THE CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION AND CHANGING TIMES 1969-1982
FORMATION OF "CONNDOT"
With the enactment of Public Act 768, the state legislature created the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT). Connecticut became one of the first five states in the nation to develop a coordinated state transportation agency. The new agency was charged with all aspects of the planning, development, maintenance and improvement of transportation in the state.
Effective October 1, 1969, the new Department brought together the former Department of Highways (established 1895), the Department of Aeronautics (established 1927), the Connecticut Transportation Authority (established 1963), and the Commission of Steamship Terminals (established 1911). Each of these former agencies became a bureau within the larger Department. Two new bureaus were added, the Bureau of Administration and the Bureau of Planning and Research, for a total of six bureaus under the Commissioner of the Department.
The new agency would be a "managed" department, run according to business management principles. The choice of commissioner for the new organization showed this intent, for the new commissioner, George J. Conkling, had previously served 12 years as finance commissioner for the state. Commissioner Conkling would serve as Commissioner of the Department until 1971.
The legislature established goals for the Department, designed to integrate the overall transportation needs of the state with the elements of public safety, service, and convenience. Some of these goals were:
- To develop comprehensive, integrated transportation policy and a long-range master plan
- To assist in the development and operation of a modern, safe, efficient and energy-conserving system of highway, mass transit, marine and aviation facilities and services
- To study commuter and urban travel and in cooperation with federal, regional and local agencies and persons to formulate and implement plans and programs to improve such travel
- To study means of providing facilities for parking motor vehicles so as to encourage travel by the combination of motor vehicle and other modes of transportation
- To cooperate with federal, state, interstate and local agencies, organizations, and persons performing activities relating to transportation.
At the same time, the federal government's transportation focus broadened from the construction of interstate highways to include the improvement of existing high-volume roads. To meet that goal, Congress initiated a new federal aid program called TOPICS (Traffic Operations Program to Increase Capacity and Safety). The program created federal/state/local cooperation to improve the traffic- carrying ability and safety of local roads formerly ineligible for direct federal aid. Cities and regional planning areas with over 200,000 people were the focus of the program. To administer the program at the state level in Connecticut, the Department established the Municipal Systems Section in 1969.
During these formative years of the new Department, there were seven commissioners who influenced its development. Commissioner Conkling served until February of 1971, when A. Earl Wood replaced him as Commissioner, serving until July of 1973. Joseph B. Burns then became Commissioner and served until March of 1975, when Samuel Kanell took the helm for a brief period, through December of that year. In January of 1976, James F. Shugrue was appointed Commissioner and led the Department until January of 1979. Commissioner Arthur B. Powers then served until October of 1981, when J. William Burns became Commissioner for his first term, which would last until 1991. These men were key in developing the integrated, multi-faceted Department that exists today.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT
April of 1970 marked the celebration of the first Earth Day, an event which highlighted increased public awareness of environmental issues. In 1969, Congress had passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under which any federally funded action, including the proposed construction of highways, railroads, airports and other transportation facilities had to first undergo the environmental impact process. The process had to include a report of any adverse environmental effects which could not be avoided if the proposal was implemented, measures to mitigate those adverse effects, alternatives to the proposed project, and the relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and the enhancement of long-term productivity.
In 1972, Connecticut passed its own version of NEPA, called the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA), and established the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to oversee environmental regulations. Within the Department itself, Commissioner A. Earle Wood, appointed Commissioner in 1971, created an Environmental Section within the Office of the Deputy Commissioner. It was later transferred to the Bureau of Planning and Research.
The need for environmental impact evaluations increased both the cost and the time needed to plan and construct new transportation facilities, as many new factors had to be considered in addition to simple transportation demand. Transportation agencies across the country continued to experience increased resistance to road construction. Residents near proposed roads objected to the expected noise, the impact on the surrounding landscape, and the amount of land needed to construct a road (interstates require up to 45 acres per mile, and from 50-100 acres per interchange.) People and wildlife were being displaced, and habitat, wetlands and sensitive natural areas were being impacted. In some cases there was considerable opposition to the secondary effects of new highway construction, as development was springing up around highway interchanges, impacting additional land and natural features. People were increasingly concerned with balancing economic growth and the protection of existing resources.
The increased awareness of the effects of hazardous wastes on the environment and the enactment of laws concerning their disposal also affected the Department. In 1990, the Department began a regular program of cleaning up oil spill sites, and, in 1993, started a comprehensive program to properly dispose of barrels of waste accumulated at construction sites and state garages throughout the state.
THE ENERGY CRISIS AND COMMUTER INITIATIVES
The energy crisis of the 1970s, precipitated by the shortages of gasoline and oil and associated price hikes, encouraged the Department to address commuter transportation more than it had previously. As early as 1969, however, the Department had initiated a commuter parking lot pilot program with four facilities located at strategic interchanges. By 1972, the development of commuter parking facilities had become a continuous and ongoing program.
The gasoline shortages of 1973-1974 prompted Governor Meskill to outline his three-point plan to be implemented by the Department, now under the leadership of Commissioner Joseph B. Burns. The plan called for express commuter bus service and the promotion of ridesharing (carpooling), in part through the construction of interchange parking lots.
The Department responded quickly. In 1972, the Department had started to provide express bus service from outlying towns into Hartford, first from West Hartford, then from Manchester. By January of 1974, the Department had developed and implemented seven express bus services to Hartford and two to New Haven. During calendar year 1975, five new express bus operations were implemented, and by the end of calendar year 1976, an additional four services were carrying express bus patrons to Connecticut's major employment centers. By December 31, 1976, the cumulative total ridership on express commuter buses had risen to nearly four million persons. Additional commuter bus operations were implemented as warranted throughout the late 1970s. Commuter services also included a reverse commuter bus to take Hartford residents from the city to employers in the suburbs.
At the height of the energy crisis in 1979, the Department added extra buses and trains to the Connecticut Transit (bus) and New Haven Line (train) operations; imposed a gas sale limit at state-owned stations on the Connecticut Turnpike and on the Merritt and Wilbur Cross Parkways; expanded the hours of service of the Connecticut Transit Bus Information Centers; and promoted the use of bus service from nine inland communities to shoreline beaches.
Commuter parking lots continued to increase. In fiscal year 1973-74, six commuter parking lots were added to the five that then existed. The following year, 66 gravel lots were constructed and 10 paved lots were added.
Other energy saving initiatives included the passage of P.A. 78-309, which allowed cars to make right turns after a stop at a steady red light, and the imposition of the 55 mile-an-hour speed limit. In 1974, the state legislature recognized the need to fund mass transportation facilities and established a subsidization program. At the federal level, the National Mass Transportation Assistance Act of 1974 supplemented state funds by appropriating money to urbanized areas to finance capital projects and subsidize operating costs of mass transportation projects.
In 1972, the Department seemed to anticipate the coming energy crisis by initiating a pilot carpooling program in conjunction with the Hartford Central Business District. The goals of the project were to eliminate parking problems around the state capitol, reduce highway congestion, and establish a model that could later be expanded to private industry. The project focused on commuters to state agencies in Hartford and used a computer matching program to match commuters with similar departure and destination times and locations. Carpooling commuters were given an incentive: certain prime parking spaces were reserved for carpools of four or more people. This program created the basis of the massive carpooling efforts of the Department during the energy crisis the following year.
The Department continued to promote carpooling and in 1977, teamed with the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CTDEP) to provide literature and seminars about carpooling and transit; encourage preferential parking or monetary incentives from employers; coordinate work and transit schedules to facilitate transit use by employees; enable employers to distribute monthly transit passes at cost or discount; help employers post maps, schedules and rates in their offices; and promote vanpooling.
In 1977, under the leadership of Commissioner James F. Shugrue, the Department developed a demonstration vanpooling project for state employees working in the greater Hartford area and implemented it in 1978 with five vans. The project was prompted by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1976, which designated vanpooling projects eligible for funding at 90 percent federal/10 percent local. After its demonstration with state employees, which showed that vanpooling worked, the Department used its share of federal funds to purchase 30 vans for use by major employers in the ten urbanized planning regions in the state. Employers could either purchase or lease the vans, which were then leased to a group of employees. Connecticut's vanpooling program was on the cutting edge of public transportation innovation and prepared the Department for its next emergency response.
The gasoline shortage of 1979 led to the creation of the Governor's Ridesharing Task Force, appointed by Governor Ella Grasso, to coordinate and assist state, regional and employer-based efforts to encourage ridesharing. The Department, then headed by Commissioner Arthur B. Powers, did its part by computer-matching all state employees for carpooling. The state employee vanpooling demonstration was fully implemented with 20 vans in operation, and the Department's free carpool matching service was expanded to private employers. Governor Grasso's Ridesharing Task Force was the model used by President Carter to establish a similar federal task force.
Another step the Department made in promoting ridesharing was to cooperate in the formation of three non-profit ridesharing brokerages. In 1980, the Greater Hartford Ridesharing Corporation (known as the Rideshare Company) and Metropool in Stamford began operations. They were joined by Rideworks of New Haven in 1983. The purpose of these non-profit organizations was to promote ridesharing for more efficient use of Connecticut's highways.
Today, ridesharing helps the state meet 1990 Clean Air Act standards, particularly in the Fairfield County area. The brokerages offer free matching services to commuters and provide information on other public transportation services as well as information on highway construction. The brokerages also work with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Department in planning future travel-to-work options and employee and employer incentives. These three brokerages are the backbone of the state's ridesharing efforts at present.
When people think of the Department, many still think primarily of highways, probably because of the long history of public involvement in roadway development and maintenance. Funding, particularly from the federal government, has had a profound influence on the development of the state's transportation system, as is true for the rest of the nation. The Interstate System and the Federal-Aid Highway Acts encouraged road construction in answer to the problems of traffic congestion and mobility. Highway funds could originally only be used for roads; other modes of transportation, including public transit, received funding in separate legislative initiatives.
In 1973, federal regulations on distribution of highways funds became more flexible. States were able to reallocate some funds designated for urban portions of the interstate system to transit systems or to other highway projects in urban areas. The Department took advantage of this flexibility. The portion of I-291 slated to pass through rural sections of West Hartford and the section of I-86 from Glastonbury to Manchester, along with some other proposed interstate projects, were "traded in" to fund a variety of different projects, including the Route 9 extension, the new Charter Oak Bridge, upgrade of the I-91/I- 84 interchange in Hartford, upgrade of Route 6 between Willimantic and Plainfield, construction of a new bus maintenance and storage facility, and purchase of buses and vans.
Other mass transit efforts, such as the reverse commuter service, were also funded in part by the federal government, which now allowed states to finance urban mass transit programs from the Highway Trust Fund. In 1974, the Urban Mass Transportation Assistance Act, signed by President Ford, authorized the use of a portion of federal mass transit funds for operating expenses. While the greater share of these funds, administered by UMTA, were still allocated for capital expenses, prior to this time UMTA funds could only be used for capital projects.
There were five transit districts (Hartford, Bridgeport, Westport, Shelton, and Meriden/ Middletown) in 1972, when the General Assembly amended the transit district act (originally passed in 1961). The powers of transit districts were broadened to include regulation, and the Commissioner was authorized to provide financial assistance to districts through grants, loans or subsidies. The state would provide one-third of the capital cost for the purchase of new buses and other capital improvements, with federal funds from UMTA providing the two-thirds balance. It was hoped that providing capital costs would reduce the likelihood of operating deficits. Due to the preponderance of use of the private automobile, public transportation service had become financially unprofitable, making both urban and rural systems dependent on government subsidies to maintain essential services.
Transit districts were given additional authority as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1979, including the following powers: to establish, operate and maintain a transit system within the district; to acquire all or part of the property and franchises of companies operating a transit service within the district; to establish, construct, acquire, operate and maintain a transportation center; to operate services directly or indirectly by contract; and to establish fares. In addition, the legislation transferred responsibility for the regulation of buses and taxi services, including developing rules and regulations concerning fares, speed, schedules, passenger safety, and the issuance of operating permits, from the Division of Public Utility Control (the successor to the PUC) to the Department.
PENN CENTRAL GOES BUST:
THE DEPARTMENT SAVES COMMUTER RAIL
In the late 1960s, with decreasing revenues and increasing costs, Penn Central Transportation Company was unable to operate its huge rail empire profitably. The railroad was caught in a downward spiral affecting all of its services -- commuter rail, intercity passenger rail, and freight rail.
Aware of the railroad's dim financial prospects and decreasing levels of service, the Connecticut General Assembly in 1969 enacted the Connecticut-New York Railroad Passenger Compact to ensure continuation of the essential New Haven Line commuter rail service. This compact authorized the Connecticut Transportation Authority (that year absorbed into the new Connecticut Department of Transportation), individually or in cooperation with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York, to acquire railroad assets, repair and rehabilitate assets, operate a rail service, or contract that service out for operation.
In 1970, when Penn Central filed for bankruptcy, the Department and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of New York responded almost immediately. Having previously demonstrated the success of public operation of the New Haven Line from 1965 to 1968, the two parties once again entered into agreements to operate the service, this time with the trustees of the now bankrupt Penn Central. By October, 1970, four agreements were executed providing the framework for the preservation and improvement of the commuter rail service, effective January 1, 1971. Highlights of the agreements included provisions for the Department to lease, with an option to buy, all Connecticut rights-of-way leading to New Haven, New Canaan, Danbury and Waterbury, for a term of 60 years; for the Department and the MTA to share operating deficits on an equal share basis and for both entities to set schedules, fares and standards; and for the Department and MTA to jointly purchase and rehabilitate 97 of Penn Central's existing electric cars and to purchase 144 new cars.
The 1970 agreements established a commitment to a number of infrastructure improvement projects on the New Haven Line. Due to their size and magnitude, they were anticipated to be accomplished over many years, which has indeed proven to be the case. Improvements have included conversion of the electric traction power system from the unreliable, antiquated Cos Cob Power Plant to the more reliable commercial power source; signal system replacement; programmed bridge rehabilitation and replacement; road bed rehabilitation; rehabilitation and purchase of rolling stock; and construction of maintenance facilities as needed.
On April 1, 1976, almost two months after the enactment of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4R Act), the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) became an active railroad, taking over the profitable assets of Penn Central and other bankrupt railroads. Since the 4R Act preserved terms of the 1970 New Haven Line agreements, Conrail was required to replace the Trustees of Penn Central as the operator of the New Haven Line commuter rail service.
The Department's involvement with the New Haven Line intensified in 1981 when Congress passed the Northeast Rail Services Act. The act relieved Conrail of its obligation to operate commuter rail service. The Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York immediately stepped in, electing to take over commuter rail operations themselves. The MTA created the Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company to operate two commuter lines within New York State for the MTA and to operate the New Haven Line in Connecticut and New York for the Connecticut Department of Transportation-MTA partnership. Metro-North assumed operations on January 1, 1983.
AMTRAK AND CONRAIL
To maintain the unprofitable intercity passenger service around the country, Congress passed the Railroad Passenger Service Act of October 30, 1970, which established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, known as Amtrak, to run the service. Intercity service on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor running through Connecticut connects Boston and New York City and Washington, D.C. via the Connecticut shore line route and connects Springfield, Massachusetts, to New York City on the Inland Route through Hartford. Amtrak's intercity operations continue to run at the expense of the federal government, with no subsidies from Connecticut or the Department.
* * *
The decline of Penn Central was not an isolated case in the railroad industry. Other railroads were also failing. The bankruptcy of the Penn Central and six other railroads in the northeast and midwest regions of the United States prompted Congress to pass a series of acts to prevent the complete collapse of rail freight service in the region.
The Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 (3R Act) established the United States Railway Association (USRA) to plan the formation and structure of a new railroad, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), using the assets of the bankrupt railroads. Congress created Conrail as a private, for-profit corporation, which was initially owned by the federal government (85 percent) and by rail employees (15 percent). The USRA's Final System Plan for Conrail was to include only the profitable freight lines of the bankrupt railroads.
The 3R Act also established the Local Rail Service Assistance (LRSA) Program to financially assist the states in the northeast and midwest regions to preserve rail freight services on light density lines, which were excluded from the Conrail system but were considered by the states to be essential for their economies. The LRSA Program, which was administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (within the U.S. DOT), provided funds for both operating subsidies and capital improvement projects for the excluded lines. The Department initially utilized LRSA funds to rehabilitate four light density lines and subsidize their operations to ensure, at least temporarily, continued service.
The 4R Act of 1976 expanded the LRSA Program from a northeast and midwest program to a national program, since there were freight railroads failing in other parts of the nation. In 1978, Congress amended the program's project eligibility criteria to include capital assistance for marginally profitable lines before (rather than after) abandonment. Effective September 30, 1980, use of LRSA funds for freight operating subsidies was excluded. In addition to applying what LRSA funds were available toward rehabilitation programs, the Department used such funds to acquire various active and inactive rail rights-of-way.
As the 1970s came to a close, there were indications that federal LRSA funding would continue to diminish and could possibly be eliminated. The Department took action to continue its support of the rail freight industry serving Connecticut. To further its rail preservation and improvement goals, the Department used state funds to augment the diminishing federal funds. The evolving capital assistance program for freight railroads provided 70 percent of the cost of projects approved by the Department from state or state-federal sources and 30 percent from the participating railroads.
The Connecticut General Assembly also indicated its continued support for the preservation and improvement of rail freight service. With the support of the Department, the General Assembly in 1978 amended the Railroad Tax Exemption statutes (originally enacted in 1961 for the New Haven Railroad). These amendments made all railroads serving Connecticut eligible to participate in the Program, focused the eligible tax exemption projects on physical plant improvements, and transferred the rail regulatory authority to the Department. Under this revised Tax Exemption Program, if a railroad expends an amount of money equal to its railroad gross receipts tax liability on capital projects approved by the Department, the Department would approve a tax exemption. The logic of this major change in the statutes was that allowing Connecticut's railroads to make investments in improving their plant would improve the service provided to Connecticut rail users and improve the survivability of the railroads, which would be more beneficial to the state in the long run than receiving the tax revenue.
Despite Congressional actions and billions of federal dollars, Conrail was unable to achieve financial success. Like Conrail, other major U.S. railroads were unable to operate efficiently and profitably within the restrictive and time consuming regulations of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1980, Congress enacted the landmark Staggers Act, which essentially deregulated the freight railroad industry for the first time in almost 75 years, since the 1906 Hepburn Act. Deregulation meant that, with few exceptions, railroads could charge whatever rates the competitive transportation environment would allow. In those cases where shippers were Acaptive@ to the railroads (e.g., shippers of coal, grain, etc.), rates were somewhat constrained but fully covered operational costs and provided a reasonable profit. Within the year and during the years that followed, Conrail, like the rest of the railroad industry, made significant financial gains. Conrail's financial success after the Staggers Act was also influenced by the Northeast Rail Services Act of 1981, which relieved Conrail of its obligation to operate various commuter rail services, including the New Haven Line. The act also set in motion the process to determine whether the 85 percent federal ownership of Conrail could be or should be sold, and if so, how and to whom.
THE DEPARTMENT SAVES LOCAL BUS SERVICES
One of the most visible examples of the state's commitment to public transportation came in the early years of 1970s. For many years, fixed route bus service had been operated successfully by the Connecticut Company in the major cities of Hartford, New Haven and Stamford. However, with the increasing popularity of automobiles, bus ridership began to decline in the early 1970s. Decreasing revenues made it difficult to keep up the buses and related equipment and to satisfy employees. In November 1972, a strike forced the shutdown of service and the future of bus operations in the three cities was uncertain. In March 1973, the Department began subsidization of The Connecticut Company to get the buses rolling again. Three years later, with the assistance of UMTA funds, the Department purchased the Connecticut Company to ensure continued bus service in the three large metropolitan areas previously served by the company. Services continued under the new name of Connecticut Transit (CTTransit). Since the 1976 purchase, the Department has made major commitments to improving the bus systems in these areas, involving construction of new bus facilities and major purchases of new buses.
When the Connecticut Department of Transportation was formed in 1969, all of the airports in the state came under the regulation of the new Department's Bureau of Aeronautics, with responsibilities to regulate and license all airports in the state and provide technical assistance for the general development of municipal and private airports. The Bureau also began to manage the six state-owned airports: Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks; Groton-New London Airport; Waterbury- Oxford Airport; Windham Airport; Danielson Airport; and Brainard Airport in Hartford.
By far the largest and most critical airport in the state is Bradley International. The airport has undergone several phases of improvement, including the construction in 1950 of a new passenger terminal, which is still in use as Terminal B. The Bradley Connector, running from I-91 to the airport, was constructed in 1959, and an international arrivals building opened in 1971. In 1982, the Department launched the Bradley Improvement Program, which called for numerous improvements including rehabilitation and construction of passenger and air cargo facilities, improved and expanded runways and airplane parking areas, and improvements to the road system.
STATE PIER AND WATERWAYS
The State Pier came under the management of the Bureau of Waterways within the newly formed AConnDOT@. Operation of the pier is leased to private operating companies. Until 1975, the revenues from the pier were deposited in the State Pier Operating Account. The lessee's expenses were paid from this fund, and any profits were divided 80 percent to the state and 20 percent to the operator. In June 1975, the revenues were deposited into the General Fund and the following year a new lease agreement was drawn up which made the operator responsible for buying new equipment. The state received a flat fee plus a percentage of the gross earned revenues.
Prior to World War II, wood pulp and intercoastal general cargo made up the bulk of cargo going through the port of New London. As many as one ship per week unloaded at the State Pier. After the war, however, increase in trucking as well as competition from rail freight made ocean transport less economical. Cargo tonnage had declined through the years, reaching its lowest point in 1974-75. In 1974 the only bulk cargo at the State Pier was hemp. From 1975 to 1978, cargo diversified to include wood pulp, hardboard, potatoes, waste paper, sulfuric acid, and steel exports. In 1978 the Bureau of Waterways began developing lumber as an import product for the pier and the University of Connecticut conducted a study of the feasibility of using the pier for grain shipments.
The Department began rehabilitating the pier in 1978 to replace decking and pilings to improve pier support strength. Additional improvements were planned, including dredging near the pier, adding storage areas, remodeling the main terminal building, installing security fencing, and rehabilitating existing structures. An attempt in the early 1980s to make the pier a center for cruise ships proved unsuccessful. As with many smaller ports, New London has historically been unable to compete with the larger eastern seaboard ports, primarily due to the preponderance of large cargo ships and the shift of many cargoes to containerized shipping.
THE DEPARTMENT AND THE GREAT SOCIETY
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the cornerstone of President Lyndon Johnson's administration, affected the way the state and the Department managed its business. The act outlawed racial, religious and gender discrimination in employment. Public agencies could lose federal funding if found guilty of discrimination.
In 1978, the Department appointed an Affirmative Action Advisory Committee to oversee and monitor the Department's compliance with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity requirements. One result was the increased hiring of minority and women employees. However, federal regulations reached further than internal employees. According to federal guidelines, a percentage of work contracted by the Department has to be with minority or women-owned businesses. A Contract Compliance Unit was established to screen and certify minority and woman owned businesses. The certified companies have to prove that they are financially sound and actually owned and operated by minorities or women. Companies are recertified every year and every year, the Department establishes goals for hiring disadvantaged businesses. Major contractors who subcontract to disadvantaged businesses are monitored to ensure that there are no abuses of the system.
THE TECHNOLOGY AGE
The advent of the computer age had a major impact on how the Department does business, as it has in virtually every other segment of society. The Department operated its first mainframe computer in 1965 to model statewide transportation demand. Personal computers have now found their way into every office to facilitate almost every function of the Department.
A computerized traffic control signal system was established on Route 44 between Canton and Hartford in 1982. The system, designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly, has since been expanded to include 446 signals on 27 major routes in 44 towns.
With federal funding, the Department developed a comprehensive pavement management system in 1982. The goal of the system was to systematically obtain, record, and analyze data on the state highway system to be used in long-range planning.
A Technology Transfer Center was established in 1983 at the University of Connecticut. The center disseminates information from the Department to local government agencies through a quarterly newsletter. Data from the Department's research division is available online to the center, as well as to other bureaus within the Department.
BATTLING THE ELEMENTS
Technology can do little when nature unleashes its forces. The Department has had to respond to several noteworthy emergency situations during modern times because of natural events. From 1969 to 1982, two events stand out.
On Monday, February 6, 1978, snow started to fall, and by Tuesday morning, more than 16 inches of snow blanketed the Hartford area. Governor Ella Grasso declared a state of emergency at 9:15 p.m. Monday and closed all of the roads to non-essential vehicles effective at 10:00 p.m. Only plows and emergency vehicles were allowed to travel. The state of emergency lasted two and a half days, until the state's roads were again passable. Businesses and schools were closed, Bradley Airport shut down until Tuesday night, bridges along the coast were impassable, and Groton and Westport experienced coastal flooding. The National Guard helped plow the streets. Towns overspent their snow removal budgets, and the Department nearly depleted its supply of salt. The state and the towns received federal emergency assistance to help defray snow removal and cleanup expenses.
On October 3, 1979, at 2:54 p.m., a tornado descended on the towns of Windsor, Windsor Locks and Suffield, causing one death and $2 million worth of property damage. The course of the tornado was generally northerly, impacting Route 75, Route 20 and the eastern sector of Bradley International Airport. The Department's Bureau of Highways responded with a heavy complement of personnel and equipment to participate in the clean up and restoration work along the affected roads and airport runways.