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August 16, 2013

Corridor concerns in Jeffersonville

Mayor urges dedication of construction funding for 10th Street

JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore revealed his plans for a 10th Street widening project on Thursday, even as debate continues on the economic return such a project would generate for the city.

The plan is to widen 10th Street to two lanes in each direction, with a center turn lane, including sidewalks from Penn Street and Dutch Lane, to Reeds Lane.

The design phase on the $17 million project is complete and the next step will be for the city to purchase rights-of-way to be able to widen the road. The Indiana Department of Transportation is paying for 80 percent of the project through the design and rights-of-way purchase phase, and the city will be responsible for a 20 percent match for the first phase of the project, which is about $1.37 million. With construction set to begin in 2016 Jeffersonville is looking for a way to pay for the construction of the road.

“The city is still pursuing state funding for the construction portion of this project,” Moore said during a news conference at the Youngstown Shopping Center off of 10th Street. “My administration is committed to using city dollars to complete this project if necessary.”

Moore’s plan is to pay for the construction of the road through Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, funds if state dollars cannot be secured.

But before the construction phase begins, the Jeffersonville City Council is hoping to get a better idea of what they’re paying for.

“I don’t want to hold that project up. I don’t think the council wants to hold it up. I think we’re in favor of moving forward under the guidelines we have given thus far,” City Councilman Dennis Julius said at an Aug. 5 council meeting. “We’re spending a ton of money, so if we can spend a little bit of money to make sure we get the most out of the project that’s all I’m trying to do.”

He again clarified that he does not want to stop the project from moving forward or dedicating funds to it, but reiterated his, and the council’s desire, to know what they’re getting for the money.

A letter drafted by City Council Attorney Scott Lewis and presented at the Aug. 5 council meeting offered the support to the departments for the project to move forward, but asked for a comprehensive study. The study requested would examine “the demographics of the local population, the mixture of the type of retail businesses, signage issues, aesthetic issues, the type of property owners and any other relevant economic or financial data.”

“The council believes that the benefits of conducting such a comprehensive study and utilizing the information revealed in such a study will provide assistance in the overall vision and guidance of the 10th Street project,” according to the letter.

The request was sent to the Redevelopment Commissioners and the Urban Enterprise Zone board members that a feasibility study be completed before the project moves forward.

“I think the 10th Street business people have asked that this be done,” said council President Connie Sellers. “A lot of the 10th Street businesses think that if you widen the street then 10th Street is just going to take off. That’s not the case, look at Eastern Boulevard.”

But Moore called the study unnecessary.

“I don’t understand an economic feasibility study,” he said. “It’s not about the economic feasibility of what is going to be needed in the future, it’s about the demands that are put on this road right now. If you don’t recognize the need for it, if you feel you need to have a feasibility study for economic growth, I suggest you come and drive this road a little more often.”

He downplayed the economic impact on the businesses in the area, citing a greater need for all of the city’s residents who travel the thoroughfare.

“It’s not about the future dollars that might be generated if we expand this road,” Moore said. “It’s about a basic infrastructure need the city has, and has had for over 20 years. This isn’t just a plan that’s for the businesses along 10th street. This is a plan to help the everyday resident commute better. This road is an integral part of our city. It is the way people get from point A to point B.”

The Ohio River Bridges Project is expected to add traffic to the corridor as it will be a main pathway between the east-end bridge and Interstate 65 through Jeffersonville.

The traffic projections forecasted out to 2033 and the expectation is that the number of cars on 10th Street, in 20 years, will nearly double. According to the traffic data, the vehicles-per-day is expected to increase from 25,075 to 41,362 by that time.

Moore said the delay would be a greater cost to the city than using the TIF funds.

“If we delay this project because we want to wait another five years or 10 years to get an extra couple million dollars, we’re putting off Holmans Lane,” he said. “Maybe that’s why mayors in the past didn’t get this project done, because they thought, ‘Let’s wait and get state money.’ Well, guess what? It never got done.”

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