Changes by the U.S. Congress in federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant funding will mean a five- to six-month delay for the Fenton Downtown Development Authority’s Streetscape project. The amount of the grant, which the Michigan Department of Transportation is handling, is still is to be confirmed, but it will help the project significantly, says DDA Director Michael Burns.
Timothy Juidici, an engineering consultant for Fenton from OHM, said U.S. Congress has reauthorized the grant program, which it has done annually since the fund expired five years ago. But in this year’s bill, Congress has combined the transportation funding with Safe Roads to School and a recreational trail fund. MDOT is learning how the program works, he said. MDOT representatives say they’re confident Fenton will receive funding for its Streetscape, but the city doesn’t have the paperwork yet.
Joseph Wright, of Landscape Architectural Services, also a consultant for the Streetscape, said the date he’s been given for the paperwork’s arrival is Dec. 25 or before. MDOT’s budget for the program was $30-35 million, and it has been cut by $10 million. Fenton expected to receive news on the funding for Streetscape in July, but the good news is the city will receive money, he said.
This puts the DDA on a different schedule for Streetscape, Juidici said. Fenton was hoping to have plans for Streetscape ready and have bids by January. Now the earliest it can bid the project out is May 2013, he said. Then construction could begin in June or July, instead of spring as originally planned.
Now the DDA needs to decide whether to begin construction in mid- to late summer and do all it can, continuing the Streetscape project in 2014, Juidici said. Or, it can defer the project until 2014, having construction take place from April to November. Deferring the Streetscape until 2014 would cut the construction to one year instead of spreading it across two years.
The DDA needs to have a new section of water main installed for the Cornerstone building across from The State Bank on LeRoy Street, for 2013, Burns added.
Extending the water main from Caroline Street to Silver Lake Road will take four to six weeks of construction, Juidici said. The new water main will run down the east side of LeRoy Street, Wright added.
It costs less to have construction take place all at once, Juidici said.
To have plans to MDOT in time for construction in June 2013, the city needs to have its plans ready by Jan. 11, 2013, Juidici said. On the other hand, if Fenton wants to have Streetscape construction take place in 2014, it has a lot of time.
The biggest concern is how the project will impact downtown businesses, said City Manager Lynn Markland.
“All of us are anxious and want to see the project done as soon as possible, but we want to minimize the impact on the business community downtown,” Markland said.
He’s not sure Fenton can minimize this impact if the project takes place in two construction seasons, he said.
Terry Green, of the DDA board and owner of said he's all for Streetscape if it betters the community, and, ultimately, his business. He believes the project will be fantastic. But two seasons of construction won't get his vote, Green said.
Having the construction take place in 2014 would give the city more time to market the project and get information out, Wright added.
Schmidt said he believes the city needs input from the developers for the Cornerstone building and the whose projects haven’t broken ground for their construction yet.
Council will want input from the DDA, downtown businesses, and the developers for the Cornerstone and old fire hall, Markland said.
The Streetscape consultants told Schmidt a decision at the DDA’s 6 p.m. Dec. 18 meeting will leave enough time to meet the Jan. 11, 2013 deadline.