PA 16-151—sHB 5411

Transportation Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING THE LOCAL BRIDGE PROGRAM, THE TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT PROJECT, OUTDATED REPORTING MANDATES, SCRAP METAL PROCESSORS, OPERATION OF A LABOR DAY WEEKEND COFFEE STOP AND REVISIONS TO OTHER STATUTES RELATED TO TRANSPORTATION

SUMMARY: This act increases, in some cases, the grant amounts municipalities receive under the Local Bridge Program (see below) and makes more bridges eligible for program assistance ( 1). It also makes several changes to Department of Transportation (DOT) policies and procedures. Among other things, it:

1. expands the circumstances in which the DOT commissioner may waive the competitive developer selection process for transit-oriented development (TOD) projects ( 4),

2. eliminates the requirement that a state referee approve land purchases by the DOT commissioner that exceed $100,000 ( 5),

3. expands the types of allowable expenditures from DOT's work zone safety account ( 2),

4. eliminates a number of reporting requirements ( 7-15 & 19), and

5. exempts a bridge in Middletown from statutory overhead clearance requirements ( 6).

The act additionally makes the following unrelated changes:

1. requires drivers to slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles traveling significantly below the speed limit ( 3),

2. requires scrap metal processors to record additional information on receiving a load of scrap metal containing railroad right-of-way materials ( 17),

3. authorizes additional Boy Scout troops to operate coffee stops at the Waterford weigh station on Labor Day weekend ( 16), and

4. requires DOT to paint the center line on Rt. 68 in Wallingford.

It also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, unless otherwise noted below.

1 — LOCAL BRIDGE PROGRAM

The Local Bridge Program provides grants to municipalities for the removal, replacement, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or improvement of local bridges. By law, the DOT commissioner establishes a priority list of bridges, based on their physical condition, and awards grants to municipalities in the order of priority. The grant amount is equal to the project's total cost multiplied by the “grant percentage” (CGS 13a-175s).

The act increases the grant amount available to many municipalities by modifying the definition of “grant percentage. ” Under prior law, DOT determined each municipality's grant percentage by (1) ranking municipalities based on their adjusted equalized net grand list per capita and (2) assigning a percentage, on a scale of 15%-50%, for each municipality based on its ranking. The act sets the grant percentage of each municipality at 50%.

The act also makes more bridges eligible for grants under the program by modifying the definition of “physical condition. ” Under prior law, a bridge's physical condition was based on its structural deficiencies and sufficiency rating. A bridge's sufficiency rating is determined primarily by the structural condition of its major components (i. e. , substructure, superstructure, and deck). However, federal bridge inspection law now incorporates inspection standards based on smaller bridge elements (e. g. , stringers and floor beams), and requires states to collect and report element level data on bridges (23 U. S. C. 144). The act incorporates these new federal standards by changing the definition of physical condition to “the condition of its components and elements, functional adequacy, scour susceptibility, and load capacity. ” Among other things, this change allows municipalities to receive funding for a bridge with smaller elements in poor condition, even if its major components are not yet structurally deficient, as well as for bridge maintenance and preservation.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

2 — WORK ZONE SAFETY ACCOUNT

Existing law authorizes DOT to use Work Zone Safety Account funds for highway traffic enforcement. The act further authorizes DOT to use account funds to purchase and implement technology and equipment. As under existing law, any of these account expenditures must be used to protect highway workers' safety. The act also requires the Highway Work Zone Safety Advisory Council to approve any use of account funds for purposes other than the “Operation Big Orange” program or direct work zone traffic enforcement.

“Operation Big Orange” is a highway enforcement program that uses primarily State Police to make traffic stops in and around active work zones to help protect roadway workers and deter irresponsible motorist behavior.  

3 — MOVING OVER FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLES

The act expands the circumstances when drivers approaching emergency vehicles on a highway must slow down and move over.

By law, when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle located on the shoulder, lane, or breakdown lane of a highway, drivers must slow down to a reasonable speed below the speed limit and, if they are traveling in the adjacent lane, move over one lane unless doing so is unreasonable or unsafe. Under the act, drivers must do the same when approaching emergency vehicles traveling significantly below the posted speed limit. By law, these provisions only apply on highways with two or more lanes proceeding in the same direction.

Under the law, unchanged by the act, an “emergency vehicle” is any vehicle with activated flashing lights that is (1) operated by an emergency medical services organization responding to an emergency call, (2) operated by a fire department or officer responding to an emergency, (3) operated by a police officer, (4) a maintenance vehicle, or (5) a wrecker.

By law, any person who violates these provisions commits an infraction. Fines increase if the violation results in the injury or death of an emergency vehicle operator.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

4 — SELECTION OF DEVELOPERS FOR TOD PROJECTS

By law, the DOT commissioner, with the approval of the Office of Policy and Management secretary, may waive the competitive selection process for TOD projects when the developer is an abutting landowner and his or her property is essential to the project. The act allows the commissioner to also waive the process if a developer holds a recordable, exercisable option to purchase an abutting property.

Under existing law and the act, the DOT commissioner may waive the selection process for TOD projects only if he finds that the cost to the state of any property transaction or service does not exceed fair market value and the waiver is in the state's best interest.

5 — APPROVAL OF DOT PURCHASES BY STATE REFEREE

The act eliminates a requirement that a state referee approve any purchase by the DOT commissioner of land or buildings for state highways and bridges that exceeds $100,000. By law, the State Properties Review Board must review all purchases of property in connection with the state highway system in excess of $5,000 (CGS 13a-73(h)).

6 — EXEMPTION FROM OVERHEAD CLEARANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR BRIDGE IN MIDDLETOWN

The act allows DOT to replace the bridge that carries West Street over the Providence and Worcester Railroad in Middletown with a new bridge that has an overhead clearance of 18 feet 1 inch. In doing so, it exempts the bridge from the law requiring all structures built after October 1, 1986 that cross over railroad tracks to have an overhead clearance of at least 20 feet six inches.

7-15 & 19 — ELIMINATION OF REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

The act eliminates the following studies and reports required by DOT under prior law, which the department says are now obsolete or duplicative:

1. a study of a Route 2A bypass alternative;

2. a report that lists all the at-grade crossings in the state, identifying those that are hazardous and funding sources with which to fix them;

3. an annual report to the legislature with recommendations for maintaining a modern, efficient, and well-balanced transportation system;

4. an annual and five-year financing plan for Transportation Strategy Board projects (PA 11-61 abolished the board);

5. an annual report on certain tax obligation bonds;

6. an annual report on the New Haven Line revitalization program;

7. a 10-year bridge and road resurfacing plan;

8. an annual report on Special Transportation Fund funds, earnings, and expenditures;

9. an annual project implementation report; and

10. a biennial notification to the legislature of the availability of a state highway alteration plan.

The act also makes numerous technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

16 — EAST LYME AND WATERFORD BOY SCOUT LABOR DAY COFFEE STOPS

Prior law allowed Boy Scout Troop 24 of East Lyme to operate Labor Day weekend “coffee stops” at the Waterford weigh station on I-95. The act expands who may operate these coffee stops, allowing any Boy Scout troop of East Lyme and Waterford to do so. The act also specifies that the troops may operate the shops at the weigh stations on both I-95 northbound and southbound in Waterford. It also makes a technical change to define Labor Day weekend.

17 — DOCUMENTATION OF RAILROAD RIGHT-OF-WAY MATERIAL BY SCRAP METAL PROCESSORS

By law, scrap metal processors must record, for all loads of scrap metal they receive, (1) the delivery person's identity; (2) the weight, description of, and price paid for the metal; and (3) a photo of the delivery vehicle and its license plate.

The law imposes additional record-keeping requirements for loads containing wire, cable, or scrap equipment used for telecommunications or data transmission or electricity distribution. Specifically, upon receiving such a load, scrap metal processors must (1) take a photo of the load of scrap metal, (2) copy the vehicle's registration certificate, and (3) record a statement as to the location from which the material came. The act requires scrap metal processors to also record this additional information for loads of scrap metal containing materials, equipment, or parts used in the construction, operation, protection, or maintenance of a railroad right-of-way.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

18 — CENTER LINE PAINT IN WALLINGFORD

The act requires DOT, by July 1, 2017, to paint the center line of Connecticut Rt. 68 in Wallingford from the Cheshire-Wallingford town line to the Wallingford-Durham town line.

OLR Tracking: HP; MK; PF; bs