A project that would improve one of the busiest intersections in the city has been put on the shelf — at least for a few days
St. Clair’s board of aldermen last week tabled an ordinance that would have authorized Mayor Ron Blum to accept a professional services proposal from Cochran Engineering Inc. for $86,614 for roadway improvements on Kitchell Avenue and Commercial Avenue.
After Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn’s motion to approve the ordinance failed to receive a second, Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate suggested it be tabled until the next meeting, which is next Monday, March 3.
That motion was seconded by Ward 2 Alderman Glenn Richards. The vote was 2-1 with McGlenn opposing. Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs was not at the meeting.
“I would like to table this at the very least in order to talk to some constituents,” Tate said during a discussion about the ordinance.
Tate’s comment came after Richards said he didn’t feel qualified to make an informed decision on the issue since he is still in his first month serving as an alderman. During the board’s first meeting of the month, Mayor Ron Blum appointed Richards to fill the spot vacated by Travis Dierker, who resigned at the beginning of the year to become the assistant city administrator.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been around long enough,” Richards said.
The ordinance would have inked a deal between the city and Cochran for services relating to the project, which would resurface Kitchell from Commercial to Main Street, provide a new sidewalk along that road and add a center turning lane from southbound Commercial to Kitchell.
“This would improve Kitchell and alleviate the turning problems (on Commercial),” Cochran’s Tary Todd said during the meeting.
The project came to light because of uncertainty regarding the availability of funding for the two-phase Commercial Avenue project, which widens that road to three lanes from North Main Street to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad overpass past Oak Street.
The funding uncertainty has caused St. Clair’s administration to recommend a one-year delay on Phase I of that project, which would have focused on Commercial from North Main Street to Kitchell in 2017. In September 2012, the aldermen gave their blessing to that project.
Phase II runs from Kitchell to Oak Street.
Because of the delay, the focus turned to Kitchell Avenue and the intersection with Commercial Avenue.
“We looked at applying for funding for this (Commercial Avenue) project in 2016-17,” Blum said during the Feb. 18 meeting. “In light of some issues, we’ve asked to push this project back a year.
“In lieu of that, we’d like to do this project on Kitchell. It would be a good start.”
As with the full Commercial project, the city would apply for East-West Gateway funding, which would provide an 80-20 split on the costs. Cochran’s overall estimate for the project is $549,593. The city’s share of that is $109,919. With Cochran’s costs thrown in, St. Clair’s bill would be $193,732.
The tabled ordinance covers Cochran’s fees for surveying, engineering and bidding as well as for construction administration and inspection and testing.
“We’re trying to get you the best bang for your buck,” Todd said.
Commercial would be widened to three lanes from Dogwood Street near city hall to Bader Lane. A center turning lane would be added. Kitchell Avenue would be repaved with a new sidewalk and water and sewer lines.
Tate asked whether a left turn lane could be added from Kitchell to Commercial to alleviate traffic backups that sometimes occur there.
“We can look at that,” Todd said, adding that it probably would require right of way acquisition and increased costs.
Tate also questioned whether the city should spend almost $200,000 on improving one street when so many others are in more need of assistance.
“We’re hurting for funds as it is now,” he said. “There are lots of roads in dire need now. This money could help.”
Blum responded by saying that one reason he thinks the project is a good idea is because of the 80 percent federal portion.
“You don’t know when these funds will dry up,” the mayor said. “I’d like to see us take advantage of the 80 percent funding while it’s still here.”
Todd supported Blum’s comments by saying, “You’re getting a lot of improvements for 20 cents on the dollar.”
Whether or not the project comes to fruition should not affect the city’s Main Street improvement project, which is slated for next year.
The project will resurface the road from the traffic signal at North Commercial near the US Bank location through the North Main Street residential area, continuing through downtown and ending at the east city limits near Hickory Street at Parkway Village.
Curbs and gutters will be included as would new sidewalks from the intersection of East Springfield Road to Hickory Street. New driveway approaches also would be provided.