Governor’s Suspension of Transportation Projects to Impact West Hartford

Rehabilitation of the North Main Street Bridge is one of the projects impacted by the suspension of transportation projects. Image from GoogleEarth. Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

A list of transportation projects that are being suspended was released Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, and a number of West Hartford projects were included.

By Ronni Newton

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Commissioner James P. Redeker announced Wednesday that $4.3 billion in planned transportation projects will be postponed due to concern about the solvency of the Special Transportation Fund (STF), and multiple projects in West Hartford were included on the list.

The six West Hartford projects on the list, which total $107.3 million, are all in the design or planning stage.

“This list does not include projects that are under active construction like the Park Road/I-84 interchange,” Town Manager Matt Hart said.

Of the six projects, four were to have been completely funded by the state. They include the West Hartford rail station on Flatbush Avenue ($39 million, 60 percent designed) and lane improvements on I-84 between exits 39-41 ($65 million, 60 percent designed).

Improvements to the intersection of Route 44 (Albany Avenue) and North Main Street were in the conceptual phase, and $850,000 of state funding for that project had been secured. In an email to the Town Council Wednesday that Hart shared with We-Ha.com, Hart noted that the construction of the improvements may actually cost closer to $1.5 million. “The state had planned to complete the design in 2018 and move into a construction phase in 2019. This project will improve public safety by modifying the internal intersection islands, crosswalk alignment, traffic signal operation, and intersection geometry,” Hart said.

Painting of the Amtrak Bridge over New Britain Avenue in Elmwood was also to have been funded by the state, and is among the suspended projects. The state had committed $650,000 for that project, Community Development Director Mark McGovern said Wednesday.

Two other town projects which were to have been supplemented with state funding are also impacted, Hart said.

Rehabilitation of the North Main Street Bridge is estimated to cost a total of $1.6 million, and the town had obtained partial funding from the state, a grant of $814,000 under the Local Bridge Program. The bridge, constructed in 1901, was one of the state’s first concrete arch bridges.

The town has nearly completed the design of the project and planned to begin construction this spring, according to Hart.

The North Main Street Bridge is in poor condition and in need of substantial rehabilitation, but “the bridge is safe,” McGovern said.

The town had also received a $129,000 grant from the state Local Bridge Program for rehabilitation of the Braeburn Road culvert located just east of Braeburn Elementary School. The total cost of the project is estimated at $200,000.

According to Hart’s email, the twin metal culvert is “severely corroded with voids under and around the culvert creating stability concerns.” Design is in the final stages and construction was scheduled to begin this spring.

Although construction funding is on hold, Hart said in his email to the Town Council that “The state and the town plan to continue to design these projects with hopes that construction funding will be in place at design completion.”

Funding for projects at Route 44 and Mountain Road, and phases 3, 5, and 6 of the Trout Brook Trail were not on the list of suspended projects, according to Hart. Replacement of the Fern Street Bridge has not yet received state funding and has not yet entered the design phase, and was not included on the list released Wednesday.

In a release issued Wednesday by the governor’s office, Malloy said that the projects will be brought back online if the General Assembly adopts proposals to appropriate revenue for the STF.

“If Connecticut does not take the necessary action to allow us to restart these vital projects, not only will it put the state’s infrastructure into a further state of disrepair, it will hurt our economy,” Malloy said in the release. “If we want to compete in the 21st century economy, we need a transportation system that works for people and businesses, and we need to invest in transit-oriented development to build the communities where people and businesses want to be. I want to be very clear – this is preventable, but it requires immediate action. The legislature must act this year to avoid potentially devastating setbacks to our transportation system.”

“This isn’t a problem that can be punted until future years. Connecticut needs immediate action,” Redeker said in the release. “As Governor Malloy noted last month, the solvency of the Special Transportation Fund is in doubt without new revenues.  In real terms, that means we need to postpone indefinitely important projects today.”

Malloy cited a report that showed that the STF would be in deficit by fiscal year 2019, which begins on July 1, 2018, unless prompt action is taken.

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