A community centerpiece, Northam Park is expected to see the addition of a multiuse path, but the project won't affect the layout of the grounds.

As early as next month, Columbus-based Strawser Paving Co. could begin work on a multiuse path that will replace the sidewalk in Northam Park along Northam Road, from Tremont Road to Andover Road.

Depending on weather, the $276,836.73 project could be completed in June.

"We anticipate this construction being four months," said Jackie Thiel, Upper Arlington city engineer and public-services director. "We're going to try to get things started in early March."

According to a Feb. 3 staff report to Upper Arlington City Council by Thiel and Jeff Anderson, the city parks and planning development manager, the path will replace the 4-foot-wide sidewalk, which, they said, is narrow and uneven in places.

A uniform, 8-foot-wide path will be constructed "to better serve pedestrian and cycling needs," the report stated.

No members of the public spoke at a Feb. 10 meeting when council unanimously approved the contract with Strawser. The report from Thiel and Anderson noted the project's details were shared during a public open house in September.

The project also was approved by the parks and recreation advisory board.

"The construction of the path will keep most of the existing trees along the park in place and the city Forestry (Division) will be planting additional trees along the path in the fall of 2020," the staff report stated.

"The trees replaced will result in a net gain from those removed.

"Crosswalks and safety improvements will be made by adding new diagonal crosswalk markings, high-visibility signage and removing some parking spaces adjacent to crosswalks."

According to Thiel, seven Upper Arlington parks already have multiuse paths spanning 4.88 miles, as well as a path on Tremont, from Zollinger Road to Fifth Avenue.

According to Debbie McLaughlin, parks and recreation director, the length of the multiuse paths at each park are: Burbank (0.32 mile), Fancyburg (0.64 mile), Northam (0.66 mile), NW Kiwanis (0.93 mile), Reed Road (0.56 mile), Sunny 95 (0.62 mile) and Thompson (1.15 miles).

The city has wanted to provide the paths and expand its system, typically in conjunction with other park renovations, to accommodate "multimodal transportation," including pedestrians and cyclists, Thiel said.

"These paths also support active transportation as a wellness activity and connect park amenities and neighborhoods," she said. "The Northam Park shared-use path is an opportunity to widen the existing sidewalk from 4 feet to 8 feet to accommodate the many types of use from running, walking, bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs, etc., and the volume of park users.

"The path also provides a sidewalk along Northam Road connecting residents to schools, library, church and recreation amenities."

Thiel said the Northam path is the only new one being planned for 2020, but the city also will expand sidewalk connections with a new sidewalk on Mountview Road, from Fishinger Boulevard to Zollinger.

She said the Northam path would connect to the Tremont multiuse path that extends from Northam Road to Zollinger.

"This path then continues on Zollinger Road, from Tremont to Northwest Boulevard," she said. "Additionally, this path connects to existing sidewalk on Andover and Northam."

Before supporting the contract for the Northam path, council member Michaela Burr asked if it would be built so it will be handicap-accessible.

Thiel said all crossings on the path would be compliant with federal Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.

Council member Michele Hoyle also questioned the cost of the project, noting bids for it came in higher than the engineer's $246,000 estimate.

Strawser's bid came in at $251,669.75. The contract approved by council, and like all contracts the council approves, it includes a 10% contingency fee.

"At some point in time, will we have to talk about some rearrangement of projects or deferral of projects by virtue of how many of them come in over (estimates)?" Hoyle asked. "What's our plan for this? I don't want to wait until midyear to discuss this."

Thiel said her departments have been "aggressively bidding" 2020 projects "to get all of our construction bids out as early as we can to get competitive bids."

She said her departments are seeing bids come back "slightly higher" than anticipated but that her staff has been working with the city's finance division to cover the discrepancies.

"We did have overages last year -- about $550,000 in savings," Thiel said. "So what we anticipate doing is using part of that balance as we have these little overages on each of these projects."