Dexter residents who see the importance of improving and maintaining Central Street from Main to the City of Dexter’s northern border with Webster Township will be pleased to see that particular artery addressed sooner than it would have been.
Priorities are shifting for the city’s road committee, which recently discussed the topic of changing rules to how federal road funding issued through the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study is handled. Currently there is some laxity in the rules, such as the ability of a recipient municipality to shift granted road dollars from previously planned for road segment projects to others as circumstances evolve post-grant application.
These road segments in Dexter are currently eligible for 2017 federal road money:
• Main Street (West City Limit to Baker)
• Ann Arbor (Baker to Dan Hoey)
• Central Street (Main to North City Limit)
• Baker (South City Limit to Main)
These road projects are eligible for 80 percent road reconstruction funding or rehabilitation funding, based on the volume of traffic and each roadway section’s importance in the municipality’s overall road system.
When the topic of working on Central or Broad Street, the “general consensus” was Central, according to City Councilman Joe Semifero at Monday’s regular City Council meeting.
“Personally I think we should work on Central … Baker is in good enough shape, and we can do things to make it last longer,” Semifero said. “Central is still kind of rough and it would be nice to see that finished out.”
WATS has already earmarked $400,000 for Baker Road project work and $181,000 for a proposed Mill Creek pathway. The $400,000 would shift to Central if it becomes the priority. These funds were part of a 2012 grant application submitted by then village officials.
Semifero said that he is concerned about the financial impact to the city with the project priority shift.
The Central Street road project would cost the village more money in the short term, but studies show that the worse a road gets the more money it costs to rehabilitate over time. City officials believe that dealing with Central now and taking a lighter approach to Baker and other roads could be an overall net positive for the city’s bottom-line.
The council discussed briefly the possibility of splitting Central Street work into two block-by-block projects to soften the financial blow in the short term.
OHM Project Engineer Patrick Droze said he would investigate the added costs of effectively have two construction mobilizations for Central and come back with figures weighing that additional cost versus any potential savings to spreading the project out over time.
There’s also a question of whether or not Washtenaw County will pass a half mill additional tax to support local road maintenance.
For now this was only a discussion among members of the council. A firm vote on changing Dexter’s future road project configuration will be forthcoming sometime within the next year, which is when it is estimated that THE WATS Policy Committee will change the rules of how funding is handled, requiring a definitive road project plan that is adhered to once received and approved.
City Councilman Jim Carson added that Central Street could become a countywide priority road project in the future, thanks to proximity to the Border-to-Border Trail among other features of an improved Central Street.
“With the new grading … the new way to score roads it could end up being the number one project in the county, which would give us an advantage of more money,” Carson said. In addition to the trail, Central could be upraded with bike and walking paths, new lighting, streetscaping and other increases in road quality to meeting state anf federal road standards.
How the city approaches road projects is important, as 2017 is the start of a new road project cycle with WATS. Dexter was the recipient of $1.3 million in federal dollars for the recently ended 10-year cycle.
Droze said grants of up to $500,000 are possible if a Central project that is configured properly is put forward by the city’s road committee.
He guessed that residents could see this becoming a topic of discussion on council again sometime next fall.
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