Mixmaster bridge project could cause new traffic headaches in Waterbury

From the Hartford Courant.

The Waterbury Mixmaster — as the junction of Route 8 and I-84 is called — will eventually come down, the governor has said. But before it comes down, it must be propped up: The bridges’ concrete decks are cracking, their steel corroded, and the piers that support them are in need of repair.

Last month, the Department of Transportation awarded a Chicago construction company a $153 million contract to rehabilitate the Mixmaster’s bridges, wringing another 25 years of life from the heavily traveled interchange but also adding to Waterbury’s well-known traffic woes. Walsh Construction Company, which beat out five other bidders, will begin in May to overhaul 10 bridges that weave over, duck under and crisscross one another.

The renovations will take place just a few miles from an ongoing, $298 million project to widen a section of I-84 east of Waterbury. Commuting through Waterbury — already a slog with the I-84 widening project — is expected to become more difficult.

The project will require Walsh Construction to build three temporary bridges, two spanning the Naugatuck River and one crossing Freight Street, to divert traffic off the northbound side of Route 8. Route 8’s concrete deck, in the worst shape of the 10 Mixmaster bridges, needs to be completely replaced.

John Dunham, a district engineer who is among the DOT officials overseeing the project, said the agency preferred building the temporary bypass to shutting down the interchange on weekends. Had they taken that route, Dunham said, the Mixmaster would’ve been closed 25 to 30 weekends until the renovations were finished.

Along with the temporary bridges, DOT will close some lanes at night. Dunham predicted the lane closures would come from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“There will be some impact throughout the next four years, but it won’t be permanent — I expect most of the work will be done at night, with some closures at night and on weekends,” he said.

Read the full story online.

FMCSA assigns CSA severity weights to ELD violations

From TransportTopics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has assigned severity weights to each of about a dozen electronic logging device-related violations that are being recorded on a driver’s or motor carrier’s safety profile score.

In a posting earlier this month on the agency’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability website, FMCSA said that any of the ELD-related hours-of-service violations written up will be added to safety measurement system scores.

The severity weights range from five points for not having an ELD to one point for failing to make annotations on the ELD when applicable.

“As of April 1, 2018, violations related to electronic logging device regulations found during roadside inspections are being used in the SMS,” the agency said in a web posting. “These violations are not being applied retroactively; violations recorded prior to April 1, 2018, will not be counted in SMS. Motor carriers that have received ELD-related violations will start to see them reflected in their HOS Compliance BASIC in early May 2018 when the next monthly SMS results are released.”

A complete list of the ELD violations and their severity weights is available in the SMS Appendix A spreadsheet.

See the story online.

‘Toll Trolls’ take over capitol as toll debate continues

From NBC Connecticut.

Seventy-two “toll trolls” were scattered along the lawn of the Connecticut State Capitol Tuesday morning. The green trolls, each holding a sign resembling an exit on a highway, represented a possible location for a toll along Connecticut highways based on a 3-year-old study commissioned by the Connecticut Department of Transportation. The Yankee Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Connecticut, arranged the display.

“We’re here to say not one cent more in taxes on the people of Connecticut,” said Carol Platt Liebau, president of the Yankee Institute.

Platt Liebau said Connecticut taxpayers have been asked to provide too much already in the state of Connecticut when it comes to property taxes, fees, and the income tax. Her group said lawmakers need to make other changes to state spending and borrowing before they enact any kind of toll collecting mechanism on the state’s highways.

“People in Connecticut say, we’ve already paid for these roads and again and again politicians have raided the Special Transportation Fund and used that money for other things.”

The Yankee Institute acknowledges that infrastructure repairs are necessary, but does not provide an alternative to tolls, something Rep. Tony Guerrera, the loudest voice on the issue, points out.

“Well, how do you want to pay for our infrastructure, then?” asked Guerrera, (D – Rocky Hill), who chairs the Transportation Committee in the General Assembly. Gov. Dannel Malloy advocated for providing new revenue to the Special Transportation Fund by installing electronic tolls by 2023, which he estimates could bring in as much as $600 billion to $800 billion in new revenues. Guerrera said it only makes sense to collect fees from drivers who currently get free rides through the state.

Read the full story from NBC Connecticut online.

In Legislature, time’s running out for adoption of fiscal panel’s recommendations

From The Day.

With just three weeks left in the legislative session, proponents of a plan for stabilizing the state’s economy say down-to-the-wire budget deliberations will include further consideration of some of their recommendations.

But it would appear tax reform is unlikely to move forward.

In a meeting Tuesday with The Day’s editorial board, Robert Patricelli, co-chairman of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, said commission members were in “active discussions” with a number of legislative committees.

“We’ll know (the outcome of those discussions) by the end of the week,” he said. “What we need right now are champions.”

Patricelli, a retired health care executive, and Patricia Widlitz, the commission’s vice chairwoman and a former Democratic state representative, swung through the region Tuesday, presenting the commission’s final report during a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut at The Spa at Norwich Inn before traveling to New London.

Created by the legislature a year ago and appointed in December, the 14-member commission delivered a “Plan for Connecticut” in just 11 weeks.

Its “pro-growth, revenue-neutral” overhaul of state taxes would cut the income tax rate in every bracket over three years, saving $2.1 billion a year. That would be combined with an increase in the sales tax from 6.35 to 7.24 percent, the imposition of a 0.8 percent tax on corporate payrolls and the elimination of estate and gift taxes and the Business Enterprise Tax.

The commission also recommends raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

See the full story online.

FMCSA grants fuel tank drivers 5-year rest-break exemption

From Transport Topics.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted a five-year exemption from the 30-minute rest-break requirement for trucks hauling petroleum products and will allow fuel trucks to operate 12 hours a day without triggering the requirement under certain conditions.

FMCSA said that the exemption from the rest-break was granted because fuel-truck drivers “receive several short breaks each day when they unload” at service stations.

“This is a great development for our fuel haulers and a shining example of association partnership for trucking advocates,” National Tank Truck Carriers President Daniel Furth said in a statement. “We are thrilled that the agency agrees that this relief will lower costs for carriers and prices for consumers without compromising safety on our nation’s roadways.” Federal regulations require a 30-minute rest break for drivers once they reach eight consecutive hours.

Read the full story from Transport Topics online.

Lawmakers still haven’t decided how to tackle Connecticut’s red ink

From CT Mirror.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been warning legislators since early February that their preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year is significantly in deficit. The response he got last week from two budget-writing legislative committees was bipartisan — but less than helpful.

The Appropriations Committee failed to meet its deadline to recommend spending adjustments.

The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee offered a host of ideas that collectively would deepen the hole in the next budget — already at $265 million — by at least another $130 million. Malloy also has been waiting since early December for legislators to close a deficit hovering near $200 million in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The administration did not weigh in last week on lawmakers’ reluctance to propose deficit solutions. But Malloy offered an assessment two weeks ago about why legislators — who proudly touted the bipartisan budget they adopted last October — are finding fiscal solutions harder to come by as this year’s state election season draws closer. “The grand coalition seems to be fraying, and I think that’s what gives rise to the inability to respond to the budget being out of balance,” he said.

Read the story from CT Mirror online.

Connecticut Democrats: House will vote on tolls

From CT Post.

HARTFORD — Despite Republican opposition, House Democrats see tolls in Connecticut’s near future.

Bringing tolls to the state will get a vote in the House before the legislature dismisses May 9, said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, in a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning.

“It is my hope it passes, but even without knowing whether it will pass or fail, it will be going up on the (voting) board,” he said. “The residents of the state of Connecticut, a lot of whom I hear from, just think it’s absolutely silly that every time that they go through the state of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore… they all have tolls.”

Regardless of party, the next governor will support tolls, House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, predicted boldly.

Last week, the General Assembly’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee — one of the largest and most influential of the committees — passed, by a party-line vote, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s bill authorizing the state Department of Transportation to implement statewide tolling.

Although the details are not worked out, tolls would likely be placed on interstates 95 and 84, the Merritt Parkway, and along state routes such as routes 8 and 9. The estimated $800 million in annual revenue would be used to fix roads and bridges and ease congestion.

Read the full story online.

Federal agencies sign agreement to streamline infrastructure permitting

From Transport Topics.

A dozen federal agencies have pledged to streamline environmental permitting for major infrastructure projects, a priority President Donald Trump has pursued since he took office.

The leaders of agencies such as the departments of Transportation, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, signed the memorandum of understanding April 9. It went into effect the following day.

The agreement implements an executive order Trump signed last year seeking to reduce the federal permitting time for major projects to two years.

“To help achieve this goal, agencies commit to cooperate, communicate, share information and resolve conflicts that could prevent meeting milestones,” according to the memorandum the agencies signed. “Lead and cooperating agencies will be determined as soon as practical.”

Specifically, under the agreement an agency would develop environmental impact statements with the goal of completing such reviews within two years. Accordingly, the single agency would assign a “management official to lead the environmental review process and identifying a primary federal point of contact at each cooperating or participating agency for the project.”

Read the full story online at Transport Topics.

Route 5/15 construction to reduce bridge clearance

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing the rehabilitation of Bridge Number 00807 in the Town of Wethersfield commencing on April 1, 2018. This work will result in reduced bridge clearance. Route 15 vertical clearance will be reduced to 13’-4” due to anticipated work.

The project consists of the rehabilitation of Bridge No. 00807, which carries Ridge Road over Route 5/15.

The overall scope of rehabilitation for this bridge consists of the relocation of the gas and water main, removal of existing knee walls, deck patching, and substructure repairs as required. The roadway on top of the bridge will be completely reconstructed along with the existing parapets, and sidewalks.

Lane Closure Information

Route 5/15 Northbound & Southbound

Monday through Friday (Daytime): 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Monday through Friday (Nighttime): 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Saturday & Sunday: Midnight to Noon

Ridge Road

One-way alternating vehicular traffic controlled by temporary signalization for the duration of the project.

Oakdale Street

Westbound portion will be closed at the intersection with Ridge Road during stage construction.

Detour Information

Westbound portion of Oakdale Street will be closed during stage construction and shall not exceed 217 consecutive days. Expected completion date is November 30, 2018.

Drug & Alcohol Abuse Awareness for Supervisors

MTAC has scheduled a new training class regarding drug and alcohol abuse awareness for supervisors for May 23, from 9 a.m. to noon. The class will be taught by Kayleigh Ash, owner of Onsite Drug and Alcohol Drugs Services, LLC. Onsite is also a preferred clinic for participants of MTAC’s drug and alcohol testing consortium.

Drugs and alcohol in the workplace might be the single greatest threat to your business. Your best defense is a well-trained supervisor. Who knows your drivers better? It is the supervisor who must be able to recognize drug and alcohol abuse and understand the elements of reasonable suspicion testing.

In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations (49CFR Part 382.603) mandate that all persons designated to supervise drivers receive at least 60 minutes of training on alcohol misuse and receive an additional 60 minutes of training on controlled substance use.

This is one safety issue that you cannot afford to overlook. Make certain your supervisors are trained so they can make sound decisions concerning drivers possibly impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The class is $50 for members, $75 for non-members. Register online today.