More than a year after the opening of the Murphy Parkway extension, Powell officials have not lost track of an unfinished portion of the project aimed at improving safety conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
Powell in late September 2016 opened the new intersection of Murphy Parkway and Liberty Street. Murphy Parkway previously came to an end just northwest of Liberty Street.
While city officials succeeded in their main goal of creating a new way to bypass downtown Powell, they have not yet achieved a secondary objective of forging a safe path for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the nearby railroad tracks.
CSX's railroad tracks cross Liberty Street just north of the intersection and just west of the Delaware County District Library's Powell branch, which shares a parking lot with the city's Library Park.
Councilman Frank Bertone, who lives in the nearby Lakes of Powell neighborhood, said city officials still aim to help residents get safely from the neighborhoods west of Murphy Parkway to the park and the pathways east of the tracks.
"This is kind of a hanging chad out there that we need to ... get resolved," he said.
While a pedestrian railroad crossing near Murphy Parkway long has been a goal of city officials, two factors have led to complications: the project's potential cost and the need for approval from CSX.
After years of communication, Powell officials last year received preliminary approval from the railroad system for a plan to install safety gates and pedestrian signals on the east and west sides of the Liberty Street crossing. The city also would build a new stretch of trail to connect the path on the west side of Murphy Parkway to the trails adjacent to Library Park through the crossing zone.
Powell City Council on Feb. 6 voted to appropriate about $10,500 to cover the costs related to the engineering agreement for the project struck by city and CSX.
City Manager Steve Lutz said the legislation "will keep the project alive on CSX's books" as Powell officials attempt to determine how to fund it.
While the city now has a path forward with the railroad system, the cost of the project remains a hurdle.
City officials estimate the crossing and path improvements will cost between $600,000 and $700,000.
Bertone said the project will be one of many capital improvements scrutinized by council's Finance Committee and the Citizen Financial Review Task Force, which council recently established. The task force's aims include studying the city's capital-improvement needs, along with potential ways to cut costs and increase revenue.
The city funded the Murphy Parkway extension, as well as improvements to city parks, trails and streets, with a 1.8-mill, 10-year levy approved by voters in 2012. Powell officials long have argued the growing city needs a permanent solution to fund its infrastructure needs.