OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5746 (as amended by House “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill:

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

2. authorizes the Department of Transportation (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, and makes related changes;

3. authorizes the DOT commissioner to initiate harbor improvement projects on behalf of the state, creates a special account to fund the projects, and removes limits on state grants-in-aid to municipalities for harbor improvement projects;

4. requires certain key individuals involved in a completed highway or bridge project to certify in writing that it has been constructed in substantial compliance to the project's plans and specifications;

5. makes several changes relating to bicyclist safety and funding bicycle and pedestrian access projects;

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

7. 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;

8. expands exemptions from certain state laws for tow trucks that are towing disabled trucks from the highway;

9. exempts vehicles operated by or through a community-based regional transportation system for the elderly established pursuant to PA 05-280 from regulation as livery motor vehicles ( 11);

10. authorizes DOT to permit temporary signs, displays, or other devices along state highways if they remain in place for 60 days or less ( 12);

11. extends for one year, until April 15, 2009, a requirement that DOT suspend the realignment of Route 113 between Access Road and Dorne Drive in Stratford ( 16);

12. 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 ( 7); and

13. 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 ( 31).

The bill also makes several technical changes and modifications to commemorative road and bridges designations previously adopted by the legislature, and repeals one prior designation.

*House Amendment “A” (1) deletes provisions (a) codifying DOT's cost-sharing responsibility for utility relocations necessitated by highway projects, (b) requiring DOT regulations prohibiting highway construction during rush hours, and (c) increasing civil fines assessed for violation of taxi laws and regulations; (2) adds the provisions on (a) harbor improvement projects, (b) certification of completed highway and bridge projects, (c) bicycle-related laws, (d) the exemption for community-based elderly transportation vehicles, (e) temporary duration highway signs, (f) the extension of the prohibition on the Route 113 realignment project in Stratford, and (g) the road and bridge name corrections and modifications; and (3) revises the provision exempting tow trucks from certain maximum length and weight restrictions.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008; except the provision for electronic transmission of DOT permits, which is effective on July 1, 2008; and the temporary State Pier lease, harbor improvement project, and road and bridge name correction provisions, which are effective upon passage.

ENHANCED FINE FOR TRAFFIC OFFENSE IN TRAFFIC INCIDENT MANAGEMENT ZONE ( 1)

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 a “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 ( 2)

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 with the approval of the State Properties Review Board (SPRB), the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), and the attorney general. It allows the commissioner to execute a temporary lease after requesting SPRB and attorney general approval that would be effective only until the full agreement has received final approval. The bill specifies that any leases, with the approval of the SPRB, may provide for building construction and that the commissioner may confer concessions privileges for goods, commodities, services, and facilities at the State Pier.

HARBOR IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS ( 8-10)

New Projects

The bill authorizes the DOT commissioner to initiate harbor improvement projects on behalf of the state, or for the state on behalf of the federal government. The bill specifies that harbor improvement projects include the preparation of plans, studies, and construction to alter or improve state, municipal, and other properties in or adjacent to Connecticut waters, for the purpose of improving the state economy and infrastructure. These initiatives may be undertaken in addition to the municipal grants for harbor improvement projects authorized under existing law.

The bill requires the Connecticut Maritime Commission to recommend and rank projects and submit them to the commissioner. DOT must contract to provide goods and services to harbors and waterways for these projects, and fund these contracts. The commissioner may enter into agreements with other state agencies or municipalities to provide this funding.

DOT must administer all the contracts. The contracts are subject to final negotiation regarding the project's scope and budget. Under the bill, contract periods may vary by contract; payments must be made on a reimbursement basis no later than the dates of service of an executed contract; and appropriate documentation indicating that services have been rendered must be provided with payment requests. DOT may choose to release all or part of the funds as an upfront payment, provided funds are held in a non-interest-bearing account and spent no later than 60 days after it provides them.

Harbor Improvement Account

The bill creates the harbor improvement account, as a separate, non-lapsing account within the General Fund. Deposits to the account must include (1) the proceeds of notes, bonds, or other obligations issued by the state for the purpose of harbor improvement or dredging projects; (2) funds appropriated by the General Assembly for such projects; and (3) any other funds required or permitted by law.

The commissioner must use the account to fund harbor improvement projects and for federal dredging projects. Funds used for the latter must (1) support, in full or in part, local or state matching requirements; (2) cover incremental costs for environmental regulatory requirements or management practices, including beneficial use; or (3) cover all or part of the costs where federal funds are inadequate. If the account is used to cover inadequate federal funds, the commissioner must pursue reimbursement from the federal government.

Removal of Limits on Municipal Grants

The bill removes two restrictions on the state's existing program for grants-in-aid to municipalities for harbor improvement projects, specifically: (1) a per-project requirement of two-thirds of the net cost of the project as approved by the commissioner and (2) a $ 1 million limit on the total allowable state funding per municipality.

CERTIFICATION OF COMPLETED HIGHWAY AND BRIDGE PROJECTS ( 17)

Upon completion of a highway or bridge project, the bill requires a signed certification from any of the following individuals involved in the project:

1. the general contractor;

2. the DOT project engineer; and

3. either the DOT chief inspector, consultant resident engineer or chief inspector, or the municipal chief inspector or official.

The certification must be on a DOT prepared form and must state that the individual certifies, to his or her best knowledge, information, and belief, that the completed project has been constructed in substantial compliance with the project's contract plans, specifications, and any approved change orders.

BICYCLE-RELATED PROVISIONS ( 13-15)

Funding Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Projects

The bill makes improving bicycle and pedestrian access throughout the state transportation system eligible for funding previously authorized by law for implementing priority transportation strategy projects and initiatives (i. e. , “Tier 1” strategy projects).

Public Awareness Campaign

The bill requires the transportation commissioner, within available appropriations and in consultation with groups advocating on behalf of bicyclists, to develop and implement a statewide “Share the Road” public awareness campaign to educate the public about the rights and responsibilities of motorists and bicyclists using the highways together.

Safe Passing of Bicyclists

By law, any vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction must pass to its left at a safe distance and not move right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. The bill specifies that in the case of a vehicle overtaking and passing a bicyclist, a safe distance is at least three feet.

NOTIFICATION REGARDING RAIL CROSSINGS ( 3)

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 ( 4)

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.

TOW TRUCK EXEMPTIONS ( 5 & 6)

Currently, licensed tow trucks (i. e. , wreckers) 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. They also may exceed the state's maximum vehicle weight laws by up to 20% if towing or hauling a disabled vehicle. The bill modifies the length law exemption to apply to (1) hauling as well as towing (some wreckers haul disabled vehicles on flatbeds rather than tow them) and (2) includes vehicles that have been involved in an accident and are in the highway limits or are being removed by order of law enforcement personnel. The bill also specifies that the vehicle must be hauled to the nearest licensed repair facility or, if there is one, to the motor carrier's terminal. The 25-mile maximum distance remains unchanged by the bill.

The bill revises the weight law exemption to include vehicles involved in accidents or being removed by order of law enforcement personnel. It also eliminates the 20% allowance over the statutory weight limits and, instead, allows the wreckers to tow or haul any vehicle that does not exceed a gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds on five or more axles. A wrecker removing such a vehicle or vehicle combination that exceeds 80,000 pounds on five or more axles may do so and be exempt from the maximum weigh laws as long as the wrecker has been issued a DOT annual overweight permit and it is operated in accordance the restrictions that apply to such permit holders.

ROAD AND BRIDGE NAME CORRECTIONS AND MODIFICATIONS ( 18-30)

The corrections and modifications for the previously designated commemorative names for various state roads and bridges are shown below.

Commemorative Name

Correction or Modification

18—Lieutenant Sherrod E. Skinner Memorial Bridge

Changes bridge from Bridge 3405 over Route 372 in New Britain to Bridge 1083 on Route 71 over Route 571 in Berlin

19—William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge in Westport

Corrects bridge number designation from 3149 to 1349

20—Veterans Way in Sherman

Changes road segment from Route 37 center from Sawmill Road to Route 39 to Route 39 from Route 37 north to Spring Lake Road

21—Veterans Way in Kent

Changes designation “the intersection of Elizabeth Street and Route 341 to Route 7 to Cobble Lane” to Route 341 from Elizabeth Street to Route 7

22—Sign for Milford Fine Arts Council

Changes sign designation from “Milford Fine Arts Council” to “Milford Center for the Arts”

23—Corporal Stephen R. Bixler Memorial Highway in Suffield

Changes designation from Route 190 in Suffield from Route 75 to Route 159 to Route 190 from the beginning of Thompsonville Road at Mapleton easterly to Route 159

24—Lance Corporal Lawrence Robert Philippon Memorial Highway in Farmington

Changes segment designation from “Route 4 from State Road 508 to the University of Connecticut Health Center” to Route 4 from State Road 508 in Farmington easterly to the intersection of Boulevard in West Hartford

25—Wilfredo Perez Memorial Highway in Norwalk

Corrects designation for Bridge 0057 to “Spc. Wilfredo Perez Jr. Memorial Bridge”

26—Officer Harvey R. Young Memorial Highway in South Windsor

Identifies previously unidentified road segment in South Windsor as Route 74 from Route 194 east to the South Windsor-Ellington town line

27—Trooper James W. Lambert Memorial Highway

Changes road segment designation from “Route 6 in Bethel from Vail Road intersection to the Danbury line” to Route 6 from the Danbury line east to the intersection with Old Hawleyville Road

28—Captain John Keane Memorial Highway in Waterbury

Changes road segment designation from Route 73 at the intersection with Aurora Street to Route 73 from the Waterbury-Watertown town line to East Aurora Street

29—Patrick L. Brooks Memorial Bridge in West Hartford

Changes designation to “Firefighter Patrick L. Brooks Memorial Bridge”

30—Vincent R. T. Arduini Memorial Bridge on Route 20 over Salmon Brook

Repeals designation

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Maritime Commission (CMC)

The 15-member CMC in DOT must (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 deep water ports; (4) recommend investments and actions, including dredging, required to preserve and enhance them; (5) conduct studies to 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 operation.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Transportation Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

31

Nay

0

(03/07/2008)

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

29

Nay

1

(04/11/2008)

Energy and Technology Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

16

Nay

0

(04/21/2008)