AUGUSTA — City councilors plan to meet Thursday to consider coming up with an additional $40,000 in city money to get the state Department of Transportation to build a sidewalk on a section of Civic Center Drive already frequently traveled by pedestrians.

City officials have sought a sidewalk on the busy road, also known as Route 27, for several years; and the city and state had agreed the state transportation department would do the work on the approximately $600,000 project, with the federal government covering 80 percent of the cost and the city paying the remaining 20 percent.

The sidewalk would be on the western side of Civic Center Drive, between Townsend Road and Darin Drive, an area that includes access roads to hotels and other businesses, the Augusta Civic Center, and the Marketplace at Augusta shopping center.

However, DOT officials told city officials in January that the cost of the project had gone up because of safety improvements DOT officials said were needed at the southbound on-ramp at Interstate 95’s exit 112. The costs first were projected to increase from $83,000 to $153,000, but were later revised to $122,000, which City Manager William Bridgeo said is still a 47 percent increase over what the estimate had been when the project had been discussed in previous years.

City staff members recommend the city stick with the project despite the increased cost, because there is no sidewalk on that heavily traveled section of road now.

“That’s actually a fairly busy walking corridor. That’s why the sidewalk was proposed,” Matt Nazar, city development director, told city councilors when they discussed the issue last week. “This is an important piece of sidewalk. It is an area where we have a lot of walkers today. So from a safety perspective, it’s an important safety feature. So, yes, we do still recommend this move forward even though the price increase is not insignificant.”

The additional $40,000 would come from money collected in the Marketplace at Augusta Tax Increment Financing fund, the source to be tapped for the city’s original estimated $83,000 funding amount. The Marketplace TIF account is made up of money from property taxes on improvements made to businesses in the Marketplace TIF district.

DOT officials, in a letter to Bridgeo, said reconfiguring the on ramp is required to be able to provide safe pedestrian crossing there.

Jeffrey Tweedie, program manager for the DOT’s Multimodal Program, said in the letter either the city could agree to move forward with the project or it could be withdrawn. He said if the project is withdrawn, the city would be responsible for all expenditures for it to date, totaling about $30,000. He added that if the project didn’t go forward, the DOT also would not be providing further federal funding for a planned sidewalk project on Pierce Drive, leading to Cony High School and the Capital Area Technical Center.

Bridgeo criticized that statement, saying there did not appear to be anything in the engineering agreement between the city and DOT committing the city to construction costs if the project doesn’t move forward, and the Civic Center Drive and Pierce Drive sidewalk projects were not connected to each other, so not doing one should not affect funding for the other.

“We did have a little back-and-forth with the DOT on that,” Bridgeo said.

The project is on the DOT’s work plan for 2019-2020.

Councilors are scheduled to meet to consider authorizing the additional money for the sidewalk project at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday in council chamber at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• Vote to schedule a public hearing, required in order to put a slate of proposed changes to the city charter on a planned June 12 citywide referendum ballot. City councilors approved the changes earlier this month, but Bridgeo said they did so without city officials first holding a public hearing, as required by state law. He said councilors could vote Thursday to schedule the public hearing and a re-vote on sending the proposed charter changes to voters for May 3.

• Consider changes to the city’s mass-gathering ordinance, reducing the number of days permits must be obtained for such events from the current 30 to seven days prior to the gathering.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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