The city of Delaware may start the preliminary design work to improve The Point as early as late summer, while it continues to identify revenue sources for the project.
The city has secured about 70 percent of the funding for the estimated $23 million project to widen and replace the railroad bridge at the intersection of U.S. Route 36 and State Route 37, said Public Works Director and City Engineer Bill Ferrigno.
“We hope to be in contract by late summer and begin preliminary design before year’s end,” he said.
Ferrigno had described it as the “crown jewel” of the Moving Delaware Forward initiative, which called for a 0.15-percent increase of the city’s income tax for road road maintenance and improvements. But more than 60 percent of voters rejected the road levy last November.
Despite that loss, the city has secured about 70 percent of the funding for the former initiative’s No. 1 priority project. The city will receive about $17,779,467 in grants from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Ohio Department of Transportation through Transportation Review Advisory Council and its safety grant.
Securing that amount of funding before the preliminary design stage is not a frequent occurrence, Ferrigno said.
Still, the city will need to front an additional $6 million to $8 million to complete the project by the early 2020s. Ferrigno said the city will have about four years to reduce the gap by continuing to apply for more grants.
City Council is expected to consider legislation sometime this year to amend the five-year capital improvement plan for the project.
“We indicated that had the levy passed our ability to meet the local obligation would have been more manageable,” City Manager Tom Homan said at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this month. “We never said if the levy doesn’t pass we’re not going to do The Point project. It’s always been our goal. That was our No. 1 priority project and unfortunately with the levy not passing it just makes it more challenging to do that, but it doesn’t take away the need to address the city’s most critical congestion point.”
Finance Director Dean Stelzer provided the committee provided a draft projection of financing the project over a 10-year period. Due to the fact that some grant dollars will not be issued until 2020, 2023 and 2024, Stelzer said the city may need to issue bonds to start construction on time.
Aside from grants, the city would use income tax dollars from the Joint Economic Development District at Tanger Outlets Columbus. The JEDD is a special taxing district at the outlet mall near the Sunbury exit of Interstate 71. Businesses and employees are taxed at the 1.85-percent rate with the revenue split 60-40 between Berkshire Township and the city. Delaware received about $55,000 last year.
The city’s share of JEDD dollars could be higher. Stelzer said he will have a “better feel” on the annual amount generated after this year.
Additionally, the JEDD allowed a New Community Authority to be established at the outlet mall, which can levy property and sales taxes. The city would receive 1.5 mills of revenue for 10 years from only the mall site. After the NCA’s infrastructure improvements at the mall are completed and paid, the city will receive a fourth of 0.5 percent gross retail sales. But city officials don’t expect to see those dollars over the next 20 years.
Aside from the mall, city have reached out to Delaware County officials for their participation in the project.
“Obviously the county doesn’t want to set a precedent and they have to know that if they’re going to participate in a project like this, they can have justification for it,” Homan said.
On Friday, Delaware County deemed the improvements at The Point as the third most important project in the county and central Ohio, based on several surveys completed earlier this year.
Aside from revenue, costs from the project will include roughly $1.6 million for the railroad company, which owns the bridge. The city will have to cover the costs for the company’s inspection of the plans and construction.
The company had no interest in replacing the bridge because it could last another 25 years but the city cannot wait to act until then, Homan said.
“That was the frustration we had during the levy and that we had before the levy and we still have today. We’ll have for a long time (because) it’s unfair,” he said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.