City officials are deciding whether to proceed on a parking lot improvement in downtown Springfield because of funding concerns, while inclement weather has delayed a street improvement project in the same area.
The city’s public parking lot on the corner of Fountain and Columbia is currently planned as the site for its $5 million to $10 million garage. In the meantime, the city planned to pave the gravel parking lot, but bids came back double the engineer’s estimate.
The cost would be about $300,000, according to city manager Jim Bodenmiller, double the initial estimate of $150,000. Bodenmiller said the plan could be redesigned to reduce costs, but they’re still examining all options.
“We just don’t have the funds to do it at this time,” Bodenmiller said. “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”
The lot was recently approved for a variance by the board of zoning appeals in May, and it was expected to create 104 parking spots for free public parking.
City engineer Leo Shanayda said officials have until Aug. 1 to make a decision on the parking lot improvement project before the bids expire.
“At this point, we have to regroup and see how we want to proceed,” Bodenmiller said.
Wet weather has also delayed the $1.2 million Fountain Avenue streetscape and two-way street conversion project by at least two weeks, according to Shanayda.
The block of North Fountain Avenue between Columbia and Main streets will change from one-way to two-way traffic. The project also includes brick pavers, new sidewalks, decorative street lights and repaving of the road from Smiling Bob Way near Fire Station One, 350 N. Fountain Ave. to Main Street.
Work is continuing on the curb and sidewalks on Fountain Avenue. The electrician is also expected to begin work on light poles next week.
“We got caught by the rain and by the short (holiday) week,” Shanayda said.
The project is expected to be completed by Nov. 1, although weather and manufacturing delays could slow the process, Shanayda said. The light poles and traffic signal near the fire station will be specially ordered for the project.
“I’m hoping it will be sooner,” Shanayda said.
In 2015, Veterans Bridge will get a $2.7 million makeover to complete the streetscape. The city has applied for funding for the improvements. If the funding is approved, they’ll bid the project next fall with construction slated to begin in 2015.
Shanayda said the streetscape project is approximately five percent completed. The private sector has performed approximately $400,000 of the $700,000 worth of improvements needed downtown to sidewalks and curbs.
“You wouldn’t notice it or see it, but a large percentage of it is already done,” Shanayda said.
The streetscape project is paid for by federal earmarks awarded during former U.S. Rep. David Hobson’s final term in office. The city received a total of $6 million that paid for the North Street relocation project, the North Limestone Street bridge replacement and the North Fountain Avenue streetscape project.
City commissioners approved converting the street to two-ways last November at a cost of about $20,000.
All streets will remain open during construction this summer.
“We’ll maintain access to the businesses at all times,” Shanayda said. “We want there to be as little inconvenience as possible.”
Staying with the story
Staff writer Michael Cooper has written extensively on downtown development, including stories on the ice arena, new businesses and renovations. The Springfield News-Sun will continue to closely follow all the news coming from downtown.