As new obstacles complicate the ongoing renovation of the New London State Pier – and add to the cost – the Connecticut Port Authority is running out of options if the price tag continues to escalate.
On Tuesday, the Connecticut Port Authority Board approved spending an additional $7,471,779.
That brings the total cost of the project to $255.5 million – roughly equal to the total funding now available for the project, which includes state and private dollars.
The redevelopment includes a contribution by the partnership of Eversource and Ørsted, which will be the first to use the reconstructed pier for their South Fork Wind project next year.
In May, Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris promised the State Bond Commission that an additional $20 million of public funding would be the “final tranche” of state borrowing needed to complete the project.
With no further state dollars forthcoming, the Port Authority is exploring other options for funding, including $3.7 million pulled from an escrow account holding a decade of lease payments for renting the New England Central Railroad property next to the pier.
On Tuesday, the authority agreed to take the final 5 years of those payments out of escrow to pay for the State Pier renovations. That means that those lease payments will have to be paid out of the authority’s future operating budget, according to Kooris. He said he was confident that the authority would have the funds to pay that lease.
But Kooris couldn’t say definitively that the contractor wouldn’t uncover more issues, given the ongoing work. And it’s still possible that even the known problems could end up costing more, Marlin Peterson, AECOM construction manager for the project, warned the board.
“We are working within the context that we all understand,” Kooris said. “We don’t have access to any more funds beyond this.”
“We have exhausted our available funds as approved and authorized and allocated to us by the state, and we are proposing a big move in taking on that obligation for those rent payments in the future,” Kooris said. “We don’t have any other tools like that available to us beyond this.”
The price tag of the project has escalated repeatedly for various reasons since it was first announced as a $93 million project in 2019. The authority pinned the most recent increases, for which the state approved another $20 million in bonding this year, on having to speed up the construction timeline to meet the March 2023 deadline for the South Fork Wind project, after lengthy permitting delays.
Peterson said the project is still on track to be finished in time for Eversource and Ørsted’s deadline to use the pier for the construction of South Fork Wind. The reconstruction of the pier’s northeast bulkhead is scheduled to be completed by Feb. 28, 2023. Construction of a new heavy-lift platform that is central to plans for offshore wind assembly will be completed in June, in time for South Fork, Peterson said.