Transportation Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-6540

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING HIGHWAY SAFETY, STATE FACILITY TRAFFIC AUTHORITIES, MUNICIPAL BUILDING DEMOLITION, STATE TRAFFIC COMMISSION CERTIFICATES, BUS SERVICE, AT GRADE CROSSINGS, THE NAMING OF RAODS AND BRIDGES IN HONOR OR IN MEMORY OF PERSONS AND ORGANIZATIONS, AND A TRAIN STATION IN NIANTIC

Vote Date:

3/18/2011

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/14/2011

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Department of Transportation

REASONS FOR BILL:

To amend various statutes concerning the Department of Transportation.

Substitute Language, as contained in LCO 4857, merges several bills – HB 6576, HB 6577, HB 6580, SB 825, SB 824, HB 6206, HB 5102, HB 6512, HB 6451, HB 6129, HB 6137, HB 6199, SB 52, SB 707, SB 708, SB 701, SB 718, HB 6123, HB 6189.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Acting Commissioner James Redeker, Department of Transportation:

Regarding Sec. 1 (the Governor's Highway Safety Program) -The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not find the authorities set out in the general statutes sufficient and requires a specific state law in order to be compliant. Without the language set forth in this bill, the State is in jeopardy of losing $26 million in federal highway safety funding.

Regarding Sec. 2-8 (the installation of stop signs at specific state institutions) – the CT General Statutes allows the traffic authorities of the CT state university campus's to install stop signs. DOT feels this power should be extended to Regional Community-Technical Colleges, UConn and the UConn Health Center, DCF Institutions, DMHAS Institutions, Blue Hills Hospital, DPH Facilities and the Rocky Hill Veteran's Home.

Regarding Sec. 9 (the waiting period for demolition permits) –This would exempt DOT from any municipal waiting period for building demolition permits when the permit is required for a transportation project. Waiting periods for demolition are redundant, as DOT has to obtain federal approval, federal funding, and environmental permits for projects.

Regarding Section 10-13 (establishing requirements for highway use by certain vehicles) – Makes changes concerning establishing maximum lengths to certain truck combinations, clarifying that mobile homes being towed are subject to the eighty foot length requirement, requiring a penalty for the driver of any vehicle who attempts to avoid a weigh station by parking on the side of the highway, and strengthens laws concerning forged permits for operating oversize/overweight vehicles.

Regarding Sec. 14 (STC certificate of operation thresholds) – DOT understands that developments consisting entirely of residential units warrant special consideration regarding STC certificates of operation, but the Department is concerned that developers, under this language, may build in 100 unit increments in order to circumvent the STC certificate process.

Regarding Sec. 15 (requiring consideration by STC of certain applications prior to local planning and zoning approvals) – DOT finds that submission of a development plan for local planning and zoning approval is an indication that the developer is serious about moving forward with a project. The Department is concerned that the changes in this section might result in certificate applications being submitted in an effort to get a sense of what mitigation may be required.

Regarding Sec. 33 (allowing motorcycles on the Wilbur Cross Parkway) – Repeals language that prohibited motorcycles on the Wilbur Cross Parkway because, it is assumed, the open grates on the Sikorsky bridge, before it was replaced, posed safety concerns for motorcycles. Now that the bridge no longer has open grates, this is no longer an issue.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Rep. Clark Chapin –

Regarding Sec. 17 (Requiring the DOT Commissioner to attend certain public hearings concerning railroad crossings at-grade) – This section is intended to heighten the awareness of the DOT Commissioner regarding the deteriorating condition of at-grade rail crossings. Rep. Chapin has tried working with DOT to find funds for repairs to at-grade rail crossings, but has found that it isn't a priority for the Department. He believes this bill will help demonstrate to DOT officials that unsafe conditions of at-grade rail crossings exist and need to be remedied.

Bill Ethier, Chief Executive Officer, Home Builders Association of CT –

Regarding Sec. 14 (STC certificate of operation thresholds) - Feels that STC's threshold for requiring a certificate of operation for residential development is unreasonable, and that changing the threshold to 100 units, as it is in the bill, is more appropriate.

Regarding Sec. 15 (requiring consideration by STC of certain applications prior to local planning and zoning approvals) – This repeals the sentence that authorizes the STC to not process or approve Certificate of Operation applications until local approvals are in place. He feels that this can cause significant delays and extra costs on economic and housing developments.

Johnny Carrier, Vice President, J.F.C. Endeavors –

Regarding Sec. 14 and 15 (STC certificates and applications) – Finds STC's current permitting process burdensome. Cited an example of his company's development being delayed 10 months and costing $40,000 in professional fees, improvements, clerical and labor costs despite an insignificant traffic impact.

Robert Fusari, President, Real Estate Service of CT –

Regarding Sec. 14 (STC certificate of operation thresholds) – Sees endless bureaucracy with STC's permitting process. Cited an example of his company forcing subcontractors, suppliers, and tradesmen waiting to begin work while the process unfolded.

Robert Wiedenmann, Sunwood Development –

Regarding Sec. 14 (STC certificate of operation thresholds) – Many of his company's projects are too small to trigger the need for STC approval, however there are 2 examples where they had several problems with reviews by DOT because there were no published codes or policies stating what was or was not required. There was also no appeal process for review.

William Ferrigno, President, Sunlight Construction –

Regarding Sec. 14 and 15 (STC certificates and applications) – Cited an example of his company dealing with STC and experience a cumbersome permitting process. He was surprised that STC had jurisdiction over his development (because it was 66 homes that had a gross square footage of 120,000 sq. ft.). He feels they should not have been involved because the trip generations would equal no more than a retail facility of 20,000 sq. ft.

Chris Steiner, Steiner Inc. –

Regarding Sec. 15 (requiring consideration by STC of certain applications prior to local planning and zoning approvals) – This section would streamline the STC process with town approvals and greatly reduce the time projects take to get shovel ready.

Housatonic Railroad Company –

Regarding Sec. 17 (Requiring the DOT Commissioner to attend certain public hearings concerning railroad crossings at-grade) – Housatonic sees this as another step in forging a productive partnership between railroads and the DOT, as it will inform the commissioner that the parties doing the damage to the at-grade rail crossings (motor vehicles) must take responsibility for the repairs.

Amanda Kennedy, Regional Plan Association –

Regarding Sec. 32 (feasibility study for Niantic Train Station) – She can see commuter rail enabling additional tourists to visit the town, but is concerned that Niantic does not have much supporting taxi or bus service. Also, building a train station in the center of the village would destroy the “walkability” of the community.

Various Support for Naming Roads and Bridges in Memory or in Honor of Persons and Organizations from –

Rep. Frank Nicastro

Rep. Sandy Nafis

Sen. Paul Doyle

Sen. Kevin Witkos

Rep. Tim Legeyt

Rep. Brian Becker

Sen. Michael McLachlan

Rep. Clark Chapin

Rep. Jason Perillo

Debbi Newton, CT Veterans and Military Coalition

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Andrew Matthews, President, CT State Police Union –

Regarding Sec. 1 (the Governor's Highway Safety Program) - The State Police Union is concerned that removing the Department of Public Safety from it's role as a collaborator (with DOT) of the state's Highway Safety Program will result in a negative impact on public safety and the safety of troopers. The bill designates DOT as the sole administrator of the Highway Safety Program and sole coordinator of all “highway safety activities within the state.” Not only do the State Police possess critical knowledge on maintaining and improving highway safety activities, but DPS receives substantial federal funding for highway safety programs. They say both would be lost with the passage of this bill.

CT Conference of Municipalities –

Regarding Sec. 15 (requiring consideration by STC of certain applications prior to local planning and zoning approvals) – CCM is sympathetic to the intent behind the proposal, but believes that the best solution would be to have STC staff participate in the pre-application review process so major issues can be worked out before an application is submitted.

Reported by: C. J. Strand

Date: March 30, 2011