Eleven months ago, Philomath Downtown Streetscape Improvement Project stakeholders gathered at City Hall to discuss what they wanted to see in the long-awaited beautification plan.
Some of those on hand at the March 21 meeting revealed a feeling of excitement about the project's revival with topics ranging from pedestrian and bike paths to future parking configurations. Estimates shared with the group at the time anticipated a May 2018 target start date.
That's not going to happen, obviously, with the project again delayed for several months while the city considered an offer from the Oregon Department of Transportation.
"ODOT brought up the idea of whether or not the city would be interested in a jurisdictional transfer, which would mean transferring ownership and maintenance responsibilities and permitting authority, all that for the highway all throughout the city limits," City Manager Chris Workman said.
Workman said it's an option that has been thrown out there in other parts of the state.
"They're kinda making this push in different areas where it makes sense, so it was enough for us to pause and look at it," Workman said. "But in looking at the numbers on what they'd be willing to pay for us to take that over indefinitely, it just didn't pencil out for us.
"In fact, I'd say we were far, far apart from what we thought it would cost us to maintain the highway, even looking out 20, 30 years, and they were looking to compensate us for maybe the first seven or eight years," he added. "I just don't think that it was a very good deal for Philomath residents."
Now that the discussion with ODOT has ended, Workman said the process can continue.
"With the amount of dollars that I thought were possibly on the table, it would've changed the scope of the project quite a bit," Workman said. "Now that we've seen that's probably not something we're going to pursue, short of them quadrupling their offer, we can re-scope the project where it needs to be and start moving forward again."
In the stakeholders meeting last year, the project budget was calculated to potentially be as much as $13 million. But those numbers and funding sources didn't pan out.
"It's going to be substantially less than that just because we don't have the funding and ODOT hasn't been able to match the funding that we were hoping they would be able to," Workman said.
Workman said the city was set to receive $3.7 million from surplus budget money out of the Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain-Eddyville project. But instead of that plan, the funds were earmarked in a state transportation bill recently approved.
"But with the new tax bill that just got passed at the state level, they actually put our project in with that new money coming in," Workman said.
Despite the change, the amount remains at $3.7 million.
"We're still working with ODOT to see if we can get a little bit more to help with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps and all the other things that need to be done on the sidewalks that get improved," Workman said. "We figure it's their street and they should help with the sidewalks as well, but that's still a negotiated point."
Workman said he is working with Murraysmith engineering (formerly Murray, Smith & Associates).
"We're looking to see if we can scope or phase the project in some way where we can move forward maybe with a Phase 1 now and bring in Phase 2 in five or 10 years from," Workman said.
Workman didn't want to reconvene the stakeholders committee until he had answers on funding.
"To be fair to the committee, they need to know how much money we have before they can make informed decisions about what they want and what they don't want," Workman said. "Because if you don't have that ceiling, then everybody wants a little bit of everything and if there's not money to do it, there's not really a point in meeting."
At the March 2017 meeting, comments covered topics such as bike lanes, light fixtures, landscaping, street posts, crosswalks, business signage and going with a themed look versus facade options.
"Everybody wants a little bit more of something and we didn't have a good idea at that time of our potential ceiling financially what it was going to be," Workman said. "Now I feel I know what that is and can make more intelligent decisions."
Following the discussions with the engineer, Workman plans to get the stakeholders committee back together and discuss options with the updated budget.
"The plan at this point is to have something ready to go construction season 2019," Workman said, adding that it would be a two-year project. "The engineers need six months' lead time and then it's six months lead time to get a good bid out."