October 28, 2014 01:10AM
By Molly Callahan
Demolition of the former YMCA and Stone Insurance building at 88 State St. in Meriden began Monday to make room for a parking lot for a new train station on the New Haven- Hartford-Springfield rail line. Work in surrounding towns in preparation for new train stations is also underway.
Demolition of the State Street building follows the award of a $58.8 million station construction contract to New York-based Judlau Construction, announced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last week.
John Bernick, assistant rail administrator at the state Department of Transportation, said Monday that the state received six bids for the work and accepted the lowest bid, per state regulations. He added that the DOT follows explicit regulations to go with the lowest bidder in selecting contractors and does not have the leeway to select contractors based on location or other factors.
The contract includes building stations and platforms in Meriden, Wallingford and Berlin, in addition to site work and the demolition of the Meriden building. The demolition will clear space for a 79-space lot on State Street.
Construction on the stations will begin this fall. They are expected to be complete by late 2016, when the entire rail service will be launched, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
The rail project means improved track and signals along the 62-mile corridor, upgrades to bridges and culverts to accommodate double tracking, upgrades to at-grade crossings to enhance safety, improving existing stations and building new ones, and providing new train equipment.
Improvements at the stations will include high-level platforms on both sides of the tracks, overhead pedestrian bridges with new elevators and stair towers, platform snow-melt systems, electric vehicle charging stations, ticket vending machines and passenger information display systems, PA and high-resolution video surveillance systems, as well as improved access and parking from the street, according to the statement.
Bernick said construction is based on the contractor’s schedule, but would likely begin this fall before pausing over the winter, and then starting “heavily” in the spring. While construction is underway, local roads will be in various stages of closure.
A portion of State Street between East Main to Mill streets will be closed during construction.
“It will be difficult for us to construct a platform that close to the road, so that’s why it will have to be closed down,” Bernick said Monday. “I expect you’ll see that happen next year with the start of the construction season” in the spring.
Eventually the portion closest to the train station will be a one-way road, with access limited to buses and taxis. Motorists leaving the train station will only be able to exit north, toward the Interstate 691 entrance ramp.
The northbound lane of State Street has been closed since August during construction of the Meriden Hub.
Bernick said work on the rails and stations would be concurrent in Meriden and Wallingford.
In Wallingford, the work entails a new station, and upgrades at grade crossings at Toelles Road, Ward Street, Quinnipiac Street, Hall Avenue, Parker Street, North Plains Highway, and Pent Highway to accommodate double tracking.
Wallingford Town Engineer John P. Thompson said he had some remaining concerns about the work but was working closely with the state and the contractor, both of whom seemed willing to address on any potential problems, he said.
“My biggest concern is where the station is going to be constructed,” Thompson said. “Half of the work is in a primarily residential area, and the other half is in a primarily commercial area. I want to make sure there are provisions in place for the parking of construction workers. I don’t want to see a situation where employees are occupying residential spots or where they’re going to take away parking from businesses.”
A parking plan would be in place before work begins, Thompson said.
Another issue related to rail work is in closing a portion of Toelles Road to install a second track.
In anticipation of road closures to update the portion of rail track that runs over the road at the seven crossings in town, state and town officials have designed what Thompson called “reasonable detours” for driving traffic.
The detour route planned at this point for Toelles Road, however, is “so onerous and so lengthy that we’re working to come up with another treatment,” Thompson said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to have people driving miles to get around construction activity, which is what we’d have now,” Thompson said. “We recognize that this has to be done, so we’re working to come up with a detour plan where the impact is minimized, because we’re the ones who live and drive here.”