Transportation and Clean Air Bills Clear Senate as Dems and GOP Differ on Merits and Costs

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HARTFORD — The Connecticut Senate passed a group of bills aimed at reducing emissions caused by transportation and energy generation on Tuesday night, including an omnibus air quality bill aimed at encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles for a variety of vehicles from passenger cars to buses to heavy-duty trucks, and a bill that speeds up the state’s goals for eliminating carbon emissions from electric generation. During about seven hours of debate on a bill proponents have dubbed the “Connecticut Clean Air Act,” Republicans warned that changes in the bill came too quickly for people to adapt, that the true

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Lawmakers Debate California Emissions Standards for Trucks Advancing in the Legislature

HARTFORD – With just one-and-a-half weeks remaining in the legislative session, some lawmakers said they still have questions about Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal to adopt California’s stricter emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. On Monday morning, lawmakers in the Transportation Committee approved sending a bill to the House and Senate for debate – but several lawmakers questioned the impact on businesses in the state and said they needed more information before they could vote to pass the bill before the short session ends on May 4.  The bill previously gained the approval of the Environment Committee, and is expected

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Retired Conn College VP Tapped as Interim Head of the Connecticut Port Authority

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As the Connecticut Port Authority begins its search for a replacement for Executive Director John Henshaw, who is stepping down,  the quasi-public currently overseeing the redevelopment of the New London’s State Pier into an offshore wind hub has tapped the retired vice president of Connecticut College, Ulysses B. Hammond, as its interim executive director. Connecticut Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris said that Hammond’s experience overseeing human resources, finances and capital projects as vice president of administration at Connecticut College is, “a macrocosm of everything that the authority deals with on a smaller scale.” “I think he’s very well positioned

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Small Steps Toward Quieting Train Horns Along the New Canaan Branch Line

For people living near Metro-North Railroad’s New Canaan branch line, dinner can be difficult. It’s because of the warning horns, said Chris Reid, who lives near the rail line. The engineer sounds one long blast as a train arrives at a station, and a series of blasts as it approaches a street-level crossing, according to information from Metro-North. That’s a lot of horn noise, since the 8-mile New Canaan line has five stations and multiple street-level, or “at-grade,” crossings.  In Stamford’s Springdale and Glenbrook areas, there are five at-grade crossings within one mile, said Reid, former president of the Springdale

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Connecticut Lawmakers Pass Gas Tax Holiday, Offer Free Bus Rides

With lawmakers promising more tax relief to come this session, a plan for a three-month gas tax holiday and free buses passed both chambers of the legislature without opposition on Wednesday – a move that should start to save Connecticut commuters some money starting in early April. The legislature agreed to suspend the state’s 25-cent per gallon excise tax on gasoline from April 1 to June 30, make bus service in the state free for the same period, and exempt purchases of clothes and shoes under $100 from the sales tax for one week from April 10 to 16. Gov.

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Proposed Route 85 Facelift: New Roundabout and Bridges Between Salem and Montville

SALEM – A Connecticut Department of Transportation plan would reshape a 5-mile section of Route 85 between Salem and Montville: widening shoulders to accommodate bicycles, replacing two bridges, and replacing the intersection of Routes 85 and 161 with a single-lane roundabout. Why a roundabout? DOT is proposing to shift the intersection of Routes 85 and 161 a few hundred feet to the East, so that Route 161 will intersect at a new, single-lane roundabout where Route 85 currently intersects with Deer Run. A new nearly 2,000 foot stretch of Route 161 will be built between Butlertown Road and the new

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State Pier Deal Comes at a Cost to Eastern Connecticut’s Snow Removal Businesses

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When salt supplier DRVN was working off of the New London State Pier, all Rick Whittle had to do to get salt for his Mystic-based Allied Snow Removal was send a truck over the Gold Star Bridge. With the pier shut down as it’s redeveloped to support offshore wind projects, and Steve Farrelly forced to relocate DRVN to a railyard in North Haven, Whittle’s drivers now have two options: drive an hour to New Haven to pick up salt at Gateway Terminal, or drive an hour to Providence. “Steve was so convenient, you just drove right under the bridge, there

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Anticipating a Wave of Retirements, Unions, Legislators Debate Needs at CTDOT

Despite the game-changing billions of federal infrastructure-improvement dollars expected to arrive on the state Department of Transportation’s doorstep within months, the head of the agency’s technical-workers union is charging a lack of urgency by the administration to hire the hundreds of new workers it will take to put that money into action. “We are way behind the eight-ball when it comes to hiring,” said Travis Woodward, a department of transportation engineer and president of the CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 union representing about 900 agency engineers, planners, property agents, bridge safety inspectors, materials technicians and IT specialists. “They should be panicking like

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TCI ‘Clearly Can’t Happen’ Without Lamont Taking the Lead, Says Looney

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In light of Gov. Ned Lamont pulling his support for the Transportation and Climate Initiative on Tuesday, State Senate President Martin Looney told CT Examiner that the legislation would “obviously not” be introduced in the State Senate this session. On Wednesday, Lamont attempted to walk back his comments, saying he would sign the bill if lawmakers passed TCI this session, according to the Hartford Courant. But Looney said Lamont’s change in tune didn’t change the reality of the situation, and said TCI can’t happen without proactive support from the governor. “The operative statement is the one he gave yesterday,” Looney

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With the State on the Hook For $1 Billion in Matching Funds, Legislators Debate Taxes

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Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday urged Gov. Ned Lamont to set aside the highway usage fees for trucks passed by the state General Assembly in June, arguing that the governor’s “recent change-of-heart regarding TCI and tolls” should also extend to the truck tax.  Lamont announced on Tuesday that he would not be pursuing tolls or the Transportation Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-trade emissions program, in the coming legislative session.  He explained the decision as a response to the influx of billions of federal frastructure dollars, though environmental advocates argued that passing TCI was still necessary to obtain matching funds for

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Industry Official Raises Doubts About DOT Ability to Handle Wave of Federal Funding

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The head of the state’s largest construction industry association said on Thursday that he has serious doubts about the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s ability to handle the expected influx of billions of dollars of federal infrastructure funding for the state’s aging roads, bridges and trains.   Donald Schubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, told CT Examiner that every aspect of the construction business has the potential to explode when the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding starts flowing next year – depending on the Department of Transportation’s ability to execute the program.  “There’s some momentum growing already and

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Final Season for East Lyme Driving Range as Exit 74 Plans Proceed

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EAST LYME — The owners of the East Lyme Driving Range are scrambling to respond to a notice to vacate by Nov. 30 due to the state’s land acquisition for improvements to the I-95 interchange at Exit 74 that will take a portion of the property.  Bill and Lavinia Simons, who have leased the driving range, located at 294-2 Flanders Road, for six years said they had received the notice on Oct. 28 from the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “The taking is of 6 to 10 acres of the 30-ish acre site,” said Bill Simons, on Wednesday morning as the

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Across New York and Connecticut, MTA Issues 18 Summonses in Mask ‘Blitz’

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The Metropolitan Transit Authority issued 18 summonses between Sept. 23 and Sept. 29 — nearly half as many as were issued since the start of the pandemic — for passengers failing to wear masks on public transportation.   In response to a request for data specific to Metro-North, MTA spokesman Michael Cortez told CT Examiner that the transit authority was able only to provide aggregate numbers across the entire system. The stepped-up enforcement is part of a recent campaign to ensure that riders abide by a federal order by Centers of Disease Control that riders must wear masks on public transportation

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Middletown Area and 9 Town Transit Near Agreement, Plan Expanded Service

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After more than two years of deliberation and negotiation, a plan is nearly in place to combine Middletown Area Transit with 9 Town Transit into a single district. The agreement is intended to provide the separate, smaller transit districts with additional financial stability. A combined district also feeds hopes of expanded bus service across Middlesex County connecting rail and bus lines in southeastern Connecticut with the Hartford and New Haven areas. Durham First Selectman Laura Francis, who serves on the boards of both transit districts, said the consolidation addresses the reality that small transit districts are not sustainable in the

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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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