“Along the Lines” Podcast Episode Highlights CTDOT and ADS Pilot Program Aira

The latest episode of The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s “Along the Lines” podcast highlights the Department of Aging and Disability Services (ADS) and CTDOT’s new pilot program Aira and explores ongoing efforts to create an inclusive public transportation experience in CT.

Through this program, riders taking a bus or train can now live stream through their phone’s camera and connect to personal agents who can help them navigate by describing their surroundings.

Listen to the latest episode on AppleGoogleSoundcloudLibsyn, and Spotify

More information can also be found at alongthelinesct.com.

FEMA Approves Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments Hazard Mitigation Plan

Hazard Mitigation Plan Update

PRESS RELEASE

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP). The plan was funded with a grant from FEMA and updates the local HMPs for all municipalities in the NVCOG Region. With this plan approval, all 19 NVCOG communities are eligible to apply to the Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) for mitigation grants administered by FEMA.

The NVCOG HMP examines a range of natural hazards including winter storms, hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Strategies and actions recommended in the plan are aimed at reducing the risk and vulnerability of the region to those hazards over the next five years. With approved plans, the region’s municipalities can apply for federal funding to undertake projects that will protect the lives and property of region’s residents and make the region more resilient to future natural disasters.

The project team, consisting of NVCOG planners and consultant SLR, Inc., worked with municipal staff and stakeholders in each community over the past 18 months to review previous plans and identify risks.  Input from municipal officials, stakeholders, and the public were all incorporated into a final multijurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan and 19 municipal annexes which were adopted by local governing boards. This regional effort represents a cost and time savings to municipalities when compared to developing individual HMPs as was common previously.

Plan documents can be accessed at www.nvcogct.gov/hmp.

Contact:

Aaron Budris
Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments
203-757-0535
abudris@nvcogct.org

Derby Route 34-Main Street Reconstruction Project Update

City of Derby Route 34 Main Street reconstruction diagram.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) has awarded $18.7 million to C.J. Fucci Inc., a New Haven construction firm, to build the Route 34-Main Street reconstruction project. Construction is slated to start in April of 2022 and take about 700 days to complete.  

The NVCOG has been managing the design of the project in cooperation of the CTDOT. The goals of the project are intended to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, improve safety and support economic revitalization in the downtown area south of Main Street. The project is receiving 80% federal funding and 20% state funding, including $4 million allocated by NVCOG from the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) apportionment as part of the state share.  

Main Street will be reconstructed and widened between Bridge Street and Route 8. To ensure pedestrian safety and that the reconstructed road continues to act as the city’s “Main Street,” many traffic calming features will be installed, including a raised median, wider sidewalks, curb bump-outs, highly visible crosswalks, and designated on-street parking. Also, as part of the project, the city will be replacing the sanitary sewer main that runs under Route 34 and improving a short section of Factory Street that was not included in the project limits. These actions are non-participating items and will be paid for by the city.  

The work will be done in multiple stages to maintain traffic throughout the project corridor. Work will begin with the relocation of utilities followed by filling the area on the south side of Main Street to support the new travel lanes. The end date is expected to be November 2024, but will be affected by winter weather conditions during winter months. 

Find more details about the project on our “Route 34 Main Street Derby Reconstruction” project page 

Route 34 Preliminary Design Rendering
Route 34 Preliminary Design Rendering

NVCOG and Environmental Partners Take Legal Action on Kinneytown Dam

Kinneytown Dam

PRESS RELEASE

Waterbury, Conn. – The Kinneytown Dam, owned by Hydroland Corporation, has blocked migratory fish passage on the Naugatuck River for long enough. Today the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG), comprised of the 19 municipalities surrounding the Naugatuck River, along with environmental organizations Save the Sound and Naugatuck River Revival Group (NRRG), have jointly taken legal action at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), aimed at restoring the once thriving sea-run fisheries of the Naugatuck River. The legal filing by NVCOG, Save the Sound, and NRRG asks FERC to revoke Hydroland’s operating license exemption.

“Hydroland has ignored their responsibility to manage and maintain Kinneytown Dam for too long, and they do not deserve the license exemption they have,” said Mayor Pete Hess of Naugatuck. “We won’t tolerate a facility that damages the environment and is unsafe in our communities any longer.”

“Let’s face it, these generating plants have been off-line for some time—one for more than a decade. Without the generation of power, we need to question the role played by this abandoned facility that damages our restored river,” Mayor Neil O’Leary of Waterbury added. “We are asking FERC to take more direct action against this operator. We have to find a way for fish to migrate past this obstruction on the Naugatuck River so that we can finally realize all of the benefits of the public investments made by Connecticut taxpayers, our partner river towns, and the many activists in restoring the Naugatuck River over the past decades.”

Longstanding and severe problems with fish passage conditions and actual passage of individual species at the dam have been detailed in multiple studies previously submitted to FERC. These longstanding problems include failure to control spill coming over the dam, a fish ladder that was not constructed as designed and is not being operated as required, and an unauthorized shutdown of one of the operating turbines.

“For many years, including 2021, the dam has served as an almost complete barrier to thousands of fish, including American shad and river herring, that are coming into the river from Long Island Sound and attempting to spawn upstream,” said Kevin Zak, founder of Naugatuck River Revival Group. “The fish ladder is a failure, and it has been since it was built. Little has been done to remedy this situation for the past 20 years, and recent efforts by the agencies have been met with radio silence by dam owner Hydroland. Clearly something more must be done.”

In November 2020, and again in July 2021, Save the Sound and NRRG submitted photographic and video documentation to FERC demonstrating the presence of hundreds of migratory fish below the dam, and showing their inability to pass the dam during the upstream migration that occurs each spring. Then, in September, a team of experts from Save the Sound, NRRG, and Queens College, CUNY, submitted to FERC an analysis, based upon two decades of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) data gathered at the dam site, showing that favorable water flows for fish passage at the dam occur only during 39 percent of the peak fish passage period in the average year due to operational and structural conditions. Some years have little or no favorable flows for the entire spring fish run, resulting in extremely low passage rates.

The impacts from this situation are dramatic: from 2000 to 2020, the average number of fish passing Kinneytown Dam annually for three target species for restoration—American shad, blueback herring, and alewife—was 12.5 individual fish combined from April 1 to July 1—a fraction of a percentage of the original restoration goals of more than 22,000 shad and 220,000 river herring (blueback herring and alewife) expected to be counted annually.

Over the last several months, FERC, which is responsible for licensing the dam and overseeing its operations, has ordered Hydroland to explain this situation and to comply with directives from state and federal resource agencies. To date, Hydroland has failed to respond, missing all filing deadlines required by FERC, and has taken no required actions onsite. FERC has also cited multiple safety concerns related to the site.

Save the Sound staff attorney Kat Fiedler stated, “Hydroland is in violation of numerous fundamental conditions of its operating license exemption, including improperly constructed facilities, changes to operations, and decades of neglect and deterioration allowed by previous dam owners and now Hydroland. Even with renewed attention to this issue by the federal agencies, deadlines to address this situation set by those agencies have been completely ignored, continuing this history of complete disregard for the environmental harm caused by this dam. Our legal action asks FERC to exercise its authority revoke the current exemption.”

Among other relief, today’s filing by NVCOG, Save the Sound, and NRRG asks that:

A. FERC declare the Kinneytown fish passage operations out of compliance with its exemption.

B. FERC revoke the current exemption and require the owner apply for a new exemption or license, and that any new application include designs, based on best available engineering and science, for safe, timely, and effective fish passage.

NVCOG, Save the Sound, and NRRG are members of the Naugatuck River Restoration Coalition, a group of municipalities and environmental organizations working to restore the Naugatuck River. Conditions at Kinneytown Dam have also been noted by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who have called for action to restore effective fish passage on the Naugatuck River.

###

Previous filings and orders:

NVCOG is represented by Attorney Ronald A. Shems of Tarrant, Gillies & Shems in Montpelier, VT. Ron practices energy and environmental law before federal courts and agencies and in several states. Tarrant, Gillies & Shems represents individuals, municipalities, businesses, regulated industries, cooperatives, and non-profit corporations. www.tarrantgillies.com

Connecticut State Rail Plan Update

Anosnia Train Station

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) is hosting three virtual public information meetings for the upcoming State Rail Plan update. This document presents strategies and programs focused on ensuring existing rail infrastructure maintenance and pursuing investments to maximize future rail services. If you’re passionate about rail service or utilize public transit, this is a terrific opportunity to learn and ask questions about this plan.

Information meetings will be conducted virtually on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, August 31st at 6:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 2nd at 1:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 9th at 6:00 p.m.

Registration is not required. You can LIVE stream these events by clicking here: https://portal.ct.gov/DOT/Publictrans/Office-of-Rail/Connecticut-State-Rail-Plan

If you have any questions or comments concerning the State Rail Plan, please e-mail: DOTPLANNING@CT.GOV.

Draft Oxford Route 67 Alternative Transportation Plan Report Published

The public is invited to review and provide feedback on a Draft Oxford Route 67 Alternative Transportation Study Report.  The Draft report presents the existing conditions in the corridor along with recommendations for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. Comments can be submitted until August 15th, 2021.  The report and more information can be found on the project webpage at www.nvcogct.gov/oxfordroute67 .

The Oxford Main Street Alternative Transportation Study has been underway since December 2019, investigating the potential for non-motorized transportation alternatives and transit in the Route 67 corridor between Seymour and Southford. Study partners collected and analyzed information about the existing conditions in the corridor, collected input from stakeholders and the public, and investigated potential bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. The focus is to improve connections and transportation options to the Seymour sidewalk network, train station and Naugatuck River Greenway Trail to the south, and the Larkin Bridle Trail to the north, as well as to all the businesses, services, green spaces, and residential areas within the corridor. The potential for transit service was also investigated, focusing on connections to services and major residential and commercial centers and to surrounding communities.

The Oxford Main Street Project Committee is overseeing the project, and it builds on previous work the committee has undertaken to improve access to the Little River and natural resources along Route 67. The goal is to provide better access to the businesses and natural resources throughout the corridor. The final report will provide a cohesive plan for the entire corridor to better enable the Town to plan, prioritize, and fund future improvements. The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG) is funding the project with federal transportation planning funds. TranSystems Corporation, a planning and engineering consultant with offices in Meriden, CT is the project consultant. A final report, incorporating comments from stakeholders and the public, will be published this summer.

Oxford’s Plan of Conservation and Development prioritized creating more of a downtown feel along Route 67. Unlike many of its neighbors, Oxford does not have a typical walkable New England downtown or Main Street.

Instead, municipal and commercial areas are dispersed along with residences along State Route 67. While Route 67 fundamentally functions as Oxford’s “Main Street,” it currently has no sidewalks or safe bicycle or pedestrian access. In addition, there is currently no public transit currently operated along Route 67 providing residents an alternative transportation option. Transit options by train on Metro North and by bus on CT Transit are available only one mile from the Oxford town line, but there is currently no way for Oxford residents to safely access these services without a personal motor vehicle.

Oxford First Selectman George Temple explained that “Oxford residents have voiced support for pedestrian and bicycle access along the Little River and Route 67. This study allows us to make progress toward that goal, and to give the public a chance to help guide and contribute to future efforts”.

TranSystems Project Manager Casey Hardin said that “This is the time for area residents to provide input on the planning for this important municipal resource. The study includes recommendations to improve mobility options for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as folks who would like options beyond their automobile”.

Public Information Meeting Scheduled for the Oxford Route 67 Alternative Transportation Plan

Oxford residents and business owners are invited to review and provide feedback on a Draft Oxford Route 67 Alternative Transportation Study report during a Public Information Meeting on June 17th, 2021, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Oxford High School auditorium.  The Draft report presents the existing conditions in the corridor along with recommendations for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. Project partners will present the draft plan and be available to take comments and answer questions at the June 17 meeting. An alternative virtual broadcast of the presentation will be available for those unable to attend in person.  The draft report and meeting details can be found on the study webpage at www.nvcogct.gov/oxfordroute67.

The Oxford Main Street Alternative Transportation Study has been underway since December 2019, investigating the potential for non-motorized transportation alternatives and transit in the Route 67 corridor between Seymour and Southford. Study partners collected and analyzed information about the existing conditions in the corridor, collected input from stakeholders and the public, and investigated potential bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. The focus is to improve connections and transportation options to the Seymour sidewalk network, train station and Naugatuck River Greenway Trail to the south, and the Larkin Bridle Trail to the north, as well as to all the businesses, services, green spaces, and residential areas within the corridor.  The potential for transit service was also investigated, focusing on connections to services and major residential and commercial centers and to surrounding communities.

The Oxford Main Street Project Committee is overseeing the project, and it builds on previous work the committee has undertaken to improve access to the Little River and natural resources along Route 67. The goal is to provide better access to the businesses and natural resources throughout the corridor.  The final report will provide a cohesive plan for the entire corridor to better enable the Town to plan, prioritize, and fund future improvements. The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments (NVCOG) is funding the project with federal transportation planning funds.  TranSystems Corporation, a planning and engineering consultant with offices in Meriden, CT is the project consultant.  A final report, incorporating comments from stakeholders and the public, will be published this summer.

Oxford’s Plan of Conservation and Development prioritized creating more of a downtown feel along Route 67. Unlike many of its neighbors, Oxford does not have a typical walkable New England downtown or Main Street.

Instead, municipal and commercial areas are dispersed along with residences along State Route 67. While Route 67 fundamentally functions as Oxford’s “Main Street,” it currently has no sidewalks or safe bicycle or pedestrian access.  In addition, there is currently no public transit currently operated along Route 67 providing residents an alternative transportation option.  Transit options by train on Metro North and by bus on CT Transit are available only one mile from the Oxford town line, but there is currently no way for Oxford residents to safely access these services without a personal motor vehicle.

Oxford First Selectman George Temple explained that “Oxford residents have voiced support for pedestrian and bicycle access along the Little River and Route 67. This study allows us to make progress toward that goal, and to give the public a chance to help guide and contribute to future efforts”.

TranSystems Project Manager Casey Hardin said that “This is the time for area residents to provide input on the planning for this important municipal resource. The study includes recommendations to improve mobility options for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as folks who would like options beyond their automobile”.

Bethlehem Organic Compost Facility Plans to be Aired

Main Street Bethlehem

Original Press Release

Posted on March 8, 2021

Residents in the next 60 days will have continued opportunities to voice their comments or concerns about an organic composting facility proposed on nearly 70 acres at 331 and 351 Main St. South.

The first is at a virtual town meeting, planned for March 23, at which voters will decide whether to adopt a noise ordinance, which was drafted in part as a response to citizens’ expressing apprehension about truck and machine sounds echoing from the facility.

In addition, a hearing is scheduled for April 27 on a revised application for a town permit to operate the facility. At this hearing residents can express their views about the plans from Grillo Services, LLC of Milford, developers of the site.

Town officials said that these are part of the necessary steps toward a decision on whether this business can create on the property various forms of mulch, top soil and other soil-related materials. They are sold on the bulk, commercial and residential markets.

The company plans on receiving trees, brush, leaves and demolition items that are separated for use or discarded.

Town and state permits are required for the composting and other plans for the property. None have been granted yet for this site because reviews are still underway.

Bethlehem First Selectman Leonard Assard said that the go-ahead to a town meeting for the noise ordinance came at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

A recent hearing on the ordinance — the first for this small community — produced questions about its effects on residents’ everyday lives and some opposition to putting more regulations on the community.

The local measure would apply to all businesses and residents in the town. In essence, it says people risk sanctions and a possible $100 maximum fine if noise reaches beyond property boundaries in excess of 55 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., or in excess of 45 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. This also applies to motor vehicles and there are exceptions.

“This ordinance is really designed for the constant noise that’s there all day long,” Assard said trying to reassure residents concerned about incidental noise, such as early-morning lawn mowing or excessively loud parties.

In those instances, the police would ask those responsible to stop or quiet down the noise, he said. Repeat offenders, however, could be slapped with a summons. A copy of the full ordinance is available on the town’s website at ci.bethlehem.ct.us Also meeting Tuesday evening, the town’s Inlands/

Wetlands Agency approved Grillo’s revised application for the permit.

Board Chairman Robert Smith said that this application, unlike an earlier submission, addressed missing issues. It has now been referred to the town’s engineering consultant, LandTech Consultants, Inc., of Westford, Mass., for a detailed analysis.

The board expects that the analysis will be completed for the April 27 hearing and for public review.

In accepting the revised permit application, Smith said that Grillo made certain adjustments and scaled back some of the plans. The full application with reports and maps runs about 600 pages and can be found under the March 2 Inland/ Wetlands Agency agenda on the town website.

For instance, the company at first wanted to include other areas of the property for potential expansion. However, that aspect has been removed based on the panel wanting to limit this permit to just the current proposed operational site, Smith said.

“They will need to come back if they want to do any expansion and go through this process again for review,” he said. Part of the company’s plans involve creating different colored mulch and chemicals are used in that process, the chairman said.

It has now included more storm water mitigation – also known as a “rain garden” – filtering areas close to water courses and property lines. This mitigation helps to sift debris, chemical waste and other solids from water as it moves deeper into soil, Smith said.

Nearby streams and other waterways drain into East Spring Brook that empties into the Watertown Fire District’s well fields, which help provide drinking water for sections of Watertown, he said.

“We want to make sure that it doesn’t get contaminated. That’s the biggest concern, the groundwater contamination for us. Groundwater eventually becomes drinking water,” Smith said.