Essex Puts Ferry Street Flood Plan to a Vote on Wednesday

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ESSEX – In an effort to lessen recurring flooding on Ferry Street, First Selectman Norm Needleman told CT Examiner that the town is asking residents at a special town meeting on Wednesday to approve an appropriation of $100,000 to raise the roadbed about a foot and install a sidewalk on the west side of the street. Needleman said that he believes the town can complete the project for that amount, and that he will be looking for possible matching grants to help pay for the work. The base of the street runs along the edge of the river and floods

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Connecticut Lawmakers Float Reviving TCI Carbon Cap Program in Special Session

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Increased transportation emissions, despite significant progress in reducing greenhouse gases produced by power plants, leave Connecticut still far behind on its goals to reduce the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The findings, part of an annual report by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection concerning the state’s greenhouse emissions, have spurred renewed calls for lawmakers to approve the Transportation and Climate Initiative – a cap-and-trade program that proponents say would generate $1 billion to fund projects that could reduce emissions from transportation, but that opponents say amounts to an unaffordable and regressive gas tax. Carbon

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New Rail Plan Aims to Eliminate Three At-grade Crossings in Stonington

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STONINGTON — Three of the town’s five at-grade railroad crossings are slated for closures and possible workarounds in the recently announced Northeast Corridor Commission Connect 2035 plan.  The plan is expected to receive funding in the recently announced federal infrastructure bill. The plan appendix of projects targets crossings at Elihu Island Road, Wamphassuc Road and Latimer Point through the New England Grade Crossing Elimination Program.  Asked what the reasons are for the eliminating the crossings, Jason Abrams, public relations manager for Amtrak, said that grade crossings are an inherent safety risk.   “Each year, approximately 2,000 people are killed or injured

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Metro-North to Require Vaccination or Weekly Testing by Sept. 7

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All Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees must be vaccinated or participate in weekly COVID testing beginning Sept. 7, according to a spokesman on Thursday. MTA operates bus, rail and subway transit in the New York metropolitan area, including Metro-North, which serves coastal Connecticut.  MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told CT Examiner in an email that 3,547 of Metro-North’s 6,069 employees – 59 percent – had received at least one dose of vaccine at MTA-run sites, or had added their vaccination details in the authority’s database.  According to the MTA, surveys of employees also show that an additional 15 and 20 percent have

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Murphy and Blumenthal Press for Funding, New High-Speed Rail Corridors

Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal both said they would support new rail corridors through Connecticut, at a press conference with Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti at the Windsor train station on Friday. The public appearance was in support of a $117 billion plan released on Thursday, called Connect NEC 2035, that would move forward the first phase of the Federal Railroad Administration’s NEC Future plan for high-speed and commuter rail along the Northeast Corridor from Washington, DC to Boston. “I don’t think there was a lot of work put into the magic marker drawing that caused a lot of

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A New Hartford Station, Resolving High-Speed Rail Bypasses, Headline NEC Future Announcement

On Wednesday, the NEC Commission announced the launch of Phase 1 of the NEC Future vision for improving rail service along the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston. Dubbed Connect NEC 2035, the plan calls for the completion of 150 significant projects over 15 years at an additional cost of $100 billion dollars. These plans include a new rail station for Hartford, the elimination of three at-grade crossings in Mystic, new rail stops along the Hartford Line for North Haven, Newington, West Hartford, and Enfield, and new rail platforms for Clinton and Madison. Service upgrades would include new direct

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Metro-North Reports No Citations Since Masks Were Required in 2020

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In response to a Freedom of Information request by CT Examiner, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released information showing that the agency has not issued any citations on Metro-North trains to riders for failing to wear a mask. “When we see someone on a train without a mask, our approach is to hand that person a mask, not a summons,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “As a result, we’ve had tens of thousands of positive interactions with customers, promoting the health and safety of all riders.” Transit workers have issued 38 summons for refusing to wear a mask on public transit

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CTDOT Talks Haddam Roundabouts, Accidents, Traffic Headaches

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HADDAM – One of the more notable changes of many slated for Tylerville is a plan by the state to install two roundabouts on Saybrook Road at the intersection of Bridge Road and the Route 9 connector. Turning north onto Saybrook Road from the connector can be a nightmare already – especially in the evening rush – as drivers waiting at the stop sign for free-flowing traffic on Saybrook Road to clear face backups and long delays. Without the change, the situation is only expected to get worse as traffic increases in the area, according to the Connecticut Department of

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Fewer Options for Shore Line East Commuters as Amtrak Opts Out

For fifteen years, Lourdes Haynes has taken the train to work in New Haven, first from Old Saybrook, and since 2012 from New London. Like other commuters on rail lines with limited schedules, she’s been helped by an agreement between the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Amtrak to honor tickets between services on the line. But Amtrak opted out of that agreement in May 2020 for riders between New London and New Haven, and with life after the pandemic returning to normal, has not announced a clear date, if any, for its return. For Haynes, who works from 8:30 a.m.

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After Failed Attempts at Tolling, Legislators Levy Mileage Fee on Tractor-Trailers

After a number of failing efforts in previous sessions to pass a highway toll, the Connecticut General Assembly succeeded on Wednesday in levying a mileage fee on tractor-trailers.  Supporters of the bill say that the fee will force heavy trucks to pay their fair share for the damage they cause to the state’s roads. Meanwhile opponents warn that the tax will increase the prices of consumer goods and will fall unfairly on Connecticut-based trucking. In the House, where the bill passed 88-59, every Republican and six Democrats voted against the bill. Two Democrats — State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, and

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Democrats Punt on Carbon Caps as Republicans Claim Victory on Taxes

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As Democratic leaders announced their intention to forgo consideration this year of the multistate Transportation and Climate Initiative — an emissions compact that would also raise gasoline prices — advocates of the policy rallied for them to reconsider, while Republicans claimed victory. Speaker of the House Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, and Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven told reporters on Friday that the Transportation and Climate Initiative pushed by Gov. Ned Lamont and his administration would not come up for a vote this year, according to the Associated Press. The announcement followed weeks of Republicans rallying opposition to initiative, and debates

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Added Off-Peak Buses Planned for Old Saybrook to Hartford Commuters

Off-peak buses could be running between Old Saybrook and Hartford by Aug. 22 if a proposed transit plan is approved. The proposed schedule for the weekday Middletown-Old Saybrook Express [921] bus includes the same four morning trips from Old Saybrook to Hartford and adds two afternoon trips, which would leave the Old Saybrook train station at 1:37 and 5:37 p.m. The departure times for the four morning buses would each be pushed back 22 minutes from their current schedule, an attempt to better align the buses with Shore Line East trains to New Haven and New London. The proposed schedule

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With Transportation Funding in the Red, Lamont Proposes Gasoline and Trucking Taxes

With the tolls Gov. Ned Lamont proposed in his first budget address two years ago a non-starter in Hartford, he used his second budget address to propose a mileage tax for tractor trailers and a regional gas tax as cures for the state’s broken transportation fund. While there is universal agreement in Hartford that the state transportation fund needs a serious fix if Connecticut is going to even maintain transportation infrastructure at its current state, the best way to fill the $60 million budget hole is hotly contested, and Republicans cast Lamont’s proposals as regressive taxes that will fall mainly

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Phoebe Noyes Griffin Hosts Wednesday Night Virtual Talk on Connecticut’s Transportation Future

“They’re going to have to do something this year. They cannot avoid this issue. They’ve kicked this can so far down the road, they’ve run out of road,” said Jim Cameron. The “can,” the state’s looming shortfall for funding a long list of transportation necessities, is in part the topic of a virtual talk by Cameron on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. hosted by the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library in Old Lyme. Cameron is no doubt the most vocal advocate (and critic) of commuter rail and transportation in the state of Connecticut – a Hearst columnist and regular contributor to

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Amtrak Settles ADA Claims For Stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island

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Amtrak riders with disabilities may qualify in certain cases for monetary damages after the passenger rail service settled claims that dozens of stations across the country, including stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island, failed to meet legal standards for accessibility. Three stations in Connecticut — Windsor, Windsor Locks and Old Saybrook — and one in Westerly, Rhode Island were part of the settlement that included 78 stations across the country.  As part of the settlement, Amtrak agreed to fix problems of accessibility, and pay $2.25 million into a fund paying out claims to people with disabilities who were harmed by

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With Tolls Off the Table, Transportation Funding Remains in a Question

State Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, knows the bill he is proposing is not going to pass.  Co-sponsored by State Sen. Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, the proposal would install electronic tolls on interstates I-84, I-91, I-95, and portions of Route 15, reviving a political debate from two years ago about how best to fund the state’s Special Transportation Fund.  The set-aside in the state budget is intended to support Department of Transportation operations, transit programs, and the debt on borrowing for infrastructure upgrades across the state. Gov. Ned Lamont, who campaigned on a promise of limited tolls on trucking, asked state lawmakers

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Amtrak Adds Clearance to Connecticut River Bridge in Response to Local Concerns

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OLD LYME — In response to concerns from the maritime community concerning vertical waterway clearance, Amtrak has redesigned a portion of a new bridge that will replace the 1907 bascule bridge that extends across the Connecticut River between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme.  The vertical clearance underneath the existing bridge is about 17.75 between spans and close to 18 feet under the movable span, according to an email from Craig Rolwood, a rail practice project manager with Hardesty & Hanover LLC, which is a consultant to Amtrak. The new bridge, an $400 million project expected to be completed in 2030,

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Tourism, Traffic, Migrating Fish and Birds — All Part of Planning the Swing Bridge Overhaul

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EAST HADDAM – The first alert is a loud rapid-fire clang of a warning bell like at a railroad crossing, followed in quick sequence by flashing red lights and the wail of a siren. As the sound fades into the air high above the Connecticut River, vehicle-blocking gates on either side of the East Haddam Swing Bridge drop into place. Foot-high steel barriers rise from the deck as further precaution. In a small room over the bridge with windows on all sides, an operator scans live video monitors to ensure all is clear, then presses a series of buttons on

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Lamont Announces Funding for Walk Bridge and Connecticut River Projects

Gov. Ned Lamont and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation announced on Friday that the state has received a $144 million grant — part of the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program — toward the replacement of the Walk Bridge and the Connecticut River Bridge. The Connecticut River Bridge, which opens and closes more than 3000 times a year, was constructed in 1907 and is the oldest movable bridge between Boston and New Haven. The project will replace the existing structure with a new bascule bridge 52 feet to the south. State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, contacted by

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State Invites Comment on Draft Four-Year $3.9 Billion Transportation Program

The Connecticut Department of Transportation continues work on plans to remove the two traffic signals on Route 9 in Middletown, one of 223 projects included in the draft 2021 State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP. The draft is the topic of two virtual public information meetings to be held on Sept. 23, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The public is also invited to review and comment on the draft program of projects, as well as Public Involvement Procedures, until Oct. 9.  Middletown project The Middletown project began under the Malloy administration as a way to improve safety conditions and

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Five Things to Know About the DMV as Connecticut Opens for Business

With the phased reopening of Connecticut’s economy and government functions underway, many individuals across the state are wondering when the Department of Motor Vehicles will open its doors for tests, licenses and registrations. For now, the answer to most of those continues to be “not yet.” The department is expecting a substantial backlog of services required and tests that will need to be performed when they finally do reopen their doors. How that backlog will be cleared up, and whether that will require additional hours or staff, has not yet been decided. Here are five things to know about what

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$400 Million Connecticut River Railroad Bridge Replacement Takes a Step Forward, Design Details Announced

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A significant but relatively little known plan is underway to replace the aging railroad lift bridge that spans the Connecticut River between Old Lyme and Old Saybrook. The estimated $400 million project, proposed by Amtrak, would construct a new bascule bridge 52 feet south of the existing structure. The original bridge, which dates back to 1907, is an essential link on the Northeast Rail Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. and would remain operational during construction. The existing structure will be largely removed once the new bridge is completed.  Though few town officials seemed to know about the plan, it resurfaced

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Fatalities Rise Despite 50% Drop in Traffic Across Connecticut

Despite a 50 percent drop in traffic from mid-March through the end of April, fatalities on the roads across Connecticut have increased. Between January 1 and April 30 of this year there were 87 fatalities on the road compared with 62 in 2019 and 81 in 2018 during the same period. “It’s astounding to me that despite the big drop off in traffic volumes and the big drop off in total crashes, the number of fatalities has not gone down. It’s either gone up significantly or is about the same,” said Tom Maziarz, the chief of policy and planning for

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Connecticut Pushes Ahead on Transportation Projects as Revenues Plummet

Traffic has dropped 50 percent across the state and nation, oil prices have collapsed and state transportation departments relying on fuel taxes are losing revenue – but the Connecticut Department of Transportation isn’t cutting back on any projects just yet. Transportation officials in states across the country – including Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – are already scaling back planned highway projects or furloughing workers as they expect more people staying home will mean less revenue from key sources of funding, including the gas tax.  Connecticut Department of Transportation Spokesman Kevin Nursick said the state hasn’t cutback yet.

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Surprise Cut to Waterbury and Danbury Line Funding Raises Hackles at Bond Hearing – New Rail Cars for Shore Line East

The State Bond Commission approved a proposal to spend $300 million of special transportation funding on 60 new rail cars for Shore Line East and the Hartford Line. No bond funding was allocated to either the Waterbury or Danbury lines. “We don’t have an endless supply of bonding money, especially in the Special Transportation Fund. We probably discussed this ad nauseam last year. Because we didn’t get new revenues in there, the Special Transportation Fund is slowly running dry. We had to set some priorities for what we spend it on,” said Governor Ned Lamont at a virtual commission meeting.

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COVID-19 Closures Ease Roadwork Constraints, Says Connecticut Department of Transportation

Efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 have led to significant work slowdowns across many parts of the economy over the last six weeks, but with half the usual traffic on roads across Connecticut, the state Department of Transportation says that it has taken the opportunity to increase road work efficiency. “Typically, we have limitations on lane closures and other work activities that would detrimentally impact motorists — particularly during peak travel times,” said Kevin Nursick, spokesperson for the department. “As a result of COVID, and drastically reduced traffic volumes, we are able to expand allowable lane closure times, duration

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Jahncke: Tolling Revenues Won’t Add Up

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There’s a new game in Connecticut. It’s called dodge-a-gantry. Right now, it is only a virtual game being played on Google Maps. Governor Lamont latest toll plan – he’s had many – is to toll only tractor-trailer trucks at just 12 highway bridges in the state. So what are truckers doing? They are getting ready to game Lamont’s proposed system. They are researching the best toll evasion routes, i.e. the best local roads to use to bypass the intended highway gantry locations. The governor and his advisors have failed to take into account a unique and fundamental obstacle to imposing

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Connecticut Department of Transportation Explains New Traffic Cameras in East Lyme

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Every year the state department of transportation invests more than $10 million in replacing, installing and updating traffic signals. For the past couple years these projects have included cameras. “The signal needs to know where the traffic is at in the intersection,” said Kevin Nursick, spokesperson for the DOT. “Cameras see all legs of the intersection and tell the signal controller where the traffic or cars or motorcycles are on a visual basis.” The state chooses four project locations each year, one in each corner of the state. This year between 10 and 20 traffic signals in East Lyme will

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Surveying Traffic Stops in Southeast Connecticut

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Suburban towns usually have more traffic stops than urban centers, said Ken Barone, a project manager at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University. “It simply because of the needs in the department. In cities like New London there is a significantly higher call volume, so officers do not have the time to do traffic enforcement,” said Barone who has managed Connecticut’s traffic stop data for seven years. “The other thing is leadership, some police chiefs hammer on traffic enforcement.” During a ride along in July, Officer Kevin Roche of the Old Lyme police department

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Westbrook I-95 Welcome Center Reopens For Labor Day Weekend

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IN THE REGION — The Westbrook Welcome Center is open and staffed for Labor Day weekend for the first time in more than three years. “We are excited to have all six welcome centers open again and thankful for Governor Lamont’s emphasis on this project,” said Randy Fiveash, the director of the Office of Tourism in the Department of Economic and Community Development. The other five welcome centers – Darien, Greenwich, North Stonington, West Willington and Danbury – were all re-opened on a 24/7 basis on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, with a budget allocation of

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