By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
At its Oct. 22 regular meeting, Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Susan Ireland announced that the state ran out of transportation funds and so the big road safety project on Belleville Road is delayed.
The DDA submitted plans on Aug. 23, in line with the Michigan Department of Transportation schedule, with contracts to be “let” on Nov. 1.
Ireland said after checking with MDOT several times, she found out they ran out of transportation funds in early September leaving 19 projects completely defunded.
The Belleville Road signal project was one of the defunded projects. The MDOT fiscal year expires Sept. 30.
Ireland said the MDOT said the bids they received over the last couple of months of their year came in significantly higher than expected.
MDOT suggested moving the Belleville Road project to 2014, which would require the county to do some work moving it to the State Transportation plan organized by SEMCOG.
About the time VBT found out their project was defunded, the county also had a number of projects that were defunded.
Wade Trim engineer Dave Nummer and Ireland attended a county steering committee meeting. She said they told the county that the DDA had already put a lot of money and effort for design into the project.
The county was sponsoring this project because it was essentially “free” money that the state had promised them.
Ireland said most of the 2014 county projects are not ready. The county had four projects that were defunded.
“We have four projects that have all the design completed,” she said. “The committee told the county they’d better hire some consultants or engineers and get their projects started in the spring for 2014.”
Ireland said the county said they will take their allotment of next year’s Act 51 funds and use a portion to improve the county road system and move VBT’s project to 2014.
Ireland said she has received official notification from the county to obligate the funds and has told MDOT the funds have been obligated. She said the county will work with SEMCOG to get the VBT project moved from 2013 to 2014 and has finished the paperwork.
Matt Stacy from Wade Trim engineers said instead of a Nov. 1 letting of bids, the DDA is looking at a January letting, with construction to begin next spring and completed in the summer.
On April 23, the VBT DDA sent out a press release announcing the DDA had been awarded $774,620 through Wayne County for a major streetscape improvement project on Belleville Road, from Tyler Road south to the I-94 South Service Drive.
The funds for the project came from state Act 51 highway funds distributed by the state to counties, cities and villages that have roadway ownership and maintenance responsibilities. Funded projects require a focus upon safety improvements.
Ireland said she has had conversations with the DDA bond counsel. She said due to the uncertainty in Lansing and what might happen or what Lansing might or might not do, possibly referring to the zoo millage, she would like to retain as much cash on hand as possible to pursue DDA projects.
The DDA passed a $2.5 million bond resolution authorizing reimbursement of expenditures from future bond proceeds.
This gives the DDA the right to expend certain funds for acquisition and/or construction of the project prior to the issuance of the bonds with the right to be reimbursed for the expenditures from the proceeds of the future bond.
Besides the Belleville Corridor safety improvements, the resolution allows the DDA to be reimbursed for work on the fence installation, related design and engineering costs, sideway/pathway installations and right of way acquisition, as well as other area capital improvements consistent with the Plan.
The Belleville Corridor Plan safety improvements include the modernization of traffic signals, replacement of traffic signal support systems, installation of an Emergency Vehicle Preemption signal system, curb replacements, improvement of I-94 overpass and sidewalk/pathway installation.
Other improvements mentioned in the projects: add an additional traffic signal between the south Meijer driveway and the Walmart driveway with mast arms, similar to Ecorse/Belleville roads; mill and overlay the asphalt roadway section on the north and south sides of the I-94 bridge, and upgrade sidewalk ramps to the current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Ireland also said there will be a pedestrian crossing signal on the South I-94 Service Drive at Belleville Road.
Ireland also asked for any objections to pricing a black traffic light to replace the yellow one at Fire Station #2. Bechtel suggested the fire department might want to stay with yellow rather than change to black. Ireland said she will ask the fire department.
By Diane Madigan