PORK: tastes good but not the greatest for a healthy diet (or budget)!   Or transport system. 





Movable New Haven Line drawbridges a concern

Stamford ADVOCATE
Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Published 06:40 p.m., Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Jan. 14, Metro-North Railroad's oldest movable span on the New Haven Line, the four-track Walk bridge in South Norwalk was covered with snow and ice and became stuck all four times it was opened to allow passage of ships into Norwalk Harbor, Metro-North President Howard Permut said.

The first two openings of the 114-year-old movable South Norwalk bridge, at 6:30 and 9:36 a.m., were made to allow ice-breaking ships to pass, resulting in rail delays of 50 minutes and 1 hour and 17 minutes when the bridge got stuck open, according to Metro-North records. In the evening, the bridge got stuck again at 6:49 and 9:17 p.m., remaining open 40 and 36 minutes in those instances.

The episode is one example of the need to overhaul four of five New Haven Line movable bridges, which are more than a century old and often become stuck as they await replacement or major upgrades, Permut said.

The fifth span, the Peck Bridge over the Pequonnock River in Bridgeport, was replaced in 1998 and generally operates well, the railroad says.

"I want to emphasize first off that the bridges are safe but the operations of opening them and maintaining infrastructure of such advanced age is pretty expensive," Permut said. "Whenever the bridges are stuck there are serious delays."

The challenge to maintain the Walk span and three other older bridges, in Greenwich, Westport and Devon, is heightened by frequent openings dictated by a federal requirement, Permut said; the railroad must move the spans on demand for commercial vessels, and at regular intervals for recreational craft, particularly during boating season from April to October.

"There is no way the government is going to let us turn them into stationary bridges because the waterways have to serve the maritime community," Permut said.

In 2010, the five movable rail spans failed to close about 70 of 747 times they were opened, causing about 75 delayed trains, with that unreliability directly linked to their age, Permut said.

In 2010, the Cos Cob bridge over the Mianus River saw 26 malfunctions during 406 openings, while the Devon bridge had 16 malfunctions during 108 openings, the Saga bridge in Westport had six in 31 openings, the Walk had five in 206 openings, and the Peck bridge had four malfunctions.

Because bridge malfunctions cause extended service disruptions, Metro-North keeps a maintenance squad of six bridge mechanics, engineers, and others on hand for each of hundreds of annual bridge openings on the New Haven Line to address any emergencies, a cost neither boaters nor the federal government defray, Permut said.

"Keeping equipment and infrastructure this old in working order is a considerable investment and if we didn't keep the maintenance crews on hand the delays would be much much longer," he said. "When we need to open the bridges there is, besides the manpower issues, the higher probability that the bridges will not work and stop service."

The bridges are subject to differing rules governing opening and closing, changes adopted a decade ago when Metro-North sought relief from some bridge opening requirements during peak hours, Permut said.

In the case of the Walk bridge, Metro-North has received some relief after the U.S. Coast Guard approved new regulations allowing the bridge to stay down weekdays between 7 and 8:45 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m.

Additional restrictions on opening bridges during peak times would help prevent rail delays and wear and tear on the aging bridges, Permut said.

The state Department of Transportation is designing projects to revamp the Walk bridge, built in 1896, and the Saga bridge, built in 1904. Plans for both are about 60 percent complete and are to be ready for public bidding in February 2014, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said.

A recently study concluded the Devon Bridge, built in 1905, will need full replacement, while a study to be completed in October will consider whether to rehabilitate or replace the Cos Cob bridge, he said.

"Throughout the years, all of these bridges have experienced issues with their mechanicals and that is to be expected of bridges of this age," Everhart said. "To date, Metro-North's capable maintenance forces have responded when such problems arise and have been able to correct them as expeditiously as possible to keep our rail riders moving and to meet the needs of the maritime community."

Regulations governing opening and closing of moveable bridges vary from bridge to bridge said Lt. Judson Coleman, chief of the Waterways Management Division of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound.

"We need to provide for the safety of navigable waterways and ensure that reasonable needs of navigation are accommodated," Coleman said.



Malloy being pressed to OK his first mass transit project
Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
February 18, 2011

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is faced with his first major transportation policy decision: After a dozen years of planning, should the state proceed with its first true rapid-transit project, a $570 million Hartford-to-New Britain busway?

With a press conference today, environmentalists, regional planners, and business and labor representatives stepped up efforts to nudge Malloy to give his OK for a busway already approved for major federal funding.

"This is a project that can happen tomorrow," said Rep. Tim O'Brien, D-New Britain. "It is a project that is ready to go--almost."

The final call is Malloy's.

The governor repeatedly has endorsed increasing the state's investment in transportation infrastructure, especially mass transit, as a way to immediately produce construction jobs and eventually encourage economic development.

But advocates say that Malloy, who took office Jan. 5 and met with the busway's advocates a week later, has neither embraced nor rejected the Hartford-to-New Britain project, which has generated opposition as it has drawn closer to construction.

"At the moment, the governor is focused on his budget, but would like to get everyone in a room - those who are for the busway, those who oppose the busway, and the DOT - and hash this out once and for all," said Colleen Flanagan, his communication director.

Michael Nicastro, the president of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce, launched an advertising campaign last fall opposing the project, calling it too expensive at an estimated $60 million a mile for the 9.4-mile busway.

The legislature's transportation committee held a public hearing today on a bill that would transfer unexpended funds for the project to develop rail service from Waterbury to Hartford.

"What does this do for Bristol and Waterbury?" Nicastro said in an interview before he testified.

Peter E. Lynch, a retired railroad manager who says he reviewed the project on behalf of Sen. Eilieen Daily, D-Westbrook, said rail service on the same right-of-way would serve a broader area for less cost, since much of the rail infrastructure is in place. He also challenged assertions that federal funding would cover 80 percent of the cost of the busway.

Lyle Wray, the executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, a regional planning agency, said a dedicated busway is considered state of the art for a medium-density region.

And with service every 5 to 10 minutes, Wray said, the project would be Connecticut's first true rapid-transit system and build ridership in a way that limited rail service to Waterbury would not.

The 9.4-mile busway would run mostly along a rail right-of-way from Hartford to New Britain, bypassing a congested stretch of I-84 that slows to a crawl every morning and evening.

"It gets through the bottleneck," Wray said.

The buses could continue on local roads beyond New Britain to Bristol and Waterbury. Local loops would connect to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain and the convention center in Hartford to the system, Wray said.

Jeff Merrow, the business manager of Laborers Local 661, said Malloy's approval could quickly generate 900 jobs for a hard-hit construction industry.

"We are hurting," he said.

Bill Millerick, president of the New Britain Chamber of Commerce, and Gerry Amodio of the New Britain Downtown District, said rapid transit to Hartford would open downtown New Britain to housing and other development.

Mayors Pedro Segarra of Hartford and Tim Stewart of New Britain are boosters of the project. With little notice, the town council of Newington voted recently to oppose the project, which passes through that town and West Hartford.

But opponents are urging Malloy to review the project in the context of how it complements or conflicts with the rehabilitation of the I-84 viaduct, a 4,000-feet-long raised section of highway near Aetna in Hartford that needs to be rebuilt. It is adjacent to the busway route.

"This simplies the rehabiliation of I-94, because the busway would not be there," Lynch said in tesimony prepared for the public hearing.

Wray said that BRTs, or bus rapid transit, are cheaper to build and maintain than rail and are more flexible. They also would complement the high-speed rail contemplated for the Boston to Washington corridor, with an inland route passing through Springfield, Hartford, New Haven and on to New York.

The push for high-speed rail, which has picked up support from congressional Republicans who see the Northeast as, perhaps, the only region where rail eventually could be economical, is welcome, but it is a decade away, Wray said.

Transit projects typically take 14 years from proposal to completion. If Malloy gives his approval, the busway would fall within that time frame, he said.

Wray said he and other advocates are frustrated that New Englanders seem adept at fantasizing about mass transit projects, but flinch making the commitment to construction.

"This is a no-brainer," Wray said. "This is not a monorail to Enfield."



State lawmakers discuss proposals for tolls
CT POST
Updated 12:59 p.m., Friday, February 18, 2011

HARTFORD (AP) -- State lawmakers are hearing mixed opinions about whether tolls should return to Connecticut highways after more than two decades.

At a public hearing Friday before the General Assembly's Transportation Committee, supporters said tolls would raise the money needed to fix state roads and bridges. But representatives from some border communities said tolls create a financial burden for local residents who cross into neighboring states. They also argued that tolls hurt local businesses and lead to more wear and tear on local roads.

Several bills have been offered to reinstate tolls. Proposals include open tolls on the state's major highways along the borders; building EZ Pass toll stations to collect fees from large cargo trucks, and placing tolls on new highways or new highway extensions.



Truck hits overpass on Merritt Parkway in Conn.
Norwalk HOUR
18 August 2010

FAIRFIELD (AP) -- Connecticut state police have issued a citation to the driver of a tractor-trailer that struck an overpass on the Merritt Parkway, which is closed to commercial truck traffic.

Troopers cited 28-year-old Curtney Davis of Woonsocket, R.I., for driving a commercial truck on a parkway after Tuesday's mishap at the North Avenue overpass in Fairfield near the Westport line.

No one was injured, but traffic was tied up for hours.

State police say the truck was carrying about 50,000 pounds of flour headed for Rhode Island. Troopers say part of the truck collapsed onto the highway after the collision.

A state inspector examined the flour sacks to see which ones had to be discarded.

Davis couldn't be reached for comment. His phone number isn't listed.



Tractor trailer bursts into flames on Interstate 95 in Westport (shown above)
Stamford ADVOCATE
Martin B. Cassidy, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/16/2008 08:22:18 AM EST

Firefighters put out a tractor trailer that burst into flames just after midnight Tuesday as it drove south through Westport on Interstate 95, according to the Westport fire department.

Around midnight the driver said he was travelling between exits 17 and 18 when he heard a popping noise, followed by smoke filling the cab of the truck, according to the fire officials.

When firefighters arrived the cab was fully engulfed in flames, Westport Assistant Fire Chief Robert Kepchar said.

About a dozen firefighters on three engines doused the blaze, which closed the two right lanes of the highway, Kepchar said.

The driver escaped without injury, according to the fire department.

Firefighters placed absorbent booms to sop up diesel fuel leaking from two damaged 100-gallon tanks, and notified the Department of Environmental Protection due to the fuel spill, according to fire officials.

The Connecticut Tank Removal Company collected the remaining fuel from the tanks, according to Kepchar.



Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Saturday, 31 May 2008 11:40 UK
Lorries - generic
A protest organiser said the public had been "very supportive"

A protest by hundreds of lorry drivers and farmers over the price of fuel has caused traffic chaos for holidaymakers.

A convoy of lorries and tractors is travelling slowly along the A30 in Cornwall between Hayle to Launceston.

The drivers' action comes at the end of the Whitsun half-term break, when thousands of people are trying to leave the county to go home.

A separate fuel price protest on the A30 between Launceston and Lifton in Devon has also taken place.

A BBC Radio Cornwall reporter at the scene of the main protest said the convoy was travelling at less than 10mph and traffic appeared to be gridlocked.


"There's just lorries as far as the eye can see"
Pete Atkinson, eyewitness

"On just about every slipway and bridge there's another bunch of lorries waiting to join," Michael Taylor said.

Neil Hart, who operates a haulage company in Pool, Redruth, with 22 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) took part in the protest because he could no longer afford the fuel prices.

"In the past year it's cost £200,000 more in diesel," he said.

"That's about £16,000 a month extra and we just can't pass any more on to our customers.

"What we need is a rebate of 25p per litre."

Bill Harper, one of the organisers of the Devon protest, said although he was not planning to lay anybody off, he was worried about the situation.

'Message to government'

He owns an animal feed business in Holsworthy and is responsible for more than 30 vehicles.

Mr Harper said the Devon protest was beginning to disperse, but about 250 drivers had sent a "short, sharp message" to the government.

"I'm pleased because the response from the public has been very supportive, despite the tailbacks," he said.

Motorist Pete Atkinson said: "Looking from the bridge at Launceston towards Lifton, there's just lorries as far as the eye can see.

"No-one's going anywhere fast."

Devon and Cornwall Police said drivers could delay their journeys until later in the afternoon or use alternative A roads to avoid the protests.

A police spokesman said the situation was currently being monitored and the convoy was being kept to a single lane to allow other road users to pass.

An owner of holiday cottages in Cornwall, who did not want to be named, told the BBC some of his guests were upset at the timing of the protest.

'Bad experience'

"The weather hasn't been brilliant this week, but most people have still had a lovely holiday," he said.

"I understand why the lorry drivers are protesting, but at the same time I worry that if holidaymakers have a really bad experience going home, it might make them think twice about coming back to Cornwall."

Earlier this week, hundreds of road hauliers staged fuel protests in London and Cardiff.

They have said businesses are being driven to the wall by the high cost of diesel and have called on the government to abandon a planned 2p rise in fuel duty.





Bloomberg Creates a Task Force to Advocate for U.S. Infrastructure Needs
NYTIMES
By RAY RIVERA
Published: January 20, 2008

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg attacked Washington politicians on Saturday for what he called short-sighted, politically motivated spending while the nation’s roads, bridges and airports fall apart.

“Infrastructure isn’t sexy or glamorous, and it doesn’t make for great headlines,” Mr. Bloomberg said in Los Angeles, “but it is one of the most important issues facing our country.

“And make no mistake about it, we have an infrastructure crisis.”

Joined by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, the mayor announced the creation of a nonpartisan organization that will advocate for more, and smarter, federal spending on infrastructure.

The organization, Building America’s Future, will comprise elected officials and others, and it will be financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, a frequent collaborator with the mayor on pet projects.

Drawing on images like the levy failures in New Orleans, the bridge collapse in Minnesota and the nation’s congested airports, Mr. Bloomberg said China, Malaysia and other countries were investing in infrastructure at higher rates than the United States.

As he lashed out at Congress, his possible presidential ambitions seemed never far from the surface. While maintaining that he is not a candidate, the mayor met with Clay Mulford, who was Ross Perot’s campaign manager and is an expert at third-party ballot access, in Austin, Tex., during the first leg of his trip on Friday.

Building on the nonpartisan theme he has cultivated since at least June, when he dropped his Republican affiliation and became an independent, Mr. Bloomberg took aim on Saturday at party bickering, saying it had contributed to the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

“In politics, winning elections and protecting a party majority is more important than solving problems,” he said. “So short-term pork invariably wins over long-term investing, and the special interests win over the rest of us.”



Fiscal situation sounds like CT when then-Gov. Rowland did the lay-off thing and got the unions angry enough to get him to resign (and go to jail) before he was impeached...
You Hate His Toll Plan; Ready for His Budget?
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: February 24, 2008

TRENTON — His grand plan to save New Jersey from fiscal purgatory is in tatters. More residents than ever before are unhappy with him. And things are unlikely to get better anytime soon.

After a difficult week in which he had to admit that he lacked the legislative support to raise tolls sharply, Gov. Jon S. Corzine is poised to unveil a budget on Tuesday with at least $2.5 billion in spending cuts and probably a steeper drop in revenue than expected.

“The budget address is going to be nothing but bad news,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “And it will have a much broader impact than simply the tolls. Unfortunately, the budget address has the capacity to make virtually everyone in the state unhappy.”

Mr. Corzine is expected to propose a budget of $33.5 billion, or maybe less, that threatens to spare few, if any, areas — not higher education or hospitals or local governments.

Administration officials and lobbyists say he is also considering shrinking the state work force by at least 3,000 employees through buyouts or early retirement packages, and closing as many as three departments. No wonder he expects a backlash from interest groups that, in prosperous times, would be allies.

“We are going to hold our spending at flat, or even reduce it, in the budget that I present, but that has to obviously impact some of those things that I think the public wants to see,” the governor told reporters after an event in Princeton on Thursday. “There’s a real tension that goes with trying to correct problems.”

For Mr. Corzine, the grimness of his assessment was matched by the realization that his ambitious plan to reduce the state’s debt and finance transportation, on which he has staked much of his first term, has been rejected by legislators and taxpayers.

Under his original plan, the state would help to create a nonprofit corporation empowered to raise up to $38 billion in bonds, backed by toll increases of 50 percent every four years from 2010 to 2022 on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway. That money would pay down half the state’s debt of $32 billion and establish a steady stream of financing for transportation projects.

But in the last several days, the governor watched powerlessly as one Democratic legislator after another offered a buffet of alternatives that could be called, collectively, Anything-But-Corzine. Last Wednesday, Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, the chairman of the Transportation and Public Works Committee, offered the first comprehensive alternative to Mr. Corzine’s plan.

Mr. Wisniewski, who has opposed the governor’s plan since it was introduced last month, proposed smaller toll increases as well as an increase in the gas tax — now one of the lowest in the country, at 14.5 cents a gallon — by 18 cents over three years. He also suggested a new water consumption tax that would finance preservation of open space.

State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County who is a leading ally of Mr. Corzine, said he was encouraged by Mr. Wisniewski’s plan, though it would not pay down nearly as much debt as the governor’s. But the Senate majority leader, Stephen M. Sweeney, said he would oppose any plan that included an increase in the gas tax.

As the Democrats scrambled to find an alternative to Mr. Corzine’s plan, the governor’s approval ratings continued to plunge. A New Jersey poll by Quinnipiac University, made public on Wednesday, found that a record 52 percent of respondents disapproved of Mr. Corzine’s performance.

Asked Thursday about the status of his fiscal plan, Mr. Corzine seemed a bit resigned and noted that he did not have the majority of votes necessary in either the Senate or the Assembly. “I’m not conceding that it’s dead,” he said in Princeton. “On the other hand, I’m a realist. I don’t have 21 and 41 votes for this — I might not have any votes for this.” He said he would look closely at Mr. Wisniewski’s plan.

And while Mr. Corzine insists that there is no causal relationship between the budget and his plan to raise tolls and lower the state’s debt, he must perform a juggling act that will require at least two hands.

Complicating matters, tax revenue in December was below projections by 1.7 percent, or $53 million. The January figures have yet to be released, but administration officials, who required anonymity to discuss the situation because they were not authorized to speak to the news media, said they expected a further softening.

Mr. Corzine is notorious for tinkering until the very last minute, and the budget process this year is even more nerve-racking than usual for legislators and lobbyists, because of the dire steps said to be under consideration: eliminating the Departments of Personnel, Agriculture and Commerce; reducing higher-education subsidies; cutting property tax rebates for the wealthiest residents; closing state parks; and shortening hours at offices of the Motor Vehicle Commission.

“We may not get everything I want with regard to these issues,” Mr. Corzine said, “but if we get a long way down that path, I think we will make real change, real contributions, to both the present and future of the state.”


Relying on New Jersey Roads, and Fearing Higher Tolls
NYTIMES
By KEN BELSON
Published: February 14, 2008

DAYTON, N.J. — Up and down the New Jersey Turnpike, warehouse managers like Ray O’Brien are bracing for the worst.  Tolls could rise up to 800 percent under a Corzine plan.
The turnpike is his lifeline, a cheap, reliable and convenient conduit to the ports, airports and railheads around Newark, through which billions of dollars of goods pass each year, and a thoroughfare to deliver those goods along the East Coast.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plan for steep toll increases on the turnpike, as well as the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway, was the last thing Mr. O’Brien, a warehouse manager for the furniture wholesaler Coaster Company of America, wanted to hear. With the economy souring and gasoline prices soaring, business prospects are becoming increasingly uncertain.

If transportation costs continue to swell, the exodus of businesses to counties north of New York City and eastern Pennsylvania is likely to quicken, businessmen and transportation experts say, undermining New Jersey’s warehouse and distribution industry, the state’s largest single employer.

“These guys made these investments with an understanding that the costs would be tolerable,” said Martin E. Robins, a senior fellow at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. “The toll increases are definitely a threat.”

Higher tolls would not only make it more expensive for Mr. O’Brien’s workers to get to Coaster’s 438,000-square-foot warehouse near Exit 8A, but they also would most likely cause the trucking companies that deliver 10 40-foot-long containers each day — and pick up other merchandise for delivery — to raise their prices to offset the $186 a truck would pay to ride the length of the turnpike in 2022. Currently, they pay $23.

Mr. O’Brien is scheduled to renegotiate in April with the trucking companies that deliver crates of furniture to his warehouse. “They’re going to be talking to us about the toll increases,” Mr. O’Brien said. “Someone’s going to pay for it, and it’s not going to be them.”

While current tolls on the turnpike are well below the national average, if Mr. Corzine gets his way, they would rise by as much as 800 percent by 2022 to pay down the state’s $32 billion debt and to finance transportation projects.

Simply put, the turnpike would go from being one of New Jersey’s great bargains to one of its biggest burdens, and in turn could spell trouble for companies that in the last few decades opened the vast warehouses lining the highway near exits 7A and 8A. Companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Mercedes-Benz, have leased millions of square feet of space there because of its easy access to the ports and to their customers.

Joseph S. Taylor, chief executive of the Matrix Development Group — which builds and leases warehouses and is partly responsible for the quadrupling of commercial space near Exit 8A — has had a front-row seat to the migration.

As it is now, Mr. Taylor said that about a quarter of the companies that consider leasing space from Matrix end up in Pennsylvania, up from 5 percent a decade ago.

“It was a trickle in the 1980s, a stream in the 1990s and a flow in the 2000s,” he said.

The toll increases alone will not push companies to move elsewhere, he said. But combined with rising labor costs and taxes, congestion and environmental red tape, companies — particularly those that ship many products outside the New York area — are going to think about how to bypass New Jersey.

“These guys are going to go where there are prices they can handle,” Mr. Taylor said.

BabyAge Inc., an Internet retailer, made that decision four years ago when it left its cramped quarters in Secaucus, N.J., and bought a new warehouse in Wilkes Barre, Pa., just off Interstate 81, not far from its intersection with Interstate 80.

In addition to lower real estate prices, tax breaks and an affordable hourly work force, said the company’s chief executive, Jack Kiefer, the cost of receiving containers that arrive from the West and the South has fallen because the trucks that deliver them do not have to go through New Jersey to reach his warehouse.

“We moved 110 miles west, but our savings on shipments from Charlotte, Indiana or California have decreased because it’s such a hassle to drive through New Jersey,” Mr. Kiefer said. “If we were still in New Jersey, they would pass the tolls along to me. As soon as they drive past the Delaware, there’s a higher premium.”


To be sure, transportation costs are just one factor that companies consider when deciding whether to sign a 10- or 15-year lease on a warehouse. Rents, taxes, adequate space and a reliable stream of well-trained workers are equally important, if not more so.

And while truckers heading to eastern Pennsylvania, where dozens of companies have moved, can avoid tolls on Interstate 78 and Interstate 80, they must travel farther and spend more on fuel. In addition, congestion on those roads has increased because of the commuters who share the roads with tractor-trailers. Pennsylvania is also awaiting federal permission to introduce tolls on Interstate 80.

Moreover, it is possible that Mr. Corzine will reduce the size of his planned toll increases, which include four 50 percent rises — one every four years through 2022 — on top of annual inflation adjustments, because of opposition from trucking companies and drivers who rely heavily on the turnpike.

In some parts of the state, truckers are expected to leave the parkway and the turnpike for local roads to save money, should the Legislature approve Mr. Corzine’s plan. But for the vast number of truckers who go back and forth between the port, the airport in Newark and the railhead in Kearny, there are few practical alternatives to the turnpike.

Bradley I. Abelow, Mr. Corzine’s chief of staff, is aware that the higher tolls will cut into truckers’ profits and will ultimately be passed on to their customers, but he says that truckers will benefit from the additional investment in the state’s roads, bridges and tunnels.

“The truckers and folks in the shipping business — their livelihoods are attached to what their costs are of being on the road,” Mr. Abelow said. “We need to find a way to invest in capital in our transportation infrastructure, and the truckers are going to bear part of that cost.”

Mr. Abelow said that although he expected trucking companies to pass along some of the toll increases to their customers, he hoped that the predictable schedule of increases would give them time to prepare.

At the same time, it could also give companies time to consider alternatives when the leases on their warehouses come up for renewal. Or, as often happens, they may simply raise their prices to compensate for higher trucking costs. But with consumers already hit with a slumping home market, higher gas prices and a weakening job market, companies may find it hard to raise prices.

“There’s no question about it, they’re not going to eat the higher tolls,” Craig Phillips, senior vice president for distribution at Lifetime Brands, said of the trucking companies as he stood in the company’s 772,000-square-foot warehouse in Robbinsville. “But it’s not going to be easy to pass it along in this economy.”



Tolls Plan Is Dead Unless Revised, Corzine Is Notified by Opponents
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: February 9, 2008

TRENTON — Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s plan to sharply raise tolls is all but dead, according to influential Democrats and every Republican state legislator, who have warned that he has to modify his plan substantially if he expects to win their support.

Mr. Corzine’s plan to raise up to $38 billion in bonds by increasing tolls 50 percent every four years from 2010 to 2022 had been criticized by various Republicans since it was unveiled last month, but on Thursday all 49 Republican state legislators declared their opposition.

More jarring to Mr. Corzine was the defection on Thursday of three notable Democrats, including his former colleague in the Unites States Senate, Frank R. Lautenberg, and State Senator John H. Adler of Camden County, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

On Friday another Democrat, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., who represents the shore communities in the central part of the state, said Mr. Corzine’s plan should be changed because it “seems to disproportionately place the burden on the residents of counties that I represent.”

In the face of growing opposition, Mr. Corzine has spoken more frequently about the possibility of altering his plan, perhaps with a combination of smaller toll increases and an increase in the gasoline tax.  That has not appeased many of the people who attended town hall meetings this week in two heavily Republican counties, where Mr. Corzine was received with catcalls, boos and even personal insults.

Then on Friday, more than 700 opponents of the plan rallied outside the State House, led by the same radio station that helped foment opposition to a tax increase initiated by Gov. Jim Florio 18 years ago in a campaign that forced Mr. Florio out of office.

“The idiot in the corner office isn’t listening!” roared Casey Bartholomew, who is one-half of the talk-show duo known as the Jersey Guys on WKXW-FM.

The rally used pig balloons to parody the warning the governor made in announcing the plan: “Pigs will fly over the State House before there is a realistic level of new taxes or spending cuts that can fix this mess.”

Mr. Corzine has insisted that his ambitious plans for rescuing the state’s economy were never intended to be the final version, but rather a first draft in a give-and-take process. Still, allies of Mr. Corzine say privately that he has been surprised by the level of vitriol, even though he has lined up support from dozens of influential business leaders, two Democratic congressmen and former Republican officials with reputations for fiscal discipline.

But in Trenton, Mr. Corzine’s task is to persuade at least 21 senators and 41 Assembly members to pass his plan. While he initially said he wanted the measure establishing a new nonprofit corporation to issue bonds and manage the state’s three toll roads — the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway — approved by mid-March, he conceded this week that June is more realistic.

“The governor has tried to do a lot, and in politics that’s tough to do,” said State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Union County Democrat. “But we have to scale back the governor’s plan a little bit.”

When asked Thursday night after a town hall meeting in Atlantic County about possible alternatives, Mr. Corzine said: “I haven’t settled on any alternative, but I’m listening to people, and I’ll try to come up with a proposal that actually can get 21 and 41. I’ve always said this would be a heavy lift to do it just exactly like I said it. So we have to make sure that we solve our problems, and many people want some other solutions.”

Mr. Corzine’s apparent willingness to compromise is likely to be a relief to many Democrats, especially those whose districts are close to the toll roads. For now, however, it is a cause for concern.

Even Congressman Steven R. Rothman, who represents mainly Bergen County, and United States Senator Robert Menendez both tread carefully when asked if they support Mr. Corzine’s plan. While the two Democrats gave him credit for tackling the persistent fiscal mess, they questioned whether his plan offered the best solution.  Representative Bill Pascrell, whose district embraces a swath of North Jersey, went further, saying the governor’s plan was unfair to his constituents because they would bear much of the cost.

“I would recommend changes to the governor’s proposal to provide a greater degree of equity,” he said. “It is important that all New Jerseyans, regardless of what roadway they reside near, be required to share in the burden of restoring fiscal solvency to the state.”

According to Mr. Lesniak and aides to Mr. Corzine, it is unlikely that the governor will offer any specific changes to his plan before he presents an austere budget for the next fiscal year on Feb. 26, which is expected to include more than $2 billion in cuts.  Mr. Corzine has already warned that just about every sector — education, the arts, hospitals, municipalities — will be squeezed by the budget, which will freeze state spending at last year’s level of $33.5 billion.

Such stringent cuts may prompt some opponents to restore spending in various areas, Mr. Lesniak said, and then look at Mr. Corzine’s toll plan in a new light. It seems likely, he said, that in the end, the governor will have to accept retiring less debt and getting less for transportation.

As the Senate president, Richard J. Codey, put it: “He’s trying to do the right thing, and I support his efforts to right what’s wrong. But to go down the road of fiscal restructuring, we need a different vehicle.”



Fixing a Budget at the Toll Booth
NYTIMES editorial
Published: January 19, 2008

As states and cities look to their roadways to generate badly needed money, the state of New Jersey is offering an approach worth studying. Gov. Jon Corzine wants to shore up his state’s troubled finances by sharply raising tolls. If he gets his way, the cost of driving most of the turnpike could eventually rise from $5.85 to $48, providing money for both debt reduction and public transportation. The plan has potential pitfalls, but it may well be the best solution to a difficult problem.

New Jersey is drowning in $32 billion in debt, a legacy in large part of previous governors and legislators who approved generous public-employee contracts, and other costly programs, without paying for them. The state also faces critically important transportation needs, including widening the traffic-clogged New Jersey Turnpike. In a high-tax state like New Jersey, coming up with additional revenue is never easy.

Mr. Corzine has called for raising tolls by 50 percent every four years between 2010 and 2022. One mitigating factor for New Jersey residents is that about half of the turnpike’s drivers are from out of state. The average drive on the turnpike is only two or three exits and far cheaper than the full fare. There also may be discounts for low-income drivers and commuters who use the highways frequently. Still, it is a whopper of a toll increase.

New Jersey is hardly the only cash-starved jurisdiction to look on tolls as a possible salvation. Indiana and Chicago have leased some toll roads to private companies. Pennsylvania is considering such an arrangement, and California is scrambling to find revenue sources to repair its highways and bridges. Mr. Corzine is avoiding the mistakes of the worst of these plans.

Rather than handing the state’s roads to an unaccountable private entity, as Indiana did in a hugely controversial 75-year lease, he is proposing to turn the highways over to a highly regulated public corporation. It would sell $38 billion in bonds, which would be paid off by toll revenue. Almost half the money would pay down the state’s debt. The rest would go to transportation, including a large chunk for mass transit.

Mr. Corzine says the legislation, which has yet to be unveiled, would prohibit governors from meddling in operations or reducing the toll increases. These are necessary safeguards. The proposal also calls for a public oversight board — to be appointed by the governor, with input from the State Legislature.

The Legislature, controlled by Mr. Corzine’s fellow Democrats, will have to sign off. Legislators need to make sure that there are sufficient guarantees that the public corporation will work in the public interest. They should also work with Mr. Corzine on the other part of his proposal: putting in place measures to end the irresponsible spending that produced this financial mess.

The toll increases will hit many residents of New Jersey hard. But if the details of the plan come out right, including the protections for those least able to pay, they will be worth the pain, and New Jersey’s remedy could become a standard for other fiscally troubled states.


Toll Increases in New Jersey Would Be Steep, and the Debate Will Be Fierce
NYTIMES
By KEN BELSON and DAVID W. CHEN
Published: January 12, 2008

Driving the family car on the New Jersey Turnpike from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge — just about the length of the highway — could rise to $48 from $5.85. For truck drivers, navigating that same stretch of highway would soar to $186 from the current $23.

With a sense of resignation in his voice, Ed Daly, who had stopped for a snack at the Joyce Kilmer rest area, just north of Exit 8A, said, “Tolls fall heaviest on the working man.”

The fiscal gymnastics Gov. Jon S. Corzine has proposed to stabilize New Jersey’s sagging economy may lay beyond the reach of many truck drivers in their semis and parents in their S.U.V.’s. But at least one crucial element of his plan they understand: his intention to boost tolls sharply. And they probably don’t know the full extent of it.

If Mr. Corzine’s plan can win the battle for public approval and the votes of state legislators, drivers will be paying more than eight times what they pay now by 2022, and New Jersey will go from having some of the cheapest toll roads in the country to some of the most expensive.

The leap in tolls will help reduce the state’s $32 billion debt load and finance major transportation projects, like the widening of the turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, and the construction of a second Hudson River rail tunnel into Pennsylvania Station.

To pay for those and other projects, Mr. Corzine wants to increase tolls by 50 percent every four years, beginning in 2010 and ending in 2022. Tolls would also rise up to an additional 3 percent per year for 75 years to account for inflation. What’s more, the initial toll increase in 2010 would include four years of inflation adjustments, backdated to 2006.

Governor Corzine, who has seen opposition to his plan for bailing out the state mount in the year since he began talking about it, now faces complaints that the burden on drivers could end up choking the state’s economy. Commuters, vacationers and truckers rely heavily on New Jersey’s toll roads to get to and from New York and Philadelphia, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport, the Port of New Jersey and the warehouses that line the center of the state.

Trucking companies say they will have little choice but to pass along the toll increases to their customers, who in turn will probably raise consumer prices. Working families may end up joining the migration to North Carolina, Georgia and other states where the cost of living is lower. And for those who stay, economists say the higher tolls could mean less money spent at a restaurant or hardware store, or drivers clogging local roads to avoid the tolls.

“There will be strategies emerging to avoid bearing those costs,” said James W. Hughes, the dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

By Thursday, two days after unveiling his controversial plan, Mr. Corzine was already offering sweeteners to try to gain support — that he might introduce discounts to regular users of the state’s toll roads, and the possibility of not turning a busy highway connecting New Jersey and Staten Island into a toll road, as originally proposed. He also noted that about half of the people who pay to use the turnpike are from out-of-state.

That means little to Mr. Daly, a sales manager for a communications company in Clifton, who said that he traveled the turnpike every day, spending $50 a month in tolls. Once the first increases take effect in 2010, that would jump to $75, and he would have to absorb the difference by himself.

“Talk about a regressive tax,” he complained.

Yet as Mr. Corzine said on Tuesday when he unveiled his plan, he had done the math and was willing to face the consequences. Now he is bracing for a backlash in Livingston on Saturday, at the first of 21 town hall meetings. He had already provoked some grumbling by making residents who planned to attend register online or by telephone.

Still, the public meetings will be no consolation for truckers, particularly for those who own their vehicles.

Walter Krupski, a resident of Stewartsville, N.J., who has been a long-haul trucker since 1976, says the higher tolls will be a significant burden. At one time Mr. Krupski, who has his own trucking company, used to employ several drivers, but he says he no longer does because of soaring health care costs. Today, Mr. Krupski, 50, is a self-employed trucker and has no health insurance.

On Thursday, he was on Interstate 81 in West Virginia carrying a load of beer from North Carolina to New Jersey. He said that that nine-hour drive would typically earn him $500, and that his profit would be about $50, after fuel, insurance, tolls and other costs. But if tolls were to go up as Mr. Corzine plans, Mr. Krupski said he would eventually have to spend another $13, cutting his profit by more than 20 percent.

“It’s eventually going to dribble down to the consumer,” Mr. Krupski said. “Goods and services in New Jersey are going to go up because of this.” As he put it, “You can take a little hit, a little hit, but sooner or later you got to get that money back or else you’re going to go out of business.”

More than anything, truckers want to know when the tolls will go up and by how much, and since the increases are not scheduled to go into effect until 2010, they have time to factor the higher costs into negotiations with their customers.

“If you increase one of my costs in 30 days, I can’t go back to the shippers,” said Matthew Wright, the chief executive of Apgar Bros., a midsize trucking company in Bound Brook, who is president of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association. “At least I know what I’m dealing with it and I can sit down with a shipper. Just having the predictability is a useful tool.”

Mr. Corzine’s chief of staff, Bradley Abelow, said he was aware of the burden the higher tolls would have on the state’s businesses, but insisted that the payoff was worth the financial pain.

“The truckers and folks in the shipping business — their livelihoods are attached to what their costs are of being on the road,” Mr. Abelow said. But, he added, “we need to find a way to invest in capital in our transportation infrastructure, and the truckers are going to bear part of that cost.”

Still, the majority of the 680 million vehicles that travel the turnpike and parkway each year are not trucks, but cars driven by voters.

Ron Willever, a driver for a car service, who was at the Vince Lombardi stop on the turnpike on Thursday afternoon, put it this way, “You might as well just sell your car.”


Corzine Proposes Steep Rise in Tolls
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN and KEN BELSON
Published: January 9, 2008

TRENTON — Gov. Jon S. Corzine proposed the biggest financial maneuver in New Jersey’s history on Tuesday, arguing that drastically increasing highway tolls over the next 15 years could generate as much as $38 billion to help the state pay off half its debt and finance transportation improvements.

Drivers would face a 50 percent increase in tolls on the state’s three toll roads — the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway — every four years, beginning in 2010. The tolls would rise further with inflation. In addition, a portion of a fourth highway — Route 440 leading from the intersection of the Turnpike and the Parkway in Woodbridge to the Outerbridge Crossing — would become a toll road.

“It’s not something I want to do,” Mr. Corzine said in his State of the State address before the new Legislature, whose members were sworn in earlier on Tuesday. “It’s something we have to do. This proposal is a solution — a solution to restore the state’s financial integrity, health and capacity.”

To carry out his proposal, Mr. Corzine, who made his fortune cobbling together complex financial deals on Wall Street, would need the blessing of the markets to embrace a bond issue that would dwarf the largest bond deal ever undertaken by the state, an $8.6 billion issue in 2003 for school construction.

While a number of states, including Pennsylvania and California, are struggling to come up with the money to repair their roads and bridges, fiscal experts say Mr. Corzine’s plan to repair its transportation infrastructure and halve its $32 billion in debt is the most unusual and complicated among states that have considered leveraging their toll roads to generate more money, fiscal experts say.

But unlike Indiana or Chicago, which have leased some roads to private companies, New Jersey would continue to own its toll roads. To minimize political interference, Mr. Corzine said the state would establish two nonprofit corporations, one to operate and maintain the roads, and the other to provide oversight.

Anticipation over the plan has been building since Mr. Corzine first suggested the need to draw money from New Jersey’s assets in his State of the State message a year ago. But Mr. Corzine has been delayed in rolling out his plan, first by a serious car accident in April, then by his own propensity to take his time making decisions.

With polls consistently showing that most New Jerseyans opposed the idea of refinancing the toll roads, Mr. Corzine has encountered stiff resistance from Democrats and Republicans alike.

But now Mr. Corzine, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who was elected in 2005 after campaigning largely on his financial acumen, has vowed to stake his political future on his plan. To sell it, he plans to hold public meetings in all 21 counties, with the first to take place on Saturday in Livingston, an affluent and educated suburb that Democrats say might be more receptive to Mr. Corzine’s ideas.

And with the state grappling with debt that has climbed from $13 billion to $32 billion in less than a decade and with the highest property taxes in the country, Mr. Corzine said that New Jersey could wait no longer.

“The public must be put back in charge of the state’s credit card,” he said. “Unfortunately, the ability to borrow is a privilege that’s been abused to the point that the public has pretty much told us they no longer trust our judgment.”

To win this battle, he plans to spend part of his vast wealth on public service announcements for television and radio promoting his plan. And he challenged legislators — a third of whom were sworn in Tuesday — to adopt his proposal before the July 1 budget deadline.

If the state fails to enact his plan, Mr. Corzine warned, the alternatives include raising the gas tax by at least 12 cents a gallon, the income tax by 20 percent or the sales tax by 30 percent.

“Do the numbers,” he implored. “I have.”

As he put it, “Pigs will fly over the State House before there is a realistic level of new taxes or spending cuts that can fix this mess.”

Under the plan, a public benefit corporation, which would operate and maintain the roads, would be created to issue up to $38 billion in bonds to generate a quick cash infusion. The bonds, which would be issued in stages within a year of legislative approval, would be backed by the toll revenues.

In addition, a public interest corporation would be created to monitor and approve the directors of the other corporation.

In an effort to assuage fears that politicians and lobbyists may view his plan as creating a giant piggy bank, Mr. Corzine said that all the proceeds would be used for two purposes only: reducing the state’s debt, which could save as much as $960 million a year in annual debt payments, and replenishing the Transportation Trust Fund for capital and repair projects, which is scheduled to be depleted by 2011.

For the average driver on the Turnpike, the governor said, the proposal would mean that the typical one-way trip — spanning three exits — would go from $1.20 to $2.05 in five years, and to $5.85 in 10 years.

To make his case, Mr. Corzine pointed out that the state’s toll roads were among the least costly in the nation. Tolls have increased on the New Jersey Turnpike only five times in its half-century history; the last increase, of 17 percent, was in 2003. The Garden State Parkway, the nation’s busiest toll road, has had one increase in its half-century history, in 1989.

To demonstrate that he was serious about fiscal restraint, the governor also pledged to freeze state spending in next year’s budget at the current level, and to push for a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval for most future borrowing.

Mr. Corzine will need approval from the Senate and the Assembly, both controlled by Democrats. On Tuesday, the top two legislators — Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. — embraced the governor’s proposals.

“I think it was a tremendous home run for him today,” Mr. Roberts said. “If we can minimize the politics and maximize the degree to which this is a policy discussion, the governor is going to be successful.”

For their part, Republicans said that while they were pleased by Mr. Corzine’s pledge to freeze spending, they viewed the proposed toll increases as taxes on drivers.

Senator Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank, said the governor’s plan amounted to “decrying the credit card mentality but yet then proposing to take out a Visa platinum card to pay for the fiscal woes of the state.”

“No one should be fooled,” she added. “You’re borrowing to pay for borrowed money. It’d be like taking out a home equity loan to pay for your mortgage. It’s the wrong way.”


Corzine to Tour State for Plan to Cut Debt With Toll Roads
NYTIMES
By JEREMY W. PETERS
Published: January 1, 2008

Gov. Jon S. Corzine is hitting the road to build public support for his much-anticipated plan to reduce New Jersey’s debt by refinancing the state’s toll roads.

The tour, a campaign-style swing through all 21 counties, will give New Jersey residents their first chance to question Mr. Corzine about the plan, which he has said he will unveil in his State of the State speech next Tuesday.

It has been more than a year since Mr. Corzine promised to deliver the financial restructuring plan, his administration’s most ambitious and complex initiative.

Though he often has described the toll-road refinancing idea as the most effective way to cut the more than $30 billion state debt in half, little is known about what such a plan would include.

In general, it would involve borrowing money by using toll increases as collateral. Tolls on state roads including the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway would rise considerably in the years ahead, but Mr. Corzine has not specified by how much or when...




Each stopped driver makes road that much safer
KEN DIXON Kdixon@ctpost.com
Article Last Updated: 01/18/2008 09:45:47 PM EST

My idea of a happy morning commute consists of one or two things. It's immediately a good day if I pass a truck stopped on the highway shoulder by a State Police trooper in the midst of writing a nice, fat ticket.
All those tractor-trailer rollovers during Interstate 95 rush-hour commutes are never, ever, caused by trucks operating at the 55-miles-per hour speed limit.

A superb morning, upon which the sun shines through cloud cover, is the occasional day when some idiot passes me on the parkway at about 80 miles per hour and I see him — it's almost always a man — stopped around the next curve by an unmarked state police cruiser.

I can never figure out why someone would be in a hurry to go to work. Another theory of mine is that the amount of time aggressive drivers save while terrorizing those of us who merely exceed the speed limit by 5 miles per hour is lost in their eventual, inevitable emergency room visit and hospitalization after a collision.

They're collisions, not accidents.

It's not an accident when an idiot weaving in and out of traffic sideswipes someone on Route 8 or an aggressive driver cuts off another vehicle on the Merritt Parkway and causes it to flip.

An accident is when a tree keels over in a high breeze onto the roadway and a car crashes into it.

The very best kind of morning commute occurred last week, when not one but three speeding idiots were pulled over, in a row, by unmarked state police cars on the parkway. I saluted the law-enforcement scene. Then, a half hour later, I called State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance to see if the action was a vestige of the speeding and aggressive driving crackdown that the state Department of Transportation funded last month and into the New Year.
Vance wasn't sure whether the DOT money was still there last week, or if it had been used up, but the undercover units remain active.

Just during the New Year's holiday weekend there were nearly 300 accidents, 39 with injuries, 61 DUI arrests, 808 speeding arrests, 136 seat belt violations and 855 hazardous-moving arrests, state police reported.

"The program through and over the holidays was extremely successful from the arrest standpoint," Vance said over the phone last week. "We have an aggressive-driving unit within the traffic squad and what we've done focuses on that type of behavior."

These troopers blend into traffic and observe violations and dangerous drivers in their natural habitat, as opposed to setting up speed traps. Vance said the daily summonses are significant.

"Utilizing this approach, we think has a positive impact in addressing the aggressive-driver issue," Vance said.

Another new twist in the realm of nonviolent highway retribution is also available.

If you're tired of being bullied, intimidated and pushed around on state highways, take heart, because you or your vehicular companion can use cell-phone technology to call down the state police on drivers who may be threatening you.

Wherever you are, you can just call 911 and the connection rolls to the nearest state police barracks.

If you can identify the aggressive vehicle, include its marker number, location and direction. Chances are the barracks can dispatch vehicles to witness and intercept the offender.

"The classic at night is the high-beams push and tailgating to intimidate," Vance said, adding that while each investigation is different and according to a trooper's individual observations, charges can rise from speeding to reckless driving, requiring a court appearance to answer a Class A misdemeanor.

Reckless driving can mean higher insurance premiums, fines, multiple court appearance and even prison for the self-involved rolling road hazards. That's the kind of negative reinforcement these dangerous drivers deserve.


Even if you're alone while calling on a hand-held phone, you won't violate the face of the law because police can view it as an emergency that's allowed under the law against drivers using hand-helds. "Ideally, get the license-plate number if you can see and a description of the car," Vance said. "Call us and tell us about hazardous moving violations and we can put a trooper in position on an exit or entrance ramp or overpass."

With a cell phone, it's never been easier to protect yourself from aggressive drivers. And if more safe drivers take action, maybe we can take back the roads.


Tractor-Trailer Rolls Over Near Fatal Accident Site (shown above)
Cleanup of Friday accident continues 
DAY
By Matthew Clark    
Published on 11/3/2007 

East Lyme - A tractor-trailer traveling northbound on Interstate 95 rolled over Saturday afternoon, leaking fuel and shutting down the highway at Exit 75 for the second time in as many days. No other vehicles were involved, and no injuries were reported.

Police are diverting northbound traffic onto Interstate 395 via Exit 76, then take the Route 85 exit and go left off the offramp. The I-95 interchange is four miles up, past the Crystal Mall.

On Friday morning, a tanker truck, tractor-trailer and four cars were involved in a crash that resulted in three deaths and the spilling of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel onto the highway.

Interstates 95 and 395, along with a section of Route 1, had been closed since Friday morning as the result of the earlier accident, which spilled thousands of gallons of fuel onto the highway and into the brook.
 
Workers from the state Department of Environmental Management were in Latimer Brook this morning in row boats, moving around booms before the worst of the storm arrives. Up to 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel made its way into the brook.
 
Shortly before 10:30 a.m. Friday the driver of a tanker truck carrying thousands of gallons of diesel fuel lost control of the truck while traveling in the northbound side of I-95 and crashed through the guardrail into southbound traffic. The tanker struck a tractor trailer causing a collision with four passenger vehicles. Three people were pronounced dead and three others were injured and taken to local hospitals.
 
The state police are asking anyone who observed the crash to call Troop E at (860) 848-6500.



The new look in traffic control - or "congestion mitigation"

Across the pond...or in our own backyard:  http://www.swrpa.org/projects/cmp2020.htm

The road ahead for pay-as-you-drive 

By John Ware, Presenter
BBC, 7 March 2007

Road pricing proposals have provoked a storm of protest but what is the alternative in easing congestion?

Downing Street's website may have melted under the 1.8 million petitioners opposed to the government's national road pricing scheme for dealing with congestion.  But how would the petitioners stop the UK from being the most extensively traffic congested country in Europe?

Many argue for the traditional "predict and provide" approach to traffic growth: more road building, more parking and removing bus lanes.

But are these credible alternatives to dealing with our insatiable desire to drive more vehicles more frequently to more places? Indeed, there is credible evidence that such measures only exacerbate congestion by inducing extra traffic.

Certainly the decline of public transport - especially the bus in rural areas - has made people much more car dependent, a trend exacerbated by planning support for some out-of-town developments and the government's "big is beautiful" approach to the closure of thousands of post offices, scores of hospitals and hundreds of police stations, not to mention the scarcity of school buses.

Pricing pluses

But people have also become hooked on unnecessary car use.

The Department for Transport says a quarter of journeys under two miles are by car which may explain why in the last decade, the number of walking trips per person fell from 292 to 245 and why there are now more households with at least two cars than with no car.

The anti-road pricers make no mention of the pluses of road pricing claimed in the recent Treasury commissioned study by former BA chief Sir Rod Eddington: congestion cut by half, £28bn a year benefits to bus and rail users.

Unless demand is controlled, by 2025 the DfT forecasts that car use will grow by 40%. Computer modelling suggests that will double the time we spend in congested traffic.

All this is a very far cry from John Prescott's vision in 1997 in which he said he would regard himself as having failed had he not reduced car use within five years. The clear message was: our rapid growth in hyper mobility was unsustainable and major road projects were put on hold.

In December 1999 Mr Prescott promised: "We're going to have a transport system to rival the best in Europe" (only to telephone a senior official the next day for the facts and figures about how far behind Europe our transport system was).

But the following year his 10-Year Plan for transport restored the emphasis on mobility and revived road building. Motorists were promised traffic could grow whilst congestion would be reduced by up to 6% by 2010.

"The arithmetic didn't add up" said Professor Phil Goodwin, a key Prescott adviser. "The more traffic there is, the slower it goes. It's a fundamental law of traffic but it looked for a while as if the government had found a way to abolish it."

Square one

Mr Prescott did get powers for local authorities to introduce congestion charging at their discretion - provided they got approval from ministers. But a later transport minister John Spellar tried to sabotage London Mayor Ken Livingstone's plans to introduce the congestion charge.

The 10-Year Plan was effectively laid to rest within two years by the then Transport Secretary Alastair Darling announcing a 20% rise in congestion by 2010 rather than the 6% reduction that had been promised.

He also announced a new £3bn roads scheme: "The government is listening to motorists and is committed to getting our roads moving again."

Now the government has returned to where they started when they took office: that it's never going to be possible for road building to keep pace with traffic growth and that the only way to control that is through pricing.
 
Road pricing trials will take place in several urban areas in about five years, although the DfT appears to have excluded the most congested sections of the strategic road network from these trials.

Meanwhile, their target for reducing congestion - a 3.6% increase in journey time in the 10 largest urban areas by 2010-11 - is a "weak ambition" says the Transport Committee.

Road pricing, anyway, will not be "the silver bullet" which eliminates congestion. The public transport system will need to be hugely expanded. A 5% reduction in road traffic may equate to a 50% increase in demand for bus and rail services.

To absorb this extra demand - and ahead of the road pricing - public transport will need to be much more attractive. But by 2005 in real terms bus and coach fares were 42% and rail fares 39% higher than in 1980 whereas the overall cost of motoring is 9% below 1980 levels.

As it is the DfT is well adrift from its 2010 target to increase public transport by 12% compared with 2000 levels in every region of England, a target which itself displays a "lack of ambition" says the Transport Committee.

"Are we there yet?" on the roads? Answer: "not yet" and at this rate "perhaps never". 





That's what I call "shovel ready (r)"

I-95 widening project under way in Norwalk
John Nickerson
Updated 11:17 a.m., Wednesday, June 20, 2012

NORWALK -- With shovels in hand near the southbound on-ramp near exit 14, officials broke ground Wednesday morning on a project that will widen a stretch of Interstate 95 that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called one of the worst bottlenecks in the state.

The three-year, $42.3 million project, scheduled for completion in February 2015, will add an exit lane to I-95 southbound from the Route 7 connector that will extend 2,300 hundred feet to exit 14 at Connecticut Avenue.

Malloy, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and state Sen. Bob Duff took part in a ground-breaking ceremony across the street from Swanky Frank's hot dog stand on Connecticut Avenue.

Malloy, a frequent visitor to Swanky Frank's, said watching exiting traffic backup onto the thruway was "frightening." He added that if a horrible accident happened on the road he was worried that the state may have been found culpable because the road design connecting Route 7 to I-95 was so sub-standard.

Another 2,100-foot auxiliary lane will be added to the interstate's northbound lanes from the northbound Scribner Avenue entrance to exit 15 at the northbound entrance to the connector.

The exit 14 southbound ramp will be widened to three lanes and three highway overpass bridges will be replaced at Cedar Street and Taylor and Fairfield avenues to accommodate the wider highway, plans state.

The construction of new and wider sidewalks along Connecticut Avenue is also in the plans.

State Department of Transportation officials say preliminary work has minimal impacts to traffic and construction requiring lane closures will begin immediately.

No road closures have been announced.



Above:  Photo at CT POST website showing fire.

I-95 reopens after Darien truck accident

CT POST
Staff Report
Updated 02:44 p.m., Saturday, May 7, 2011

STAMFORD -- State police are investigating the cause of a tractor-trailer accident that shut down Interstate 95 northbound for more than six hours Saturday morning.

There are multiple reports of fatalities, but it is not clear how many at this time.

Shortly after 6 a.m., a container truck rolled over on top of a sedan and burst into flames near Exit 10 in Darien.

Noroton Heights Fire Chief Ron Riolo said the fire was extinguished quickly and none of the occupants of either vehicle required to be extricated.

Riolo said the accident ranks among some of the worst he has seen on the highway, which at one time was one of the most accident-prone stretches of I-95 in the state.

"It wasn't good," Riolo said. "It was a mess."

Ron Hammer, director of Darien EMS-Post 53 said the occupants were taken to both Stamford and Norwalk hospitals, but he would not say how many people were involved.

The accident caused a massive traffic backup in I-95 through Greenwich and snarled traffic on local roads in Darien and Stamford.


No easy solutions to mess that is I-95
CT POST editorial
Article created: 06/01/2006 04:29:11 AM EDT 
 
The issue of highway safety on Interstate 95 in Fairfield County — one of the most heavily traveled expressways in America — is in the headlines once again, with the failure of state officials to act aggressively on the problems being underlined anew.

The latest look at traffic conditions onI-95 comes from The Advocate of Stamford, which analyzed recent state Department of Transportation data on the highway and found that the portion of I-95 from Greenwich to Stratford has the highest accident rate in the state involving heavy trucks.

The analysis also found that truck accidents account for a larger percentage of fatalities on I-95 than any other highway in Connecticut, but also notes that most highway accidents in the state involve only passenger cars.

The analysis was similar to one undertaken by the Connecticut Post in 2004 after a fiery crash in Bridgeport between a passenger car (that was later found to be at fault) and an oil tanker destroyed a newly rebuilt overpass, causing more than $10 million in repairs.

What's perplexing is that media studies of the "highway to hell" periodically point out the problems and complaints from commuters who daily utilize the highway continue to mount, but state officials make only a modicum of safety improvements.

Through the years, we have been convinced that three steps must be taken to help improve conditions on I-95:

l The expressway simply has too many exits and entrances, which lead to slow moving traffic on many portions of I-95. Yet, the General Assembly has never displayed the intestinal fortitude to close any exits and entrances because lawmakers are fearful those closings will be in their districts. Re-election is more important than safety.

l The state truck weigh station on I-95 in Greenwich needs to be open more hours than it currently is. Again, this is a perennial issue in the Assembly that lawmakers continually shove aside, including some from down county communities who don't want trucks evading the weigh station on their local streets.

Yet, there's ample evidence that the weigh stations are a key in finding safety problems with trucks that could contribute to accidents.

l The state must move commuters in cars and freight carried by trucks on I-95 on to mass transit. This is the area in which the two past governors and the Assembly have taken the most encouraging action, especially in the past two years where we are witnessing bipartisan movement to upgrade commuter rail lines.

Yet, the state is not moving swiftly enough to reestablish rail freight lines and initiate Long Island Sound barges for cargo, 90 percent of which is now carried by trucks.

Of course, drivers, especially automobile operators, using I-95 and other state highways need to travel at posted speeds and State Police must continue their speed enforcement efforts.

There aren't simple answers to resolving I-95's traffic and accident problems, but a few steps toward solutions have been out there for too long a time without positive action.



 
Multi-truck crash causes lane closure
Greenwich TIME
By Martin B. Cassidy
Published March 7 2008

Traffic was backed up for more than two hours at the Greenwich-New York border yesterday after a chain-reaction collision involving four tractor-trailers just south of the weigh station on Interstate 95 shut down two lanes of the highway.

State police cited Christopher Ducey, 54, of Rhode Island, with following too closely in the 10:30 a.m. crash after his truck struck a second tractor trailer waiting in the right lane to enter the inspection point, pushing it forward into the rear of another waiting truck which in turn rear-ended a fourth, according to a Connecticut State Police report.

"The trucks were entering the weigh station and he wasn't able to slow down," Connecticut State Police Trooper William Tate, a spokesman for the agency said.

None of the truck drivers was injured in the crash, state police said.

Three of the trucks suffered damage to their cabs and spilled 30 to 40 gallons of motor oil, transmission fluid and anti-freeze onto the highway, said Cyndy Chanaca, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

State Police closed the center and right lanes of the highway, reopening the center lane at noon, Tate said.

Greenwich firefighters used absorbent pads to contain the liquids, Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Zack said.

Connecticut Tank Removal, a DEP clean-up contractor, cleaned up the spill, keeping the right lane of the highway to remain closed until 12:45 p.m., Chanaca said.

"We were able to clean it up and there was no environmental concern," Chanaca said.

Neway Transport of Johnston, R.I., the owner of the truck driven by Ducey, could not be reached for comment.

In October, the state expanded the number of eight-hour shifts at the Greenwich weigh station as part of a crackdown on truck safety violations.

As part of the effort state troopers continue to open the station at unposted times around the clock to keep the inspections random, Tate said.

"We continue to keep the station open at irregular times so it is unexpected," Tate said.



Students escape major injuries in I-95 crash
Greenwich TIME
By Natasha Lee
Published May 10 2006

STAMFORD -- A class of Naugatuck sixth-graders were treated for minor scrapes and bruises after their charter bus slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer near Exit 6 on Interstate 95 yesterday afternoon, according to authorities.

"It was a horrible scene, there was crying and screaming," said parent Nancy Schebell, whose 11-year-old son, Michael, was unscathed.  Capt. Mike Robles from the Stamford Fire & Rescue said firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove the bus' passenger door and opened and emergency window on the passenger's side to help people off the bus.

"We tried to calm everybody down and we took care of the kids first," said teacher Steven Dibble.

The Cross Street Intermediate School students were returning from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The northbound tour bus was in the middle lane when it crashed into the rear of the truck, after the truck abruptly locked its brakes to avoid hitting another car, authorities and witnesses said.  All 44 passengers aboard the bus, including 10 chaperones and teachers, were evaluated and released from Greenwich Hospital, hospital spokesman George Pawlush said. Those injured suffered from bumps, bruises and contusions, but he could not verify the number of passengers specifically treated for such injuries.

The driver and the passenger of a Nissan Maxima involved in the collision were taken to Stamford Hospital. Their injuries are believed to be non-lifethreatening, according to police and fire authorities. A nursing supervisor at Stamford Hospital could not provide further details.

The bus driver was taken to Stamford Hospital, according to Lt. James Heavey of the Greenwich Police Department. The truck driver declined medical treatment.  The accident is being investigated by state police.

The collision occurred when a dark blue Nissan Maxima zipped from the left lane crossing over the three-lane interstate. The driver of the Maxima is believed to have swiped a Jeep, according to a state trooper who declined to be identified. The Jeep left the scene, authorities said.  The driver of the tractor-trailer, Rafael Irizarry, said he was driving in the middle lane when he saw the Maxima dart across and immediately tried to stop.

"Everything happened so fast. I had enough time only lock my brakes," he said. Irizarry said the rear-end impact of the bus lifted him from his seat and caused him to strike his head on the truck's roof. The bus' front windshield was smashed.

"He hit me very, very hard," Irizarry said.

Northbound traffic before Exit 6 was narrowed down to one lane for close to 90 minutes as Greenwich and Stamford firefighters and medics worked to clear the bus, Heavey said.



Bridgeport trucker survives plunge off highway
RICHARD WEIZEL rweizel@ctpost.com
Article created: 05/10/2006 04:31:23 AM EDT
 
NEW HAVEN — A Bridgeport truck driver swerving to avoid a collision with a Honda on Interstate 95 jumped a bridge abutment near the West Haven line Tuesday, dangling in his rig over the side of the overpass before the truck plunged 25 feet to the ground in front of horrified witnesses.

But somehow Samuel Lopez, 43, of Norman Street, not only survived the noontime accident at exit 44 in the southbound lanes, but he also was conscious after the cab of his 15,000-pound truck hit the ground, according to witnesses. He suffered leg and head injuries, witnesses said, but they did not appear life threatening.

Lopez, driving a tractor-trailer for Royal Environmental Co. of Bridgeport, was rescued by three men who witnessed the crash, with one saying he couldn't believe the driver was still alive when they pulled him through the shattered windshield.

Lopez and the driver of the Honda, Solomon Kalkstein, 29, were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Kalkstein was treated and released, while Lopez was admitted with unspecified injuries, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Witnesses said the Honda rolled over at the scene after cutting in front of the truck, which spilled more than 100 gallons of diesel fuel along the highway and on the grassy area below. "It's just a miracle. There was no way I thought the driver of that truck could have possibly still been alive when we ran to try and pull him out," said Angel Ramos, of West Haven, who was driving a few cars behind of the truck.

Ramos said he was "horrified" to watch it crash through the guardrail and linger over the side. "I drove my car off at the exit and parked near to where the truck was actually suspended from the highway, and my first thought was that the truck was going to explode," Ramos said. "With two other men, we pulled the driver out of the cab, and he was disoriented, but talking."

Several agencies responded to the scene of the crash, including the West Haven Police and State Police, as well as the state Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation. A nearby towing company, Tony's Long Wharf, worked nearly three hours to pull the massive truck off the highway.

Some of the towing company's employees said they watched from their Kimberly Avenue office as the truck toppled off the highway.

"There was this incredibly loud sound, like an explosion," said Tammy McKenzie, a dispatcher. "Then I looked out the window and watched as the truck went on this wild roller-coaster ride. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

State police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance said the exit 44 offramp was closed for several hours after the accident, and that traffic was backed for miles on the highway and along surrounding streets.

DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said his agency responded because of the diesel fuel spilling from the cab. "But the truck company is hiring a contractor to clean up the oil," he said, "and it appears the cargo was empty."

Repeated calls were made to the truck company. A woman who answered the phone declined to comment.

Kelly McNeil, who was serving drive-up customers at McDonald's, also on Kimberly Avenue, said she suddenly heard "such a loud crash that it literally shook the entire McDonald's. I didn't know what to think. It was scary."

Giovoni Negron, of Ansonia, said he was walking along Kimberly Avenue when he watched the truck come "barreling over the highway and onto the grass. I was expecting to see the guy dead, but I guess it just wasn't his time."

       


State trooper's cruiser hit by tractor-trailer in Newtown 
Posted on Jun 4, 7:41 AM EDT

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- A state trooper has been rushed to a hospital after his cruiser was hit by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 84 in Newtown.

The trooper's name and condition have not been released. State police Lt. J. Paul Vance says the trooper is being treated at Danbury Hospital and the injuries are not life-threatening.

Authorities have closed the eastbound side of the highway near Exit 9. Major traffic backups are being reported.

A state police dispatcher says the trooper was responding to a car accident shortly after 6 a.m. Wednesday and had parked the cruiser when the accident happened.


Crash brings I-84 to halt
By Chris Gardner, Copyright © 2005 Republican-American
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

MIDDLEBURY -- Traffic came to a standstill for almost eight hours on Interstate 84 Monday after a flatbed truck crashed just before 1 p.m.

A 54-year-old man apparently had a heart attack and died as the truck he was driving hit a car, rammed a guardrail and then darted into the grassy median.

The accident backed up traffic for miles on both sides of the highway throughout the afternoon and into the early evening. It caused major problems for motorists, especially during the evening rush hour, which was four hours after the accident occurred. It took hundreds, maybe even thousands of drivers, more than two hours longer than usual to reach their destinations.

James Rose, of Bayville, N.J., was westbound about 12:54 p.m. when he lost control of the truck near the Christian Road overpass, about a half-mile mile east of Exit 16, police said. The driver of the car, Alistair J. Baptiste, 43, of Danbury, was not injured, and the 2001 Nissan Altima he was driving had only a scrape on its left side. 

A state trooper and firefighters from Southbury were the first to arrive. Because diesel fuel was leaking from the  truck's saddle tanks, no one wanted to use an electronic defibrillator for fear a spark would ignite a fire, said Paul Perrotti, Middlebury fire chief.

Southbury firefighters spread foam around the truck, which is owned by Demase Warehouse Systems Inc. of Lyndhurst, N.J., so Rose could be taken from the truck's cab and shocked with the defibrillator. Efforts to revive him failed.

Witnesses first tried to help Rose, who was unresponsive in the cab.

Troopers closed one of the two eastbound lanes while they investigated.

The westbound lanes were backed up close to 15 miles, all the way past the Queen Street exit in Southington.

The accident was cleared at 6 p.m.; the truck was towed by Karas Motors of Waterbury.

But by then traffic was the heaviest it had been all day and there were massive jams everywhere because of the evening rush hour.

Driving westbound on Interstate 691, motorists were backed up past Cheshire, almost into Meriden, around 5:30 and it took 45 minutes or more just to reach I-84.

When they finally got to I-84, they crawled into bumper-to-bumper traffic and actually came to a complete stop several times. It took more than an hour to get from the I-691/I-84 interchange just to Waterbury.

A fender-bender involving a tractor-trailer and a car at the Exit 24 westbound off-ramp on I-84 around 6 didn't help.

Many travelers tried to wind their way around streets in Cheshire, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury to find alternate routes only to get themselves backed up on those streets as well. Some of the off-ramps were so backed up motorists couldn't even get off of the interstate.

The new state law banning cell phone use while driving was ignored by many who were calling others to say they'd be late, just wanted to pass the time away as they sat in traffic, or wondered why there was such a tie-up.

Tim Baldwin, Southbury fire chief, said local roads on the east side of Southbury and in Middlebury were clogged with cars and trucks that got off to avoid the congestion. At times, eastbound traffic was backed up almost into Newtown.

There were reports of minor fender benders on both sides of the interstate, including a five-vehicle chain reaction crash on the westbound side.



Safer Weston roads the aim of police spot road checks
Norwalk HOUR
By JEANNE HOFF
November 2, 2006

WESTON — More than a year after a dump truck with faulty brakes barreled into traffic on Route 44 in Avon, Weston Police Chief Anthony Land says inspection of commercial trucks by a town officer has been successful in reducing the number of potentially hazardous vehicles on the road.

Land said he felt driven after the deadly 20-vehicle crash on July 29, 2005, to take action and improve truck safety on town roads.

That day, the driver of a 12-wheeled dump truck, owned by American Crushing and Recycling, lost control of the truck and struck vehicles waiting at an intersection — resulting in a chain of fiery collisions, which killed four people, including the truck driver, and injured 14 more.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the truck had a history of brake violations.
Land said in 2005 he sought to have officers within the Weston Police Department licensed to inspect commercial trucks as they travel along Weston roads.

However, it was not until 2006 with a nearly full house, Land said, that an opportunity came along to have an officer fill the need.

Weston Police Officer Travis Arnette was assigned to commercial truck inspections after completing training in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and becoming certified to conduct North American Standard Levels of Inspections.

Arnette, a former Westport Police officer, joined the Weston Police force in 2004.

Arnette could not be reached for comment. His inspection form submitted to the Department of Public Works for the month of October shows that he has cited several truckers for being in violation of state and federal laws.

"Travis has stopped 11 different trucks and taken some of them out of service," Land said "He finds their brakes don't work, the lights don't work and things that should not be taped down."

Three out of the 11 trucks were taken from service, and one fined $7,000 for a variety of violations.

Arnette, who has the authority to stop commercial carriers for random inspections has discovered: Plastic tie-wraps used to secure gas tanks to the frame, duct tape used to secure a front-end metal grill, low tire pressures, use of a bungee cord to hold up hydraulic hoses, lack of windshield washer fluids, a coat hanger used to hold up muffler, and severe rust, among other violations.

Trucks are inspected along Route 57 and Route 53.

The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Safety — at the urging of Gov. M Jodi Rell, following the 2005 accident — implemented several initiatives to improve truck safety in Connecticut.

A nine-month comparison study conducted by the DMV and the DOT showed that the number of serious violations declined as authorities increased their presence and began conducting random and announced roadside inspections.

The study revealed that the number of inspections conducted from July 28, 2004, to April 30, 2005, and from July 28, 2005, to April 30, 2006, increased from 11,666 to 16,614.

"It's very important to keep our roads safe," Land said. "One just needs to look at last year's horrible tragedy in Avon, Connecticut, to recognize the importance of this effort."

 

Lawmakers Call For Changes After Fatal Dump-truck Crash
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published on 7/31/2005

Hartford (AP) — State officials plan to take a hard look at the laws regulating trucks in Connecticut following Friday's accident in Avon that left four people dead.

A dump truck with a history of brake and other safety problems lost control going down the steep grade of Avon Mountain on Route 44 and slammed into cars and a commuter bus, causing a fiery chain-reaction that involved 20 vehicles and 30 people.

Four people remained in critical condition Saturday. Police said it could be Monday before they release the names of the four people killed.

No charges had been filed, but Avon police and the state Department of Motor Vehicles were investigating the safety record of the truck's owner, American Crushing and Recycling LLC of Bloomfield, formerly known as Wilcox Trucking Inc.

State inspectors last year found five brake violations on the dump truck. The Mack truck, which was temporarily taken out of service after the brake violations were found, was also cited in December 2002 for three violations involving axle problems. One required the truck to be taken off the road, according to DMV records.

The company provided documents showing those problems had been fixed, said DMV spokesman Bill Seymour. He declined to say Saturday if the state has found anything that would warrant action against the company.

“We are working with Avon police and have a number of different enforcement tools at our fingertips,” he said. “We will document what needs to be documented and then take any action that we deem to be appropriate.”

Messages seeking comment were left Saturday at the company's office.

State Rep. Antonio Guerrera, the co-chairman of the legislature's Transportation Committee, said he plans hearings on whether the state needs to improve safety inspections, lower speed limits or ban trucks from steep-graded roads such as Route 44.

“If we could avoid an accident like that, if that truck that isn't on a road with such a steep grade, that's something maybe we should consider, whether there are alternatives that would be better for trucks,” he said.

Sens. Tom Herlihy, R-Simsbury, and Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, whose districts include Route 44, sent a letter Friday asking the state Department of Transportation to study safety issues on the highway. They want the department to look at measures such as lowering the speed limit and adding warning lights and possibly a runaway truck lane.

Citing police reports, they say there were 23 accidents at the intersection in 2002, 18 accidents in 2003 and 14 accidents in 2004.

“We do know this area has a history of bad accidents,” Harris said.

Michael Riley, head of the Connecticut Motor Transport Association, said the trucking industry also favors a close look at whether more can be done to prevent accidents.

But he said the state already has one of the best inspection systems in the nation, and he believes lowering the speed limit for trucks would be dangerous.

“I think they should lower the speed limit for everyone and enforce it,” he said.

Friday's crash was the latest in a series of high-profile truck accidents in Connecticut.

Earlier crashes melted bridges, shutting heavily traveled highways such as Interstate 95 that are the gateway from New York to New England.

“There's too many cars and too many bad drivers on roads that are designed for fewer cars and slower driving,” said state Sen. Bill Finch, D-Bridgeport.

Finch was neighbors with some of the seven killed in 1983 when a truck plowed through toll booths and rammed several cars in Stratford. The state began dismantling toll booths after that crash.

Despite some high-profile accidents, the number of highway fatalities in Connecticut has declined in recent years. Last year 289 people were killed in crashes, compared with 343 in 2000 and 386 in 1990, state officials said.



Amtrak Bridge Closure Moves To June 
DAY
By Katie Warchut    
Published on 2/16/2008 

The Coast Guard is moving ahead in planning a June closure of the Thames River when Amtrak replaces the moveable span of its railroad bridge between New London and Groton.

Though previous plans were for a 20-day closure in May, Coast Guard officials agreed that delaying it a month would give Amtrak more time in case the project runs into any delays.

Recreational boating advocates were worried about the closure affecting Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the boating season, while Cross Sound Ferry officials said the month is a bad time because its vessels are being painted at Thames Shipyard's dry docks, north of the bridge.

Both parties will be affected nonetheless, as June will see more recreational boaters, and ferries could need servicing at the shipyard.

According to current plans, the bridge will be in the closed position from June 3 to June 13 while the bridge's 4-million-pound counterweight is removed. The channel will be open only to vessels that can pass under the bridge's 30-foot vertical clearance.

The channel also will be closed from the morning of June 14 to the evening of June 17. During that time, however, there will be a 36-hour window — after the old span is removed, but before the new span is floated into place — when vessels would be able to pass through.

Between June 18 and June 20, the channel again will be open but limited to the 30-foot clearance, while the new bridge is fixed in the closed position so that lifting cables can be installed.

The Washington Group International, contract managers for the project, after discussions with waterway users, agreed to shave two days off the original project schedule by using a bigger crane, though it will only shorten the time period of the first part of the project, when the bridge remains closed.

Thames River users have told Amtrak it should do everything it can to ensure the closure does not affect the Fourth of July holiday.

The annual Harvard-Yale Regatta, which takes place on the Thames upriver from the bridge, is scheduled during the closure, on June 14.

Rather than use the current drawbridge-style opening, the new bridge span will move vertically between two towers, like an elevator, to allow marine traffic to pass underneath.

Amtrak, meanwhile, still plans to shut down its northeast corridor from New Haven to Boston for the four days when the bridge span is replaced. Despite concerns from railroad passenger advocates, tourism officials, and state and federal officials, Amtrak still has no plans to offer an alternative to passengers, an Amtrak spokesman confirmed Friday.

The Coast Guard expects to submit a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” soon. The notice is published in the Federal Register and typically gives 60 days for public comment from any interested party, and an additional 30 days for reply comments.