Price for downtown’s Second Street Corridor increases $5 million

Mayor Robert Reichert discusses Second Street corridor road project

Macon-Bibb unveiled first phase of $8 million roadway in August 2015.
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Macon-Bibb unveiled first phase of $8 million roadway in August 2015.

Macon and Bibb County voters approved a special sales tax referendum in 2011 that dedicated $8 million for a project designed to become a new gateway into downtown.

Six years later, the Second Street Corridor will cost an additional $5 million to build a bridge as part of the final phase.

On Tuesday, the Macon-Bibb County Commission’s Operations and Finance Committee moved ahead measures designed to pay for the rest of the now $13 million project.

The commission is scheduled to vote Sept. 5 on funding the rest of the three-phase project connecting west Macon by Mercer University with downtown.

The bridge would be paid for with $2.2 million from 2017 special purpose sales tax revenue. Another $1.9 million would come from refinancing a downtown tax allocation district bond. Macon-Bibb would also use about $900,000 of funds collected from the tax district to cover the remaining costs.

The bridge has become the most expensive piece of the Second Street Corridor, in part because of the number of demands made by railway company Norfolk Southern about the design, Mayor Robert Reichert said.

The project has been delayed well over a year while repairs have been made to storm drains under Hazel Street. Another $1.3 million budgeted for Second Street went to the “vision block,” which has revitalized a section between Poplar and Cherry streets, Reichert said.

“In my humble opinion, we’ve just got to finish the bridge,” he said.

He later added, “I begged and pleaded for money back in 2011. All I was able to get was $8 million. I didn’t know how much it was going to cost, but I knew it was going to be expensive.”

The bridge would take 10 months to build once Norfolk Southern gives the final approval, SPLOST coordinator Clay Murphey said.

I don’t see how we can leave Second Street as a road to nowhere.

Larry Schlesinger, Macon-Bibb County Commissioner

The new bridge will become a route used to get into downtown instead of the “hump bridge” on Second at Ash Street.

But some commissioners said they were hesitant to spend more money to complete the bridge, especially when other projects — particularly those outside of downtown — are sometimes left on the back burner.

“In my mind taking that kind of money and looking at those things that our constituents are dealing with on a daily basis just rubs me the wrong way,” Commissioner Elaine Lucas said.

Commissioner Larry Schlesinger said the county must finish the connector.

“I don’t see how we can leave Second Street as a road to nowhere,” Schlesinger said.

The Operations and Finance Committee also voted Tuesday to add several other road project items onto the Sept. 5 commission agenda. Each would be funded through SPLOST bond proceeds.

▪  Using $630,000 as a match for a state transportation grant that will be used to resurface, patch and make other improvements along a couple dozen streets;

▪  $634,573 to pay for preliminary designs for the second phase of the Forest Hill Road project, widening the street from Vineville Avenue to Wimbish Road;

▪  $121,065 on designs for a Bass Road project;

▪  And $352,300 for the conceptual development of a Seventh Street project aimed to reroute large truck traffic from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Among the plans will be to build a bridge over the railroad tracks, the mayor said.

“One of the reasons (truck drivers are) reluctant to take Seventh Street is because of the possibility they get struck at the train crossing,” Reichert said.

Downtown Parking

A major step in revamping parking downtown could be coming this fall.

Next month, Republic Parking System and Lanier Parking Solutions will be interviewed to determine which one will manage some of the on-street and off-street parking. The company will also help with a new residential parking permit system, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.

“We want to come up with a system by which all of those things could be addressed in a more harmonious level,” he told commissioners during an update Tuesday.

Last year, Macon-Bibb commissioners moved downtown parking management under the Urban Development Authority’s control. The UDA is tasked with developing a plan that reduces issues such as businesses losing out on customers because vehicles are parked too long on streets.

Insurance costs

Macon-Bibb County Commissioners could double the co-payment paid by employees because of unnecessary visits to the emergency room.

That recommendation was among ones made Tuesday after the county dealt with a larger number of claims this year because of employees going to the ER for nonemergencies.

Doubling the co-pay for visits to the ER and reducing it for trips to urgent care centers might encourage employees to make sure they’re using the appropriate medical care, said Jimmy Hinson, with BB&T Insurance Services.

“We’re seeing families, quite frankly, that are using the emergency room as their doctor’s office,” he said.

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph