OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5031

AN ACT REVISING CERTAIN LAWS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

SUMMARY:

This bill makes numerous changes to laws affecting the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board (TSB). It:

1. (a) creates a Connecticut Maritime Commission to advise the transportation commissioner, governor, and legislature and create a maritime policy for the state and (b) abolishes the current Connecticut Port Authority;

2. creates a State Maritime Office within the DOT;

3. reverses the fare increases for use of the state-owned Glastonbury-Rocky Hill and Chester-Hadlyme ferries across the Connecticut River that were increased during the June 2003 Special Session;

4. eliminates the 2036 end date for the TSB projects account receiving certain fee increases (known as "incremental revenues") made during the June 2003 Special Session and that the TSB uses to fund the projects and programs that the legislature has identified as priorities;

5. raises, from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000, the threshold above which DOT property acquisitions and settlements must be reviewed and approved by the State Properties Review Board;

6. expands the transportation commissioner's authority to make agreements with public utilities governing the longitudinal use of highway rights-of-way to include all state highways, instead of only state limited access highways;

7. makes annual inspection of all rail lines in Connecticut by the transportation commissioner discretionary rather than mandatory;

8. requires the transportation commissioner to consult with the public safety commissioner and the chief information officer of the Department of Information Technology and develop a plan for people to receive notification of significant highway and railway incidents;

9. allows the commissioner to issue overlength permits to vehicles carrying divisible loads that, in the aggregate, do not exceed 53 feet in length;

10. conforms Connecticut law establishing the maximum allowable length of a truck and trailer combination to mandatory federal requirements;

11. makes corrections and changes to the law requiring DOT to issue overdimension permits to certain types of mobile homes;

12. allows TSB projects to be funded from other available TSB funds to the extent money is not available from either the Special Transportation Fund (STF) or the Infrastructure Improvement fund, rather than just the latter;

13. makes payment of the incremental revenues identified in the approved annual financing plan for cash funding of TSB projects the second allocation priority for STF resources after payment of debt service on special tax obligation bonds but before debt service on general obligation bonds issued for transportation purposes and agency expenses;

14. modifies and corrects references to prior commemorative name designations of two highways, a tunnel, and a bridge made by PA 03-115;

15. names the planned extension of Route 72 from its current terminus in Plainville to Route 229 in Bristol as the "E. Bartlett Barnes Highway" (see COMMENT); and

16. makes numerous technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage except the provisions relating to the creation of the maritime commission and maritime office, abolition of the Connecticut Port Authority, and properties review board approval threshold are effective July 1, 2004 and the provisions relating to the truck-trailer length, divisible load length permits, and mobile home overdimension permits are effective on October 1, 2004.

CONNECTICUT MARITIME COMMISSION

Purpose

The bill creates a 15-member Connecticut Maritime Commission in the DOT to (1) advise the commissioner, governor, and legislature on maritime policy and operations; (2) develop and recommend maritime policy to the governor and legislature; (3) support development of Connecticut's maritime commerce and industries, including its deepwater ports; (4) recommend investments and actions, including dredging, required to preserve and enhance them; (5) conduct studies and make recommendations on maritime issues; and (6) support Connecticut port development, including identifying new opportunities, analyzing the potential for and encouraging private port investment, and recommending policies that support port operations.

The bill designates the commission as the successor to the Connecticut Port Authority and abolishes the authority.

Membership

The commission consists of the transportation, economic and community development, and environmental protection commissioners, policy and management secretary, and TSB chairman, or their designees; four members appointed by the governor; and six members appointed, one each, by the Senate president, House speaker, and House and Senate majority and minority leaders. Appointed members must be qualified by experience and training, and include members of the public and (1) a business and industry representative that regularly uses Connecticut port freight services, (2) a member or employee of a local port authority, (3) a Connecticut port operator, (4) a marine passenger service operator, (5) an elected or appointed official from a coastal community, (6) a user or provider of recreational marine services, and (7) a working member of a port labor union.

The governor must select the chairman from among the appointed members. The members must elect a secretary and may elect any other officers they see fit. Members must be uncompensated for their service, except for necessary expenses.

Annual Report and Other Duties

The commission must hold a public hearing each year for the purpose of evaluating adequacy of the state's maritime policy, facilities, and support for maritime commerce and industry. By January 1 annually, it must submit a written report to the transportation commissioner, governor, and TSB with: (1) a list of projects that, if undertaken, would support the maritime policy and encourage maritime commerce and industry; (2) recommendations for improving maritime policies, programs, and facilities; and (3) other appropriate recommendations. The report must be submitted to the legislature in accordance with state law for state commission reports.

The bill authorizes the commission to undertake any studies it finds necessary for the improvement of a balanced public transportation system in Connecticut, including its improvement for elderly and disabled users. It also has such other powers and duties as the commissioner, governor, and legislature delegate to it.

Miscellaneous Provisions

The DOT staff must be available to assist the commission. The commission must also have access through the DOT to all records, reports, plans, schedules, operating rules, and other documents pertaining to Connecticut ports and navigable waterways, except those pertaining to current or pending negotiations with employee bargaining units.

A commission member who is also a public officer or employee may not suffer forfeiture of his office or employment or any loss of rights and privileges by reason of membership.

To conduct business, the commission must have a quorum of a majority of its voting membership present. Actions may be taken by vote of a majority of the quorum.

STATE MARITIME OFFICE

The State Maritime Office the bill creates in the DOT must (1) be responsible for maritime operations, including the State Pier, Connecticut River Ferries, and other operational responsibilities it is assigned; (2) serve as the governor's principal maritime policy advisor and the liaison between federal, state, local, and private entities involved in maritime policy activities; (3) coordinate state maritime policy activities; (4) encourage year-round use of water-related industries; (5) work with the Department of Economic and Community Development and state, local, and private entities to maximize the economic potential of Connecticut's ports and maritime resources; (6) conduct necessary planning and research; (7) assess potential state investments in ports and maritime facilities; (8) provide staff support to the maritime commission; and (9) undertake other responsibilities assigned by the commissioner or governor.

CONNECTICUT RIVER FERRY FARE INCREASES

The bill restores the transportation commissioner's authority to set the fares for the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill and Chester-Hadlyme ferries. During the June 2003 Special Session, the legislature required specific increases in these fares to $ 5 per vehicle, $ 1. 75 for each additional passenger, and $ 1. 75 for each walk-on and bicycle. The bill eliminates these specific increases and, instead, allows rates to be fixed by the transportation commissioner with the approval of the OPM secretary, which was the law prior to the specific increases. A provision of the law allowing the commissioner to establish a discounted commuter rate that was added by PA 03-1, September Special Session remains unchanged.

RAIL LINE INSPECTIONS

Current law requires the transportation commissioner to inspect all rail lines in Connecticut at least once a year. The bill makes this discretionary rather than mandatory. The Federal Railroad Administration also conducts annual track inspections and provides their inspection reports to DOT.

TRUCK-TRAILER LENGTH LIMIT

Current law prohibits a combination of a truck and trailer that is longer than 60 feet unless it falls within one of several specific exemptions, most of which are required under federal law. The bill increases the general limit from 60 to 65 feet to conform with a mandatory federal regulation that generally prohibits combination length limits under 65 feet.

MOBILE HOMES

Currently, the commissioner must have a program for issuing overdimension permits for moving a mobile home (1) wider than 14 feet but not more than 16 feet wide, (2) attached to a towing vehicle when their combined length is 100 feet or less if the towing vehicle is over 80 feet long, or (3) attached to a towing vehicle when their combined length is 104 feet if the towing vehicle is 80 feet long or less.

The bill makes it clear that the width of such mobile homes is the overall width including roof overhang, sills, doorknobs and siding. It also corrects flaws in the current wording of the law by replacing specifications (2) and (3) above with specifications of a maximum length of the mobile home of no more than 80 feet, excluding the hitch or an overall maximum length of 104 feet for the mobile home when attached to the towing vehicle. The bill also adds a requirement that no permit may be issued to a mobile home for a permitted height of more than 13 feet, six inches or a gross weight that exceeds the applicable statutory maximum weight for the vehicle configuration.

COMMEMORATIVE ROAD AND BRIDGE NAMES

Corrections to Prior Designations

The bill corrects the name for the West Rock tunnel in New Haven from the "Hero's Tunnel" to the "Heroes Tunnel. " It changes one terminus of the portion of Route 173 in West Hartford that was designated as the "Trooper Carl P. Moller Memorial Highway" from the junction for Route 4 to the junction of Route 71 in West Hartford. It changes the designation made for the "Patrick L. Brooks Memorial Bridge" from Bridge No. 3485 in West Hartford on I-84 overpassing Woodruff Road to Bridge No. 1743A in West Hartford on I-84 overpassing SR 535. Finally, it makes a technical correction to the designation of Route 349 in Groton as the William J. Snyder, Sr. Memorial Highway.

BACKGROUND

Related Bill

HB 5480, reported favorably by the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on March 26, among other things, contains the same provisions regarding the allocation priority of incremental revenue for TSB projects, allowing TSB projects to be funded from other available TSB funds to the extent money is not available from the STF or the Infrastructure Improvement Fund, and the technical changes contained in §§ 28, 30, and 31 of this bill.

COMMENT

Possible Conflict with Prior Naming of Route 72 Extension

The bill names the planned extension of Route 72 to Route 229 in Bristol the "E. Bartlett Barnes Highway. " However, by prior act of the legislature (PA 99-181 § 27) this same planned extension has previously been named the "Bristol Expressway. "

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute Change of Reference

Yea

27

Nay

0

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

45

Nay

0