OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7367

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill:

1. requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to develop criteria for leasing naming rights for transit stations and other transit-property;

2. establishes procedures for DOT to follow should it dispose of any property acquired for the Route 6 expressway project, including a right of first refusal for the property's former owner;

3. extends the transportation commissioner's authority to declare transportation emergencies to cover state- or municipally-owned airports;

4. authorizes the operation of articulated and double deck buses on Connecticut roads;

5. repeals three previously enacted transfers of DOT property because the entity to whom the property was being transferred either does not want it or declined to purchase it;

6. requires DOT to notify and take recommendations from state and local officials before any railroad line is reactivated in their jurisdiction;

7. designates commemorative names for 15 road segments, six bridges, two that may be either roads or bridges, and rewords a previous designation; and

8. requires informational signs identifying four locations.

The bill also requires the DOT to install crossing gates and electric signals at the Route 203 crossing and the Manning Bridge Road crossing in Windham. These are railroad-highway grade crossings.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage; except the articulated bus, transit property naming rights, and Route 6 land disposition provisions are effective July 1, 2007; and the double deck bus and rail crossing provisions are effective October 1, 2007.

NAMING RIGHTS FOR TRANSIT STATIONS AND PROPERTY

The bill requires the transportation commissioner to develop procedures, in accordance with the general statutes, for leasing naming rights to transit stations and transit-owned property to private corporations and organizations. The commissioner must establish the criteria for leasing these rights and submit them to the Transportation Committee by January 30, 2008. They must be approved by the committee by the close of the 2008 legislative session.

ROUTE 6 RIGHT-OF-WAY DISPOSAL PROCEDURES

The bill establishes procedures the transportation commissioner must follow should he determine that property acquired for or in connection with the Route 6 expressway project is no longer necessary for this purpose. State law already governs how DOT must dispose of excess property acquired for highway purposes, but the bill establishes some different requirements that are specific to the disposal of Route 6 expressway property.

The bill requires DOT to notify the state legislators representing the municipality in which any such property is located to be notified by the department within one year from the time it determines its intent to dispose of any such property as unnecessary for highway purposes. It gives the commissioner the authority, with the advice and consent of the Office of Policy and Management secretary and the State Properties Review Board, to sell, lease, convey, otherwise dispose of, or enter any agreements concerning land or buildings it has acquired with respect to the Route 6 expressway project.

Appraisal Requirements

The bill requires DOT to get a full appraisal of any excess property prior to sale, unless it will be transferring it to another state agency or municipality. DOT must get a second appraisal if the property is valued at more than $ 100,000 and is not to be sold through public bid or auction. If a second appraisal is made, the sale price of the property must be the average of the two appraisals. Any appraisals or value reports must be obtained before the sale price is determined.

Right of First Refusal for Former Owner

If any property is sold or transferred within 25 years of its acquisition by DOT, whether or not there was a building on it when DOT first acquired it, it must first be offered for purchase to the property's former owners at its appraised value as determined above. This does not apply to properties DOT has offered for sale to municipalities prior to July 1, 2007. Notice of an offer to sell property to a prior owner must be made by DOT by registered or certified mail with return receipt within one year of its determination that the property is unnecessary for the project. The offer terminates if DOT does not receive notice of acceptance of its offer by the former owner within 90 days of mailing its notice.

If the former owner does not accept the offer, DOT must offer parcels that meet local zoning requirements for residential or commercial use to other state agencies. If parcels do not meet such local zoning requirements, DOT must offer them to all abutting landowners according to its regulations. If the sale or transfer results in the existing property of an abutting landowner becoming a nonconforming use under local zoning requirements, the commissioner may sell or transfer it to that abutter without public bid or auction.

The commissioner must adopt regulations establishing procedures that address how such property will be disposed in the event it previously had multiple owners.

Failure to notify former owners entitled to notice under the first refusal provisions does not invalidate any subsequent disposition of the property as long as the DOT has made a good faith effort with reasonable diligence to determine who they are and mails notice to their last know addresses.

TRANSPORTATION EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS AT AIRPORTS

By law, the transportation commissioner may declare a state of emergency with regard to state- or municipally-owned railroad and transit systems and facilities. If he does, he may employ, in any manner, any assistance he requires to restore the railroad or transit system, equipment, or service. A declaration may be made for any such railroad system when an unsafe condition is found to exist or when there is an interruption of essential rail services, whether or not the system, its facilities, or its equipment is physically damaged. A declaration may be made with respect to a transit system when a transit facility is damaged as a result of a natural disaster or incurs substantial casualty loss which results in an unsafe condition or there is an interruption of essential services.

The bill applies the commissioner's emergency authority to situations where a state- or municipally-owned airport or its equipment is damaged by a natural disaster, incurs a substantial casualty loss that results in an unsafe condition, or when there is an interruption of essential services. The state owns and operates six airports (Bradley International, Brainard, Groton-New London, Waterbury-Oxford, Windham, and Danielson). There are four municipally-owned airports in Connecticut (Tweed-New Haven, Sikorsky Memorial, Danbury, and Meriden Markham).

ARTICULATED AND DOUBLE DECK BUSES

The bill defines an articulated bus as a motor vehicle designed to carry public transit passengers that has two separate passenger compartments connected by a kingpin or other similar joint. It may be composed of a tractor section and a trailer section or a forward unpowered unit and a powered trailer unit. Association of this definition with the maximum motor vehicle width and length law makes it clear that they can be legally operated under the statutory maximum 65-foot length limit without a special DOT permit, although it appears that they may have been able to do that anyway.

The bill also allows anyone who holds a DOT permit to operate interstate motor bus service to register and operate a bus in Connecticut that has two decks as long as the double deck bus complies with federal manufacturing and safety standards. It requires the transportation commissioner to adopt regulations. This would override certain provisions of bus standards that were adopted by the former Connecticut Public Utilities Commission in 1952 that have the effect of preventing this style of bus from being legally operated in the state.

REACTIVATED RAIL LINES

The bill requires the transportation commissioner to notify state and municipal officials 12 months before any railroad line is reactivated within their jurisdiction. It requires the commissioner to hold a hearing on “the safety of the crossing” 12 months before reactivation of the rail line. It also requires the commissioner to “incorporate” any safety recommendations he receives from state or municipal officials “regarding such railroad crossing.

The meaning of this provision of the bill is unclear. It appears to relate to either a railroad grade crossing that may be reopened on an active rail line or a rail line that is being reopened that may result in reopening of a former grade crossing. It is also unclear what the commissioner's responsibility to incorporate recommendations of the state and local officials may entail.

REPEAL OF PRIOR DOT PROPERTY TRANSFERS

The bill repeals three transfers of DOT property previously authorized by the legislature, but not consummated because the designated recipient chose not to acquire the property. These involve:

1. a 1. 65 acre parcel in Sprague (PA 05-279 4);

2. a parcel in Milford (PA 05-279 31); and

3. a 0. 56 acre parcel in Meriden (SA 99-17 6).

COMMEMORATIVE ROAD AND BRIDGE NAMES AND DESTINATION SIGNS

Commemorative Names

The bill designates commemorative names for 15 state road segments and six state bridges. It also requires two commemorative designations to be made in New Britain that may be either road segments or bridges. However, in five instances, the road or bridge designated for a commemorative name has already been previously named. These potential conflicts are noted in the list. The designations are as follows:

1. the Route 372 overpass bridge in New Britain as the “Lieutenant Sherrod E. Skinner Memorial Bridge”;

2. Route 71 in New Britain from the intersection of South Main Street and Rockwell Avenue to the Berlin town line as the “Marine Corps League Memorial Highway”;

3. I-91 southbound near the Colt Building in Hartford as the “Sergeant Matthew D. Arace Memorial Highway” (this section of highway is already named the “Conland Highway”);

4. Route 66 in Middletown from State Road 545 to Route 17 as the “Charles E. Rau Memorial Highway”;

5. Route 16 westbound in Colchester from Route 85 to Route 66 as the “PFC William 'Jimmy' Johnston Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Memorial Highway” (This section of highway is already named the “Henry Champion Highway. ” In 2005, Bridge No. 03391 in Colchester on Route 16 over Route 2 was named the “William 'Jimmy” Johnston Memorial Bridge. ”);

6. Bridge No. 05994 on I-91 southbound in Hartford as the “Officers' Club of Connecticut Memorial Bridge”;

7. Bridge No. 05307 in I-84 eastbound in Danbury as the “Association of the United States Army Memorial Bridge”;

8. Route 174 in Newington from the New Britain border to Maple Hill Avenue as the “Master Police Officer Peter Lavery Memorial Highway”(it appears that road segment was already named the “Officer Peter Lavery Memorial Highway' in 2005);

9. Route 44 from the intersection with Simsbury Road to Route 167 as the “Avon Veterans' Memorial Highway”(this segment of highway is already named the “Jonathan Trumbull Highway”);

10. the Route 140 bridge in Warehouse Point as the “World War I Bridge”;

11. the Route 136 bridge over the Saugatuck river in Westport as the “William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge”;

12. the segment of road in New Fairfield from Memorial Field to the intersection of Route 37 to Overbrook Road as “Veteran's Way”;

13. Route 39 in Sherman from Route 37 north to Spring Lake Road as “Veteran's Way”;

14. the segment of road in Kent from the intersection of School Street and Route 341 to Route 7 as “Veteran's Way”;

15. a segment of the Connecticut Turnpike as “AMVETS Post 1”(the Connecticut Turnpike is already named the “Governor John Lodge Turnpike”);

16. Route 116 in Ridgefield as the “Elizabeth M. Leonard Memorial Highway”;

17. Route 35 in Ridgefield as the “Richard E. Venus Memorial Highway”;

18. Route 85 in Salem from Route 82 to the Colchester town line as the “Officer H. David Cordell Memorial Highway”(this segment of highway is already named the “Jonathan Trumbull Highway”);

19. Route 4 eastbound in Farmington from Brickyard Road to Route 10 in Farmington as the “Lieutenant Colonel Warren Lane Memorial Highway”;

20. Route 5 in Wallingford from Route 150 to the Meriden town line as the “VFW CT Ladies Auxiliary Highway”;

21. a segment of road or a bridge in New Britain to be named in honor of Representative Anthony Tercyak; and

22. a segment of road or a bridge in New Britain to be named in honor of Lieutenant Colonel Vincent J. Bracha.

The bill also changes the designation of State Bridge Nos. 4320A and 4320B on I-84 over Washington Street in Waterbury that was named in 2006 “In Honor of the United States Army's First Infantry Division” to the “United States Army's First Infantry Division Bridge.

Location Signs

The bill requires DOT to erect signs for specific locations in the following locations:

1. in Oakdale designating the location of The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art;

2. on the Metro North overpass in Milford designating the location of the Milford Fine Arts Council;

3. on Route 8 northbound in Watertown designating the location of the Watertown Business Park; and

4. on both sides of I-95 at exit 74 designating the location of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

30

Nay

0

(03/16/2007)