Upper Arlington officials are eyeing the first major reconstruction of Tremont Road in more than 50 years, and the project could mean an investment of more than $8 million in one of the city's main thoroughfares.
Upper Arlington City Council voted 5-2 Monday, July 14, to hire Burgess & Niple Inc. to design the reconstruction of Tremont Road.
Per the contract, the city will pay up to $1.062 million for the engineering consultant to redesign Tremont and for a partial water line replacement, street lighting improvements, bicycle accommodations and pedestrian safety features.
Initial estimates for the full scope of those upgrades are approximately $8.2 million.
However, interim City Engineer Jackie Thiel said the city will seek an Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) grant that could fund up to $5.37 million of the project.
She added that if the grant effort is unsuccessful, some of the lighting, biking and pedestrian upgrades could be eliminated to put the project more in line with the $5.1 million the city currently has set aside for the Tremont reconstruction in its capital improvement program (CIP).
"I've said all along I like the idea of developing Tremont in a way we're proud of," Don Leach, Upper Arlington mayor and city council president, said at a July 10 council conference session. "It certainly doesn't have the look of that now."
According to Thiel, Tremont last was reconstructed in two phases, beginning with a section from Lane Avenue to Kentwell Road in 1951.
She said that project was followed by the reconstruction of Tremont from Kentwell to Fishinger Road in 1958, making it 56 years since Tremont was substantially improved.
Further, she said the water line targeted for a partial replacement hasn't been upgraded since 1935, and the city has placed a renewed emphasis on enhancing deteriorating roadways that are heavily traveled and are hubs of commercial activity.
Tremont, she said, qualifies as both.
"We are considering Tremont to be at least one of the city's 'Main Streets,' " she said.
Much of council's debate on the engineering contract came during the July 10 conference session, when Councilman Mike Schadek questioned whether the city should take on such an expensive contract at the same time it is preparing to ask voters to increase the city's income tax rate from 2 percent to 2.5 percent to help fund the CIP.
"I expressed concerns when this came to us at $5 million, and now we're at $8.2 million," Schadek said at the conference session. "The timing for this couldn't be worse. ... In my opinion, this is more of a 'want' for us than a need."
Schadek reiterated those cost concerns Monday night in voting against the Burgess & Niple contract, as did Councilman Erik Yassenoff, who said the timing for such a potentially expensive project was bad.
Thiel last week countered by saying the additional $3.1 million for the project would be for safety upgrades related to bike lanes, a possible multiuse path for biking and walking along a portion of Tremont, pedestrian crosswalks and better traffic lighting.
She said those elements could be removed from the design if the city doesn't receive an OPWC grant, or if it only receives a small grant.
Additionally, Thiel pointed to smaller road reconstructions the city has completed, such as one on Arlington Avenue, which was approximately half the size of Tremont and cost $4 million.
"The $8.2 million is the full, everything-included project," she said.
Thiel noted the Five Points intersection on Tremont would not be included as part of the reconstruction project.
Announcements related to the OPWC grant aren't expected until early next year, by which time the city will have a clearer picture of its CIP outlook following the results of the Nov. 4 tax issue vote.
Should the project move forward in its entirety, Thiel said, it likely would be completed in two phases.
"We plan on the reconstruction starting in July 2015," she said. "It would be a two-year project because it would be done in two phases.
"We'll probably have two different public meetings along the way for residents, and we'll probably have separate public meetings for the (Tremont) businesses."