By BRADEN LAMMERS
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.”
UPDATING THE MASTER PLAN
Because of the bridges project, the widening project along 10th Street and a proposed development at Spring and 10th Streets, a request was also made at the council meeting to allow the city’s Planning Department to begin an update and review of the city’s master plan.
Corporation Attorney Les Merkley said the annexations north and east of the city, including Oak Park, and the construction of the two new bridges related to the bridges project were not included in the city’s previous master plan.
“That plan was done before we knew the bridges were coming,” said city planning Director Shane Corbin.
He added that the last update also excluded the Big Four bicycle and pedestrian bridge that will connect downtown Jeffersonville to Louisville’s Waterfront Park.
“The Big Four is arguably going to transform the downtown area, and we’re going to have the downtown bridge that has affected that whole Falls Landing area,” Corbin said. “The east-end bridge, that whole area up there is not zoned for commercial [businesses] around the interchanges.”
Corbin said in the last year-and-a-half, the city has reviewed plans for 3.5 million square feet of industrial facilities. The expectation is that once the bridge is finally open, there will be even more rapid growth near the east-end in River Ridge.
Three main areas of focus for an update to a plan would be downtown, in the Falls Landing area, along 10th street and in the east-end. But part of the planning process, if it moves forward, would be reaching out to the public to gather their input.
The city would hire a consultant to help update the master plan, which could range in costs up to about $100,000. But the first step to put out a request for proposals, or RFPs.
Corbin said he would like to have an RFP issued in the next month or two, but would need to have more internal discussions to help identify the scope of the plan.