense heat of the explosion and fire.
actually held up quite well,
but not well enough to span the entire river," he said, adding that it
was not strong enough to hold heavy trucks or oversized loads, either.
Foley was optimistic that the project will be completed by winter,
adding that one can never be sure. "We want to get the thing done
the snow flies," he said.
Tragedy refreshes 'Super
By Mark Ginocchio
Published July 14 2005
fiery fatal truck crash that
has closed down Route 7 until at least tomorrow is another reminder
Fairfield County's transportation infrastructure is in desperate need
better north-south passageways, elected officials and transportation
state needs to improve Metro-North
Railroad's little-used Danbury branch line and the time may be right to
rekindle talks of the long-stalled, controversial "Super 7" highway
Norwalk and Danbury, some officials said.
really don't have a north-south
thoroughfare until you get to Route 8," connecting Bridgeport to
said Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, chairwoman of the South
Western Region's Metropolitan Planning Organization. "The disabling of
Route 7 may be a wake-up call. I hope the state takes a closer look at
ways to improve" the transportation infrastructure.
7 was closed Tuesday between
Route 102 in Branchville and Route 35 in Ridgefield after a tanker
overturned and burst into flames, killing the driver and damaging a
overlooking the Norwalk River in Ridgefield.
Department of Transportation
officials said the bridge was weakened from the fire and a temporary
will have to be built. Gov. M. Jodi Rell said yesterday she hopes the
could be reopened by tomorrow.
than 30,000 people a day use
Route 7 between Norwalk and Danbury, according to the DOT. The limited
transportation alternatives in a region that is experiencing population
growth in the north and business growth in the south could make
County a cul-de-sac, Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said.
need to be cautious drawing lessons
out of a tragic death on this highway, but there is an obvious
of north-south routes in our region," he said.
means new jobs and new employees,
he said. "That's why we've always been supportive of a Norwalk to
'Super 7' and the electrification of the Danbury branch line."
of those options may not materialize.
The "Super 7," a superhighway that would run from Norwalk to Danbury
link to Interstate 84, has been an idea on the table for nearly 50
but some municipalities and environmental groups oppose the plan,
it in limbo.
highway would be between four
and six lanes in different sections.
the opposition, the South
Western Regional Planning Agency has always proposed a better
road as part of its long-term plans, said executive director Robert
7 is "clearly inadequate for
the volumes it carries," he said. "This is the risk you run when you
an inadequate facility."
Rep. Antoinetta "Toni" Boucher,
R-Wilton, one of the "Super 7's" most vocal legislative opponents, who
proposed a bill this year to sell the land and invest it in the Danbury
branch line, said lamenting the superhighway is not the answer.
don't think it changes the issues
because (an accident closing the highway) could have happened on a
7,'" Boucher said. "But it does draw attention to the Danbury branch
single-track Danbury branch line
carries about 200 passengers a day between Danbury and South Norwalk
is being reviewed by the DOT for possible improvements.
encourage commuters to take mass
transit during the road closure, Rell said rail commuters would have
fares refunded until the road reopens and bus fares will not be
on Norwalk Transit's Route 7 link. Additional trains on the branch line
also will be put into service.
has to be done with the branch
line in the long-term, Boucher said.
Danbury branch line is an underutilized
resource and it needs to be upgraded," she said.
some transportation advocates
said rail line expansion can't come at the expense of the proposed
always supported the 'Super
7' and it's ridiculous that it hasn't been done over the years," said
Riley, president of the Connecticut Motor Transport Association. "Our
network is critical. I don't care how many barges (the state) uses or
they use rail traffic. There's going to be more trucks" to contend with.
Sen. Robert Duff, D-Norwalk,
said the state is "past the time to have a debate on whether the Super
7 should be finished," but improving the transportation system should
be simplified as roads vs. rails.
should never be either/or because
every part is integral to our system," Duff said. "We have to get more
people moving north-south, that's why we should be spending more money
on transportation in this state."
By ROBERT KOCH Hour Staff Writer
June 1, 2005
NORWALK -- The Merritt Parkway Conservancy
announced Tuesday that it and four other organizations were filing a
in U.S. District Court in Hartford to halt the state-designed overhaul
of the Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange. "It is a complaint for
and injunctive relief," said Peter Malkin, conservancy vice chairman.
plaintiffs "came together because
of their concern over the failure of the Federal Highway Administration
and the Connecticut Department of Transportation to comply with several
federal laws that restrict projects that damage or interfere with
historic properties." The conservancy, a nonprofit organization
to preserving the roadway's landscape and historic bridges, considers
estimated $98 million project too costly, too large and too disruptive
to the historic roadway.
as defendants, he said, are
Norman Mineta, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; Mary
Peters, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; and
Keazer, Connecticut Division administrator of the Federal Highway
The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the United States; The
Norwalk Land Trust; Norwalk River Watershed Association Inc.; and The
Preservation Trust Inc. are co-plaintiffs in the complaint, Malkin said.
plaintiffs hope that the court
will grant a temporary restraining order followed by a permanent
against the project, Malkin said. The announced lawsuit comes a month
the state transportation department signed a $34 million contract with
O&G Industries of Torrington to start the overhaul, which will
connect the parkway and Route 7.
I -- reconstruction of the
Main Avenue interchange and Glover Avenue bridge -- began last month
the removal of trees. Supporters of the overhaul, including Mayor Alex
Knopp and Norwalk legislators, say the project is needed to fully
the parkway with Route 7 and Interstate 95, take traffic off Main
and safeguard economic growth. They describe the overhaul as
thoroughly vetted with the public and long overdue.
Knopp said he is not surprised
by the conservancy's action. "The opponents had threatened to go to
so I'm not surprised at all, especially when (the complaint) is funded
by the deep pockets of one of the adjacent landowners," Knopp said.
a transportation project that
serves the region and Norwalk well, and I hope that the judge does not
hold it up for to long." State Sen. Bob Duff, D-25, another supporter
the state-designed overhaul, described the complaint as a
attempt to halt work.
DOT has made their decision
after many years of delays," Duff said. "Those in the community have
and said they would like to have this project move forward. What are
plaintiffs') motivations? Are they looking to scrap the project? Are
looking to make modifications? Obviously, it's way past the 11th-hour,
and these concerns should have been brought up over the last five to
Wrenn, Norwalk Land Trust
president, said the group's board of directors voted unanimously to
in the lawsuit. Of concern, among other things, is the removal of trees
that recently began along the parkway near Main Avenue. "Beautiful
are being destroyed for a project that's beyond the scope of what it
to be to help solve the transportation problem," Wrenn said.
project is resulting in a tragic
loss of open space for the people of Norwalk. We agree with the
that the alternatives that were presented are better for the
and the aesthetic beauty of the parkway."
conservancy, at an informational
meeting held by the DOT at Norwalk City Hall in early April, pitched
alternatives. One called for roundabout traffic circles to be built
the parkway meets with the Route 7 Connector.
would like to see the FHA and
the Connecticut DOT to give serious consideration to alternatives that
would not so seriously adversely affect the parkway, and these
involve the substitution of alternative designs to connect the Merritt
Parkway with (Route) 7," Malkin said Tuesday.
Some believe Super 7
be just down the road
By Mark Ginocchio
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
April 25, 2005
the state Department of Transportation
announced last week that it will build the Merritt Parkway-Route 7
in Norwalk, some lawmakers and transportation advocates wondered
it's an indication that the controversial Super 7 highway will happen,
part of the DOT's design for
the interchange project was especially scrutinized: the parkway ramp
connects with Route 7 north. Critics say the ramp is a mile-long "road
to nowhere" because of opposition to construction of a Super 7 highway
agree Super 7 will not be built
in their lifetimes but want to know whether the DOT is keeping its
sense has been (the DOT) kept
this design just in case in the future the debate for a Super 7 starts
all over again," said Laurie Heiss, executive director of the Merritt
Conservancy, a nonprofit preservation group that opposed the
project. "Just because that project is off the books now doesn't mean
can't come back in 10 years."
officials have said the interchange
connection to Route 7 north has nothing to do with the Super 7. Its
is to link the parkway to Route 7 in all directions. Super 7, which
run a highway from Norwalk to Danbury and connect with Interstate 84,
not in the state's plans, they have said.
a recent public meeting, critics
of the interchange project reminded the DOT that, when it designed the
connectors 10 years ago, Super 7 was in its plans. If that is no longer
true, Phase 2 of the $98 million interchange project -- which includes
the Route 7 north connection -- should be redesigned, said state Rep.
think in some people's heart of
hearts, they're hoping for" Super 7, said Boucher, who in February
a bill that would sell the highway right of way and use the money for
Railroad's Danbury line. "But it's not going to happen. There is an
opposition to it and it's a death knell for any politician who supports
it in that corridor."
said it's misleading to compare
today's interchange project with the Super 7 plans from 10 years ago.
think people were just using the
Super 7 argument as part of their arsenal against the interchange
said Robert Wilson, executive direction of the South Western Regional
Association. "It stirs up concerns that this may be a precursor to
7 and it throws other people into the mix."
First Selectwoman Diane
Farrell said the interchange and Super 7 are "two separate issues."
the South Western Region
Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Business Council of
County endorse a north-south highway connection between Norwalk and
Farrell said she doubts the Super 7 debate will be revitalized.
don't think the political will
ever will be there," Farrell said. "It's an unpopular issue. The idea
(DOT) will breach its agreement is the stuff of urban legend."
those who oppose the interchange
connection to Route 7 north believe the Super 7 has no future.
DOT "had the authority and the
money to do the project they had designed," said state Sen. William
R-Greenwich. "The permits were in place and the money was there, so
was ready to push the button. But the Super 7 is not going to be built
because of the number of legal and financial obstacles. I'm not basing
this on speculation, I'm basing it on fact."
Super 7 advocacy group, however,
keeps the avenue open," said
Barbara Quincy, a Wilton resident and member of the nonprofit Committee
for the Extension of Route 7. "I don't anticipate they're going to
the Super 7 any time soon . . . but DOT is not going to let that land
DOT made a telling announcement
last week, Quincy said.
decision was critical," she
of the biggest proponents of
the interchange, Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp, did not return calls last
State to sign pact for Merritt-Route
April 18, 2005 Stamford ADVOCATE
By Mark Ginocchio
state Department of Transportation
plans to move forward with construction of the Merritt Parkway-Route 7
interchange and will sign a contract today, sources close to the
told The Advocate.
design will remain unchanged,
sources said, despite recent pressure from preservationists and
who claimed the interchange will be too costly and disruptive.
$98 million project will connect
the parkway to Route 7 to and from the east in Norwalk. The first phase
will widen the parkway interchange at Main Avenue and the Glover Avenue
bridge, starting this spring and lasting until 2007. The second phase
begin shortly afterward and connect Route 7 to the parkway, taking
construction, one lane of
the Merritt will be shut down around peak commuting hours in the
and evening. The DOT said designs have been in place for more
10 years and were properly approved by other state and environmental
Public hearings were held in 1998 and 1999.
to the project has been
led by the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, a nonprofit group that works to
preserve the parkway's historic character. The group said it
the interchange but questioned DOT's designs. Members are concerned
construction will destroy some parkway bridges and landscape and back
traffic because of lane closures.
question the cost and the parkway
connection to Route 7 north, a road that continues for only a half-mile
because of stalled plans for the "Super 7" highway to Danbury. At
a recent news conference, conservancy officials introduced two
interchange designs they said could be done with half the time and
but DOT officials another design could delay the project.
legislators, business leaders
and Mayor Alex Knopp support the project because they say it will help
the city financially and remove traffic from local roads. The DOT
was ready to award the contract in March, but it was blocked by Rell,
after pressure from the conservancy and legislators, called for one
public meeting earlier this month.
than 75 people signed up to
speak for more than four hours at the meeting at Norwalk City Hall.
opposed the DOT plan. The conservancy said it hoped Rell would
in and overrule the DOT, but her spokesmen said it was the DOT's
12, 2005 Norwalk HOUR:
Business leaders and elected officials gathered at Hewitt Associates at
Merritt Corporate Park Friday afternoon and urged Hartford lawmakers
to bow to last-minute pressure to halt completion of the Route7-Merritt
Parkway interchange. The state Department of Transportation could
sign as early as next week a contract to get the long-delayed $75
project started, they said.
of the Business Council of Fairfield County, I want to express our
for this project. Transportation is a critical issue facing the
said Tanya Court, Public Policy & Programs director with the
is important to the business community, to the county. We need to
that the project moves forward, that we do complete the interchange and
provide that connectivity." Court, former executive director of the
Western Regional Planning Agency, named completing the interchange as
priority upon which its member communities agree upon.
Parkway, built during the Great Depression, is praised for its
stone bridges and unique design. That same design, however, did not
cars traveling 55 mph -- or faster -- and accelerating and decelerating
on tight entrance and exits ramps.
traffic on the parkway cannot exit onto the Route 7 Connector for lack
of ramps. Connector traffic cannot move onto the northbound parkway.
traffic now uses Exit 40, clogging Main Avenue. Some individuals and
however, believe the fix is worse than the problem. They have stepped
in recent weeks and asked the state to re-examine the project after
Parkway Conservancy says the project, as designed, will unnecessarily
traffic. Norwalk Mayor Alex Knopp said the state made a terrible
by not completing the exchange decades ago. Doing so now, he said, will
safen travel on Main Avenue; modernize Exit 40 and protect economic
"This is the
most important improvement to mobility in the Southwestern region that
is likely come along in our lifetime," Knopp said. "This is not about
capacity. This is connecting up existing highways so that there will be
better traffic mobility in our region."
in an eighth-floor conference room at Hewitt Associates was company
Manager Tim Roof; Albert D. Phelps Inc. General Counsel Steve Warren;
Council Public Policy & Programs Vice President Joseph McGee; state
Reps. Joseph Mann, D-140, and John Ryan, R-141; and Edward J. Musante
president of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. Three decades
transportation and completing Route 7 to Danbury topped the priorities
of the Chamber, according to Musante Jr.
"We at the
Greater Chamber and business community of Norwalk strongly support
forward with this project immediately," Musante Jr. said. Hewitt
a human-resources consulting firm, relocated from Rowayton to the
Corporate Park four years ago, based on the state's commitment to
the two-lane bridge on Glover Avenue with a four-lane bridge.
is part of the interchange upgrade. "The state of Connecticut has not
away from its commitment," said Thomas A. Flaherty, the Norwalk
representing Hewitt Associates. "We hope that the state will go ahead
sign this contract and move the project along."
The first phase
of the project will cost $30 million and improve the ramps at Exit 40
Main Avenue. Vertical clearance would be increased to allow more truck
and emergency-vehicle traffic. At $45 million, the second phase would
the Route 7-Merritt Parkway interchange to allow travel in all
Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-142, acknowledged that opposition to
project exists. But he described support for the project as broad based
and bipartisan. And Cafero Jr. indicated that protocol has been
has been well designed and well thought out. It's had input from the
It's had input from people who are very concerned about keeping the
and the historical significance of the Merritt Parkway," Cafero Jr.
the project as permitted and ready to go. He pointed to the Final
Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact permits issued by the
Highway Administration in December 2000.
DOT vows to complete Route
By Mark Ginocchio, Stamford ADVOCATE
March 4, 2005
-- The state Department of
Transportation is plowing ahead with plans to complete the Route
Parkway interchange despite opposition from preservationists.
construction could set the $75 million project back years, DOT Deputy
Carl Bard said yesterday at a quarterly meeting of the Merritt Parkway
state-appointed group that consists
of DOT and federal highway officials, and other historians and
Merritt Parkway Conservancy --
a nonprofit group formed to maintain the character of the historic
-- is trying to block the project, saying it is too expensive,
and damaging to the highway's aesthetics.
we were to revisit the questions
that were brought up today, that would cause another five-year delay,"
Bard said to conservancy members at a meeting in Darien Town Hall. "Our
decisions were not made in a void. . . . These plans are very
for the interchange have been
in place for nearly 10 years and public hearings were held in 1998 and
1999, DOT officials said yesterday.
But conservancy chairman Peter Malkin
said much has changed in five years and no contract should be awarded
the public has another chance to review the project.
of the planning and appeals
were made at a time when the 'Super 7' (expressway plan) was still
to Danbury," Malkin said. "People are going about this plan
Malkin's New York real estate firm owns the 250,000-square-foot
office building on Main Avenue in Norwalk, which lies next to the
officials expects it will award
the interchange work contract to O&G Industries as soon as next
A public information hearing couldn't be scheduled until next month,
one of the project will focus
on the Main Avenue approach to the interchange and should take until
Phase two would start soon after and take an additional three to four
said DOT project manager Thomas Harley. During construction, lanes
be closed in the afternoon and at night, after rush-hour.
the DOT reduced the scope of its
plan, the project could be done quicker and cost less, said Laurie
co-chairwoman of the conservancy. She suggested removing proposed ramps
that would run to Super 7 north, because the Route 7 superhighway has
stalled for decades.
forest land should be preserved,
real stone facing should be used while restoring the parkway's bridges
and the DOT should find an attractive alternative to the 40-foot,
lights they want to use, Heiss said.
just want you to take a pause,"
she said. "We know we're not being illogical."
the contract is awarded, DOT
is open to working out some of these differences, Bard said. Issues
landscaping and other aesthetics could be negotiated, but the general
of the project must remain in tact, he added. When Malkin pressed
why a public hearing couldn't be held before a contract is signed, Bard
threw his hands in the air.
questioned if federal funds
for the second phase had been accounted for. When Bard said it had not,
Malkin suggested it would be dangerous to start a major construction
and then stop halfway because of funding issues. There shouldn't
be any major delays securing federal funds, Bard responded.
Mayor Alex Knopp, a proponent
of the interchange project and Super 7, said he can't justify delaying
construction any longer and he applauded Bard for being frank with the
process has been open," Knopp
said. "If we have another five-year delay, we'll just watch other
raid our funds."
in attendance were still concerned
about the impact the project will have on Merritt Parkway
State Rep. Jim Shapiro, D-Stamford, said after the meeting that
could have such an impact on traffic, a public hearing must be held
a contract is signed.
have to be extremely careful
of lane closures on the Merritt," Shapiro said. "Lane closures on the
at any time of day always cause problems."
Study aims to boost region's
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published January 13 2007
NORWALK - Bus advocates said yesterday that they will launch a study to
see how area service can be improved and attract a larger sector of the
The eight-week, $50,000 study will look at the needs of bus service,
required capital improvements and the potential for new routes and
intercity services geared at attracting more of the corporate work
force, said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for the
Business Council of Fairfield County, one of the groups funding the
It also will examine how more bus service could benefit Fairfield
County's economy and environment.
"We're trying to build political support for bus service," McGee said.
"It's long overdue. It's an undervalued resource because people have a
poor image of bus service."
The Business Council will provide $10,000 for the study, and another
$10,000 will be provided by Norwalk Transit, the Greater Bridgeport
Transit Authority and CTTransit.
The remaining funds will be provided by private business groups, McGee
said. New Haven-based Urbitran Associates will conduct the study.
Once complete, it will be turned over to the legislature, McGee said.
Louis Schulman, administrator of Norwalk Transit, said he hoped the
report will help the legislature understand bus operators' needs.
"New investments still need to be made," Schulman said. "They have been
disproportionately made for rails and highways, but the one leg that
has not been adequately funded is bus transit."
Local bus routes will be examined in the study, but the group also is
interested in expanding intercity and express bus service to serve
corporate areas that are too far from train stations, McGee said.
The study also will look at the potential for bus rapid transit - a
system that mirrors a commuter railroad, providing frequent express
service over long distances.
Bus service comes cheaper than the rail and offers more flexible routes
Norwalk Transit operates many intercity services, including the Coastal
Link service between Norwalk and Milford; the Merritt 7-Glover Avenue
shuttle between the South Norwalk rail station and the Merritt 7
business complex; and the Westport Road shuttle between the South
Norwalk station and Wilton.
About 400,000 riders a year use these services, which shows corporate
employees will ride the bus if it takes them where they need to go,
Aug 2, 2004
- 4:40 PM EDT
Transit workers in Hartford,
New Haven, Stamford authorize strike
By DIANE SCARPONI
Conn. (AP) -- Transit workers in Hartford, New Haven and Stamford have
authorized a strike if a new contract is not reached for about 700 bus
drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers.
No strike date
was set. The Amalgamated Transit Union and Connecticut Transit, the
agency that runs the bus lines, said Monday they would work hard to
a deal before their latest contract extension expires Aug. 31.
the three local unions said they did not want to vote for a strike, but
they felt the company's offer left them no choice.
to cool off for about a week and then start talking again," said Alvin
B. Douglas, business agent for Local 425 in Hartford...
N.Y.C. looks into congestion pricing...story here.
Lawmakers to get
federal input on tolls for
By Mark Ginocchio, Staff Writer
Published March 19 2007
Lawmakers unsure about the feasibility of installing electronic highway
tolls this week may question some of the nation's experts.
Federal highway officials will be in lower Fairfield County tomorrow to
discuss how "value" or "congestion pricing" toll systems work elsewhere.
The goal of the 8 a.m. meeting at the Westport Police Department is to
teach lawmakers and other elected officials the differences between the
old toll booths - which were taken off state highways more than 20
years ago - and the new electronic tolls designed to manage traffic and
generate revenue for transportation projects, said the meeting
organizer, Floyd Lapp, executive director of the South Western Regional
"Before we can intelligently discuss the subject, we need to understand
it better," Lapp said.
Value pricing charges motorists different rates based on peak and
off-peak hours. The system can be used to designate special express
lanes on highways that drivers use at a price.
Tolls can be collected with "boothless technology," including
transponder tags such as E-ZPass, officials have said. Some areas use
cameras to take pictures of license plates then bill motorists
The state Department of Transportation is seeking federal money to
study value pricing. The DOT expects an answer about funding later this
Last week, the legislature's Transportation Commitee approved $4.5
million for a study if the federal money falls through.
Federal highway officials tomorrow are expected to discuss value
pricing success stories in states such as New Jersey and international
cities such as London, Lapp said. All legislators and elected
officials from the SWRPA region - Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, Wilton,
Weston, Westport, New Canaan and Darien - are invited, as are member of
the legislature's Transportation Committee.
As of Friday, Lapp did not know how many will attend. Those who plan to
attend said they have reservations about value pricing but are willing
"It's going to be a hard sell, but I want to learn everything I can
about it," said state Rep. Antoinetta "Toni" Boucher, R-Wilton.
"Everyone is using our roads and we are paying to maintain them. But I
am reluctant to add another cost."
State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said he wants to find out whether
value pricing can be applied only to truckers during peak hours.
"For me, that's a specific idea worth pursuing," Tong said. But
Tong said he wants to hear about all aspects of value pricing.
"It would be a disservice to our constituents to not have complete
information about something before we make a decision," he said.
Legislators should listen to everything federal highway officials have
to say, said Weston First Selectman Woody Bliss, chairman of the South
Western Region's Metropolitan Planning Organization.
"We need to educate people because they think we're trying to bring
tolls back," said Bliss, who spent five years in Singapore, where value
pricing is used. "People have this . . . reaction because they think
it's the 't' word."
weigh fee to discourage rush hour traffic
By JEREMY SOULLIERE, Hour Staff Writer
March 19, 2007
WESTPORT — Class will be in session at the Westport police station
Tuesday morning, with a number of area officials and legislators
gathering inside the station's training classroom to learn and talk
about "congestion pricing," a computerized method of charging highway
motorists varying rates at different times of the day to reduce rush
The meeting — which is co-hosted by the South Western Regional Planning
Agency (SWRPA) and the region's first selectmen and mayors that makeup
the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (SWRMPO) —
will offer a presentation by U.S. Department of Transportation Program
Manager Patrick DeCorla-Souza, who will be discussing both the nuts and
bolts of congestion pricing and the impact it has had on areas that
have tried it, said Weston First Selectman and Woody Bliss.
Bliss, the chairman of SWRMPO, said the intent of congestion pricing is
to discourage motorists from driving on major roadways during rush hour
periods by charging a maximum fee at those peak times.
"People say, 'I don't want to pay it,' and they go to work a half hour
earlier," said Bliss, who noted that, while living and working in
Singapore and Los Angeles, he saw congestion pricing working
successfully. "Not everyone could do that, but it does take away the
Congestion pricing works like EZ Pass, he said, electronically
recording a fee when a vehicle passes a certain location. Motorists
with vehicles that don't have the transponder that records the fee, he
said, are still charged because their license plate number is recorded
by a camera. Unlike EZ Pass, however, congestion pricing takes the
electronic signaling concept away from the toll booth setting, Bliss
said, shifting it anywhere the decision-makers want the fee to be
assessed, be it on-ramps, off-ramps or even just certain lanes.
Currently, he said, there is proposed legislation before the state
Senate to initiate a study that would assess the feasibility of
implementing congestion pricing on Connecticut roadways. SWRMPO is
"very much willing to move forward with the study," Bliss said, and it
has invited area legislators to Tuesday's meeting to both educate them
about congestion pricing and hopefully encourage them to support the
"Once people understand what it is," Bliss said about congestion
pricing, "they get more enthusiastic about it."
Something simply needs to be done about Connecticut's congested
highways, he added.
"I-95 and the Merritt Parkway are not going to get better (with us)
sitting on our bums," Bliss said.
SWRPA Executive Director Floyd Lapp said there are a number of
congestion pricing "success stories" in the U.S. and abroad, with the
areas that have implemented the system reporting "cleaner air" and
yielding additional revenue for capital projects.
"It's a method that says we can't build our way out of congestion by
adding more lanes," he said.
Tuesday's meeting will have two identical sessions, one starting at
7:30 a.m. and the other beginning at 10 a.m. Both sessions are open to
the public, Bliss said, but, with a limited number of seats in the
police training classroom, residents are asked to call SWRPA at (203)
316-5190 to reserve a seat.
DOT plans study
to see if highway tolls pay
By Mark Ginocchio
Published February 19 2006
More than 20 years after tolls were removed from the highways, the
state Department of Transportation hopes to obtain federal funds to
study bringing them back to Connecticut. DOT officials told The
Advocate last week they are in the initial stages of preparing an
application to submit to the Federal Highway Administration that could
enroll the state in a toll study.
The review would examine a method of tolling known as "congestion" or
"value pricing" -- an electronic system that charges motorists varying
rates depending on when they're traveling. Other variations include
charging motorists by the mile or charging drivers for designated
express lanes during rush hour.
The study would look at toll feasibility statewide, officials said.
"We think it was important to look at it statewide and get input from
all of the regional planning agencies," said James Boice, chief of the
DOT's bureau of policy and planning. The DOT must submit its
application to the highway administration by August to be considered
for the 2007 program, Boice said.
Tolls have been taboo since they were removed from state highways in
1985 -- two years after a runaway truck with a sleeping driver at the
wheel plowed into three cars lined up at the Interstate 95 toll plaza
in Stratford, killing four women and three children. Even before
the deadly accident, drivers objected to long lines at toll booths.
But political will may be shifting. Although many still object to
tolls, some state leaders and transportation advocates have said a
study could be a way to determine whether they could generate more
revenue for road and rail improvements.
Earlier this month, Robert Wilson, executive director of the South
Western Regional Planning Agency, said his group had submitted an
application to study tolls in lower Fairfield County, three years after
losing out on federal money for a similar proposal because they lacked
support from the DOT. The DOT's statewide study may kill the
chances of SWRPA getting money for its regional look, but Wilson said
it's more important that the state examines tolls.
"The study has to be done," Wilson said. "I'm happy to see (DOT) has
come around and they've recognized that this is something that should
be on the table."
Legislators agree the technology that eliminates the need for booths
could make tolls a less volatile topic politically than they have been
in the past.
"There's still haunting memories of tolls from the '70s and '80s and
those memories loom large in many people's minds," said state Sen.
Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, a member of the legislature's
transportation committee. "There's a very serious, healthy skepticism,
but that doesn't mean we shouldn't examine what new technology might
mean for those old conceptions."
It is smart for the DOT to focus its study on the entire state, and not
specific regions such as lower Fairfield County, said state Sen.
William Nickerson, R-Greenwich.
"We're a small corridor state with a lot of gateway traffic between two
larger states," said Nickerson, also a member of the transportation
committee. Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy of the
Business Council of Fairfield County, another group that has called for
a study, said the state must focus on "gateway tolls" at the borders.
"We need to look at both congestion pricing and gateway tolls and give
people options," McGee said. "Just congestion pricing may be a hard
sell for people in-state" because interstate traffic may not be tolled
But all toll talk may be premature since the state will ultimately make
its decision based on the study, Boice said.
"Our hope is that this study will provide us with information to answer
all of these questions," Boice said. "We have to look at the
information before we decide anything."
Radar: As gasoline taxes fail to keep pace with costs, the state
may be driven to reinstating highway tolls
By Paul Choiniere
Published on 2/12/2006
Connecticut lawmakers are speaking A five-letter word once considered
political profanity. And it's all because of growing congestion on the
highways, a gasoline tax that falls far short of providing needed
revenues, and the realization that Connecticut is losing out in a
money-raising bonanza enjoyed by neighboring states.
That word is TOLLS.
It cropped up just last week when Democratic legislators presented a $6
billion-plus plan to avoid what they called a looming “transportation
crisis.” House Speaker Jim Amann of Milford boldly ventured that, yes,
tolls on the highways are a realistic option for a cash-strapped state
looking for ways to fund transportation improvements.
Connecticut hasn't had tolls for almost 20 years. On Oct. 10, 1986,
eight toll plazas on Interstates 95 and 395 and the three on the
Merritt Parkway were closed, ending a 26-year operation that generated
$810 million during the years they were in use.
Drivers had grown angry about long lines and frequent accidents at toll
plazas. Pressure to remove them peaked after a horrific accident in
1983, when a tractor-trailer rig plowed into the Branford toll plaza,
killing seven people. Over the last two decades, state
politicians have generally been loathe to bring up the topic, mindful
of how unpopular they had become. But in 2003 the state Transportation
Strategy Board, charged with taking a hard look at transportation,
produced a report saying an investment of at least $5 billion was
needed for highways, mass transit and deep-water ports. The
bipartisan group concluded that revenues from tolls would almost
certainly be needed, as would increases in taxes and
transportation-related fees, such as rail and bus fares.
Last Tuesday, Amann's announcement of the Democrats' plan to introduce
transportation legislation signaled an endorsement of the strategy
board's recommendations. The price tag, he said, has grown from $5
billion in 2003 to between $6 billion and $7 billion today. The
projects would have to be implemented over a decade, he added.
“I absolutely hate tolls,” Amann said in response to reporters'
questions. “But everything is on the table. As much as I dislike the
idea, we have to consider it.”
John C. Markowicz, who represented southeastern Connecticut on the
strategy board, said it is hard to envision how the state could address
its transportation needs without including toll revenues. New
technologies that allow drivers to avoid plazas should make the idea of
tolls more palatable, Markowicz said.
“These are not the tolls everyone remembers,” he said. No
assurances, however, seem to dissuade some people from their opposition
to tolls. House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, a Republican from
Northford, said using tolls to pay for road improvements would be “a
mistake of public policy.”
“They're not practical, they're not safe, and they're not
environmentally sound,” Ward said.
Tolls are growing more common across the country and are ubiquitous on
the interstates in the Northeast. In 1993, there were a bit more
than 4,000 miles of toll roads in the United States, and today there
are about 5,000, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
With the exception of Connecticut and Rhode Island — a state that has
never had highway tolls — drivers traveling on Interstate 95 from Maine
to Maryland encounter tolls, but they can use the E-ZPass system to try
to avoid long waits at the plazas. Transponders, which are cigarette
box-sized devices that attach to the inside of windshields with Velcro,
are read electronically as they pass under scanning towers, and the
tolls are deducted from the owners' pre-paid accounts.
Tolls generate billions of dollars annually. The New York Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, which operates tolls on bridges and tunnels,
collected $1.1 billion last year, and seven of 10 drivers used the
E-ZPass system. The problems that spurred drivers' complaints
about the tolls back in the late 1980s — delays and safety concerns —
have been mostly solved by the modern technology, said Connecticut
Department of Transportation spokesman Chris Cooper.
The DOT has done preliminary research on different toll systems for
policymakers' study, Cooper said.
In some parts of the country, including Minneapolis, San Diego, and
Orange County, Calif., drivers pay a toll to drive on express lanes,
where there is less traffic and where the tolls are constantly adjusted
by a computer program. Rates go higher as demand builds, sometimes to
several dollars during rush hours, but drivers can opt to stay on the
regular freeways. The lanes can be designed to allow free passage for
high-occupancy vehicles carrying at least three, or sometimes as few as
The “dynamic value pricing” keeps the express lanes from getting too
crowded, said Edward J. Regan III, senior vice president at Wilbur
Smith Associates. The engineering and planning firm, based in New
Haven, is considered a world leader in the designing and managing of
The special toll lanes, which were originally dubbed “Lexus lanes” by
critics to suggest they would be used only by the wealthy, have
generally been well accepted, Regan said. Research has shown most
drivers, regardless of their incomes, only use them occasionally,
typically when they are pressed for time, he said, adding that they
have been effective in easing congestion on the free lanes.
If Connecticut were to bring back tolls, Regan said, all sorts of
choices for the toll system are available, including one without booths.
Highway tolls in Melbourne, Australia, and Toronto are completely
electronic. The few cars that do not have transponders get their
license plates photographed, and the car owners are billed later at a
higher rate, which encourages them to get transponders. Any
decision to reintroduce tolls would almost certainly require extensive
study of all options, say lawmakers.
The trucking industry, already reeling from high diesel prices, is
poised to oppose mandatory tolls, said Michael Riley, president of the
Motor Transport Association of Connecticut. The association represents
about 1,000 companies that operate trucks in the state. Riley
said, however, that his association would consider supporting optional
toll lanes that give drivers the choice of paying to get off congested
Gas taxes, long used as a source of revenue for highway maintenance,
have not kept up with inflation.
In 1963, the average state tax on a gallon of gas was 7.5 cents. Today
it is 21.6 cents, but, when adjusted for inflation, the tax amounts to
4.8 cents, according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics.
With the improved mileage of today's cars, states are generating about
2.4 cents per gallon in taxes in 1963 dollars, according to commerce
To get the kind of revenues produced from gas taxes in the early 1960s,
states would have to triple or quadruple the fees, which is a strategy
Europeans have followed for years, in part to encourage
conservation. There is evidence that American drivers prefer
paying tolls to paying higher gas taxes, according to surveys in
Illinois and Minnesota.
In 2002, Illinois was considering elimination of its tolls. When the
Chicago Tribune did a survey asking citizens if they were willing to
pay a higher gas tax to turn toll roads into freeways, 74 percent
opposed the idea. Asked what they did not like about tolls, 66 percent
cited delays, but only 13 percent cited the cost. (Eight percent cited
cost and delays, while 13 percent pointed to neither issue.)
Illinois ended up installing an E-ZPass system to complement its tolls.
In 2003, Minnesota residents were surveyed by the Minneapolis Star
Tribune on how added lanes on congested highways should be paid for —
by special tolls on the new lanes or by a higher gas tax. Special tolls
were preferred by 69 percent of respondents, with 23 percent opting for
an increased gas tax. Eight percent had no opinion.
Interstate 394 in Minnesota now has stretches of highway where drivers
pay a toll to drive in the express lane. Knowing that states are
hard-pressed to pay for transportation improvements, Congress has
greatly eased the restrictions on introducing tolls on interstates,
though some regulations remain. Cooper said the DOT does not anticipate
that federal approval would be difficult to get.
Two local lawmakers on the legislature's Transportation Committee —
Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, and Rep. Steve Mikutel, D-Griswold —
support the massive transportation project promoted by the Democratic
leadership. The plan calls for completing Route 11, widening Interstate
95 and extending to southeastern Connecticut the commuter rail service
to New York.
To pay for those projects and others, neither lawmaker rules out
“If technology is there, with no bottlenecks, then I would give it some
thought,” Mikutel said.
“I'm not ready to call myself a proponent of putting tolls back on the
highways, but everything needs to be on the table,” Jutila said. “If we
were to use tolls, the money would have to go directly for the road
projects, not get lost in the General Fund. If people can see their
money going directly to work to address the problems, they are much
more likely to be receptive to the idea.”
Are tolls back on the table?
Funds sought to study 'volume pricing' system
By Mark Ginocchio
Published February 6 2006
The South Western Regional Planning Association is revisiting its plan
to study whether tolls should be installed on highways in lower
Executive Director Robert Wilson said SWRPA last week filed a letter
with the Federal Highway Administration, seeking money for the
study. The study would examine electronic tolls that vary fees
throughout the day based on traffic volume. In a volume pricing system,
tolls are costliest during rush hour -- an incentive to get motorists
off the road during peak travel times, Wilson said.
Revenues could be allocated to a dedicated transportation fund, he said.
SWRPA wanted to conduct a similar study in 2002, but federal officials
refused the request because the state Department of Transportation did
not support it, he said. Although the DOT remains noncommittal
about backing SWRPA's latest application, Wilson hopes there is
"Things seem to be different now and we believe (the DOT) is likely to
be more open-minded," he said. "We haven't been given any reason to
believe they wouldn't support it, so we're cautiously optimistic."
In the past two years, state leaders have been more focused on
transportation improvement and investment, Wilson said. Last year, the
legislature passed a $1.3 billion transportation initiative to add
train cars to Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line and repair
Interstates 95, 91 and 84.
In her budget address Wednesday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell is expected to
recommend building a New Haven to Hartford rail service. Tolls
however, have been taboo since they were removed from state highways
more than 20 years ago -- two years after a runaway truck with a
sleeping driver at the wheel plowed into three cars lined up at the
I-95 toll plaza in Stratford, killing four women and three children.
Besides the danger, drivers objected to long lines at toll booths.
But concern is growing in Connecticut over how the billions of dollars
needed to improve transportation will be raised.
DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said the administration looks at tolls as a
"possible revenue source" and the concept "is worth a look." But the
DOT cannot endorse SWRPA's application until agency officials review
it, he said.
"That doesn't mean we won't support it," Cooper said.
Karen Burnaska, co-chairwoman of the Coastal Corridor Transportation
Investment Area, an advisory group to the Transportation Strategy
Board, said her group will back SWRPA's application.
"It's an opportunity to reduce congestion and generate revenue,"
Burnaska said. "But we have to make it clear that just because we
conduct a study, it doesn't mean we have to (institute) tolls. That's
the point of the study -- to look at everything before we say yes or
The full TSB endorsed a toll study in its latest list of
recommendations to the governor.
Opponents said residents would expect something in return if the state
"It makes no sense unless you provided additional capacity or
alternative speed lanes," said Michael Riley, president of the Motor
Transport Association, a lobbying group for the state's trucking
industry. "There's absolutely no way people in this state will pay
tolls without getting more in return."
Now that it has filed a letter of interest, SWRPA must prepare an
application, Wilson said. The Federal Highway Administration already
allocated money for studies to 14 state agencies and only one slot
remains, stacking the odds against Connecticut, he said.
TSB mulls bringing back
By ROB VARNON firstname.lastname@example.org
May 17, 2005
Congress remains conflicted
over whether to allow tolls on existing highways, the state
Strategy Board will discuss today technology that can be used to put
on Connecticut roads.
TSB, a panel appointed by the
state's legislative leadership and former Gov. John G. Rowland, will
technologies that might be used to help control traffic while raising
The meeting will be at 8 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in
Riley, president of the Motor
Transport Association of Connecticut, pledged to be there to discuss
issue. Riley's group, along with national trucking organizations,
Congress to prevent states from tolling existing highways. The House of
Representatives recently passed a transportation bill that allows state
tolls but the Senate's version of the bill does not. That will have to
be reconciled, Riley said, so the TSB's conversation may be in vain.
current law, if a state places
tolls on an existing highway it could lose federal funds.
said truckers aren't necessarily
opposed to tolls but that they won't support them unless Connecticut
the money to expand highways.
of tolls, particularly
a TSB advisory group called the Coastal Corridor Transportation
Area from Fairfield and New Haven counties, prefer the term
because they say the goal is to charge motorists more money during peak
travel times to discourage people from using roads during those
They also support using the money from tolls to pay for train and bus
in the state.
CCTIA and the TSB have expressed
interest in using an EZ Pass-type system similar to that in
Drivers would not have to stop and pay at tollbooths under the
system. Instead, drivers would have transponders in their cars that are
tracked electronically when they use the highways. The state then bills
the person through a credit card or from bank accounts. For motorists
transponders, the state would take photos of cars' license plates and
bills to their owners.
While the TSB is meeting to
discuss innovation, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council will meet
in Stamford to discuss new trains for the Metro-North Railroad New
state is considering a $1 billion
investment in the New Haven Line, including the purchase of 342 new
The railroad recently hired a consultant to design the new cars, but
Legislature has not acted on the bill to authorize their purchase.
council will meet with Metro-North
President Peter Cannito at 7 p.m. at 1 Landmark Square,
Bill could take toll on
roads; Congress moves toward removal of financial roadblocks
April 4, 2005 CT POST:
PETER URBAN email@example.com
— Congress nudged the
door ajar for "gateway tolls" on Connecticut's borders.
Tucked into the 1,075-page transportation
bill that recently cleared the House of Representatives are provisions
that remove, under some circumstances, federal financial roadblocks
have stopped states like Connecticut from imposing new highway tolls.
is highway robbery," Michael
Riley, a lobbyist for the state's trucking industry, said of the
Gov. M. Jodi Rell has
proposed an ambitious transportation agenda that would be funded by an
increase in the gas tax — currently the only viable funding option on
table because of restrictions on tolls along federally subsidized
had not envisioned using tolls
as a revenue source because gaining federal approval would have likely
delayed the construction program.
has proposed a method of financing
this plan, and we are ready to move forward," said Dennis Schain, a
for the governor.
the House bill would authorize
a "congestion pricing pilot program" for 25 projects, and six more
programs — three for highway "reconstruction and rehabilitation"
and three for new construction projects.
Business Council of Fairfield
County (SACIA), which led the fight 20 years ago to rid Connecticut of
highway tolls following a tragic accident at the Stratford toll plaza
Interstate 95, now sees them as a possible option.
think the issue of tolling needs
to be looked at," said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy at
bill seeking such a study is before
the General Assembly's transportation committee. McGee said it should
approved so that the issue can be examined in depth.
been talking about gateway
tolls as an option but we are not endorsing them yet," he said.
gateway tolls, which would be
installed on the New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island borders,
net about $150 million a year, McGee said based on a cursory analysis.
the state jumps in, it would
also have to consider the broader impact tolls would have on traffic
January 1983, a tractor-trailer
collided with three cars at the Stratford toll plaza, killing seven
The eight toll plazas along I-95 were removed in October 1985. Four
later, tolls were abolished statewide.
said that "EZPass" technology
could be used to keep traffic moving through the automated tolls and
for variable pricing to encourage travel at off-peak hours.
20-year strategic plan
for coastal-corridor transportation recommended a "value-pricing pilot
program" on one or more of the limited-access highways in southwestern
can no longer rely largely
on federal funding for the vast majority of its transportation capital
and operating needs," the 2001 report said. "Implementing a new
strategy will require substantial financial investment in addition to
sources of support and greater flexibility in the use of current
17, 2004 Stamford ADVOCATE:
DOT pushes plan for new
By Mark Ginocchio
The state Department of Transportation is giving a plan to expand on
off ramps on Interstate 95 from Greenwich to Bridgeport top
The so-called operational lanes are being looked at to reduce
and improve safety.
The lanes would
extend the distance from one on-ramp to the next, giving motorists
more feet to merge into traffic, thereby reducing congestion, said Jim
Mora, a DOT engineer, at the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning
Organization's monthly meeting yesterday at the Norwalk Transit
project would construct operational lanes from exit 2 in Greenwich to
24 in Bridgeport, Mora said. Currently, an operational lane is in
use on the southbound side of I-95 between exits 10 and 8 in Stamford,
"We want to
give other lanes a similar type of treatment," Mora said. "We want to
one continuous lane that runs into the next exit ramp."
A DOT study
found that accidents in the Stamford operational lane were down nearly
20 percent compared with other interchanges on the highway. Expansion
these lanes could equal about 160 fewer accidents a year, Mora said.
Mora said the
operational lanes would be used as an alternative to opening the
lanes on I-95. Four years ago, former Gov. John Rowland recommended the
state study using the shoulders during rush hour. The DOT issued its
report on that study in September and said using the shoulders would be
unsafe and would only cause more accidents. In the conclusion of the
the DOT recommended looking into operational lanes.
The new study
is a DOT priority and so far, about $1.5 million has been allocated for
designing and planning, Mora said. Construction on phase one, which
span from exits 10 to 15, could be finished in 2006 and cost the state
about $10 million he added.
all help control congestion on the highway for another 15 years," Mora
said. "Right now at many on-ramps motorists have to slow down 5 to 10
per hour because space is closing. This would give people more time to
which includes work on exits 16 to 18, would be more difficult because
it would extend an on-ramp lane for almost a mile and a half, Mora
Because of the complexity of the work, the state didn't know how much
project would cost.
operational lanes in Greenwich and Stamford would be part of phases
and four, Mora said. It was unknown when that work would start and how
much it would cost.
and Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said she was pleased with
the progress made so far.
be on every agenda and my request is that someone from (the DOT) be
to give us an update every month," Farrell said. "I am delighted to
that this is on the fast track and that there are members of the DOT
to roll up their sleeves and get down to the nitty gritty."
Selectman Paul Hannah warned the state about getting residents too
about the project.
some people who told us that work on Route 7 was supposed to be done
ago, so it's a tremendous frustration when people just throw out dates
and don't follow through," Hannah said.
A 15-page report
would be prepared and reviewed in January, and the state would start
the project early next year, Mora countered. Norwalk Mayor Alex
said no matter the timeline, the MPO has to keep pushing the state to
"We have been
very supportive of this approach because primarily this is a safety
Knopp said. "We have to work on reducing the congestion."
Put I-95 on top of
'to do' list (click
here for "About Town" point of emphasis)
By Mark Ginocchio, Greenwich TIME
December 3, 2004
STAMFORD -- The state will not be
able to pursue the dramatic multibillion-dollar changes needed for
until legislators get serious about designing ways to generate more
a panel of business and transportation officials said yesterday.
95's effect on lower Fairfield
County business was the topic at a breakout session of the Connecticut
Business & Industry Association's all-day conference at the Westin
Stamford hotel. Panelists told about 30 business leaders that the
state is aware of what needs to be done to fix the congested highways
aging trains, but things will remain at a standstill until more funding
all about money, money and
money," said R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, president and chief executive
of the MetroHartford Alliance and chairman of the state Transportation
TSB has suggested ways to generate
more transportation funds by raising the state sales and gas taxes, and
instituting tolls on highways, but Griebel said not enough has been
to push those initiatives ahead.
continue to fight with where
our dollars should go," he said. "We have not been able to execute on
study. Things are actually gaining momentum in this area, but I don't
anything meaningful happening" this year. The funding issues go
the state. Arthur Gruhn, chief for
the state Department of Transportation's
Bureau of Engineering and Highways, said because of issues with federal
funds, the state will only be able to "keep the highways in good
and won't be able to improve them significantly.
basically no funding for
any of these issues we've been talking about," Gruhn said.
solutions for I-95 include widening the highway and adding more
lanes at entrance ramps such as the one between southbound exits 10 and
8 in Stamford.
the money we might get from
the federal government is the same amount we got six years ago," Gruhn
said. "And with inflation and other costs increasing, that means, in
we're getting less."
highways could scare people
away from working in lower Fairfield County, said Mark Bridges,
director of UBS Investment Bank. Bridges said UBS hopes to expand
its facility to house another 4,000 employees, but as commute times
and the Metro-North Railroad fleet keeps getting older, those numbers
not be achieved.
is starting to have an impact
on morale and productivity," Bridges said. "We have people who are here
at 7:30 in the morning and stay until 6 or 7 at night because they
want to face the rush-hour traffic." For solving the congestion,
"I haven't heard an original idea yet," Bridges added.
get funding initiatives pushed
forward, the business leaders need to be more aggressive with their
said Michael DeVine, president of DeVine Brothers Inc. in
"It's not for business leaders to analyze these solutions and not leave
things in the hands of agencies and legislators," DeVine said.
option should be on the table, but there should be an emphasis on
improvements, he added.
who opt to take their cars instead of trains should not be fiscally
he said. There also needs to be a closer look at
barge traffic to get more trucks off the road, DeVine said.
leaders in attendance reacted
strongly to the panel's pessimistic outlook on transportation
a user of the highway, I ask
you to find a way to do all these things sooner," said Randy Soloman,
account executive from Village Office Supply in Norwalk who commutes
New Rochelle, N.Y. "If you want tolls, I'll give you tolls. I don't
I just want things to get done soon."
Karp, president of Business
Environments in Stamford and a member of the Stamford Chamber of
Transportation Committee said the state is lacking a "sincere look" as
to how to fix I-95 and that all debate has been exhausted.
looking at rails won't get
us out of it," Karp said. "We need to start looking at the highways.
almost too late to do it as it is. We need to find those solutions, and
the money will come later."
Reconstructed lanes span Howard Ave.
By AARON LEO firstname.lastname@example.org
Labor Day, September 6, 2004
95 travel lanes in both
directions on the reconstructed Howard Avenue overpass heavily damaged
in a March oil tanker explosion
are to re-open after the weekend
is going to find marked
improvement after Labor Day," said Paul Breen, an assistant district
with the state Department of Transportation. "The contractor beat
the [DOT's] deadline by a week," Breen said. "They've done an admirable
job out there. They've worked a lot of hours."
said an estimate of the total
costs to repair the crippled span is being tabulated. But $13 million
federal funds helped pay for overtime for police and construction
Traffic will switch back to the rebuilt southbound lanes destroyed by
fireball and replaced by a temporary span
on Tuesday, according to the DOT.
temporary bridge was installed
six days after the crash.
the exit 26 southbound off-ramp
to Wordin Avenue will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. that day. The
on-ramp for southbound I-95 will close Tuesday and remained closed
In case of inclement weather, this switch will take effect Wednesday,
Thursday, northbound I-95 traffic
will switch to the newly constructed roadway. The northbound exit 26
to Wordin Avenue will be closed until December. The rain date for this
northbound traffic switch is Sept. 13. The ramp closures are due
to continuing reconstruction of portions of the highway, according to
repairs are expected to end early
next year with realignment of the highway's lanes in both directions,
said. Motorists are urged to obey the 45-mph speed limit in
for the highway construction zone between exits 24 and 30 on both sides
of the highway. The March 25 highway fire started when a truck
9,000 gallons of heating oil was struck by a 1987 Toyota Corolla near
exit 26 off-ramp on southbound I-95.
accident forced the tanker into
the highway's Jersey barrier and it burst into flames. The car's
driver, Sarah Waddle, 18, of Bank Street in Derby, was charged with
to drive in the established lane, and faced a $128 fine. Art
chief engineer at the DOT, has said the state will try to recoup
from Waddle's insurance company.
State Approves Funding For
I-95 Study: Panel to look into addition of a third lane
By Susan Haigh - Published on 11/03/2001
A state panel approved funding Friday
to study the feasibility of adding a third lane along Interstate 95
Branford to the Rhode Island border. While the possibility of
the thoroughfare could be years away, the action taken by the state's
Transportation Strategy Board marks the first step toward perhaps
on the project.
has yet made the decision
(that) we need to absolutely, positively build a third lane,” said John
Markowicz of Groton, the only southeastern Connecticut member of the
But if the state does not embark on any interim solutions to I-95
such as public transit, Markowicz said widening will have to be
going to have to do something
with 95,” he said. “But you really can't seriously discuss widening if
you don't know if it's feasible.” The board set aside $1.5
for the study, projected earlier this year to cost $3 million. The
comes from the pot of state surplus the General Assembly earmarked for
transportation improvement projects,
hoping to alleviate traffic on Connecticut's clogged roads. The
Department of Transportation will spend the next four to six months
consultants to perform the feasibility and environmental study. The
analysis could take 18 to 20 months, said Markowicz.
the I-95 study has consistently
appeared on a list of projects to receive the immediate funding, it
official until Friday. It is uncertain whether another southeastern
project, which calls for an “intermodal tourism service” that provides
transportation to visitors in the region, will be funded right away.
$50 million approved by the legislature will likely be pared to $35
as lawmakers look to cut programs to balance the state budget.
Friday, the board doled out only
$13.5 million of the first $15 million. Markowicz said he is
hopeful that the tourism service, once referred to as the Uni-Ticket
could receive about $100,000 to study whether such a transportation
is feasible. The project, proposed by the Southeastern Connecticut
of Governments and the South East Area Transit Authority, would expand
local and regional bus services and coordinate with rail and ferry
would be able to purchase
one ticket for all transportation needs, linking them to everything
the Mystic Seaport Museum to the casinos and local hotels. The
transportation board meets again in December. At that time, funding for
the tourism transportation system might be released, Markowicz said.
train strikes man near
27, 11:33 PM EDT
Conn. (AP) -- A man was struck and injured Friday night by an Amtrak
train just east of the Fairfield station.
The train was bound for Boston when police said a man ran out in front
of it just after 7 p.m. The man was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
His name and condition were not available.
Train service along the New Haven Line was suspended for nearly an hour
after the incident, said Dan Brucker, a spokesman for Metro-North
Railroad, which operates the New Haven commuter line on the same tracks.
Minutes To Hartford, No Gridlock
Tom Condon, Hartford Courant
April 16, 2006
My appreciation for Windsor Center goes back to the late 1970s when I
was playing in the Windsor Men's Softball League and then stopping at
the Windsor House or some other venue for important postgame
I thought the center was a comfortable, attractive, walkable place with
a nice mix of stuff. It declined a bit in the 1980s, then came back in
the 1990s after becoming one of the state's first participants in the
National Main Street Program, which helps revive older downtown
Now the center is poised to demonstrate what should be the next wave to
hit the state, and that is transit-oriented development. A historic
factory building, located right next to the railroad tracks, as so many
historic factory buildings were, is being converted into 50 market-rate
When these are finished beginning this summer, a resident will be able
to roll out of bed, walk a minute or two to the station, hop on Amtrak
and be in downtown Hartford in 11 minutes. Call me madcap, but this
might just work.
The project involves the old Spencer Arms Co., an 86,000-square-foot
factory built in three stages between 1873 and 1920. Christopher
Spencer, who got his start working for Sam Colt and the Cheney
Brothers, was yet another of Hartford's 19th-century mechanical wizards.
Spencer invented a repeating rifle that was used in the later years of
the Civil War. He took over the factory in Windsor in 1883 to
manufacture the country's first successful pump-action repeating
shotgun. Spencer Arms shut down in 1907. The factory buildings
later housed businesses ranging from Eddy Electric to the Vintage Radio
and TV Museum. By the early years of the 21st century, it was ready for
Enter the Corporation for Independent Living. The nonprofit agency is a
developer of housing for people with disabilities and, in recent years,
affordable housing. With public funds for such work increasingly
difficult to come by, the agency decided to form a for-profit
subsidiary, CIL Development of Windsor, to help support its nonprofit
The Windsor project, called First Town Square, will have 49 two-bedroom
units and one one-bedroom unit, with the high ceilings, exposed brick,
hardwood floors and other amenities found in good factory conversions.
Prices start at $189,900; most units are in the low twos and the most
expensive is $305,000, said Martin Legault, president and chief
executive officer of CIL.
The complex is between the tracks and a two-mile trail along the
Farmington River. Across the tracks is Windsor Center, with the town
hall, the library, some historic homes, and stores and restaurants,
including the Windsor Donut Shop and the Whistle Stop Cafe. In other
words, it's a good place to live.
The added attraction is the train.
The antidote to the wasteful sprawl development that is devouring many
of Connecticut's towns is to carefully increase density in existing
town centers and transit corridors. It's happened around the country;
each suburban Washington, D.C., Metro stop, for example, has become a
hub of shops, offices and condos.
Look at the benefits. People who can walk to the station are keeping
their cars in the garage (or selling one of them), saving fuel and
decreasing air pollution. If the growth is around the station, there's
less development pressure on forests and farms.
First Town Square wasn't specifically planned as transit-oriented
development - it just happened to lay out that way. But it nonetheless
offers a chance to see how it might work.
Amtrak instituted commuter fares in the Hartford area a few years ago,
though it isn't widely known. A First Town Square resident will be able
to buy a $90 monthly pass for to commute back and forth. At present
there are only three trains in the morning and four in the evening
commuting hours, which is not optimal frequency.
But if Gov. M. Jodi Rell's proposal for commuter rail on the New
Haven-Hartford-Springfield line becomes a reality, as it should, there
will be many more options.
There are a smattering of new transit-oriented projects along the
shoreline, but Connecticut isn't overtly promoting them.
We should be. Along with the commuter service, Rell could encourage
more construction near train and busway stations by tying the state's
$100 million affordable housing fund to transit-oriented development.
Windsor Center could easily absorb many more units of housing, and so
could most other town centers along the rail line. By building them
there, Connecticut would get growth without sprawl and livelier towns.
This should be the plan, no?
Shore Line East
rail service catching on, DOT reports
By Mark Ginocchio, Stamford ADVOCATE
Published February 20 2006
After discovering a sharp increase in ridership on a train line that
runs from Stamford to Old Saybrook, state Department of Transportation
officials said there may be more demand for longer-distance intrastate
Ridership on the Shore Line East commuter rail's Stamford to Old
Saybrook express increased 32 percent from 2003 to 2005, including a 19
percent hike in the past year, according to the DOT.
But what's most appealing to state officials are statistics that show
that more commuters who get on in Stamford use the train to travel
longer distances, rather than using the service as if it's another
Metro-North Railroad train to Bridgeport or New Haven.
"The one-seat ride is proving to be very attractive," said Eugene
Colonese, rail administrator for the DOT. "The fact that (commuters)
can get on and off at their home station without changing trains is
helping people migrate" to the service.
The state started the service as a trial in 2002 after the
Transportation Strategy Board recommended it. Each day, four trains
stop at Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven before making all local
Shore Line East stops from Branford to Old Saybrook.
Shore Line East riders previously would have to take a train to Union
Station in New Haven, where they could transfer to Metro-North's New
Haven Line into Fairfield County.
Initially, DOT officials observed that most riders used the special
trains only as an additional Metro-North train between Stamford and New
They would not stay aboard into Shore Line East territory.
Statistics show most riders still end their trips in New Haven. But the
number of riders starting in Stamford and traveling between Branford
and New Haven is growing strong.
Of the train's 1,000 daily riders, about 300 are going beyond New Haven
-- a 65 percent increase from 2003, Colonese said.
Ridership growth on the express trains also looked strong compared with
overall increases on Shore Line East. In a strong ridership year for
the state, there was 4.5 percent overall growth on Shore Line East.
Continued growth on the express trains is vital to reducing highway
traffic, Transportation Strategy Board member Karen Burnaska said.
"This is what we're trying to do -- help relieve congestion on 95," she
said. "We didn't want to have a train where there wasn't a market.
People are coming from all over to go to work in Stamford."
According to 2000 U.S. Census data, about 265 people commute from
Stamford to the Shore Line East region.
Despite some scares about funding -- including last year, when the
Shore Line trains and other rail and bus services recommended by the
strategy board initially were left out of the state budget -- commuters
should expect the service to grow, Colonese said.
With construction improvements on I-95 and the "Q Bridge" in New Haven,
"these trains will serve a purpose," Colonese said. "They should
continue to be successful."
Danbury rail line
doesn’t work for reverse commuters
ADVOCATE Staff Writer
Published September 5 2005
Bruce Murray said
he is willing to take a car off lower Fairfield
County's overcrowded roads by riding the train to work.
But no train is available that could get him to work on time.
"I would rather take the train every day then take an hour minimum to
drive 20 miles," said Murray, a Stratford resident who works for a
nonprofit firm in Wilton that's blocks from the town's stop on
Metro-North Railroad's Danbury branch.
"But the earliest I could get to work is 9:30 a.m.," he said. "And I
need to be there at least an hour earlier." The Danbury branch is a
single-track line that can operate trains in only one direction at a
time. Metro-North officials said they must first meet the demands of
customers headed toward lower Fairfield County and New York City in the
So until the state comes up with the funding to improve the line,
potential "reverse commuters," those headed toward Danbury, such as
Murray, have to wait until the first train heading north leaves South
Norwalk at 9:16 a.m., meaning they won't get to work until after the
standard 9-to-5 day begins, railroad spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.
"We would run more northbound service if we had the capacity to do it,"
Anders said. "But at that time in the morning, most of our trains are
only going south."
The Danbury branch carries only 44 reverse commuters each weekday,
Anders said. Overall, the branch has about 1,000 riders on a weekday.
The scheduling issue epitomizes the limitations of the Danbury branch
and major multimillion-dollar improvements are necessary, said state
Rep. Antoinetta "Toni" Boucher, R-Wilton. "I want people to start
thinking more progressively about mass transit," Boucher said.
"Improving the line provides flexibility for the whole region and for
cities like Norwalk and Stamford." State Department of Transportation
officials estimated it could take "hundreds of millions" of dollars to
increase capacity on the Danbury branch, but Boucher said it's worth it.
"We were willing to spend billions of dollars on UConn, and I think
this would have a bigger impact for the region and the economy," she
said. "It gives people a better access to jobs and with what it can do
in the long-term, it's not as expensive as people think."
The DOT is evaluating the final pieces of the first phase of a Danbury
branch study, said Carmine Trotta, assistant director of intermodal
planning for the agency. Possibilities include electrifying the tracks,
double tracking or extending the line to New Milford. At a fraction of
the cost, the DOT could add "passing lanes" at certain areas that could
add some capacity in both directions, Trotta added.
"There's all kinds of things that we can do that we still need to
whittle down," he said. "There are more than 100 options."
Challenges the DOT faces, besides financial, have to do with property
acquisitions, Trotta said. Widening of the old Route 7 between Norwalk
and New Milford is taking away land that could be used for adding more
tracks, he added.
Rail advocates hope a decision is made soon on which direction the
"If they had budgeted this five years ago instead of spending money on
studies, they could have done the job by now," said Rodney Chabot,
chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. "Service on the
Danbury branch is pathetic, but if they increased service on the line,
there would be potential for more riders and reverse commuters, too.
(The state) needs to get on with it."
Officials look into rail
upgrades for Danbury line
By Matthew Strozier, ADVOCATE Staff
October 3, 2003
-- Elected officials and
residents said last night that upgrades to Metro-North Railroad's
branch are vital to combat traffic congestion. "I've been wanting
this for years," said Republican state Rep. Antonietta "Toni" Boucher,
who represents parts of Wilton and Norwalk and attended a forum about
Danbury branch at Norwalk City Hall last night.
said the state turned its
back on the Danbury branch and, as a result, "it's a constant struggle"
for branch riders to get needed trains. A state
consultant, Washington Group International, is studying projects to
Danbury branch service. Possibilities include track changes, longer
lanes and replacing diesel engines with electric-powered trains.
The study started recently and the forum was to get public comment. The
first phase is expected to be finished in the spring.
who attended last night said
the state is right to consider infrastructure upgrades, but riders'
and demographic changes demand a closer look. "I don't believe
simply improving the travel times with existing service is going to
ridership," said Martin Overton, Norwalk's assistant director of public
works. "What will increase ridership is meeting the needs of those who
are not currently on the train."
Mayor Alex Knopp said the
Danbury branch is particularly important, given population and job
projections. The Stamford-Norwalk area expects to have job growth
while the Danbury area should get population growth, he said, which
increase demand on the Danbury branch. Washington Group's study
examine the cost of the upgrades. Engineers last night said
projects for other train lines have cost $1 million a mile or
After the cost is clear, the state will have to decide whether
ridership is worth the money.
the people we are going to get,
are we willing to make the investment?" asked Len Lapsis, a
planner for the state Department of Transportation. The Danbury
stretches from Norwalk into Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel
Danbury on a curvy route that keeps trains at a top speed of 50
Usual travel time is 47 minutes from Norwalk to Danbury.
are being considered by
the Washington Group that could cut the time by five to 15
By improving time or frequency, state officials want to attract riders
who now take Metro-North's Harlem Line trains. In a 1992 study,
example, more than 15 percent of the cars parked at the surveyed Harlem
Line stations had Connecticut license plates. The largest
of Connecticut license plates were found at stations in Dover
Harlem Valley-Wingdale, Brewster, Purdy's and Brewster North.
train service ended
on the Danbury branch in 1961 during a time of decline for passenger
service in the state and nationally. When it was electrified in 1925,
time from Danbury to South Norwalk fell from 55 minutes to 42
Facing Longer, Lonelier Rides
Published October 16 2006, 8:56 AM EDT
WASHINGTON -- More and more commuters are leaving home earlier,
traveling farther and driving alone, says an analysis of commuting
trends reported Monday.
The "Commuting in America" study by the Transportation Research Board
also found that more commuters are traveling from suburb to suburb --
rather than the traditional commute from suburb to city.
"As more employers move out of cities to be closer to skilled suburban
workers, the suburbs now account for the majority of job destinations,"
the report noted.
The board, part of the National Academies, has analyzed commuting
trends since 1986, largely using Census data.
According to the latest analysis, the number of new solo drivers grew
by almost 13 million from 1990 to 2000. The number of workers with
commutes lasting more than 60 minutes grew by almost 50 percent over
that period. And, compared with the previous decade, more Americans are
leaving for work between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.
More than 4 million people now work from home, and a growing number of
those over age 55 are doing so, the report said, a trend that is
expected to continue.
May 9, 10:46 AM EDT
Study: Traffic Jams Just
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press
(AP) -- If getting stuck
in traffic makes you want to roll down your car window and scream, look
no further than another of those studies to find the bad news: Gridlock
is getting worse. Congestion delayed travelers 79 million more hours
wasted 69 million more gallons of fuel in 2003 than in 2002, the Texas
Transportation Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Report found.
in 2003, there were 3.7 billion
hours of travel delay and 2.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel for a
cost of more than $63 billion.
areas are not adding enough
capacity, improving operations or managing demand well enough to keep
from growing," the report concluded.
became the 51st city in
which rush-hour traffic delayed the average motorist at least 20 hours
a year. The Hawaiian capital joins such congested areas as Washington,
Atlanta, Boston, Chicago - and Virginia Beach, Va., Omaha, Neb., and
Springs, Colo. The report was released Monday, the same day the
resumes debate on a bill that would spend $284 billion on highways over
the next six years.
that's not enough money to solve
traffic problems, according to highway and transit advocates.
American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials estimated it would take as much as
$400 billion in federal spending over the next six years to solve
problems, based on a 2002 study. Roads aren't being built fast
to carry all the people who now drive on them, according to the
Development Foundation, a group that advocates transportation
number of vehicle miles traveled
has increased 74 percent since 1982, but road lane mileage only
6 percent, the foundation said.
Lomax, a co-author of the Urban
Mobility Report, said the soft economy and slow job growth in 2003
that congestion got worse more slowly than it would have during better
upside of a slowdown in the
economy is the congestion didn't get worse very quickly," Lomax said.
seven of the 13 major cities,
the annual delay per rush-hour traveler actually went down slightly:
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, New York, Houston and
Lomax said that didn't mean congestion improved throughout each area.
probably just spread out to the suburbs.
most of those places, delay actually
went up, it just didn't go up as fast as the number of people moving in
went up," Lomax said. Only job loss or major commitments to
capacity will decrease congestion dramatically, he said. Refusing
to build more roads and transit systems won't discourage population
fast-growing Austin, Texas,
for example. In 1982, the average peak-hour traveler was delayed by 11
hours a year. That delay increased to 51 hours in 2003, the report said.
didn't add transportation
capacity in the '80s or '90s," Lomax said. "The 'If you don't build it,
they won't come' philosophy didn't work."
can also be reduced by
managing traffic better. The report said such techniques as
traffic signals, smoothing traffic flow on major roads and creating
to respond quickly to accidents reduced delay by 336 million hours in
Dunphy, senior resident fellow
for transportation at the Urban Land Institute, said that half of all
delays are caused by car crashes.
are huge benefits to getting
in there and clearing accidents quickly," Dunphy said.
also adapt, said Alan Pisarski,
author of "Commuting in America" and a transportation consultant.
give up and go somewhere
else," he said. "Or else they're leaving home at 6 a.m. or 9 a.m."
Commuters agree traffic
is a worsening problem
By Mark Ginocchio
Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
December 27, 2004
is a big problem -- Stamford,
Greenwich and Norwalk residents have differing opinions, but they agree
on one thing--and it's only getting worse.
all of the topics discussed in
The Advocate/Greenwich Time How's Life? Poll, nothing brought the three
communities together more than the aggravation they experience on the
public has been conditioned
to believe that congestion is the worst in Fairfield County," said Joe
McGee, vice president of public policy for the Business Council of
the truth is, the whole tri-state
area has a congestion problem," he added. According to the
which polled 167 people by telephone in each community, 68 percent said
transportation was a major problem.
it's true that traffic problems
extend beyond lower Fairfield County, perhaps many residents think
no light at the end of the tunnel. When asked whether they anticipate
getting better or worse in the next five years, 72 percent said it
get worse and 17 percent thought it would stay the same.
commutes last 10 to 15 minutes,
the survey said, but 54 percent of all respondents said they get caught
in traffic several times a week.
in Greenwich, where responses
to questions about public safety, aesthetics, education and housing
overwhelmingly positive, transportation was identified as a serious
the one bugaboo," said Tom
Ragland, Greenwich first selectman from 1995 to 1999.
far fewer Greenwich residents
cited traffic as "a crisis" than in Norwalk and Stamford. Eleven
of Greenwich respondents said traffic was a crisis compared with 27
in Norwalk and 23 percent in Stamford. The poll also showed more
Greenwich residents take public transportation and work out of their
Eighty-one percent of Norwalk residents said they drive to work
with 78 percent in Stamford and 62 percent in Greenwich.
also may explain why more than
a quarter of Norwalk residents said they get stuck in traffic every
Twenty-one percent of Greenwich respondents and 16 percent of Stamford
residents said they got stuck every day. The lack of progress in
addressing transportation problems may explain why the issue draws
negativity from all three communities, critics said.
don't need anymore studies,"
outgoing House Speaker Moira Lyons, D-Stamford, said at a recent
Strategy Board meeting "We know what work needs to be done."
there's the highways. More
than 130,000 cars a day travel on Interstate 95 between Greenwich and
-- and that number is projected to increase by 30 percent over the next
25 years. When I-95 was built more than 50 years ago, it was meant to
90,000 cars a day.
ideas have been considered
regarding how to fix the congestion. Former Gov. John Rowland
a study to see how driving in the highway's shoulder would help, but
was deemed hazardous by the state Department of Transportation. There's
also been discussion of widening the highway, but the expense and the
environmental impact has created some skeptics.
there's public transportation.
Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line carries about 75,000 passengers a
day on a 30-year-old antiquated rail fleet that's about 10 years past
life expectancy. Last winter, rail cars were breaking down faster
than they could be repaired, exposing the vulnerability of the system.
The state is trying to finance new rail cars for $1.3 billion. The plan
is expected to be debated in the upcoming session of the state General
have people here who are not
dealing with this issue effectively," McGee said. "If you deal with it
effectively, then some of these things are not impossible."
not that the DOT is not trying
to come up with solutions, said Jim Boice, interim bureau chief for the
Bureau of Public Transportation.
looking to address many of
these issues," Boice said. "And we should see some improvements."
help with I-95, the DOT is moving
ahead on adding more auxiliary lanes, which are extensions of on-ramps,
to help reduce congestion. One is now in use between exits 10 and 8 on
the southbound side of I-95, and a DOT report said accidents have been
reduced there by 30 percent.
the rails, the state recently
purchased 26 used rail cars from Virginia Railway Express for $14
Those 26 cars will be placed on the Shore Line East Railroad and Shore
Line cars will be transferred to the New Haven Line, adding 2,000 more
transit advocates say these are
only short-term solutions.
unrealistic to think there
will ever be a complete elimination of traffic," said Robert Wilson,
director of the South Western Regional Planning Agency. "We have to
working on identifying where there are deficiencies."
biggest problem seems to be funding.
All of the long-term improvements costs billions of dollars the state
have. The TSB outlined a range of options, including raising the gas
or sales tax and a more controversial plan to reinstate tolls, but
is also a divide on prioritizing
transportation improvements. While Wilson said, "the biggest need must
be utilizing the railroad," others, such as members of the Greenwich,
and Greater Norwalk Chambers of Commerce, are pushing for widening I-95
because more people use it.
to the poll, 75 percent
of all respondents drive to work while only 11 percent use public
Rail advocates defended the reasons for sending more funds to the
a relatively small percentage,
but those are the bread winners of the state," said Jim Cameron, vice
of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council. "They have the most taxable
At a TSB meeting held this month in Stamford, about 70 politicians,
and business leaders showed up to make the case for better
Mayor Alex Knopp, who also
serves on the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization,
said this kind of outcry could be a sign for the days ahead in Hartford.
this issues doesn't get resolved
soon, it may become the single biggest issue of the 2006 gubernatorial
election," he said.
September 9, 2004 Hartford Courant:
Traffic Problems Outpacing
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press
-- The nation's traffic
problems are getting worse faster than they can be fixed even in small
cities, according to a new study that calls Connecticut's traffic
comparable to those of the rest of the United States.
the 85 biggest U.S. cities, snarled
traffic is costing travelers 3.5 billion hours a year, up from 700
two decades ago, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's
Urban Mobility Report released Tuesday.
Connecticut, the traffic tie-ups
around Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven were considered of "average"
length by the study. Motorists in the Bridgeport-Stamford area
about 31 hours annually in delays, in New Haven it was about 22 hours
in the Hartford area it was 17 hours.
solution to ever-growing traffic
jams isn't likely to come soon, transit and highway advocates say...
American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials estimates it would take federal
as great as $400 billion over the next six years to solve traffic
according to a 2002 study.
just aren't keeping pace," said
John Horsley, AASHTO's executive director. "Our capacity improvements -
new highways or transit - are growing at 10 percent the rate needed."
though, is likely to approve
billions less than what highway and transit advocates say is required.
House has agreed to $299 billion
over the next six years. The Senate approved $318 billion, but Senate
say President Bush probably will approve a more recent proposal of $301
lawmakers wrangle, federal
spending remains stuck at the rate it has been for the past six years -
need action now," said William
Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association.
is only getting worse."
data from 1982 to 2002, the
Texas Transportation Institute, part of Texas A&M University,
just how much worse it is getting.
that period, the study recorded
the greatest leap in congestion in Dallas, from 13 hours annually in
for the average peak-period traveler to 61 hours annually in 2002, and
in Riverside, Calif., from nine hours annually per rush-hour traveler
1982 to 57 hours on average in 2002.
average urban commuter was stuck
in traffic 46 hours a year in 2002, a 187 percent increase over the 16
hours lost in 1982.
54 cities, traffic jams increased
30 percent faster than roads could be built to alleviate them.
Highway Administration chief
Mary Peters said part of the problem is that the main source of road
- the federal gasoline tax - was designed to create the interstate
system in the 1950s. Under that system, every state gets part of the
not necessarily applying money
where we need to relieve congestion," Peters said. "We can't say to the
Montanas and the Wyomings of the world, You're not important.'"
said new ways of paying for
roads and transit systems need to be found. The Bush administration is
promoting user fees, such as those that would charge motorists to drive
in less-congested lanes during rush hours.
proposal to solve traffic
problems in the short-term is to manage traffic flow better, Peters
Lomax, the report's author, said
Tampa, Fla., is a good example of a city that has eased traffic in ways
other than building roads. Like many cities, it has coordinated its
signals, smoothed traffic flow on major roads and created teams to
quickly to accidents. Such programs have reduced traffic delays in
by 7 percent.
report is based on data from
the states and the Transportation Department.
Regional agency rethinks
way to tackle road woes
By Tobin A.
Coleman, Staff Writer (ADVOCATE, Monday, November 10, 2003)
In a bid to
better coordinate transportation and land-use planning, lower Fairfield
County's regional planning agency is considering replacing its
board with eight mayors and first selectmen. Proponents say the
could save communities money and help rein in suburban sprawl that
highways and threatens quality of life.
Selectman Diane Farrell last week made a presentation to the South
Regional Planning Agency, explaining what she believes are the positive
aspects of consolidating the agency with another and having the chief
officials run the
It could be organized as a council of governments or elected officials.
The idea has
been discussed for several months. Farrell said her presentation
was meant to "get the ball rolling." The topic will come up again at
end of this month at a meeting of the Southwestern Region Metropolitan
Planning Organization, the other
said Farrell, chairwoman of that group. A decision is several
away, she said. Most municipalities would have to pass ordinances to
the change possible.
covers eight towns in lower Fairfield County, is one of 15 regional
organizations in Connecticut that draws up plans of conservation and
and can be consulted on local land-use applications. Of the 15, five
organized as agencies such as SWRPA. The others are councils of
or elected officials, the two other forms of regional planning
permitted by state law.
The state also
has 15 Metropolitan Planning Organizations that work with the regional
planning groups. The MPOs comprise the top elected official in each
work as separate bodies and act only on transportation issues.
is spearheading the effort to merge the MPO and SWRPA, replacing the
SWRPA board with the top elected officials that comprise the MPO.
The southwestern MPO covers the same eight towns as SWRPA -- Greenwich,
Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Weston and Wilton.
If the groups
consolidate, one agency would decide transportation and land-use
issues. One advantage is that chief elected officials who act as a
carry more clout at the state Capitol, using other councils as an
"We already face adversity because we're outside of the Hartford
and we really need every best advantage to make sure we have a presence
in Hartford," Farrell said.
in lower Fairfield County must coordinate land-use planning to tackle
common problems as traffic congestion and lack of affordable housing,
said. The plan has opponents, including outgoing New Canaan First
Selectman Richard Bond, who has said it flies in the face of the
Yankee" tradition of home rule.
at a SWRPA meeting last week raised concerns, including whether local
might have goals that don't make the sense for the region. For example,
Farrell said, local officials like to see grand list growth, especially
in the commercial sector, to increase property tax revenues.
might compromise by putting a big-box retail store in an area that
can't support it," she said, but said such decisions could be checked
other elected officials.
Director Robert Wilson said some decisions likely would take a
bent, but with little negative impact. "I don't think there's any
doubt that politics could ultimately play some role in these
Wilson said. "But that's just the fact of life with elected
I don't think it's something they can be faulted for. There still would
be eight members making those decisions."
top elected officials work together on land-use planning could
the region's master plan of conservation and development, Wilson
"You can't look at transportation and land use separately," he said.
a unified policy board looking at land use and transportation would
be a benefit. It would also to a large degree be more efficient."
Connecticut Council of Governments, which covers 20 municipalities
Groton and New London, changed from a regional planning group such as
to a council of governments about 10 years ago. Executive
James Butler worked as a staff planner in the predecessor organization
and returned several years ago as director of the new council. He said
the change has increased the group's effectiveness.
"It has broadened
the scope of what we're looking at," Butler said. "We're no longer just
dealing with local land-use issues. Now, we have the chief elected
coming together, and they look at a whole lot more than just preparing
and adopting a plan of development." For example, the
Council of Governments is considering a joint purchasing plan, offering
professional training for municipalities and forming a citizen's
to train people to respond to emergencies and terrorist attacks, Butler
Blue Ribbon Commission on Property Tax Burdens and Smart Growth
released a report last month encouraging the regional planning agencies
to move to the council of government model.
State ends surcharge for
cab rides at Stamford train station
By Tobin A.
Coleman, Stamford ADVOCATE Staff Writer
The state Department of Transportation yesterday ended the $2 surcharge
on cab rides at the Stamford train station and set an Aug. 30 public
to help come up with a new way to pay for organizing taxis.
The DOT began
the surcharge in March to pay for a "starter" to direct cabs and riders
at the train station. But riders complained the charge was too
and cabbies said they lost tips because of it. Officials said the
created too many problems and made little sense, considering the DOT's
mission to encourage mass transit.
The state will
lose about $150,000 maintaining the system this fiscal year, a DOT
Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued an order to end the surcharge, but starters
to collect it this week, angering commuters. Stamford Mayor Dannel
state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, and Speaker of the House Moira
Lyons, D-Stamford, said they received complaints.
Malloy sent an intern to the train station to verify that the fee was
collected. The DOT did not tell him anything about when it would be
Rell said yesterday
she thought her July 26 order ended the surcharge. She also gave the
15 days to come up with a new system.
It was not
clear yesterday why the $2 fee was being charged.
But late yesterday
afternoon, DOT Commissioner Stephen Korta announced that it would end
night and will not be re-instated until further notice.
The Aug. 30
hearing will give taxi riders a chance to offer suggestions for a new
"We want to
make sure the new system is supported by our commuters as well as the
operators," he said.
she doesn't think there will be a replacement system because the
won't put up with it. The DOT has not demonstrated that it needs to pay
for a starter to coordinate cabs and customers plus an off-duty
police officer to direct traffic. The surcharge pays for both.
"Do we need
a starter? Of course we do, but I don't know why we have to have a
officer," Lyons said. "If there's a problem, fine, then you can bring
enforcement. But I don't think we have a problem."
The state Transportation
Fund should pay for the starter because DOT and state Transportation
Board policies are to boost mass transit, she said.
of encouraging people to take the train," Lyons said.
She spoke with
DOT Public Transportation Bureau Chief Harry Harris on Wednesday to
complaints of commuters who thought the surcharge was supposed to end
Rell's order, Lyons said.
Chris Cooper said the surcharge is ending within the 15-day window Rell
allowed for a new system to begin.
Railroad riders said they will show up at the hearing with plenty to
Passero, said he usually avoided the taxi surcharge.
"I walk down
to Washington Boulevard and flag one down," Passero said. "I refuse to
pay. But what about those day laborers who come to clean someone's
For them, $2 is a lot of money...For those who don't have a choice,
He will bring
a sign to the hearing that reads "The public wants this to end,"
will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 30, in the first-floor conference
of the University of Connecticut Stamford campus at Washington
and Broad Street.
time for the state to act, said McDonald, who months ago lobbied to
was inherently flawed and hopelessly confused from the outset, and it's
just regrettable that it took the state so long to acknowledge that
and discontinue its use," he said.
Rail cars added to fleet
By Mark Ginocchio, Greenwich TIME
October 7, 2004
NEW HAVEN -- Despite growing up
in Virginia, Gov. M. Jodi Rell says the new rail cars coming to
this month are not meant to promote her home state.
sorry they say Virginia on the
front," she said. "But the fact is, they're in Connecticut now."
Union Station in New Haven yesterday,
the state unveiled three of the 26 used rail cars purchased last month
from Virginia Railway Express. Those cars allow the state to meet its
of adding 2,000 more seats to its rail systems.
After taking a guided tour, Rell
had glowing praise for the new $14 million acquisition.
look great," she said while
passing by the rows of red and blue seats. "These things are in tip-top
most noticeable difference is
the "Virginia Railway Express" logo tattooed along the top and sides of
cars. Inside the train car, the seats are brighter, the floors are
and the overall conditions appear newer than what Connecticut commuters
are used to with Metro-North Railroad.
Metro-North will not benefit
directly from these cars. After being reconfigured to run on the
rail systems, the cars will be placed on Shore Line East Railroad, and
26 Shore Line cars will be switched to Metro-North. The cars from
are 12 years old; the Shore Line cars are a decade old. Because
Virginia rail cars are diesel engines, they are not compatible with
state Department of Transportation
initially wanted to refurbish all the Virginia cars and remove the
but when the governor found out that process could last until February,
she demanded the cars be ready to go by the end of this month --
logos and all.
couldn't wait for next year,"
Rell said. "I told them they had to move it up."
Commissioner Stephen Korta said
the cars were only going to be delayed for the refurbishing, and they
be safe to use once they are put into use. About 15 cars should
ready by the end of the month and the other nine will be here by the
of the year, said DOT spokesman Chris Cooper. The cars are being stored
at the New Haven rail yard for routine maintenance.
advocates and legislators praised
the governor for aggressively pursuing the Virginia cars, but wanted to
remind commuters the new acquisition is not going to solve all of
encouraging that the governor
is fulfilling her promise . . . but at the same time my level of joy is
tempered," said state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford. "We're still
inherit old cars from the Shore Line East and I hope what we inherit
as decrepit as what we already got."
winter, almost one-third of
the Metro-North fleet was knocked out of commission because of the cold
weather. Many of the cars are 30 years old -- 10 years past their life
expectancy. McDonald said he hopes Rell makes the proposed $1
long-term plan to buy new rail cars for Metro-North her top priority
the legislature meets in January.
will now have a place to
sit because of these cars, but they need to understand that this is
more than a stop-gap," McDonald said.
Cameron, vice chairman of the
Connecticut Commuter Rail Council said commuters should expect a repeat
of last winter if the weather gets bad. "I'm just warning
Cameron said. Until the state gets new cars, "it's no one's faults but
the legislators. Not Metro-North. Not DOT. But (Rell) can turn that
Poll proposed to take
pulse on transit issues
By Mark Ginocchio, Stamford ADVOCATE
September 27, 2004
HARTFORD -- State residents soon
could be participating in a new kind of poll asking how willing they
to pay for transportation improvements.
Instead of conducting a phone survey
or asking residents to fill out a questionnaire, officials at last
Transportation Strategy Board meeting proposed a "deliberate poll."
would ask randomly selected residents
to spend a day learning about revenue-generating methods such as a
gas tax or additional tolls on state highways. At the end of the
session, which could take place in the spring, residents would be
up into groups and their feedback recorded. The results would be used
the board's funding recommendations to the state Department of
a poll has never been used for
policy making but should be reliable, said board Chairman R. Nelson
Griebel. "It gets right down to the level of time and substance,"
Griebel said. "It will get the opposition to understand the problem and
help them propose a solution."
board is shying away from a traditional
poll because the issues are too complicated for "yes" and "no"
Griebel said. The goal is to get residents to understand that if they
better roads and mass transit systems, there has to be a trade-off.
polling process does not allow
you to get into what a 'yes' means and what a 'no' means," he said.
can hear the word 'tolls' and think, 'Over my dead body" . . . but this
will make them think about it."
studies show a significant shift
in how people think about the issues after they meet, said board member
Michael Meotti, president of the Connecticut Policy and Economic
Critics questioned whether public opinion is being manipulated.
the survey shifts people's opinions and makes them more moderate, I'm
skeptical how you can take that information to the Legislature," said
member George Giguere, president of Giguere Associates.
was debate about the selection
of participants. Meotti said as many as 400 participants could be paid
a small stipend, but one board member questioned whether that would
an unbiased response. "It's not a random sample because you're
people who are willing to sell their Saturday," said board member Carl
Stephani, executive director of the Central Connecticut Regional
Agency. Stephani wanted to know what the survey would cost.
said the state would have to hire a consultant to conduct the poll.
this costs more than a standard
survey, I will not support this motion," Stephani said.
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford,
did not attend the meeting but said he is skeptical.
hope the survey is done in a way
that is sensitive to the geographic disparities that exist in our
problems," McDonald said. "Hartford and New Haven pale in comparison to
the kind of problems we have."
state officials may "find out
what's palatable to citizens," they still haven't "defined what they
to achieve," he said.
their next meeting in October,
board members will discuss how much they would be willing to spend on
study and which firms to contact, Griebel said. If the plan is
they could start planning the survey by the end of the year.
sucking wind for $$ to run commuter trains...
Feds bail out city waterline
Whidbey Island WA News-Times
December 11, 2004
By Jessie Stensland
Rep. Rick Larsen wrangled $200,000
into the federal spending bill to help Oak Harbor fund a project to
a pair of waterlines near Deception Pass. Mary Owens, assistant
Mayor Patty Cohen, said the mayor keeps in close contact with state and
national legislators, and discussed the waterline project with Larsen.
city is very appreciative of
the funding received through Rep. Rick Larsen’s office,” Cohen said.
will have a direct benefit for Oak Harbor citizens and the Navy.
funding assistance on this highway safety project, the city would have
to rely on bonding for the cost difference and passing those costs onto
the rate payers.”
Oak Harbor engineer Eric Johnston
said the city must come up with a lot of money on its own to fund the
$1.2 million project. Luckily, the state Public Works Board has
that Oak Harbor receive an $850,000 loan at a interest rate of 0.5
over 20 years...
Could tolls be resurrected
on Interstate 95? Group suggests higher rates for rush-hour trips
Dec. 1, 2004 CT POST
By ROB VARNON email@example.com
years ago former Gov. John G.
Rowland killed all discussion of resurrecting tolls on Interstate 95,
now a state transportation advisory board wants to study the viability
of just such a plan.
Coastal Corridor Transportation
Investment Area, an advisory board made up of Fairfield and New Haven
representatives, endorsed a study of how tolls on I-95 would affect
toll idea isn't just a revenue-raising
venture, according to Franklin Bloomer, the CCTIA co-chairman. The
envisioned would include an adjustable rate for traveling I-95
on the time of day. The idea, Bloomer said, is to raise the cost of
during rush hour.
is called value- or congestion-pricing
and is designed to encourage people to stay off the roads unless it's
necessary, he said. "When you have a scarce commodity, you price it
he said. Bloomer said the TIA's goal is to get people to take the
idea seriously more than two years after it was first suggested.
then, the South Western Regional
Planning Agency suggested a multi-year study of tolls under a new
program aimed at reducing congestion. But Rowland and the state
of Transportation would not sign a letter of support for the project,
killed it, Bloomer said. At the time, the study was expected to
about $300,000, with the state paying $50,000 and the federal
paying for the remainder.
said because Rowland resigned
and there has been a shakeup at the DOT, the CCTIA felt it was time to
move forward with the study. The CCTIA is one of five advisory
to the Transportation Strategy Board, which is charged with directing
policies for Connecticut.
Leigh, assistant director
of SWRPA, said the original study would have gauged public support for
the proposal, explored what kind of technology could be used, how to
the system and how long it would take before the system paid for itself.
of tolls have said that
the state could set up a purely electronic system that would not
people to stop at tollbooths and pay with cash. These systems use a
in the car to communicate with equipment at tolling stations. Most of
types of systems require people to have a credit card that is billed
they travel through tollbooths, but not everyone has a credit card,
could present a problem. Another problem is how to charge out-of-state
travelers who are just passing through and don't have the Connecticut
said there are a number of
new technologies that might allow people without credit cards to
bills via mail. She also said the system would have to be compatible
surrounding states' systems to allow for easy travel in the
Leigh, however, said a lot has changed since 2002. She said Congress
has not passed a new six-year transportation authorization act, which
could create funding for the study.
also are questions about how
congestion pricing will be overseen at the federal level, she
Ultimately, even if the state embarks on a study, the review process
take at least two years and Bloomer admits that it would probably be
more years before tolls could be on the highways.
26, 2004 Stamford ADVOCATE:
Transit group wants funds
for toll study
By Mark Ginocchio
Corridor Transportation Investment Area, a sub-group of the
Strategy Board, is looking for state funding to study ways to create a
statewide tolling system to help subsidize transportation initiatives.
which is similar to a project endorsed by the South Western Regional
Agency two years ago but rejected by former Gov. John Rowland, would
the feasibility of different types of tolls from the New York state
to the interchange of Interstates 95 and 91 in New Haven.
toll system would charge trucks and passenger vehicles increased rates
during peak hours; another option is "gateway tolls," which would
motorists entering the state in Greenwich and at the 95/91 interchange.
would use an EZ Pass-type automated system that won't affect traffic
TIA members said.
go directly into a state transportation fund and be used to purchase
rail cars and for highway improvements.
would not endorse any specific kind of tolls, but said they hoped the
would provide funding to study possible solutions.
"This is an
option that has always needed to be considered," TIA co-chairman
Bloomer said. "Governor Rowland refused to allow DOT to fund this a few
years ago but our feeling is now, at this time, without his opposition,
the state would be more open to different solutions."
The study could
cost as much as $250,000, Bloomer said. Instating tolls to raise money
for a transportation fund has long been championed by the
Strategy Board, which has also suggested raising the state's gas and
tax to generate more revenue.
The TIA will
pitch its resolution to the full Transportation Strategy Board when the
board meets next month.
to raising more funds, tolls also could deter motorists from cramming
state's over-congested roads, Bloomer said. The state also could pursue
lowering fares on Metro-North Railroad during peak hours to offset
to serve as an added incentive for commuters to use mass transit, he
"That way there
will be a real economic difference of one over another," Bloomer said.
are divided as to what kind of tolls should be used. While Bloomer said
gateway tolls are probably not an option, Joseph McGee, vice president
of The Business Council of Fairfield County, supports them.
a gateway toll that would charge about $2 for cars and $4 for trucks.
the latest technology, there shouldn't be backups at toll plazas, he
noting that states such as New Jersey and Delaware have used this
is only getting worse and it's turning into a national embarrassment,"
He also said
The Business Council's support of this initiative proves how critical
traffic problem is: The council was one of the main opponents of tolls
20 years ago.
said a toll study may not useful because the funding needed for new
cars has to be found immediately.
will be introducing her budget in the next two months and the
said there's going to be a prepared funding mechanism in place" for new
rail cars, state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said. "With that in
mind, I'm not sure what's the relative worth of studying how to
revenue this way."
William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, said the study is a "distraction," and
bonds should be issued to get the rail cars on the tracks as quickly as
admitted that because a tolling system would probably not go into
until a few years from now, the money collected wouldn't necessarily go
to the next generation of rail cars.
But TIA Co-chairwoman
Karen Burnaska said the tolls could still be a vital part of the
ideas are only looking in the short-term and it's critical that we keep
thinking about the long-term transportation plans in this state," she
"This is all part of a 20-year plan for the transportation in this
We need to keep that in mind."
Rell OKs DOT contracts reform:
to centralize awarding process
By ROB VARNON, CT POST, Nov. 30,
M. Jodi Rell has approved the
changes the beleaguered Department of Transportation is offering as it
attempts to clean up its contracting process.
told the Connecticut Post Monday
that the DOT will phase in a slew of changes that will centralize the
of contracts for department work to create safeguards against fraud and
procedures will include:
Establishing a committee to review
and approve the specifications used for commodities and contractual
Developing a manual of uniform contract
and bidding processes for all divisions and provide training to staff
oversee these processes;
And creating an internal audit process
for contract awards and bids among several other procedures.
"This plan lays out uniform steps
for every contract, so red flags ought to go up whenever an
is noted, Rell said. The governor said that she also wants to
that projects will not be slowed down and "every dollar is spent
and for its intended purpose.
General Richard Blumenthal
said on Friday that he had reviewed the DOT's changes and agreed that
made sense and would help create a better system. A rail advocacy
group heralded the changes.
Cameron, vice chairman of the
Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said because DOT projects are so
"anything [the state government] can do to prevent waste is a great
Cameron said he is hopeful that the new system won't slow projects,
plans to buy new railcars.
has publicly committed to trying
to purchase $1 billion worth of railcars to replace the state's aging,
breakdown-prone fleet. But after a decade of putting off the
in favor of other transportation projects, the state may now find it
to come up with the money because it's swamped in debt, according to
Office of Policy and Management.
genesis for these changes at
the DOT actually comes from its commissioner.
Korta II took over as DOT
commissioner in April and his investigation of procedures uncovered
problems. He referred them to Rell while starting to draw up plans to
the DOT's operations, according to the DOT and Rell's office.
ordered the state Auditors of Public Accounts to investigate the DOT
has also recommended that the U.S. District Attorney and the State's
Attorney investigate the department.
an October report, the auditors
uncovered several cases of contracts being awarded without bids and
the DOT's oversight of parking revenues at the Bridgeport and Stamford
train stations. In November, the DOT's highway office was also
by allegations of unfair bidding practices and possible corruption.
into the incidents
Transportation chief suspended
Stamford ADVOCATE, October 23, 2004
By Mark Ginocchio
-- Four longtime state Department
of Transportation supervisors, including a bureau chief, were placed on
paid administrative leave after an audit found serious irregularities
the handling of state contracts, bank accounts, invoices and bidding
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said yesterday.
addition, state officials said
they asked the U.S. attorney's office last month to conduct a full
of activities in the Bureau of Public Transportation, which oversees
and bus operation, because it receives state and federal funding.
Harris, bureau chief; Raymond
Cox, public transit assistant administrator; Carl Rosa, director of
operations and revenue; and Robert Sereno, supervising rail officer,
face disciplinary actions.
have the right to appeal their
suspensions, Rell said.
of the audit indicate a
pattern of deception and repeated circumvention of the state's
procedures," she said at a news conference in Hartford. "These actions
did not occur on my watch, but I will tell you, they will not continue
on my watch," she added.
of the four men could be reached
for comment last night. Auditors identified 10 matters of concern from
2000 to this year, including falsified invoices and an unexplained drop
in parking revenues at the Stamford train station from October 2002 to
bureau used Bridgeport company
Unicco Services Co. on an emergency basis to act as a property manager
at the Bridgeport Transportation Center and later at the Stamford
company was later used to manage
capital projects at those facilities and at New Haven's Union Station,
even though it did not have the expertise in managing capital projects,
the audit said.
audit uncovered falsified invoices
for work charged at the Stamford station that was done at the New Haven
station, where Harris' office is located. During the period when
revenues dropped at the station, there was also a significant increase
in "no charge" tickets.
state took over control of the
Stamford station from the city in 2000 and made $79 million worth of
and security upgrades that were finished earlier this year. The state
expanded the station's parking garage to 2,000 spaces to eliminate
lists. That project was finished in February.
review of 13 projects administered
by Unicco, each exceeding $100,000, found a documented bid process was
evident in only two instances. For capital projects related to office
at the New Haven station, the property manager did not advertise for
the audit said.
officials said in a statement
last night they had cooperated with the Bureau of Public
audit, including voluntarily providing officials with information. But
because the state and the U.S. attorney are investigating, they would
audit also revealed that the
bureau did not set lease rates according to the established guidelines.
The bureau leases certain DOT-owned properties, such as retail space
its facilities. According to the audit, 19 of 23 leases did not have
support to justify the lease amounts that were determined.
bureau has an annual operating
budget of about $120 million and a $100 million capital budget.
the investigation is ongoing,
DOT Commissioner Stephen Korta would not say if any of the four
had financially gained anything during the period examined.
was revealed earlier this year
that a company given $546,000 last year to renovate the New Haven
installed a $20,000 bathroom in Harris' Fairfield home. Harris has said
he fully paid for the work.
is the longest tenured employee,
starting in 1966.
Boice, bureau chief of policy
and planning at the DOT, has been named interim bureau chief for public
transportation, Korta said.
legislators praised Rell yesterday
for her actions and said they support her as the investigation
think this is a critical interim
step, pending the conclusion of these administrative inquiries," state
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said in a phone interview yesterday.
said he was particularly
stung by the allegations that revenues were missing from the Stamford
garage, especially because the state initially refused to shoulder
of a taxi starter system at the train station.
were consistently told that a
taxi starter system would be a financial drain on the state. . . .
the money was allegedly being sent backdoored for unauthorized
Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich,
said he was concerned that the allegations would further damage
confidence in the railroad.
particularly ironic that the
faked invoices, bid rigging and missing funds all seem to involve rail
parking, which is precisely the area which needs expansion," Nickerson
said. "Their confidence is shaken, but I'm sure their confidence will
a member of the Legislature's
Transportation Committee, said the audit shows the committee needs to
its oversight of the Department of Transportation and impose its
"rather than have the DOT dole out its policy to the committee."
Bruhl, president and
chief executive officer of SACIA, The Business Council of Southwestern
Connecticut, applauded the governor's actions. But Bruhl, a longtime
of Harris -- who was a SACIA member for 20 years before joining the DOT
in 1995 -- remained supportive of his former colleague.
is a good man and has a reputation
for his generosity," Bruhl said. "This is a troubling and sad day. If
errors were made, they were errors of judgment and not for personal
a Republican, called for the
audit of the DOT this summer just after she took over from Gov. John G.
Rowland, who resigned July 1 amid a legislative impeachment inquiry and
a federal corruption investigation into his administration. Rell said
was troubled by the findings of an internal review conducted by Korta
came after allegations of misconduct involving DOT employees.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
has been requested to conduct a civil investigation court action if
goes for other ideas, such as alternative energy for Weston's
"superblock" municipal center!
A Fast Train Wins the Mayor’s Support
By David W. Dunlap
30, 2008, 5:29 pm
Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg said Friday that he strongly supported the idea of two-hour
train service between New York and Washington contained in a bill
cosponsored by Rep. John L. Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on
the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The mayor
made his statement after meeting with Mr. Mica.
The legislation would require the secretary of transportation to
solicit proposals for the financing, design, construction and operation
of a high-speed rail system between the two cities, with the goal of
“achieving less than two-hour express service.” The proposal was
described in The New York Sun today. Amtrak’s Acela express trains
currently make the trip in 2 hours 45 minutes.
“Soliciting and considering proposals is an important and necessary
first step toward determining the feasibility of this initiative,” Mr.
“No idea should be ignored or dismissed simply because it is
ambitious,” the mayor continued. “That is not how America’s greatest
infrastructure marvels — from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Grand Coulee
Dam — got built.”
Offering A New Kind Of Luxury Rail Travel
By SARAH KARUSH | Associated Press
July 15, 2007
WASHINGTON - Mahogany interiors, five-course meals and personal butler
service will be available on several Amtrak routes starting this fall,
as the national passenger railroad embarks on a new partnership with
GrandLuxe Rail Journeys.
The companies have teamed up to attach seven special GrandLuxe cars to
regularly scheduled Amtrak trains. More than 90 departures are
scheduled from November to early January.
The new service, dubbed GrandLuxe Limited, will be available between
Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area; Chicago and Los Angeles; and
Washington and Miami. Limited trips are also scheduled between
Washington and Chicago; from Denver to San Francisco; from Denver to
Chicago; and from Chicago to Albuquerque.
For Amtrak, the partnership will be a moneymaker, company spokesman
Cliff Black said. He declined to say how much privately held GrandLuxe
is paying the government-owned corporation.
The project marks the first time Amtrak is providing regularly
scheduled private rail services.
The arrangement allows Evergreen, Colo.-based GrandLuxe, formerly known
as American Orient Express, to bring its brand of luxury to a wider
group of potential customers.
Tickets for the two- and three-day GrandLuxe Limited trips will range
from $789 to $2,499. In contrast, GrandLuxe's regular tours take seven
to 10 days and range from about $4,000 to $8,000 per person.
For its longer trips, GrandLuxe operates one 21-car train that consists
of old passenger cars from the 1940s and 1950s - a time when train
travel had not yet been overshadowed by the interstate highway system
and commercial aviation. For the Amtrak partnership, GrandLuxe will
split its train in three. Each segment will have a dining car and a
lounge car and have room for 47 passengers, Messa said. It will operate
completely separately from the Amtrak portion of the train.
The companies said they could continue and expand the partnership if it
GrandLuxe trains tend to appeal to older travelers, and Messa said she
expected the new Amtrak routes to do the same.
Tom Weakley, 64, has ridden GrandLuxe trains 16 times since retiring
from a job in the drug wholesaling industry. He said he relishes being
pampered on board the train. A butler brings coffee in the morning. In
the afternoon, there are cocktails in the lounge car.
The lounge cars themselves vary: One features a baby grand piano;
another, used for particularly scenic routes, is surrounded by glass.
Dinners are long and unhurried - an opportunity to make friends with
fellow passengers, said Weakley, of Indianapolis.
"Did I mention the complimentary wine?" he added. "And they don't limit
you to one glass."
If you go: Make reservations through GrandLuxe at 800-320-4206 or
through Amtrak Vacations, 800-USA-RAIL. A $500 deposit is required
within seven days of reservation. Websites: Grandluxe Rail Journeys:
http://www.grandluxerail.com; Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com.
CT CUL DE SAC 2012: PLANNING TO BE A BACKWATER STOP ON THE
ECONOMY'S HIGH SPEED TRAIN (R)
Name given to "brand" our tourism product, "Still
revolution? FYI - CT
Motto: "Qui Transtulit Sustinet
-- 'He Who Transplanted Still Sustains'"
High-Speed Trains Could Come
By 2030 — And Keep Going
Long-Term Amtrak Plan Would Bypass Shoreline Cities
The Hartford Courant
By DON STACOM, firstname.lastname@example.org
7:13 PM EDT, August 19, 2012
Amtrak's long-term proposal to build a staggeringly expensive rail line
along an entirely new route diagonally across Connecticut has caught
the attention of top state officials. And not in a good
way. Amtrak's 30-year "NextGen High-Speed Rail Alignment" would
send Boston-to-Washington express trains hurtling at 220 mph through
Connecticut without stopping anywhere in the state.
Its second-tier express service would offer just three Connecticut
stops: Hartford, Waterbury and Danbury.
In response, state leaders are trying to push back without alienating
the federal officials who control the money that Connecticut needs to
maintain its existing rail lines. When Amtrak first put forward
the idea two years ago, some Connecticut legislators quietly wrote it
off as pie-in-the-sky federal fantasy. After all, it would require
plowing new twin rail lines through the densely developed region from
Danbury to Waterbury, then parallel to the I-84 corridor into Hartford
before shooting eastward to Providence.
But staffers and consultants from the Federal Railway Administration
and the federal transportation department are traveling the Northeast
this month to show off updated plans in every major market from
Washington to Boston. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave the tour enough
credibility to take time out from his schedule on primary night to
catch the Connecticut stop.
"Here in Connecticut, access to rail has been critical and essential to
our growth," Malloy said, urging the railway administration and Amtrak
to pump money into the existing infrastructure.
Overall, Amtrak estimates it would spend $115 billion to dramatically
reduce the travel times between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and
Washington, D.C. By 2040, the railroad says, the New York to
Philadelphia trip would be down to under 40 minutes. Boston to New
York, currently a 214-minute journey, could be done by 220 mph trains
in 94 minutes, Amtrak says. Amtrak would leave in place the
457-mile Northeast Corridor route, which in Connecticut runs mostly
along the shoreline and shares the same railbed with Metro-North's
commuter rail system.
State. Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, told the railway administration
last week that the first priority should be improving the signals,
catenaries (overhead lines) and tracks of the New Haven line.
High-speed rail might boost the region's economy dramatically sometime
in the future, but Metro-North's 39 million passenger trips a year are
doing that already, she said.
"There is nothing speculative about Metro-North. The reasoning is not
'build it, and they will come.' Instead, it's 'get on with it already,
because they are here — and if you don't, they just might not stay.' "
Amtrak's long-term plans include some improvements for the shoreline
route and possibly for the New Haven to Springfield line, but they're
dwarfed by the prospect of blazing a new route from Boston to D.C.
Amtrak envisions bullet trains making just four stops: Boston, New
York, Philadelphia and Washington. More traditional express trains on
the new route would speed through suburbs, old mill towns, rural
villages, forests and the center of Greater Hartford, with stops only
in Danbury, Waterbury and Hartford.
Amtrak is accepting public comment about its plan. Details of the
proposal are here: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/453/325/Amtrak-Vision-for-the-Northeast-Corridor.pdf
president reshuffles senior management
By SARAH KARUSH, Associated Press Writer
Posted on Dec 18, 5:47 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amtrak's new president on Monday announced broad
changes to the company's senior management and said his new team would
be better able to reform the much-criticized passenger railroad.
Alexander Kummant, who took over at Amtrak in September, announced the
departure of four top officials, including the chief financial officer,
and the transfer of a fifth to a temporary position. As part of the
broad reorganization, three more departments will report directly to
him, Kummant said.
"Ridership and revenue continue to grow and we've made a lot progress
in the past few years - from rebuilding the railroad to paying down the
debt - but we still face tremendous challenges ahead," Kummant said in
a message to employees outlining the changes.
"One of my chief responsibilities as president of the company is to
build the team that can tackle the challenges and I believe these
changes will accomplish that," he wrote.
Amtrak has $3.6 billion in debt and is heavily dependent on government
subsidies. Its operating loss for 2005 topped $550 million. Last
year, the congressional Government Accountability Office said Amtrak
wasn't doing a good enough job monitoring performance and
spending. The company, which runs trains in 46 states, also has
suffered some high-profile technical problems. In April 2005, it had to
suspend all high-speed Acela service after discovering cracks in some
brakes. And this spring, three power outages disrupted trains along the
Northeast Corridor. A report on the cause of the outages is expected to
be released soon.
Among the changes announced Monday:
-Eleanor Acheson, a former assistant attorney general in the Clinton
administration, will take over the company's law department. She
replaces Alicia Serfaty, who will serve as counsel to Kummant during
the transition period. The change comes less than two months after the
Transportation Department's inspector general found that Amtrak cost
taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses by
failing to properly manage work done by outside law firms.
-Chief Financial Officer David Smith is temporarily replaced by Dale
Stein, previously Amtrak's treasurer, until a permanent CFO is named.
-Management consultant Roy Johanson has been named vice president of
planning and analysis. Paul Nissenbaum, who previously occupied the
post, will work with him over the next several months before taking on
a new executive role, Kummant said.
-James McDonnell, a counterterrorism expert who has worked at the
Department of Energy and at the White House, will serve as chief risk
officer, replacing Al Broadbent.
-The heads of marketing and communications departments have been fired
and their offices incorporated into other departments.
-The chief of a new marketing and product management department, as
well as the heads of the security and technology departments, now
report directly to Kummant.
News of the shake-up was greeted positively by both supporters and
critics of Amtrak.
"I'm pleased that Amtrak is making some changes in personnel that may
be long overdue," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who has long advocated
for reform of the railroad.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and a strong defender of
Amtrak, said through a spokesman: "We hope this dramatic restructuring
ushers in a team of managers determined to improve service for all
Another Amtrak supporter, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said it was
reasonable for a new leader to bring in a new team. If the changes will
help Kummant fix Amtrak, then they are for the best, he said.
"The more progress Amtrak can show, the more likely it is that even
Amtrak's opponents will at least be quieted with regards to reducing
spending on the corporation," he said.
a single agenda, it will be as hard to make a better working New London
transportation center as it is to get to the ferries and trains from
the Water Street Parking Garage.
Published on 12/17/2006
Any future planning for a regional transportation center in New London
begins with the advantage that there's already one there. Nearly 2
million travelers every year use transportation services clustered
about Union Station. Most of these people are patrons of the three
ferry services, which comprise the region's most robust transportation
business. But a good 250,000 of them travel on trains and buses that
stop at the station.
The master plan isn't going to have to make pie from scratch. The
ingredients are already there, a unique neighborhood of water, bus and
rail transportation services, a place that is bustling despite multiple
Nor has there been no planning to make what's there work better. The
trouble is much of the planning has been in pursuit of rival agendas.
The trick to success will be not only to connect the pieces of the
transportation center, but bring the players into harmony.
A master plan for a transportation center must connect the existing
businesses, but to do so, it will have to unite the conflicting
interests around a single agenda.
An advisory group needs to be established that represents parties with
a significant interest in the outcome: The owners of the train station,
the ferry operators, the city, New London's downtown organizations, the
Council of Governments and state Department of Transportation, tourism
industry and casinos and rail representatives. And that group must
initiate a public discussion. A group like the one that met at The Day
Dec. 5 and decided to develop a master plan for a regional
The group needs to work with planners in reconciling the differences
that have stood in the way of progress and created in its place a
growing stock of hard feelings.
Foremost among these are the issues of whether to build a pedestrian
bridge across the railroad tracks and where to put the “center” of the
transportation center; should it be in Union Station or a new building?
The Council of Governments is the logical agency to assume this task.
It is representative of the region and has the planning credentials and
legal authority to receive state funds for a study. This is a regional
as well as a local issue. But it must engage the public and
stakeholders in the process, or maybe vice versa.
Just as important as the $500,000 to $750,000 it is estimated the study
will cost is the planning process and how open and inclusive it is.
Planners must be informed by public opinion and by the people with a
stake in the results. The product must be something the public and all
the interests can accept, or it won't work. Experience to date is
evidence of the futility of operating without consensus or public
Public involvement essential
The plan must engage the public because the issues are public, although
the major players are private businesses.
New London has an immediate stake in the matter. The center could be a
catalyst for growth in its downtown business district by making the
city even more vital as a transportation hub.
Southeastern Connecticut would benefit because more creative uses of
public transportation centered on the New London waterfront would help
solve the highway gridlock problem. The state also would benefit from
New London owns the two major parking facilities, a lot that's leased
by one of the ferry companies and the Water Street Parking Garage. It
also has jurisdiction over Water Street, the troublesome artery
travelers must cross to get from the garage to the ferries and trains,
and the Parade, the bunker-like plaza the city is considering revamping.
And substantial public investments will be required and must be made in
the public interest.
The public, with this clear stake, must be kept in the loop of planning
for this transportation center. Its capacity for creativity and good
sense must be respected.
But so, too, do the several significant businesses have a stake in the
plan. Cross Sound Ferry, while it enjoys a robust business, is hemmed
in and handicapped by the cockeyed arrangements for parking and getting
to the boats.
Barbara Timken, principal owner of Union Station, has invested heavily
in the landmark building and with her business partner, Todd O'Donnell,
has shouldered the costs of maintaining a building that is also a
public facility. They get little compensation for the public use of the
building. That isn't fair, or practical.
A master plan must accommodate both these interests. Union Station
needs to be an integral and sustainable part of the transportation
center, but the plan must also respond to the pressing needs of the
ferry operations for more convenient accommodations for its passengers.
Better public accommodations will be a key to making the transportation
'Gateway' to southeastern Connecticut
Current efforts are focused on maintaining Amtrak service at the
station. That's important. Planning should also revisit the idea of
maintaining a visitor center for the Thames River Heritage Park in the
station, as Adam Wronowski, vice president of Cross Sound Ferry,
suggests in an article in this section. The center could become a
“gateway” to New London and the region that surrounds it and tht may
one day revolve around the city as it did in earlier times as a
transportation hub for boats and trains and center of commerce.
A planning group doesn't have to wait for the legislature to act. It
should get started right away. It also doesn't have to wait until it
has a blueprint before it engages the public. A public that is left out
of the loop isn't likely to get excited over a plan it had no role in
designing. Those kinds of plans are the ones that gather dust and slip
Even before professional planners get their hands on the task, people
must decide what kind of transportation center they're talking about?
How will it differ from what's there? How will it work? What purposes
will it serve that aren't served now?
The planners need a visionary sketch to work from, such as the one
architect Barun Basu, president of Main Street, has drawn in an article
in this special section. Mr. Basu envisions what the future might be
like in several decades with a vigorous transportation center in its
The planning process needs guidance and support that only can come from
the bottom up, from a representative group that is willing to listen
respectfully to one another and consult with the public. The failure to
appreciate that fact before this helps explain why it's been almost as
hard to come up with a plan as it is to get to the ferries from the
Water Street Parking Garage.
Photo by Tim Cook •A Providence & Worcester
Railroad freight train crosses the Thames
River recently. The timetable for repairs to the bridge has been pushed
back at least six months.
Delay Announced In Railroad
Bridge Repair; Shifting River Bottom Poses Complications For
By Katie Warchut
Published on 12/2/2006
The biggest step in the Thames River railroad bridge replacement
project, in which a vertical lift weighing 1,250 tons will be floated
into place on barges, will be delayed at least six months because
construction has put the bridge out of alignment. The shifting of
piers beneath the 1918 bridge between Groton and New London is limiting
the number of times a day the bridge opens and requiring extra work to
stabilize the piers for the new span.
Amtrak and its contractors are replacing the bridge's movable span, now
a drawbridge, with a new lift span that will rise like an elevator. The
222-foot towers will rise to about the height of the light posts on the
Gold Star Memorial Bridge. A harbor safety working group, made up
of representatives from the
Coast Guard, Navy, state Department of Environmental Protection and
businesses, met in November to monitor the bridge progress.
Because of the wear on the bridge, Coast Guard officials have limited
openings to four or five a day, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Alan Blume,
though it can still open on demand for government and commercial
vessels. The new date for the bridge span switch is now April
2008. It is
planned to take 12 days, with the bridge closing to train service for
Construction has caused unstable sand and gravel under the bridge piers
to shift slightly, according to Amtrak officials. The new bridge
requires the building of two towers onto the piers.
Crews drove pilings into bedrock and must now complete the task of
connecting and stabilizing the piers.
“We have to stop it from moving before we go ahead,” said Peter Finch,
Amtrak project manager. “We don't want to set the towers in perfect
alignment, only to have it move.”
Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers of New York City took soil samples
over the summer, and workers are now pressure-grouting about 150 feet
down with a cement-type product to fortify the area around the piers.
Another contractor, The Judy Company Inc. of Kansas City, which
specializes in structure stabilization, was also brought in this month.
In the meanwhile, limits on the number of openings are in effect.
John Markowicz, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut
Enterprise Region and a member of the harbor safety group, asked “What
happens if the bridge is stuck shut? What are the alternatives?”
Coast Guard and Navy officials did not provide details on any formal
contingency plans. Navy spokesman Lt. Mark Jones said that if the
bridge were closed for
an extended period of time, it “would have a minimal impact on the
majority of submarines” because they can fit underneath. For
security reasons, Jones said he could not comment on whether
submarines could be stationed elsewhere south of the bridge, if
Blume pointed out that Amtrak has been successful in keeping the bridge
functioning, using hydraulic jacks to resituate it. He said the Coast
Guard is “in the process of developing” a worst-case scenario plan.He
said the Coast Guard may need to establish a way to coordinate
commercial and, next summer, recreational traffic.
“We recognize there is some potential that ... there may be some impact
on the ability for unlimited openings,” Blume said.
Station's Future Murky, Say
Owners Letter to regional council cites landmark's financial and
By Elaine Stoll
Published on 5/10/2006
New London — The financial burdens and operational challenges of
running the privately owned Union Station threaten its future as a
regional transportation center, say the building's owners.
Co-owner Todd O'Donnell outlined the problems he and co-owner Barbara
Timken face in a four-page letter to the Southeastern Connecticut
Council of Governments dated April 17.
The letter was discussed at a Council of Governments meeting Monday.
The owners are seeking regional and state partnerships in an effort to
maintain Union Station and surrounding property as a transportation hub
used by Amtrak, Greyhound Bus Line, Southeast Area Transit, shuttle
buses and taxis. The building is also positioned near ferry services.
Most of the concerns detailed by O'Donnell are financial. Unlike other
rail stations and transportation centers in the state, Union Station
“is not a public entity or quasi-public agency that can raise revenues
through taxes or federal transportation grants,” O'Donnell wrote in the
That leaves rent from tenants as the only source of income generated by
the 27,000-square-foot building. But leasing to transportation-related
tenants has been costly, according to O'Donnell's letter.
Amtrak and Greyhound lease a total of 4,500 square feet in Union
Station. But cash-strapped Amtrak failed to pay rent for 10 months in
2004, O'Donnell said. When Amtrak considered moving into a waiting-room
trailer along South Water Street, its rent was reduced. Amtrak is now
on a month-to-month lease and may downsize in New London, O'Donnell
said, calling the rail service provider “a high-risk, high-cost tenant.”
“We cannot underwrite Amtrak's presence
anymore. There is a strong
likelihood Amtrak will move out of the station lobby,” O'Donnell said.
Greyhound leases less than 1,500 square feet, but its buses use more
than 7,000 square feet of space outside that generates no rent, space
that could otherwise be used for parking to accommodate other tenants,
The Union Station owners want the Council of Governments' help in
preserving the building as a transportation center, he wrote in the
letter. A public-private partnership could “create an effective, safe
and vibrant transportation center that simultaneously accommodates
public transportation users and rent-paying tenants.”
“I'm going to do some investigating and see if we can't resolve some of
these issues,” said Council of Governments Chairman Keith J.
Robbins. City Manager Richard M. Brown, New London's
representative on the Council of Governments, said Tuesday, “I
understand some of the concerns that Mr. O'Donnell has raised. As a
representative of COG and New London, I'm willing to work with him and
anybody else who has concerns about the cost of doing business.”
Local and regional officials emphasized the building's importance to
“I can't imagine that the regional transportation center could exist
without Union Station,” said Mayor Beth A. Sabilia, who called
O'Donnell's letter to the Council of Governments “the right approach.”
“Union Station has historically served as the region's multimodal
station,” said James Butler, COG executive director, who declined to
comment on the specifics of the letter. “We've got high-speed ferries,
conventional ferries, Amtrak, buses — they're all coming together in
“Amtrak is reviewing the matter,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said of
Other transportation entities use Union Station property without paying
rent, and their presence costs money, O'Donnell said. SEAT stops on
Union Station property and has a kiosk and benches there. “We receive
no compensation, yet we pay property taxes on the land that provides a
public service and our liability insurance must cover claims for SEAT
incidents. We are currently being sued by a SEAT passenger,” O'Donnell
stated in the letter.
The cost of insurance for Union Station has risen 350 percent since
2001, O'Donnell said. Most companies don't insure train stations, he
said, and the previous insurance carrier for the building canceled the
policy last year after train-station bombings in London.
Bathroom security, maintenance and repair constitute “one of our
biggest operating expenses,” O'Donnell said. Meant for Amtrak
passengers, the bathrooms are also used by SEAT passengers and
employees, ferry passengers, taxi drivers and members of the public.
An ongoing, three-year lawsuit the Union Station owners fought against
the City of New London as a result of an eminent domain taking in May
2003 in anticipation of a since-abandoned project to build a pedestrian
bridge “has been, and continues to be, extraordinarily expensive,”
O'Donnell said in the letter.
O'Donnell also has safety concerns, he said in the letter. “As an urban
center, New London supports more than its share of the region's
indigent population. And Union Station supports more than its share of
New London's indigent population. It is an expensive and unsafe
situation that calls for a more sophisticated response than hiring a
security guard or calling the police, which is all we can do,”
He stops short in the letter of listing specific alternatives to
operating Union Station as a transportation center, though, “On a net
revenue basis retail, office, or commercial tenants are more valuable
than transportation tenants to a landlord,” he said.
O'Donnell did not say in the letter how such a partnership might be
structured. He asked for assistance with coordination and location of
the taxis and buses that use the Union Station property; accessing
public-sector funds for maintaining the portion of the building used by
the public; developing a business relationship with SEAT; and planning
and accessing federal funds for long-term maintenance and improvements.
The Council of Governments could also oversee proposals that could
affect Union Station, such as ideas for Thames River shuttle boats,
cruise ships, increased Shoreline East traffic or passenger rail
service to Norwich, O'Donnell said. “While we welcome all
transportation ideas that increase economic activity we cannot be
expected to subsidize them,” he said.
“Our primary objective is to work with COG and the state to hopefully
keep this 120-year-old train station as a train station and
transportation center,” O'Donnell said Tuesday.
Union Station was commissioned in 1885, designed by famed American
architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1888 after his
death. Preservationists saved the historic building in the early
1970s from a popular plan by the New London Redevelopment Agency to
Union Station has been under private ownership since October 1975, when
architectural firm Anderson Notter Associates bought it with the help
of nonprofit Union Railroad Station Trust.
Amtrak Infrastructure On
Brink, DOT Warns; Rail Service Risks ‘major Failure' If Needs Not
By MICHELLE GARCIA, New London DAY
Published on 11/22/2004
— The national passenger
rail service risks a “major point of failure” if infrastructure needs
unaddressed, the U.S. Department of Transportation warned in a scathing
report made public today.
rail system has reached “critical levels,” the report concluded, and
one knows when such a failure will occur.”
General Kenneth Mead, who
drafted the report, said Amtrak must focus its limited resources on
pressing problems rather than spreading dollars across its nationwide
He chastised Amtrak management for spending millions of dollars to
its sleeper cars while neglecting deteriorating bridges and tunnels.
urged Amtrak to consider the
“unsustainably large operating losses and poor on-time performance” as
a “clarion call” for immediate attention.
report was released shortly after
Congress finished work on a major catchall appropriations bill that
$1.22 billion for Amtrak for fiscal 2005. The federal government
slightly more than that for fiscal 2004.
IG's report noted Amtrak's success
in increasing ridership and addressing costs. For the past two years,
has postponed improvements along the tracks with the expectation of
revenue and funding. But time has run out, according to the report, and
Amtrak must maximize its current revenue.
report also calls on Congress
to provide Amtrak with clear direction in crafting a strategy that
include reducing service, investing in heavily traveled routes or
overall funding. He proposed that federal funding be tied to Amtrak's
of its operations. Amtrak relies on a combination of passenger fees and
state and federal subsidies to finance operating costs.
an increase in funding, Amtrak
will continue to postpone capital projects to stay within its budget,
President David Gunn said in a written response to the IG's report.
the budget remains stable, “we
be able to continue to operate the current system, but we have to make
cuts in the capital program,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said.
service will not produce
the payoff to fund capital projects, he said, “because of shutdown
labor protection and continuing overhead.” Service cuts also would
overall congressional support of Amtrak, he said, because lawmakers
object to service being discontinued in their regions.
John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman
of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a longtime
of Amtrak, said the passenger railroad must make tough choices and
rail service on short-route corridors and restructure or eliminate
Amtrak won't follow this strategy,”
he said in a written statement, “then it is the responsibility of
Board of Directors, the secretary of transportation, and Congress to
however, applauded Amtrak's
recent focus on infrastructure on the Thames River bridge in
and its success in reducing losses.
ridership last year exceeded
expectations by nearly 500,000 passengers. Still, revenue decreased by
6.8 percent, and Amtrak has reported losses of $630 million annually
the past three years.
bridges are creaking,” said
Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad
Passengers, an advocacy group. “Every day that passes increases the
that it will take a catastrophic failure to get this problem fixed.”
Transportation Policy Gets
New Leader; Governor names Kevin Kelleher to head Connecticut's
By SUSAN HAIGH & THE ASSOCIATED
Published on 6/22/2005
— Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Tuesday
tapped a Fairfield County executive to oversee the board that handles
Kelleher, president and CEO
of Cendant Mobility Services Corp. in Danbury, will replace Nelson “Oz”
Griebel as head of the state's Transportation Strategy Board when
five-year term ends on June 30. Kelleher's appointment comes as
General Assembly prepares to meet in special session this month to take
up some unfinished business, including Rell's $1.3 billion, 10-year
improvement package. The bill includes money for 340 new Metro-North
rail cars and various highway improvements designed to ease the
on Connecticut's highways.
both Kelleher and Griebel said
that $1.3 billion is just a first step toward tackling Connecticut's
needs as a state continue to
grow,” said Kelleher, who lives in Rell's hometown of Brookfield. “I
this is a never-ending journey. I think it's really about the vision,
acceptance of the vision, what people need to recognize with respect to
the needs for both today and tomorrow.”
Transportation Strategy Board
was created in 2000 to help come up with a comprehensive transportation
plan for the state. In 2003, the group recommended about nearly $5
worth of projects, but the state legislature has not approved most of
spending. The sticking point has been how to raise the necessary
initially called for increasing
the state gas tax to pay for her $1.3 billion initiative. The
legislature, however, instead proposed a 5 percent tax on the earnings
of petroleum companies to 7.8 percent by 2014.The tax is expected to
about $900 million, roughly the same amount as Rell's plan.
board has suggested raising the
gas tax by 3 cents per gallon over five years to pay for its
Board members also have asked the legislature to study the feasibility
of a toll system to collect more revenue for transportation projects.
it, without some new source of funding, all the other things this board
has worked on and identified in this 2003 report are not going to
a reality,” Griebel said.
said he understands why Rell
wanted to appoint her own person to chair the strategy board. He said
plans to remain active in transportation issues and hopes to encourage
the legislature to study tolls. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano,
city sits at the congested intersection of several highways, said the
transportation strategy is failing.
doesn't matter to me who's in
charge of the Transportation Strategy Board. It's really irrelevant.
job's not getting done,” DeStefano said.
have a port that needs rail and
an airport that needs to grow. The highway infrastructure is broken and
it's stopping job growth in the city and the region.”
thanked Griebel for his years
of service and said the board has made strides since 2000 in
key transportation projects that have helped the lives of
For example, the board has brought highway ramp improvements and lane
to the attention of the state Department of Transportation, she said.
are the things that matter,
and that's what's happening,” said Rell. “You don't see the little
but they are very, very important to the municipalities.”
The Connecticut Transportation
Strategy Board's membership (December
19, 2004 from website - not 100%
up to date): update...
present, June 20, 2006:
Chairman Kevin J. Kelleher, John Markowicz, Karen Burnaska,
Jeffery Klaus, George Giguere, Secretary Genuario, Joseph Maco, and
Abromaitis (represented by Larry Lusardi), Commissioner Boyle
Lt. David Aflalo), Commissioner Gina McCarthy
(represented by Deputy Secretary Amey Marrella), Stephen Cassano and
- R. Nelson Griebel, President/CEO,
MetroHartford Regional Economic Alliance
John A. Klein, CEO/Chairman, People's
Joseph P. Maco, Vice-President,
Michael P. Meotti, President, Connecticut
Policy and Economic Council
George L. Giguere, President, Giguere
James F. Abromaitis, Commissioner,
Department of Economic and Community Development
Hon. Arthur J. Rocque, Jr., Commissioner,
Department of Environmental Protection
Hon. Marc S. Ryan, Secretary, Office
of Policy and Management
Hon. Leonard C. Boyle, Acting Commissioner,
Department of Public Safety
Hon. Stephen E. Korta, II, Commissioner,
Department of Transportation
Stephen T. Cassano - I-91 Corridor
Carl Stephani - I-84 Corridor
Karen L. Burnaska - Coastal Corridor
John Sarantopoulos - I-395 Corridor
John Markowicz - Southeast Corridor
New early train satisfies
former car drivers
BY PAUL SINGLEY, WATERBURY REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Thursday, May 8, 2008 8:05 AM EDT
WATERBURY -- Kathy Onofrio's commute was leisurely Tuesday on the 5:57
a.m. train to Stamford.
Onofrio, who lives in Seymour, didn't have to deal with
bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 95 or the other highway that
train passengers refer to as the "Merritt parking lot."
Instead, she read a book and listened to music on her iPod.
Onofrio, a branch manager at People's United Bank in Stamford,
appreciates finally being on time for her 8 a.m. meetings and saving
about $200 a month in gasoline by not driving.
"This is exciting," she said of the new train time, adding that her
company offers reimbursement to people who use public transportation
and kicks in about half of the $112 a month it costs to ride the train.
The 5:57 a.m. train from Waterbury to Stamford is the earliest
departure Metro-North has offered in anyone's memory. Tuesday marked
the seven-car train's one-month anniversary, during which ridership has
increased from 36 to 80. The railroad wants to see 87 regular
passengers by October or it may cut the early train, several passengers
and conductors said Tuesday.
The earliest train previously offered was at 6:40 a.m., and it was
usually jam-packed. That train doesn't get to Stamford until 8:16 a.m.
after a switch in Bridgeport, and to New York City at 9:06 a.m., later
than many people have to be at work.
The 5:57 train goes directly to Stamford and arrives at 7:20 a.m. It
pulls into Grand Central Station an hour later, though most passengers
from Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley get off somewhere in Fairfield
The early train was added after passengers organized petitions and
lobbied last year. The petition was the brainchild of Ansonia resident
Roger Cirello, who worked with the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council to
get Metro-North on board.
"This train speaks to the change we're seeing of people living in the
Naugatuck Valley for affordable homes but who still want to have a job
in New York City or Fairfield County," said Jim Cameron, chairman of
the commuter council.
Not only is the new train helping people save time and money, but
officials in Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley hope more convenient
transportation will help spur economic development. Proposed downtown
revitalization projects like Renaissance Place in Naugatuck and a
luxury condominium tower in Seymour are aimed at luring people from
Fairfield County. Access to Fairfield County and New York City will be
a huge factor, says Renaissance Place developer Alexius C. Conroy, who
lives in Fairfield.
Still, the Waterbury route -- which was once in danger of being cut by
former Gov. John G. Rowland because of a lack of riders -- has just
eight trains daily, while Bridgeport to Stamford has 42 a day.
"I think this will catch on as everybody becomes more aware that this
train exists," said Conductor Steve Haggarty of the early morning
Waterbury line. "People are excited about it."
One of those people is Tim Freehoffer of Waterbury. When he got his job
as a facilities manager for a resort in Greenwich two-and-a-half years
ago, he drove because gas was $1.79 a gallon. As of Tuesday, it was
"As it started to climb and climb, I was paying $120 a week just to get
to and from work," he said. Now he pays $132 a month for the train.
"This is a good thing; I hope they keep it."
Still, Freehoffer believes services can be improved.
He believes if Metro-North simply sold coffee on the train they could
increase ridership dramatically. He also believes an electric train
rather than a diesel-powered engine would be more reliable. And he
echoed several passenger complaints that there are not enough trains to
get home in the evening. Anyone who gets out of work at 5 p.m. has just
two options that get to Waterbury at 6:51 p.m. or 9:18 p.m.
"Something in between would be nice," he said.
Freehoffer believes Waterbury officials could do more to increase
ridership, such as patrolling the parking area near the train station,
where his car was once vandalized. Now, he drives to Beacon Falls and
hops the train there because it's "much safer."
Cameron believes more people will follow Freehoffer's lead and that a
goal of 87 passengers will be easily reached by October.
"With gas prices going up, people are really starting to see the
savings," he said. "And there's no reason to believe it's going to get
any better any time soon."
Hartford Courant editorial
February 19, 2006
Our love for government services is exceeded only by our reluctance to
pay for them - or so it has always seemed. But for the state's
inadequate transportation system, the time has arrived for an
investment equal to the problem.
As studies and personal experience make abundantly clear, highways are
increasingly congested, the rail system is antiquated and buses are
largely an afterthought. The result is a slow-motion crisis that
threatens the state's quality of life and economic well-being.
Governor M. Jodi Rell and House Speaker James A. Amann have markedly
Mrs. Rell last year proposed, and the legislature adopted, a 10-year,
$1.3 billion transportation initiative. The plan includes money for 342
new passenger rail cars, a rail maintenance facility, 25 new buses and
various highway improvements. She proposes commuter rail service on the
New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line and announced support for the
Hartford-New Britain busway. In her State of the State address Feb. 8,
she added another $344 million to the transportation pot.
Mrs. Rell can be credited with making the largest single investment in
transportation in more than two decades. The thrust of her initiatives
is toward transit, also welcome. She may rightly have believed that an
incremental approach was the only way to get the ball rolling. But much
of the initial $1.3 billion is devoted to making up for deferred
maintenance, not expanding the system.
Mr. Amann's proposal - an impressive $6.2 billion, 10-year plan to fund
a variety of transportation improvements - has the proper magnitude.
Connecticut needs to make the kind of investment he envisions. The
state's Master Transportation Plan in 2003 said the state faced a $3.27
billion shortfall just to keep the existing system up to speed.
But the speaker's plan aims toward implementing the recommendations of
the Transportation Strategy Board, which lean toward highway
construction projects (although the list includes rail, bus, air and
water transit investments).
There is wisdom in both Mrs. Rell's and Mr. Amann's approaches. What is
lacking is coordination and planning.
Indeed, the strategy board recognized in its 2003 report that lists of
projects were not enough to revamp the state's transportation system.
There must be a plan, a strategic overlay that ties the projects
together. The report calls for the creation of an enhanced state
planning office, which would use the State Plan of Conservation and
Development as the basis for improving the state's transportation
options. This is an essential step, not yet taken.
The benefits would be plentiful. For example, if the state decides to
upgrade its rail and bus lines, it makes sense to encourage
transit-oriented development and affordable housing at the same time.
A state planning office could earmark the new $100 million affordable
housing fund for housing around transit stops. A state development
authority could help towns relocate businesses that happen to be in the
right-of-way. The potential for development around transit stations,
something happening all over the country, is a way of selling the
projects to towns, who sometimes like to see things remain as they are.
This is an auspicious time for transportation in Connecticut. It is the
first time in more than two decades that we've had a governor and
legislative leadership who not only recognize the problem but are
willing to invest in transportation improvements. The state must do it
now, and do it right, or become an economic cul-de-sac.
The Transportation Initiative:
Gov. Rell, legislature, are on the threshold of making long overdue
in public transportation, roads.
Published on 6/13/2005
the most important matters of
business before the legislature didn't quite make it out of the regular
session but is near the top of the agenda for the special session later
this month: Gov. M. Jodi Rell's transportation initiative, which will
the Metro North commuter line and begin to address other transportation
needs in the state.
governor had some harsh words
for the legislature for failing to finish work on the plan, but there's
no reason to believe the plan won't emerge intact in the special
Leaders have agreed to the broad outline of the proposal, including an
alternative method to what the governor had proposed for financing it.
governor had wanted to employ
the gas tax. The Democrats have chosen instead to use a gross receipts
tax on petroleum products, which would be imposed on retailers.
is one of several weaknesses
in the proposal. Retailers likely will pass along the gross receipts
to customers anyway. In addition, the tax will be tied to the price of
gas and other petroleum products, which fluctuate so it could fall
of raising the money the state needs for the projects.
weakness is that the plan
doesn't address many needs outside of Fairfield County, including
Connecticut. The theory is that that is where the needs are most
and that additional money can be invested when plans are further
in other parts of the state. For example, the widening of Interstate 95
west of New Haven is in the very early planning stage.
that points to another weakness.
The state Transportation Strategy Board, in a detailed study of the
transportation needs, pointed to more than $5 billion in projects that
will be necessary, but the governor's plan only includes about $1
in work. The plan that is taking shape in the legislature provides
for only those immediate projects, which include replacing much of the
rolling stock of Metro North. The fear on the strategy board is that it
won't be easy to raise additional funds for future projects, and the
has recommended looking into additional sources of funds, including
would be a stronger plan if
the legislature included a study into the use of tolls. Transportation
experts point out that the fuel-related taxes will become less reliable
sources of transportation funds as automobile manufacturers shift away
from petroleum fuels and public transportation assumes a larger role.
But the strengths of
this plan greatly
outweigh the weaknesses. This is the first major thrust in
investment in two decades, and one that is long overdue. It is to the
of the governor and the legislature that they are on the verge of
this initiative forward.
earlier in the Long Session...
Rell's transportation plan
By Mark Ginocchio
March 29, 2005
-- Gov. M. Jodi Rell's $1.2
billion proposal to buy new rail cars and improve highways gained
approval yesterday from the Legislature's Transportation
The panel approved 10 transportation bills in a three-hour session
primarily on Rell's proposal.
committee members voted against
the governor's plan: state Sen. Thomas Colapietro, D-Bristol; state
Brian O'Connor, D-Clinton; and state Rep. Claire Janowski, D-Vernon.
members voted in favor of the bill. The three dissenting
were concerned Rell's proposal didn't provide enough transportation
for parts of the state.
plan focuses heavily on lower
Fairfield County, with $667 million slated for 343 new rail cars, $187
million for Interstate 95 improvements and
$300 million for a rail maintenance
facility. The state's other highways would receive $150 million
Committee members took issue with Rell's proposal to raise the gasoline
tax 6 cents over the next eight years to fund the transportation
Legislators feared areas that would not benefit directly from the
improvements may not be in favor of a higher gas tax.
the dissenting votes, Rell
was encouraged by the committee's actions.
appreciate the Transportation
Committee's overwhelming support," she said in a statement yesterday.
have talked about transportation long enough. It is now time to deliver
for the passengers and drivers of Connecticut." Transportation
co-chairman state Sen. Biagio "Billy" Ciotto, D-Wethersfield, also
the overall cooperation and bipartisanship of the committee for the
bill must pass through the Finance,
Revenue and Bonding Committee before it goes to the full House and
for a vote.
bills approved by the committee
yesterday dealt with restricting the operation of mini-motorcylces,
hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle and increasing
for trucks that travel illegally on the Merritt Parkway. With
proposal out of the committee's hands, members said more legislators
need convincing and said the bill may be revised.
just have to let other parts
of the state know they won't be left behind," said state Rep. Antonio
D-Rocky Hill, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee. "In some
or form, someone is going to have to pay for this."
Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford,
said, "lifting a billion-dollar balloon off the ground is a hard job"
the bill's supporters have a challenge.
is a perception that there
is a geographical bias," he said. "While this bill does focus first on
southwestern Connecticut, it is in no way exclusive." Though most
committee members preached about the bill's equity, some from lower
County were not ashamed about where a majority of the money was headed.
have proven that this is the
place of greatest need," said state Rep. Antoinetta "Toni" Boucher,
"We have the volume and the demand." Some lawmakers believe the
about the bill's equity could be a benefit for the entire state.
only concern in the Transportation
Committee was that it was a fine bill, but does not go far enough,"
state Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, also the ranking Republican
senator on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee.
is a good problem to deal with,"
he added. "Yes, there are a number of members who want projects in
districts included. We can certainly have that conversation, but that
us in a far better posture than we've been in previous years where
had no bill."
13, 2005 Stamford ADVOCATE:
Lawmakers eager to join
By Mark Ginocchio
legislators say they hope their increased presence on the state's
Committee will have a major impact on alleviating the problems on the
and rails that have plagued commuters.
Of the committee's
31 members, 15 legislators are from Fairfield County, one of the
contingents from the region in many years, said state Sen. Biagio
Ciotto, D-Wethersfield. During last year's session, eight members
from Fairfield County.
"What we have
is a lot of new legislators who are concerned about transportation.
better place to address those concerns than on this committee," said
who has co-chaired the committee for the past eight years.
aging New Haven Line that has some rail cars that are 30 years old --
years past their life expectancy -- and a congested Interstate 95,
are plenty of reasons county legislators are clamoring to get on the
said state Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich.
"It's the arterial
sclerosis of this region," said Nickerson, who has served on the
since 1986. "We all recognize that one of the main arteries of this
is I-95, from the shore line to the Rhode Island border."
said they pushed to get on the committee this year because the
issue is critical to Fairfield County.
fought to be on this committee and to get on this issue," said State
Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, a first-time member. "We all listened to our
and we know what their complaints are."
Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, said the rush of Fairfield County
to the committee wasn't "any kind of organized effort," but simply an
by legislators to keep their campaign promises.
"All of us
campaigned on transportation," said McDonald, another first-timer to
committee. "It would be disingenuous of us if we didn't try to fulfill
numbers are in Fairfield County's favor, the goals of the committee are
to serve the entire state's needs, Ciotto said. Topics of discussion
the current session have included banning open alcohol containers in
vehicles, extending hours at the Greenwich truck weigh station, and
motorcyclists to wear helmets. Once the bills leave the committee,
County's influence may dissipate as they move to votes in the full
the same once it gets out of committee," he said.
Gov. M. Jodi
Rell has made Fairfield County's transportation problems a statewide
said state Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk. Rell's budget proposal
last week includes a $1.3 billion transportation plan that would make
dollar improvements to the state's highways and replace the New Haven
leadership is helpful," Perone said. "She has made it a statewide
transportation organizations supporting Fairfield County's interests
they are optimistic Rell's proposal and the large presence on the
committee will result in overdue changes in the region.
significant because they are the key committee in controlling"
legislation, said Franklin Bloomer, co-chairman of the Coastal Corridor
Transportation Investment Area.
"I think this
is a tremendous benefit for all of Fairfield County," said Robert
executive director of the South Western Regional Planning Agency.
Western Connecticut has really been underrepresented in the past.
from Fairfield County understand the economy here so this is very
Captain says tour group on doomed boat was bigger than normal
LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (AP) -- The captain of the tour boat that
capsized Sunday, killing 20 elderly tourists on a fall foliage tour,
said the 47 passengers aboard that day were an unusually large group.
Richard Paris, 74, told The Associated Press Friday he was used to
seeing tour buses with 30 to 35 people disembark at the Lake George
pier before piling aboard the Ethan Allen.
He was at the wheel Sunday when the Ethan Allen flipped over,
spilling its passengers and Paris into the calm, 68-degree waters of
this Adirondack lake. He initially told investigators he was trying to
steer out of the wake of another boat when the boat went over. Paris
wouldn't discuss specifics of the accident but said: "They've had a
pretty good description of the accident in the paper."
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board
are looking at whether the boat was unstable or shouldn't have been
certified to carry up to 50 people. They also are studying traffic on
the lake that day and human factors. Taking a break from cleaning the
gutters on his neat, one-story home on a dead end street off one of the
lake's bays, he said he had been instructed not to talk about the
"Our corporate attorney says no. Our boss says no, so I guess
it's no," he said. "They don't want me to talk about it. I'd as soon
not. Let the attorneys take care of it. I guess that's what they're
being paid for." Paris said he's received letters of support since the
"I've gotten cards from people I haven't seen in 20 years
saying they're all on my side," he said. "Should be, I haven't done
anything wrong." Paris, wearing a ball cap, gray sweat shirt and faded
blue jeans and smoking a cigarette, denied media reports that he is an
alcoholic or a recovering alcoholic.
"I like a beer," he said. "Everyone likes a beer. They put
that stuff in the newspapers, there goes my reputation. Everybody knows
I like a beer but I'm not a barfly." Warren County Sheriff Larry
Cleveland has said he interviewed Paris right after the accident and
determined he lacked reasonable cause to test for alcohol, as per state
Paris has since voluntarily given a blood and urine sample to federal
investigators who will test for alcohol and drugs. Cleveland supported
Paris' account that the boat was more crowded than usual on Sunday.
"You generally don't see that many people on it," he said
Friday. Cleveland said investigators have begun turning over material
to the district attorney's office to put it before "another set of
eyes." He added that was a normal procedure for a fatal incident and
did not mean a criminal case was being contemplated.
Paris has experience with bigger tour boats. He piloted the
150-passenger Defiance, another boat belonging to Shoreline Cruises,
for about 20 years until they retired that boat in 2004. Lake George
Mayor Robert Blais said the village's tour boat captains and pilots are
"an extremely important segment" of the local tourism industry.
"In truth, they are ambassadors to the folks that come here,"
said Blais, who knew Paris from Blais' days as a police officer for
"You would never think something like this would happen to
us," said Blais as he took a break from writing letters to the
survivors and families of those killed in the tragedy. Investigators
were hoping to put the Ethan Allen back out on Lake George this weekend
for testing. It was back in the water briefly Thursday.
"It appears to be watertight," said Mark Rosenker, acting
chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Part of the
problem could be that the boat was never subjected to stability tests
after modifications that increased its weight because state boating
regulations didn't require them, Rosenker said Thursday.
The Ethan Allen was carrying a wood-Fiberglas canopy, instead
of its old canvas one, and a bigger engine than when it was first put
into New York waters in 1979. From 1966, the year it left a Rhode
Island boatyard, until 1979, it worked Connecticut waters. Roger
Compton, dean of the Webb Institute of naval architecture and marine
engineering, said: "If you're adding weight two things happen. You sink
deeper in the water and, depending where you add it, you can be
significantly raising the center of gravity, which is usually
detrimental to stability."
Tests on a boat similar to the Ethan Allen had to be
abandoned Wednesday after the boat leaned over dangerously with only a
fraction of the weight it was approved to carry.
State rules also allowed the operators of the Ethan Allen to
store the boat's life jackets in what Rosenker said was a locker, even
though that prevented passengers from getting to them easily. None of
the 47 passengers or the captain was wearing a life jacket. Rosenker
said some survivors probably grabbed the orange vests as they popped to
Gov. George Pataki unveiled proposed legislation Friday that
aimed make New York's boating laws as strict as federal law.
Shoreline Cruises, the tour operator, released a statement
saying the Ethan Allen was in compliance with all state guidelines
regarding passenger limits at the time of the accident. The boat passed
its most recent inspection in May.
Big Dig Lawsuit Settled for $400 Million
By DENISE LAVOIE | AP Legal Affairs Writer
2:16 PM EST, January 23, 2008
BOSTON - Contractors who worked on
the long-troubled Big Dig highway project have agreed to pay more than
$400 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state over a fatal tunnel
ceiling collapse and to cover the costs of leaks and design flaws.
Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the
consortium that oversaw design and construction of the nation's
costliest public works project, has agreed to pay $407 million, while
several smaller companies will pay about $51 million collectively, U.S.
Attorney Michael Sullivan said in announcing the deal.
Under the agreement, Bechtel/Parsons
Brinckerhoff would not face criminal charges in the July 2006
Interstate 90 tunnel ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, 39,
of Boston. She was crushed by 26 tons of concrete as she and her
husband drove to Logan International Airport.
Big Dig Finally Complete
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: December 25, 2007
Filed at 1:31 p.m. ET
BOSTON (AP) -- When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly
mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city's history:
The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project,
will officially come to an end.
Don't expect any champagne toasts.
After a history marked by engineering triumphs, tunnels leaks, epic
traffic jams, last year's death of a motorist crushed by falling
concrete panels and a price tag that soared from $2.6 billion to a
staggering $14.8 billion, there's little appetite for celebration.
Civil and criminal cases stemming from the July 2006 tunnel ceiling
collapse continue, though on Monday the family of Milena Del Valle
announced a $6 million settlement with Powers Fasteners, the company
that manufactured the epoxy blamed by investigators for the accident.
Lawsuits are pending against other Big Dig contractors, and Powers
Fasteners still faces a manslaughter indictment.
Officially, Dec. 31 marks the end of the joint venture that teamed
megaproject contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff with the
Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to build the dizzying array of
underground highways, bridges, ramps and a new tunnel under Boston
Harbor -- all while the city remained open for business.
The project was so complex it's been likened to performing open heart
surgery on a patient while the patient is wide awake. Some didn't
know if they'd live to see it end. Enza Merola had a front row
seat on the Big Dig from the front window of her pastry shop -- stacked
neatly with tiramisu, sfogliatelle and brightly colored Italian cookies
-- in Boston's North End. During the toughest days of the
project, the facade of Marie's Pastry Shop, named after her sister, was
obscured from view. The only way customers could find the front door
was along a treacherous path through heavy construction.
''For a while we thought we weren't going to make it,'' Merola said.
''But you know, we hung in there.''
The Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project -- as the Big Dig is
officially known -- has its roots in the construction of the hulking
1950's era elevated Central Artery that cut a swath through the center
of Boston, lopping off the waterfront from downtown and casting a
shadow over some of the city's oldest neighborhoods.
Almost as soon as the ribbon was cut on the elevated highway in 1959,
many were already wishing it away. One was Frederick Salvucci, a
city kid for whom the demolition of the old Central Artery became a
''It was always a beautiful city, but it had this ugly scar through
it,'' said Salvucci, state transportation secretary during the
project's planning stages.
Rather than build a new elevated highway, Salvucci and others pushed a
far more radical solution -- burying it. Easier said than
done. Those who built the Big Dig would have to undertake the
massive highway project in the cramped confines of Boston's narrow,
winding streets, some dating to pre-Colonial days.
Of all the project's Rubik's Cube-like engineering challenges, none was
more daunting than the first -- how to build a wider tunnel directly
underneath a narrower existing elevated highway while preventing the
overhead highway from collapsing. To solve the problem, engineers
created horizontal braces as wide as the new tunnel, then cut away the
elevated highway's original metal struts and gently lowered them onto
the braces -- even as cars crawled along overhead, their drivers
oblivious to the work below.
It was the just one of what would be referred to as the Big Dig's
The Big Dig's long history is also littered with wrong turns -- some
unavoidable, others self-inflicted. One of the biggest occurred
in 2004 when water started pouring through a wall of the recently
opened I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston. An investigation found the
leak was caused by the failure to clear debris that became caught in
the concrete in the wall during construction. Hundreds of smaller
drips, most near the ceiling, were also found.
Some delays were unrelated to construction.
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge -- the project's signature
element -- went through dozens of revisions as designers labored to
come up with the most practical and elegant way to cross the Charles
But the project's darkest day came near the end of construction in 2006
when suspended concrete ceiling panels in a tunnel leading to Logan
Airport collapsed, crushing a car and killing Del Valle, 39, a
passenger in the vehicle driven by her husband. The tunnel was
shut down for months as each of the remaining panels was inspected and
a new fastening system installed. A federal investigation blamed the
use of the wrong kind of epoxy and the Massachusetts attorney general
indicted the epoxy manufacturer.
Four workers also were killed working on the project. During peak
construction, more than 5,000 workers labored daily on the
project. The project's escalating budget also became an unwanted
part of its legacy. In 2000, former Big Dig head James Kerasiotes
resigned after failing to disclose $1.4 billion in overruns. A
frustrated Congress capped the federal contribution.
''It never should have taken so long. It never should have been so
expensive,'' said former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who left office just as
major construction was to begin.
For those who grew up with the noise and clutter of the old Central
Artery, the transformation of downtown Boston is still a wonder to
behold. The darkened parking lots under the old elevated highway
have been replaced by parks, dubbed the Rose Kennedy Fitzgerald
Greenway after the mother of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who grew up in the
North End. Buildings that once turned their backs to the old Central
Artery are finding ways to open their doors to the parkway.
Mayor Thomas Menino, who presided over the city during most of the
construction, said that for the first time in half a century, residents
can walk from City Hall to the waterfront without trudging under a
''When I came into office in 1993, people said your city isn't going to
survive,'' he said. ''Now we have a beautiful open space in the heart
of the city. It knits the downtown with the waterfront. All those dire
predictions by the experts didn't come true.''
Drivers also give the Big Dig a big thumbs up. A study by the
Turnpike Authority found the Big Dig cut the average trip through
Boston from 19.5 minutes to 2.8 minutes.
''Before we drive bumper to bumper, but now they are moving very
well,'' said Gamal Ahmed, 38, who has been driving a cab in Boston for
seven years. ''Sometimes we are stuck, but not like before.''
For Salvucci, who warns gridlock could soon return without a major
commitment to public transportation, the Big Dig -- for all its
whiz-bang engineering -- was always second to the city itself.
''The Big Dig is not a highway with an incidental city adjacent to it.
It is a living city that happens to have some major highway
infrastructure within it and that highway infrastructure had to be
rebuilt,'' he said. ''This was not elective surgery. It had to be
On Manslaughter Charge In Big Dig Tunnel Death
By Steve Leblanc, Associated Press
Published on 8/9/2007
Boston — The company that provided the epoxy blamed in the fatal Big
Dig tunnel collapse was indicted Wednesday in the death of a motorist
crushed by ceiling panels.
Powers Fasteners Inc. was charged with one count of involuntary
manslaughter, Attorney General Martha Coakley said. The Brewster,
N.Y.-based firm is the only company involved in the construction and
design of the tunnel to be indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury,
Coakley said, noting that the investigation remains open.
A report from the National Transportation Safety Board released last
month found the July 10, 2006, collapse could have been avoided if
designers and construction crews had considered that the epoxy holding
support anchors for the panels could slowly pull away over time.
Milena Del Valle, 39, was killed when 26 tons of concrete panels and
hardware crashed from a tunnel ceiling onto her car as she and her
husband drove through the westbound Interstate 90 tunnel. Her husband
crawled out of the rubble with minor injuries.
Prosecutors said Powers Fasteners knew the type of epoxy it marketed
and sold for the nearly $15 billion project was unsuitable for the
weight it would have to hold, but never told project managers.
Jeffrey Powers, president of Powers Fasteners, said the company was
unfairly targeted and the wrong product was used in the ceiling, even
though his company had filled an order for a different epoxy. The only
reason the company was charged was because “we don't have enough money
to buy our way out,” Powers said in a statement.
The decision to indict Powers doesn't mean other companies involved in
the construction are off the hook, Coakley said. No individuals were
indicted, but Coakley did not rule that out in the future.
The maximum penalty for a company charged with manslaughter in
Massachusetts is $1,000. Coakley said there may need to be changes in
the law, saying the criminal statute may be “wholly inadequate.”
'gadfly' catches attention
with tunnel troubles
By KEN MAGUIRE, Associated Press Writer
Posted on Jul 29, 12:06 PM EDT
BOSTON (AP) -- Vincent Zarrilli knows a thing or two about lost causes.
His proposal to convert an aircraft carrier to a prison went nowhere.
And his calls for an alternative to the Big Dig went unheeded, as did
his desire to create a scorecard to rate Massachusetts judges.
But his latest crusade finally has someone listening: The Massachusetts
Turnpike Authority launched a safety review of the Tip O'Neill Tunnel
this month after the 75-year-old man from Charlestown used the state's
own figures to show a high number of accidents in that tunnel.
"Sometimes you have to check our government officials, despite the
difficulty involved," Zarrilli said.
The Turnpike Authority said it will conduct an engineering analysis to
see if changes are needed, such as lowering the speed limit or
installing better signs in the tunnel, which snakes two miles under
downtown Boston and is a key feature of the $14.79 billion Big Dig
There were 614 vehicle crashes in the O'Neill tunnel from the opening
of the tunnel through February of this year, according to MTA
statistics. In 2001, Zarrilli wrote a letter to The Boston Globe
warning the tunnel, without breakdown lanes, was prime for a high
number of crashes.
He wants to see the tunnel speed limit reduced from 45 mph to 30 mph.
"Slow the damn traffic down. It's not going to break anyone's heart,"
The traffic safety crusade is just one of Zarrilli's latest quests, and
certainly among his most successful.
For years, he has filed legislation in Massachusetts to create a
sort-of scorecard on judges. That began after he - acting as his own
lawyer - disputed an auction of his commercial property after getting
divorced. His idea to have Massachusetts to annually publish a list of
judges who have had their cases reversed on appeal - on the theory that
judges don't want public inspection because they hate to be reversed -
has gone nowhere.
After reading about a shortage of prison space in the late 70s,
Zarrilli proposed converting an aircraft carrier into a prison, and
docking it near Deer Island in Boston Harbor. It gained some support
from the Boston City Council, but never went further.
"There are all kinds of political activists. Vincent was always a
loner," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for
Limited Taxation. "People used to call him a gadfly."
Anderson said she got involved in efforts to reduce taxes in
Massachusetts because her individual efforts were fruitless: "The
individual taxpayer or citizen doesn't really have a voice."
But that's OK with Zarrilli.
"If it were a common thing that a lot of people were involved in, it
would not be of interest to me, because there's no uniqueness in it,"
In the 1960s and 70s, he operated a string of gourmet kitchenware
shops, before a recession forced him into bankruptcy protection. He
still sells his Boston bean pot and other items online. He fell into
that line of business after discovering a niche market selling
kitchenware as a part-time job during college.
There's a story behind his "French Chef" omelet pan, and to no surprise
it involves a dispute. In the early 60s, Zarrilli befriended Cambridge
chef Julia Child, who was launching "The French Chef" on public
television. He provided her with a heavy cast aluminum pan, which she
used on the show.
The station and Zarrilli "got into the legal aspects" of his use of
"French Chef." He said it ended amicably, with him copywriting the name
"and I stayed in touch with Julia over the years."
Zarrilli's daughter is a member of the Turnpike Authority board. Mary
Connaughton said she and her father "approach things differently."
"I take a more conventional approach. He takes a more extreme
approach," said Connaughton, an outspoken member of the board who was
appointed by former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney. "Nothing that he tries
to accomplish is easy. He's passionate about the causes that he fights
for. If there is one gene I did inherit from him it's the gene to
challenge the status quo."
Connaughton is not sold yet on her father's findings about traffic
problems. She's calling for an independent review of the data. Both
father and daughter say they didn't consult on the matter.
"He's a very independently minded person, and likes his independence,"
part of an older story...note the reference to "last hard hat
won't get removed until 2005" - it opened even
later than that - in 2006!
Mammoth Big Dig Highway Project Shortchanges Transit
by Jim Motavalli
Depending on who
you ask, Boston's Big Dig, a mammoth undertaking designed to replace
the city's aging central highway infrastructure with an eight-lane
underground tunnel, is either one of the wonders of the known world or
a colossal boondoggle, the biggest waste of $13.6 billion ever
conceived. Not up for debate, however, is that the project has run
massively over its original $2.5 billion budget, and is now so late
that the last hard hat won't get removed until 2005, 14 years after the
first spade went into the ground.
So big is the Big Dig that, according to Dick Bauer, a Greater Boston
Legal Services attorney and bike enthusiast, "There's now no money in
Massachusetts for any other transportation project." This is the
largest public works project in U.S. history...READ MORE BELOW.
negligence in $ suit vs. Dig bigwigs
By Jessica Fargen
Health & Medical Reporter
Monday, November 27,
2006 - Updated: 12:48 AM EST
The state is
slamming Big Dig designers, builders and contractors with a
mega-lawsuit today alleging their negligence led to the fatal tunnel
collapse this summer and that the state is entitled to millions of
dollars to cover the fallout.
Tom Reilly is expected to file a civil suit today in Suffolk Superior
Court alleging gross negligence, negligence and breach of contract
against six companies involved in the “design, installation and
oversight of the I-90 tunnel collapse,” according to a state official
familiar with the suit. The source said they
are seeking unspecified damages for repairs, loss of tunnel use and
toll revenue and other economic factors, which could add up to millions
The suit accuses
embattled Big Dig manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, general
contractor Modern Continental and designer Gannett Fleming Inc. of
negligence and breach of contract, according to the official. Modern
Continental and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff are also accused of gross
negligence. Andrew Paven, a
Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff spokesman, said he hasn’t seen the lawsuit
and couldn’t comment.
said we stand behind our work,” he said. The makers and
distributors of the epoxy, a sort of superglue used to attach bolts to
a concrete roof and support 4,000-pound concrete ceiling panels, are
also named. Inspections after the
July 10 collapse that killed Jamaica Plain mom Milena Del Valle showed
that hundreds of bolts had come loose throughout the connector.
Corporation, manufacturer of the epoxy, Powers Fasteners, the epoxy
wholesaler, and Newman Renner, Colony Inc., the epoxy distributor, are
accused of negligence. The suit is filed by
the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the
Massachusetts Highway department.
“The damage done here was immense, first and foremost in terms of the
cost of human life and the tragedy and also the cost to the taxpayers,”
the state official said.
Reilly has also
convened a special grand jury to hear testimony for a possible criminal
case against those involved with tunnel construction. In addition, Del
Valle’s family has filed a wrongful death suit. Attorney
General-elect Martha Coakley, who will take over the case come January,
declined comment last night on the suit.
Ramp Shut - Inspectors focusing on bolts holding 3-ton
By Brooke Donald
Published on 7/17/2006
— It could take months to fix problems in the entire Big Dig highway
system and reopen the roads, Gov. Mitt Romney said Sunday, the same day
another ramp was closed to traffic because of what he called a
The work in the tunnel closed
Sunday, a three-mile-long ramp, is expected to last at least several
days and comes nearly a week after the collapse that crushed a car
carrying Milena Del Valle, 38.
The governor said testing on bolts
used to secure the heavy concrete panels in the most recently closed
tunnel revealed dozens of potential problems.
“It looks like the problem is far
more substantial than just an anomaly — that it is a systemic failure
in the fastening system,” Romney said. “For the entire system to be
repaired and safe is probably going to take at least a couple of
months, and perhaps longer.”
Since Del Valle's death July 10,
motorists had been using the ramp closed Sunday as a detour around the
accident scene. But recent testing showed problems with 40 bolts that
hold up the ceiling panels there, up from an initial 20, Romney said.
The ramp, which connects Interstate
90 westbound to Interstate 93 north and south, had been previously
identified by Romney's inspection teams as a potential trouble spot,
said Jon Carlisle, a state Highway Department spokesman.
“We're putting additional
connections between the roof and the ceiling panels,” Carlisle said,
adding that the specific number of repair spots was unclear. “We're
still working on the engineering.”
The closure was expected to snarl
traffic even worse, Carlisle said.
Romney said Sunday's closure was not
called for because of any imminent danger. “We're just not willing to
risk people's lives,” Romney said.
Twelve tons of concrete ceiling
panels crushed the passenger side of the car being driven by Del
Valle's husband, Angel Del Valle, as they headed to Logan International
Connector tunnels in both directions
have been closed since then.
State and federal investigators have
focused on bolts used to hold the drop-ceiling system in place. Each of
the concrete slabs suspended above the roadway weighs three tons.
Romney has said there are 84
potential trouble spots in the eastbound connector tunnel where Del
Valle was killed. In two other adjoining sections of the tunnel, as
well as traffic ramps, there are another 278 possible problems, he has
said. He was expected to revise those figures today.
In some cases, inspectors have found
ceiling bolts pulled as much as three-eighths of an inch away from the
tunnel's concrete roof, he said. Investigators are focusing on the
bolts and the epoxy glue used to secure them.
Control of Big Dig Probe
By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer
Published July 14 2006, 10:19 AM EDT
BOSTON -- Gov. Mitt Romney seized control Friday of inspections in the
Big Dig highway system where a woman was killed by falling concrete,
saying an independent assessment was necessary to restore public trust.
Inspectors had already pinpointed at least 242 points where bolts were
separating from tunnel ceilings, and their review was continuing.
"When it comes to an issue of inspecting the tunnel system, to
have the person who's been responsible for it for the last several
years say, 'I'm going to inspect it' and tell us, 'It's now safe,'
that's not enough," Romney said.
The Republican governor signed emergency legislation Friday morning
that gives him ultimate say on when the tunnels reopens, taking that
power away from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. State lawmakers
approved the bill within hours of Romney's request.
Romney was to meet Friday with representatives from the Massachusetts
Highway Department, the Federal Highway Administration and the Turnpike
Authority for a briefing on the status of the inspection, spokesman
Eric Fehrnstrom said.
The eastbound section of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel under South
Boston, part of the main route to Logan Airport, has been closed since
late Monday when 12 tons of concrete ceiling panels fell, crushing a
car carrying Milena Del Valle, 38, and her husband, Angel Del Valle,
46. He escaped with minor injuries.
Michael Lewis, the Big Dig director, said inspectors found 50 bolt
assemblies had come loose in the eastbound section of the tunnel where
Milena Del Valle was killed -- plus 68 suspect assemblies in the
westbound section, 45 in the section carrying carpool traffic, and 79
in ramps connecting Interstate 90 with Interstate 93.
A day earlier, Lewis had only cited 60 potential trouble spots.
He said the road may remain closed for weeks, until federal officials
review the panels and workers fix any needing repair. "It will be
reopened in segments, not all at once," he said.
Another special feature...
Of Shifting Street Patterns, Boston's Big Dig Winding To A Close (old
Published on 1/14/2006
Boston— After more than a decade of ever-shifting traffic detours, the
last major piece of roadway in Boston's Big Dig opened Friday,
officials said. The opening of an off ramp from Interstate 93 south
means the $14.6 billion project to ease congestion in downtown Boston
is substantially finished, said Matt Amorello, Massachusetts Turnpike
Heavy construction began in 1991. For drivers, the ramp's opening
signals that the city should finally have a stable street pattern. The
dig has been plagued by soaring costs and long delays. The cost
ballooned from $2.6 billion to $14.6 billion. Formally called the
Central Artery and Third Harbor Tunnel project, the Big Dig buried
Interstate 93 in tunnels beneath downtown and connected the
Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport with a third tunnel beneath
technology comes to state's roads
By Mark Ginocchio
Published May 7 2006
The cutting edge of mass transit technology is expected to arrive in
the state when the first hydrogen fuel cell bus is delivered later this
year. The federally funded bus will be used by CTTransit's
Hartford division as part of a demonstration project to determine the
technology's efficiency and practicality. It also would be
the only bus of its kind in the Northeast, CTTransit officials said.
"Hydrogen is the fuel of the future," said Stephen Warren, assistant
general manager for maintenance services at CTTransit. "We know that
we're running out of petroleum and it's getting more expensive . . .
Fuel cell technology is fairly early in its design and continues to
Warren would not give the cost of the bus because the grant money
expected from the federal government has not been officially
approved. State officials said the buses would be "significantly
more" than the diesel vehicles now used, which cost more than $200,000
each. There has been a great interest in fuel cell technology
because it relies on hydrogen-created electricity rather than
gasoline-powered combustion to move vehicles. By not using fossil
fuels, the technology is considered emissions-free and environmentally
"We strongly support this project," said Roger Reynolds, a staff lawyer
for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "The only disadvantage we
know of is the expense."
Hydrogen fuel cell buses make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of
the nation's bus fleet, according to the American Public Transportation
Agency. The Hartford division was the selected recipient because
it is the only CTTransit branch with a nearby hydrogen fueling station,
Warren said. Without a fueling station, the state would have to
build a facility, which is financially out of the question, he said.
The Hartford division will probably be the only CTTransit branch to
operate the buses for the next few years, Warren said. There was
no timeline given for when the buses might be used in lower Fairfield
The only other state bus division that is pursuing the hydrogen
technology is the Greater New Haven Transit District, said Michael
Sanders, administrator in the state Department of Transportation's
public transit bureau. The astronomical costs and facility
limitations will keep the state from investing in the technology in the
near-future, he said.
Two years ago, the state purchased its first two hybrid-electric diesel
buses, which are used in Hartford and Stamford. The hybrids cost
twice as much as regular diesel buses and are about 10 percent to 15
percent more fuel-efficient. It's more likely the hybrid fleet will be
expanded before hydrogen fuel cell buses are purchased state officials
Norwalk Transit has no plans to invest in a fuel cell bus.
"Our sense is we don't have the resources we need to always maintain
the current level of service," district administrator Louis Schulman
said. "So that's our current priority."
Before the hydrogen bus is delivered this fall, CTTransit will research
the best way to store the vehicles when not in use. A request for
proposal was posted last week seeking a consultant for garage storage
and engineering, Warren said.
Railroads signal a tepid US economic
By JOSH FUNK, AP Business Writer
Thu Jan 21, 6:46 pm ET
OMAHA, Neb. – The nation's railroad operators expect a tepid recovery
for the U.S. economy in 2010, as both businesses and consumers continue
to wrestle with the effects of the recession.
The severe economic slump cut shipping demand for the railroads because
American consumers and industries have been buying fewer of the cars,
chemicals, crops, lumber and containers of imported goods the railroads
Union Pacific Corp., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and CSX Corp. —
the nation's top three railroad companies — all say demand for coal,
once a lucrative segment, is slumping as U.S. factories and homeowners
use less electricity. And as people continue to spend sparingly,
shipments of consumer goods will show a slight increase at best.
The companies reported lower fourth-quarter profits this week and said
results won't improve until they see a firm turnaround in the economy.
"Until employment shows some signs of improvement, you're going to have
consumers stay on the sideline, and I think it's going to be pretty
tough to see any kind of a strong recovery," Union Pacific Chairman and
CEO Jim Young said in an interview with The Associated Press on
Economists are forecasting U.S. gross domestic product to rise a little
over 3 percent, modest growth for an economy coming out of recession.
Many economists are hoping the U.S. manufacturing sector is beginning
to rebound as the economy struggles to emerge from the worst recession
since the 1930s. Manufacturing activity has expanded for five straight
months, according to the Institute for Supply Management, a trade
group. But construction activity remains weak, reflected in the steep
drop reported by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern in shipments of
industrial products, a category that includes lumber.
Burlington Northern says on its Web site that it transports enough
lumber each year to build more than 500,000 homes and enough newsprint
each year to print 1 billion Sunday newspapers.
Union Pacific reported a 17-percent drop in fourth-quarter net income
Thursday to $551 million, or $1.08 per share. The Omaha-based company
handled 5 percent fewer carloads during the quarter.
CSX on Tuesday said fourth-quarter net earnings rose 23 percent
compared to a year ago. Burlington Northern's quarterly earnings fell
to $536 million, or $1.55 per share, compared with $615 million, or
$1.78 per share. Revenue fell 16 percent. The company expects any
economic turnaround to be gradual.
CSX CEO Michael Ward said the railroad expects better results in all of
its business segments in 2010, except coal. But CSX, like all the major
railroads, will be comparing this year's results with 2009's weak
Coal shipments have been hit hard. As industrial production slowed and
jobs vanished, plants closed and consumers reduced their electricity
consumption. That, combined with mild weather last summer, resulted in
large coal stockpiles at many power plants.
CSX is pessimistic about its coal business partly because more
utilities in the eastern United States have switched to cheaper natural
gas to run power plants. The switch to natural gas isn't as common in
the western U.S. where Union Pacific and Burlington Northern deliver
Automotive shipments should be a bright spot in railroad earnings
reports during the first half of 2010. U.S. auto sales were solid in
December and should improve from last year's total of 10.4 million, a
Agriculture shipments offer another opportunity for growth. Already,
Union Pacific said its ethanol shipments are up because ethanol plants
that used to be owned by bankrupt VeraSun Energy have reopened under
Citi Investment Research analyst Matthew Troy said railroads will carry
more crops later this year if the USDA's forecasts are correct. Troy
said in a research note that sustained improvement in grain traffic
could be a bright spot in early 2010.
When consumers start buying more goods and retailers have to replace
them, railroads will benefit. That's because many imported shipping
containers are carried inland from ports on trains before being
delivered to their final destinations by truck. Union Pacific actually
hauled 5 percent more of those intermodal containers in the fourth
quarter although revenue for that sector was still down 3 percent.
And Union Pacific officials said they're watching to see if
construction activity picks up this spring as more projects funded by
stimulus money get going. That could lead to an increased demand for
Besides the economy, fuel prices will be another factor in the
railroads' 2010 prospects. When diesel gets expensive, the cost of
shipping on railroads becomes more attractive compared to shipping by
"If the economy starts to pick up, you'll see fuel prices move up. That
makes us much more competitive versus moving products on the highway,"
Barge proponents remain optimistic
By Mark Ginocchio
Published May 7 2006
Proponents of a state service that would move commercial goods by water
rather than trucks say they are not concerned that a similar barge
service in Albany, N.Y., ended for lack of demand.
Connecticut's service, which has been in development for more than four
years, is based on a more financially successful model and exists in a
region where there's more demand, said Joseph Riccio, executive
director of the Bridgeport Port Authority. Bridgeport's
barge service may be "more competitive with the trucking industry than
Albany's," Riccio said. "We may not be able to offer the cheapest
price, but we won't be the most expensive."
The service will take containers usually trucked out of ports in New
York and New Jersey and carry them up the Hudson River and through Long
Island Sound. Once they arrive in Bridgeport, containers can be moved
by truck. State officials have estimated that the service could
remove about 35,000 truck trips a year on Interstate 95 between New
York, New Jersey and lower Fairfield County.
Along with Bridgeport, the Albany service, which was terminated in
February after two years, was designed to be a part of the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey's Port Inland Distribution
Network. The network called for barge operations in Delaware, New
Jersey, northeastern New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Albany's service, which carried about 400 containers a day, was shut
down because "it was not self-sufficient" financially, said Steve
Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority.
The service received about $3 million in federal grant money that
recently ran out, Coleman said. It's possible the Albany service will
restart if new funding is found, he said.
Part of what made Albany's system less attractive to shippers was that
it used a crane to lift and stack boxes individually, which becomes
costly over time, Riccio said.
Bridgeport's service would use a system in which multiple containers
would be carried by chassis and delivered to ships, which is less
costly, Riccio said.
Demand in Albany was affected by the large amount of rail freight
between New Jersey and upstate New York, Riccio said. There are few
viable rail freight routes in Connecticut, he said. The
Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board backs the barge plan and gave
the Bridgeport Port Authority $1.5 million to build a facility at the
city's regional maritime complex.
Board member Karen Burnaska, who represents coastal Fairfield County,
said she has confidence in the Bridgeport service.
"As long as it's economically appealing, I think with congestion on
I-95 and with gas prices increasing dramatically, it does make sense to
have a feeder barge," Burnaska said.
Albany's termination should be treated as a "separate case" from
Bridgeport, she said. Trucking industry officials said they would
continue to support the barge service, but the state must cut its
losses if it proves to be unsuccessful.
"I think it's worth a shot and a chance to develop," said Michael
Riley, president of the Connecticut Motor Transport Association. "But
if no one uses it, you have to shut it down."
Riccio said he expects to update the Transportation Strategy Board with
a start date for the Bridgeport service at the board's meeting this
month. The service is about a year behind schedule.
gripes over airport top all other towns
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published April 7 2007
Greenwich has a reputation for making a lot of noise about aircraft
Officials at Westchester County Airport's Noise Abatement Office in
neighboring Rye Brook, N.Y., said about half of the telephone
complaints they receive come from Greenwich. In February, the
most recent month for which information was available, two town
households registered the most complaints with the airport. One
in the King Merritt Acres development about a mile south of the airport
made 32 complaints. Another household in Glenville accounted for 15
Both pale in comparison to the relentless standard set by another King
Merritt Acres household, which lodged 800 complaints in a month in 1997.
"One of them, she did have us on speed dial," said John Inserra, the
airport's noise abatement officer.
Twenty-three households combined to make 86 complaints in February.
Airport officials would not voluntarily identify the complainants,
saying it would discourage people from calling a 24-hour hotline used
for gathering information about noise disturbances. Each
complaint, they said, leads to an investigation that often determines
the cause of the disturbance, whether it's from planes using the
airport, transient aircraft or helicopters.
"We're sensitive to everybody's complaints," Inserra said.
Erica Purnell, who lives on Bedford Road north of the airport and once
had a plane crash in a neighbor's property, said she occasionally
complains about the noise.
"In the month of August, when everyone is chartering a plane to
Martha's Vineyard, it's quite busy over my house," said Purnell, a
board member of the Northwest Greenwich Association. She also is vice
chairwoman of a new airport monitoring group formed by the town.
Addressing the high number of complaints from King Merritt Acres,
Purnell said the neighborhood in the northwest part of town gets hit
with engine exhaust from planes turning away from a nearby runway after
"They're on what I call one of the hot spots for Greenwich," Purnell
Airport officials cited another reason for the disturbance - planes
making a rapid descent into the airport over land instead of the
recommended approach over Long Island Sound. The phenomenon is known
locally as "cutting the corner."
Air traffic controllers have blamed the problem on vague navigational
maps that do not show landmarks near the shore for pilots to follow.
Responding to intense lobbying from Greenwich, the airport's tower
manager has proposed to the Federal Aviation Administration a sequence
of three offshore locations for pilots to use as reference points on
their approach into the airport.
Aircraft headed for New York's LaGuardia Airport are being blamed for
the disturbances reported by the Glenville resident who registered the
second most complaints in February. Overall, Purnell said
officials at the suburban airport are sensitive to the concerns of town
"They'll print out a snapshot of what happened during a complaint,"
Purnell said, explaining that airport officials produced a 40-page
report for one household that complained.
First Selectman Jim Lash said that the complaints serve a purpose.
"We want people to call the airport noise line not to harass them, but
to give them a more complete picture of what the noise problem is,"
said Lash, who suggested restraint in some cases. "I think 800 times in
a month is probably not helpful."
Despite the extreme number of complaints from some households, airport
officials said the overall number is down. In 1997, the airport
received 10,510 complaints. Last year, the airport received 1,294
"Aircraft have gotten significantly quieter," said Westchester County
Transportation Commissioner Larry Salley.
While some disturbances might not qualify as significant under
government standards, transportation officials said changes in sound
patterns can be quite noticeable when airplanes stray from their routes
to previously unexposed areas. That's often when the airport's noise
hotline starts ringing.
"We serve as their psychologist," Salley said.
may sue FAA over plane plan
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published April 2 2007
Fairfield County officials are threatening legal action against the
Federal Aviation Administration over its proposal to change the
airspace over the region, saying the plan lacks measures for dealing
"If there's no attention paid to the noise issue, I think it's possible
there will be litigation coming out of many of these communities,"
Greenwich First Selectman Jim Lash said.
After several years of studying air traffic congestion in the region,
the FAA endorsed a new routing system March 23 that it said would save
12 million minutes of delays per year at Kennedy, La Guardia, Newark
Liberty and Philadelphia airports. The new routing pattern would
allow departing planes to climb to higher altitudes quicker and with
less separation between them, which the FAA said would clear the path
for more on-time arrivals.
But officials are concerned about plans to shift an arrival pattern for
La Guardia Airport east over Fairfield County. Existing flight paths
take approaching aircraft over Putnam and Westchester counties in New
"I think this is a regional problem," Lash said. "We all have the same
concern with this, and that is the report that has been presented makes
no attempt to mitigate the noise impact. That's unacceptable to all of
An FAA spokesman denied the new flight pattern would have a dramatic
effect on Fairfield County, including the La Guardia approach.
"There will be some noise increases in Fairfield County, but not
significant by FAA standards," said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the
FAA's Eastern Regional Office in Queens, N.Y. "There are no significant
increases associated with the preferred alternative in terms of
shifting the arrivals to Connecticut from New York."
Another controversial proposal would allow planes departing from
Westchester County Airport to turn back over Connecticut as they
ascend. Peters said the route would take outbound planes back over the
airport. Now, most departing flights head west or south, climbing
over the Hudson River, lower Westchester County or the Bronx, N.Y. An
FAA rendering of the proposed departure route showing a loop over
northwestern Greenwich, which borders the Rye Brook airport, alarmed
Fairfield County officials.
"That's a graphical representation," Peters said.
Greenwich is working with New Canaan to commission an analysis of the
FAA proposal by Williams Aviation Consultants Inc. of Queen Creek,
Ariz. Each town will contribute $10,000 toward the study, which
will review the FAA proposal, the methodology used in endorsing the new
routing system and the agency's projections for air traffic volume.
"We will present a very united front with Greenwich," New Canaan First
Selectman Judy Neville said. "We will vigorously oppose this."
Neville echoed Lash's comment about the potential for legal action.
"I'm totally prepared to have to pursue litigation," Neville said. "I
think we all are."
She said she does not expect the results of the study to be available
for an April 24 FAA public hearing at the Holiday Inn Select in
Stamford. Peters said the FAA will issue a report before the
hearing with recommendations for mitigating noise. The public will have
until May 11 to comment on the rerouting proposal, which the FAA has
said could take effect in August.
Cutting The Corner: Westchester-Bound Jets
Take Shortcut Over Town
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
February 11, 2007
In many local households, the friendly skies could be
Complaints of pilots straying from published approach patterns for
Westchester County Airport and beginning their noisy descent over
Greenwich instead of Long Island Sound are so common that residents
have a name for the phenomenon.
"Cutting the corner has been such a long-standing problem," said
Selectman Peter Crumbine.
Many residents have their theories why some pilots approaching the
airport are making the required U-turn over land instead of
water. Some say it saves the aircraft operators money on fuel.
Others suspect it saves times on commercial and corporate
flights. But one air traffic controller says navigational charts
are to blame because they lack specificity on where pilots should turn.
"If you're based in Chicago and they say, 'Turn right at the
shoreline,' where do you commence your turn?" said Thomas Cahill, the
airport's air traffic manager.
"There's no marker or beacon. That's the problem," Cahill said,
explaining that the area's jagged coastline of coves and rivers makes
it difficult to determine a turning point.
Responding to intensive lobbying efforts from Greenwich, which borders
the Rye Brook airport to the east and north, Cahill developed a plan to
deal with the issue.
Cahill's plan would establish a sequence of three offshore locations
for pilots to use as reference points on their approach into the
airport. Known as "way points," the locations would be near Shippan
Point in Stamford, Greenwich Point Park and Calf Island off the Byram
The Federal Aviation Administration, for whom Cahill works, is
reviewing the proposed route and could publish it in flight manuals it
updates periodically. The way points would also appear on cockpit
displays in aircraft with modern avionics equipment.
"I think it's going to work," Cahill said. "It's been flown in a
First Selectman Jim Lash said he was encouraged by the plan.
"I can see how that might improve the situation," said Lash, a former
astronautical engineer and former Boeing employee.
On a recent afternoon in the airport's control tower, Cahill gazed out
at the southern horizon as several corporate jets prepared for landing.
In a 15-minute period, all of the five planes that made the U-turn did
it over Long Island Sound.
"There isn't a person who uses this airport who isn't cognizant of the
noise impact sensitivity," said Cahill, who described some complaints
about wayward pilots as exaggerated.
"I think it's more a perception than reality," Cahill said. "I know the
people who live in that area think the pilots are doing it
About 65 percent of the 300 planes that land each day at the airport
use the route in question, according to Cahill. Cahill cautioned
that his plan would only apply during good weather conditions and could
be published in May at the earliest. The FAA has strict
procedures for flights during times of low visibility that requires
pilots to use an instrument landing system that follows a route still
farther out over Long Island Sound.
One former pilot who lives in Greenwich is taking a keen interest in
"From what I understand, it should help considerably, assuming the
pilots follow the way points," said Bruce Dixon, chairman of the
Selectmen's Advisory Committee on Aircraft Noise.
The town recently created the committee, which includes several current
and former pilots, to deal with what leaders have called an important
quality of life issue. Several of its members are planning to meet
later this month with Cahill, who said wayward pilots just need to be
shown the way.
"I think they scratch their head and say, 'What the heck do they want
us to do?' " Cahill said.
Drain: Cost Of I-84 Fix
By EDMUND H. MAHONY, Courant Staff Writer
February 15, 2007
The state may have to pay as much as $27 million to tear up and repair
defective drains and other work on a brand new stretch of I-84 near
Waterbury - half of what it was originally supposed to cost to build
the redesigned roadway in the first place.
The state's newest repair estimate, a copy of which was obtained by The
Courant, is just another piece of grim news emerging from a relatively
small, increasingly expensive and by all accounts poorly managed
highway reconfiguration project.
And it is not the only bad news:
The Federal Highway Administration, which has pumped $55 million into
the project, is concerned enough about construction and inspection
failures that it may ask for at least some of its money back.
The state Department of Transportation has released a document showing
that the construction problems extend beyond more than 200 defective
drains to include two overpasses.
L.G. DeFelice Inc., the construction company that walked away from the
job and left its insurer to argue over the cost of repairs, owes the
Connecticut State Police $1.2 million for construction-related traffic
Also, the FBI is showing no signs of slowing an investigation of
construction lapses that could end in fraud charges. Connecticut
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a private auditor also are
The new estimate may provide guidance for state budgeters, but nothing
in the numbers is likely to mollify the tens of thousands of commuters
looking for an end to construction-related traffic jams on Waterbury's
east side. The job was supposed to have been completed in 2005. That
was revised last year to June 2007. More recently, it has been
re-revised either to Dec. 1, 2007, or sometime in 2008, depending on
the consultant doing the revising.
Also, the estimates don't answer the question that has dogged the
project for six months: How did dozens of workers assigned to build,
inspect and pay for an interstate highway project fail to notice that
the critical water drainage system beneath it was so poorly built that,
in places, it probably would have been inoperable?
The state transportation department again declined to address the
question a week ago when asked how many state employees were assigned
to the I-84 project, who they are and what they were supposed to have
"To preserve the integrity of the investigations that are currently
ongoing, we will only confirm that DOT staff were assigned to various
aspects of the project," spokesman Judd B. Everhart said. As to what
went wrong, Everhart said, "That is what we expect these ongoing
investigations to determine."
The newest estimate for repairing and completing the 3.5-mile stretch
of I-84 in Waterbury and Cheshire is included in a report that contains
two strikingly different cost projections, $27 million and $19 million.
Construction consultant PinnacleOne prepared the report, basing a
substantial part of it on the work of STV Inc., another consultant.
STV estimated the cost of the work at about $27 million, but
PinnacleOne said it could be done for about $19 million. PinnacleOne
said the lower cost would be possible if working hours, work crew sizes
and construction methods were altered to "generate efficiencies and
economies of scale."
Most of the new estimate involves repairing the drainage deficiencies.
But it includes costs associated with structural problems detected in
the two bridges that carry the east and westbound lanes of I-84 over
Route 70 in Cheshire, Everhart said.
He said bearings in bridge abutments that support the bridge deck are
out of tolerance, meaning that they are not properly situated. He said
the problem is being evaluated and will be corrected.
The drainage problems were publicized in October when The Courant
reported on a state transportation document claiming that a sinkhole
led to the discovery of a wide array of underground problems, some of
which could be repaired only by tearing up newly completed portions of
Among other things, the drains - similar to storm sewers - were built
incorrectly, put in the wrong places, situated over unstable water
collection tanks, connected with substandard piping or not connected to
anything at all. What's more, some of the collection tanks were stuffed
with construction debris.
About 270 of the 300 water runoff drains in the project are defective
in some fashion, the state transportation department has said.
"The numerous types of deficiencies, the particular as well as the
general defects and omissions in the work, were and are stunning,"
Arthur W. Gruhn, chief engineer at the state transportation
department's bureau of engineering and highway operations, wrote in an
in-house memo five months ago.
DeFelice of North Haven had the $52 million contract to build the
reconfigured stretch of I-84, a contract awarded in August 2002. The
Maguire Group Inc. of New Britain, a consultant, got a $6 million
contract to inspect DeFelice's work, including the drainage system and
bridges. And the state transportation department assigned an
unspecified number of people to the job, including a senior engineer
who other participants in the project said had an on-site office.
So far, no one has offered to explain what went wrong.
The DOT has instructed its employees not to talk about the matter. The
team of lawyers trying to save Maguire from what could be a
professionally devastating financial blow has told the company's
employees the same thing. DeFelice, reportedly with cash flow problems,
has ceased operation.
At the close of the construction season in late 2005, shortly after
persuading the DOT to release to it a sum held in escrow to guarantee
completion of the I-84 work, DeFelice stopped doing business and never
resumed. Some of its assets were transferred to a related company,
which now has state contracts associated with replacement of the
Quinnipiac River bridge carrying I-95 through New Haven, according to
transportation industry sources.
"We may never know what was in somebody's mind as they were doing
this," Gruhn said. "It just is so far beyond the norm that appropriate
action had to be taken."
So far, that action has included firing Maguire and trying to assign
responsibility for paying for the repairs.
People familiar with the I-84 project, who asked not to be identified,
said the state transportation department is now in talks with
Maguireand DeFelice or their insurers to force the companies to pay for
Representatives for Maguire would not discuss the matter. A lawyer and
others representing USF&G, which is the surety or insurer for
DeFelice, did not respond to repeated telephone inquiries. Other
sources said Maguire and DeFelice collectively have more than enough
insurance coverage to pay for the higher of the two estimates. Less
clear, the sources said, is whether they are willing to do so.
The contractors and their insurers are likely to argue that the DOT
bears some responsibility because state employees not only failed to
detect faulty work, but paid for it. What's more, the transportation
department released escrow money - known in the construction industry
as retainage - to DeFelice.
The DOT says Maguire and DeFelice contracted to deliver a properly
built and inspected highway and should be forced to pay whatever is
necessary to meet their obligation.
"The department's position remains that this work was the
responsibility of these two contractors, L.G. DeFelice and Maguire,"
Everhart said. "The reason that they have bonds backing up their work
is so they can be applied in this kind of situation. This department
expects that the repairs, whatever the total is, will be borne by those
parties that we had contracts with."
If talks can't resolve the issue, the parties could end up in
arbitration or in court.
There is political pressure on the transportation department to resolve
negotiations to the state's advantage. Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who last week
proposed a budget based on increasing the state income tax from 5
percent to 5.5 percent, has said the state should not have to spend
more of its money to get the work done right. She also said the work
should be done at night and during odd hours to minimize inconvenience
to motorists. And she hired the private auditor to participate in the
quest to determine what went wrong.
Even if the state prevails in the negotiations, its I-84 problems may
not be over.
The Federal Highway Administration, which is funding 80 percent of the
project, is re-examining its commitment in view of disclosures about
defective work and sloppy oversight.
The highway administration "expects a qualified state representative to
exert appropriate oversight activity on the project in accordance with
contract provisions and federal requirements," the agency said in a
written response to a series of questions.
Should the federal agency conclude that the state failed to exert
responsible oversight, it could ask for all or part of its money back.
If the federal agency asks for a refund, it would not be the first time
the state DOT suffered a significant financial blow because of
irregularities in its highway program.
The federal regulators recently took back about $6.5 million from a
state highway sealing project, after learning that corrupt state
employees had steered the work to an unqualified contractor in return
for gifts like free trips to fancy strip clubs.