In 2016, city of Delaware officials thought they had crafted a winning ballot measure aimed at improving and maintaining city roads.

In 2016, city of Delaware officials thought they had crafted a winning ballot measure aimed at improving and maintaining city roads.

In 2017, officials have said they will rely more on residents to show them the way.

An effort to raise the city's income-tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent failed by more than 3,000 votes on the November ballot. The increased revenue -- more than $2 million annually -- would have been put toward road maintenance and improvement projects throughout the city.

City Manager Tom Homan said he does not expect Delaware to return the ballot for road-improvement funds this year, but he does anticipate dialogue about the future of the city's transportation system.

"I think '17 is going to be a year where we're going to be seeking feedback from residents," he said.

Homan said the city needs to "regroup ... and just have a conversation" following the ballot measure's defeat. He said initial feedback provided by residents has indicated some had a problem with the permanent nature of the tax increase.

Even if the city does not put a new ballot measure before voters this year, Homan said it's vital the conversation about funding for road projects continues.

"The problem will not go away," he said.

Homan said the city lacks a suitable mechanism to fund needed capital projects and road maintenance -- especially for older neighborhood streets.

Ahead of the election, the busy intersection known as the Point -- where U.S. Route 36 and state Route 37 converge -- was seen as a major target for increased spending. The tax-increase's defeat makes the future of the crossroads a little less clear.

About a month after the election, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission announced $13.3 million in federal funding had been proposed for widening work at and around the Point. MORPC is expected to consider final approval for the funding decision in March.

Widening efforts likely would require the removal of an existing railroad bridge directly east of the Point and construction of a replacement span. Delaware officials previously estimated the project would cost about $22.5 million, with the city likely shouldering about $6 million of the burden.

Homan said city officials will continue to examine all options and reach out to regional partners such as Delaware County to discuss how a local match could be funded in 2017.

"Obviously, had the (tax increase) passed, our ability to raise the local dollars would be easier," he said.

Homan said the city will not back away from its goal of improving the Point, which he called "one of the most-important transportation projects not just in the city, but the region."

City spokesman Lee Yoakum said removing and replacing the railroad bridge is not necessarily the only path forward to improving the Point. He said city officials would be required to "look at all alternatives" as the federal funding process moves forward.

As city officials keep their eyes on the future of the Point, they also will be closely observing a recently completed roadway project on the city's west side.

A joint project between the city and Delaware County to extend Sawmill Parkway from Hyatts Road in Liberty Township into the Delaware's industrial park wrapped up in November.

Homan said the roadway opens up hundreds of acres of land near the roadway for industrial development, which could last for decades.

"I'm very confident that area will develop nicely and increase the city's economic base," he said.

Homan said staffers with the city's economic-development department have been bringing in potential employers to tour sites adjacent to the parkway extension since it opened.

Homan said he expects high-tech firms, "boutique" manufacturers and aftermarket auto-part businesses to be attracted to the area in years to come. He said he also envisions developers building speculative office space near the roadway.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick