Engineers Wade Trim were given a tentative OK by the Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority to do pre-design work not to exceed $46,000 for a $2 million pedestrian bridge over I-94 on Belleville Road.
There is a chance for a Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) grant to fund half of the cost. That grant application is due May 2 and there would be a decision in June or July.
After much discussion at its Jan. 26 meeting, the DDA authorized Wade Trim only to conduct the pedestrian needs portion, then present findings to the DDA, and at that time the DDA could discuss it and vote whether to continue the rest of the contract.
The motion was made by Ron Blank and supported by Mark Laginess. The $46,000 for pre-design was moved out of the DDA fund balance.
The VBT DDA is working to create a walkable, bikeable and business-friendly atmosphere within the DDA District, noted Wade Trim engineer Matt Stacey.
One of the main arteries of the DDA is Belleville Road which is bisected by I-94. In an effort to provide a connection between the north side and south side of Belleville Road it is necessary to determine if the ability exists to have a pedestrian crossing over I-94.
There is a pedestrian crossing over I-94 approximately a half mile west of Belleville Road. This is utilized by those in that area, but it is not uncommon to see people crossing over I-94 along Belleville Road. DDA board members have voiced their concern for pedestrian safety, he said.
The DDA had authorized an amount not to exceed $7,500 for Wade Trim to look into the feasibility of constructing a pedestrian bridge crossing along Belleville Road over I-94. Engineers met with MDOT and there was conversation with Wayne County.
“We got a lot of positive direction and told what items we’d have to provide,” Stacey said, noting they would have to explain how a pedestrian bridge would fit in with the township master plan, the township, walkways, schools, and neighborhoods.
He said I-94 is federal, so the plans would first go to Lansing and then to the Federal Highway Administration.
He said they would do a justification study, an engineering study, and come up with schematic bridge designs so they can come up with construction plans.
Engineer Dave Nummer said they just found out that very day that there’s a grant opportunity through SEMCOG and Wayne County said it will support the VBT DDA. He said he hasn’t had a chance to look at the requirements.
“A sizeable chunk is possible,” Nummer said, adding they will ask for half from the grant program and it is possible to get from $800,000 to $1 million.
“We have to do a pedestrian study,” Stacey said. “MDOT and the feds would want to understand the situation.”
DDA member Blank said, “This is a great idea,” but questioned whether enough people would use the bridge to justify spending $1 million.
“It’s an ‘If You Build It They Will Come’ sort of thing,” Stacey said.
“If we found out it’s 10 people a day or 100 people a month?” Blank asked saying, he thinks they should find out how many people would use it before committing to $49,000.
Nummer agreed Wade Trim could get that portion of the study done first and then stop work and come back to the DDA to get direction.
“We can always stop,” Nummer said.
Susan Ireland, DDA Executive Director, said people say they see people dodging traffic in that area and a pedestrian bridge would help with their Placemaking initiative.
“Our downtown is cut in half by the freeway,” she said.
“It would be nice to find out the need,” Laginess said.
DDA vice chairperson Carol Bird said when there is snow people have had to walk in the street over the bridge. This winter there has been little snow.
Blank said the DDA is not putting a price on somebody’s safety, but they should have an idea of how many this pedestrian bridge would serve.
DDA member Brown said half a mile down the road there is a pedestrian bridge and it may be inconvenient, “But, how many justifies a $2 million bridge?
Blank said those with the grant have a responsibility and the DDA has a responsibility for managing the money.
“We’re trying to encourage bikeability,” said Supervisor Linda Combs, describing her harrowing bike ride over I-94 on Belleville Road.
The $46,000 pre-design proposal includes a project-justification study, pedestrian-needs study, stakeholder engagement, and report preparation. After the need and justification has been established the proposed plan includes performance of a site-location study and sidewalk layout, schematic bridge design and report preparation.
“What if it’s only three people?” asked DDA member Baskin. “How much of a grant would you get for that?”
Nummer said the bridge could be a part of Placemaking for Van Buren Township. The bridge would be on the east side of Belleville Road and there could be a sign on it so people coming from Detroit would see it. Then, they could put a sign on the other bridge so people coming from Ann Arbor could see it is Van Buren Township.
In other business at the Jan. 26 meeting, the DDA:
• As a housekeeping matter, voted to finally convey to the township Quirk Park at 47270 Ayres and Fire Station #2 at 7981 Belleville Road. The DDA purchased each of those sites and developed them but never formally signed them over to the township. Documents will be forwarded to the Wayne County Register of Deeds for formal recording;
• Approved Phase 1 of the 2016 Print Marketing Campaign at a cost not to exceed $8,000. Full-page ads will be in the Ann Arbor Area Guest Guide, Strawberry Festival booklet, and Chamber of Commerce Directory. There will be a sponsorship ad in the museum calendar and a two-page ad in the 2016 A-Source relocation guide;
• Directed Assistant DDA Director Lisa Lothringer to go out for bids for the proposed total redesign for a new mobile-friendly DDA website instead of taking the $23,000 quote by Communication Associates. The project was slated to be done in four phases, taking about 12 weeks to complete. “There’s never anything the matter with getting more bids,” said Blank, one of those DDA members stating that $23,000 is a lot of money for this service and there should be two more quotes; and
• Heard Ireland report that the DDA’s financial consultant said it has the ability to go out for another bond and interest rates are still good. The DDA has a stable A- rating with Standard and Poors, she said.