By BRADEN LAMMERS
City officials presented plans to widen and improve 10th Street to residents and business owners this week.
The plan is to widen 10th Street to two lanes in each direction, with a center turn lane, including sidewalks the length of the road widening from Penn Street and Dutch Lane, to Reeds Lane. A long-planned project, city leaders are hoping to get the road improvements under way before the Ohio River Bridges Project is set to be completed.
“The impact of this project is going to be so huge for the city of Jeffersonville,” said Mayor Mike Moore at Wednesday’s meeting. “We already know we’re drawing all kinds of commerce and new business to River Ridge; 10th street is where the people who work ... at River Ridge are going to be utilizing to get back-and-forth. We’ve got a lot of storefronts and shops along 10th Street that have built the city of Jeffersonville. I’m proud to say we’re giving back to those mom-and-pop shops.”
The city has funding to pay for the widening of 10th Street up through property acquisition and utility relocation in 2015. However, a dispute on committing the construction dollars for the project exists between Moore and the Jeffersonville City Council.
Moore said the city has received money from the federal government to pay for 80 percent of the project through the design and acquisition phase.
The project is slated to receive $5.5 million in federal funding through Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency — KIPDA. The remainder of the funding, $12.6 million, has been requested to be paid out of the city’s Inner City Road tax increment financing funds.
The city council has verbally committed to completing the project, but members have said they would like to seek additional federal money before construction begins in 2016.
“I think that we are willing to go the three years,” said City Council President Connie Sellers in committing funding. “We don’t want to use TIF dollars if we can use other funding mechanisms.”
“It’s being supported, it's going to happen,” Sellers said of the project.
But Moore said he wanted a stronger commitment.
“To me, that’s falling one step short,” he said of the council’s offer. “I understand their want to have all the matching dollars, I want that too. It’s not like there’s going to be more money available in 2016.
“You have a plan in writing to see this through. They have not signed, in writing, this commitment. You can’t just talk about it in a meeting and say we’ll address it when we get there. They need to take a vote.”
What is not being debated by the council and the mayor is the need for 10th street to be widened and improved along the mile-and-a-half corridor proposed.
According to the project summary, “with significant commercial and residential development in the project limits ... the current roadway does not efficiently manage [left-hand turns] so traffic congestion and accidents are a common problem.”
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.
“That whole east-end [bridge] project, that’s changing the whole world here,” said David Goffinet, director of public involvement for Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates, Inc. “To me, that’s another reason this project is so important to do right now, to try and get ahead of it as much as we can, or at least, hopefully, time it to when those improvements will be done.”
He added that the traffic projections had been 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.
And, according to the report, the roadway where the expected widening is to occur is already dangerous.
“A countywide thoroughfare study was completed in 2012 and revealed that 10th Street, within the project limits, has a crash rate almost three times what would be expected for a multilane urban corridor of the same type,” according to the project description.
David Strong, with Eastside Animal Hospital and a member of the 10th Street business association, offered his concerns about what will happen to the businesses along 10th Street while construction is ongoing.
But, he added, that there is a larger concern for the 10th Street merchants.
“This shouldn’t be the place you have to get through,” Strong said of 10th Street. “With the rehab [to the road], it will attract new business, and if it’s not done, it won’t. The only solution is to get it done as soon as possible.”
He added that he wants 10th Street to be a destination, too.
Goffinet said most of the business owners along 10th Street seemed excited about the project.
“Generally, we’ve seen the business owners do acknowledge this is a challenging roadway, as it stands,” he said. “All they’ve asked out of it is easier access in and out.”
Keith Starling, leasing and marketing manager for America Place, said the expansion is important to their tenants. He said improving the mobility out of America Place Business Park, which is located off Plank Road, is paramount. In addition, the company is constructing a new facility in River Ridge Commerce Center that would likely need access to the 10th Street corridor.
To complete the plan, Goffinet said the city will need to acquire in excess of 100 properties. He added that most of the land is easements and small portions of property near the roadway. However, five homes would need to be acquired in order to move forward with the plan as it stands. Three of the residences are between Morningside Drive and Cherry Street along 10th Street, and the other two properties are on opposite sides of 10th Street at French Street.
Moore said the tentative timeline for the project is for design work to be wrapping up in two months; acquisitions to take place in August; in 2015 utility relocation will occur; and by spring 2016, the project would be ready for construction.