A resolution authorizing the submittal of a grant application seeking state money to help fund streetscape improvements in downtown Oxford during the M-24 construction project was approved 4-0 by the village council last week.
But Councilman Joe Frost had a message for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) concerning the M-24 project – “make a decision and stick with it.”
He was referring to the fact that the project was scheduled for 2019, then got pushed to 2020 and now, the village has been told MDOT wants to have the project “shovel-ready” for 2019 just in case funding becomes available, but it’s still officially scheduled for 2020 at this point.
“I would hope that MDOT would stop changing their minds on us because it makes it very difficult to plan, financially,” Frost said. “It makes it very difficult to plan for the economic vitality of our businesses who are going to be affected by this.”
Village Manager Joe Madore told this reporter he learned at a recent meeting that MDOT is expected to make a decision “by the end of March” as to “whether they’re able to move (the project) up a year.”
The M-24 reconstruction will encompass downtown Oxford from end to end. In addition to completely tearing out the road, downtown’s sidewalks, along with trees and light poles, will also be removed and replaced.
DDA and village officials view this as their opportunity to implement major streetscape improvements while M-24 is essentially a clean slate. These improvements are meant to enhance pedestrian safety and comfort, abate noise pollution, calm traffic and create a sense of place that’s inviting to visitors.
The need to be shovel-ready for 2019 put the village on an accelerated schedule to get its grant application submitted for the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) on or before March 7. Oxford is hoping to receive $519,718 from TAP. That’s why council had to approve the resolution last week.
“This is somewhat of a formality in the TAP grant application process,” explained Assistant Village Manager Drew Benson. “They need a formal document that indicates . . . the (village’s) legislative body has agreed to submit the grant application.”
According to Glenn Pape, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the total anticipated cost for the streetscape reconstruction is $2.094 million.
The breakdown of where the funding would come from, according to Pape, is as follows – $519,718 from TAP, $654,486 from MDOT and $919,656 from the village and DDA.
Of the village/DDA portion, $259,859 is matching funds for the TAP grant, while the rest is for items not covered by TAP such as design costs, water/sewer lines, on-street parking and intersection improvements.
MDOT is planning to conduct a rehabilitation project involving M-24 from Goldengate St. in Orion Township to just south of Drahner Rd. in Oxford Township.
At the same time, MDOT will undertake the complete reconstruction of M-24 in Oxford from just south of Drahner Rd. to Harriet St., just north of the village. Age and the condition of the roadway and drainage infrastructure warrant this reconstruction, according to the state.
As part of the reconstruction, MDOT is looking to install left-turn lanes from Drahner Rd. to the southern village limits and north of the village to Gateway Drive, according to township engineer Jim Sharpe.
Right now, the plan calls for constructing a safety path along the east side of M-24 from Drahner Rd.. to the southern village limits.
But Sharpe said the township’s goal is to have the west side taken care of as well.
“If (MDOT is) squeezed for space – I don’t know how much space there is there – we would certainly except a 5-foot (wide) sidewalk in lieu of an 8-foot (wide) safety path just so we could have something through there,” he said.