It’s official – the highly-anticipated M-24 construction project is not going to happen in 2019. Everybody take a breath.
“Due to (a) recent change in the MDOT program to fund the I-75 mega project and I-696 reconstruction, as of now, the M-24 project is pushed to 2020 construction,” wrote Nguyen Nguyen, Michigan Department of Transportation project manager, in an Oct. 19 e-mail to local officials.
MDOT is planning to conduct a rehabilitation project involving 2.759 miles of M-24 from Goldengate St. in Orion Township to Drahner Rd. in Oxford Township.
At the same time, MDOT will undertake the complete reconstruction of 1.65 miles of M-24 in Oxford from Drahner Rd. to Harriet St., just north of the village. Age and the condition of the roadway and drainage facilities warrant this reconstruction, according to MDOT.
The news was bittersweet to Glenn Pape, executive director of the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA).
On the one hand, he said, “We were kind of disappointed that it’s not going to be 2019 because we’d like to get it over with.”
But “from a financial standpoint, moving it back a year is better for us,” Pape noted
“It allows us to come up with a better funding plan (for streetscape improvements).”
It also gives the DDA and village more time to conduct public outreach, Pape added.
In addition to completely tearing out the road – taking it down to the dirt, as they say – downtown’s sidewalks, along with street trees and light poles, will be removed and replaced.
Oxford Village and the DDA wish to use the reconstruction as an opportunity to make significant improvements to the downtown district’s streetscape that are meant to enhance pedestrian safety and comfort, abate noise pollution, calm traffic and create a sense of place that’s inviting visitors.
Oxford officials are currently looking at a $1.86 million streetscape revamp where $790,000 is taken from village and DDA coffers, $647,093 is coming from an MDOT credit and $525,945 is obtained from a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.
Immediately following the Oct. 16 open house at the Oxford Public Library, which gave the public an opportunity to view the concept plan and learn more about the project, the village council and DDA board both voted unanimously to submit an application for MDOT’s TAP grant and move forward with the streetscape project.
The grant application is due Oct. 30, however, in light of the news from MDOT, the submittal may be delayed.
“Given the conversations we’ve had with the grant coordinator, their funding encumbrance for 2020 is at like, I think, 9 percent right now, so there isn’t a rush for us to apply to meet the deadline for 2020,” Pape explained.
“(MDOT is) allocated a certain amount of money for (the TAP) each year and so we could apply now for 2020 funding, but we can also wait because they’ve only encumbered 9 percent (of their funding pool) with awards for that construction season right now, so, they have plenty of money left.”
“We are having conversations right now, this week, with regard to when we are going to apply (for the grant),” Pape noted. “It could easily wait till March after (the village and DDA) get through (their) proposed budgets for next year (2018-19) so we have a better idea of what we’re doing.”
Pape wishes MDOT would have officially communicated its plans to delay the project earlier than it did.
“It would have been nice to know before we did the big open house,” he said.