OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5746

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill:

1. codifies the Department of Transportation's (DOT) cost-sharing responsibility with respect to relocating public utility facilities associated with state highway improvements;

2. establishes an enhanced penalty for certain traffic violations that occur in traffic incident management zones, and defines these zones;

3. authorizes DOT to enter temporary leases for use of the State Pier or other navigation property DOT owns or controls, pending the required approval of other state officials;

4. makes the transportation commissioner rather than railroads responsible for notifying municipalities about certain issues relating to rail crossings;

5. exempts buildings DOT acquires but does not use for office space from indoor air quality protocols enacted for state-owned or -leased buildings in 2007;

6. requires the commissioner to adopt regulations prohibiting construction activities during rush hour;

7. expands exemptions from certain state laws for tow trucks towing disabled trucks from the highway for repair;

8. increases the daily civil penalty DOT can assess for violating taxi laws and regulations;

9. allows DOT to issue vehicle over-dimension permits (length, width, height, and weight) electronically and eliminates the requirement that the permit holder have a paper copy, facsimile, or telegraphic confirmation of the permit in his possession; and

10. repeals an obsolete statute requiring all DOT contracts for work on a state bridge to contain a provision that prohibits anyone from working more than 48 hours in any week on the work specified in the contract, except in case of emergency.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008, except for the provision for electronic transmission of DOT permits which is effective on July 1, 2008 and the utility reimbursement and temporary State Pier lease provisions, which are effective upon passage.

UTILITY RELOCATION REIMBURSEMENT RATE

By law, when the transportation commissioner determines that the construction or reconstruction of a state highway necessitates that a public service facility located in, over, under, or below the highway's right-of-way must be relocated, he can order the utility to do so. The law requires the state bear an “equitable” share of the relocation cost. Currently, this must be a minimum of 50% and as much as 100% of costs, less deductions allowable under the statute.

The bill codifies what constitutes an equitable share. Specifically, it establishes:

1. 100% reimbursement to municipally owned utilities, less allowable deductions;

2. 100% reimbursement, less deductions, for other utilities when the relocated facility is associated with construction of or improvements to a limited access highway; and

3. 50% reimbursement, less deductions, when the work is associated with construction of or improvements to a state highway other than a limited-access highway.

The deductions specified in the statute include the value of materials salvaged from the original installation, the cost of the original installation, the life expectancy of the original installation, and the unexpired term of its life use.

The bill also requires the utility to begin adjusting or relocating its facility as soon as it receives the commissioner's notice that it is necessary. The current law does not specify when relocation must actually begin once notice is received.

ENHANCED FINE FOR TRAFFIC OFFENSE IN TRAFFIC INCIDENT MANAGEMENT ZONE

By law, the court must impose an additional fee equal to 100% of the fine it imposes for certain designated traffic violations when they occur in a clearly designated and marked state highway construction zone or utility work zone. The bill establishes a similar requirement when they are committed in “traffic incident management zone.

It defines a traffic incident management zone as an area of the highway where temporary traffic controls or measures are installed under the authority of the transportation or public safety commissioner, or a local traffic authority, in response to a motor vehicle incident, natural disaster, hazardous material spill, or other unplanned incident. The zone must be delineated by signs, cones, flares, or flashing or revolving lights.

TEMPORARY AGREEMENTS FOR STATE PIER

The bill authorizes the transportation commissioner to lease or grant any interest at the State Pier in New London or any navigation property the state owns or controls. The commissioner can execute a temporary lease after requesting State Properties Review Board and attorney general approval that would be effective only until the full agreement has received final approval. The bill specifies that the Office of Policy and Management must also approve leases for the State Pier and that any leases, with the approval of the properties review board, may provide for building construction and that the commissioner may confer concessions privileges for goods, commodities, services, and facilities at the State Pier.

NOTIFICATION REGARDING RAIL CROSSINGS

Current law requires railroads to notify the appropriate municipality or DOT annually, in writing, with regard to rail crossings within the town and the obligations of the town to inspect and correct any malfunctioning gates, signals, or pavement markings that it is the town's responsibility to maintain. The bill makes the DOT, instead of the railroads, responsible for this notification. It eliminates a requirement that DOT provide a list of municipalities to be notified to each railroad, private party, or corporation since DOT becomes responsible for notifying the towns directly.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY PROTOCOL EXEMPTION

The bill exempts DOT-leased- or -owned buildings that it does not use for office space from provisions of a 2007 law that requires development of protocols for periodic indoor air quality assessment and possible remediation. In practice, DOT frequently acquires structures as part of a proposed transportation improvement and leases them until completion of the construction when final disposition of the building is made. The leases make the tenant responsible for maintaining the buildings' mechanical systems.

RUSH HOUR CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES

The bill requires the transportation commissioner to adopt regulations prohibiting road construction activities during rush hour. The purpose of the regulations must be to increase public safety, avoid traffic delays, decrease road congestion, reduce pollution, and reduce fuel consumption by drivers during rush hour.

TOW TRUCK EXEMPTIONS

By law, licensed tow trucks are exempt from the state's maximum vehicle length law when towing disabled trucks and trailers to the nearest garage where they can be serviced, up to a distance of 25 miles. The bill (1) extends this exemption to the maximum width and gross and axle weight laws as well and (2) expands the maximum distance when these exemptions apply from 25 to 50 miles.

CIVIL PENALTY FOR TAXI LAW VIOLATIONS

The bill increases from $ 100 to $ 1,000, the daily civil penal the DOT may impose on any person, association officer, limited liability corporation, or corporation who violates any taxi law or regulation relating to fares, service, operations, or equipment. The bill makes the civil penalty the same for taxi companies as currently applies for livery law violations.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

31

Nay

0

(03/07/2008)