The Perry City Council, surprised by the Dallas County Conservation Board’s decision last week to pursue building the Bouton leg of the Perry-to-Woodward bike trail link along Iowa Highway 141, has shelved plans to move forward with the $1.35 million North Street construction project.
The proposed North Street project would connect North Street between 16th and 18th streets and would also include a bike trail connecting Wiese Park to the long-anticipated Perry-to-Bouton route along the old railroad right of way. The conservation board’s choice of Highway 141 throws the bike trail portion of the North Street project into doubt.
“Do we pull the North Street project off the table and wait a year?” said Perry City Administrator Butch Niebuhr at Monday’s Perry City Council meeting. “If we want to go ahead with the full project, my recommendation would be to table it for a year to build up some more funds in the STP. Or if we take the trail out of the project and just do the street, we could do it in five years.”
Funding for the North Street project complicates the question. Eighty percent of the project’s costs will be covered by Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds, which are U.S. Department of Transportation dollars administered by the Central Iowa Regional Transportation and Planning Alliance (CIRPTA).
Brad Golightly, chair of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors, is the county’s representative on CIRPTA’s 23-member Transportation Policy Committee. The committee recently approved Golightly’s recommendation to limit members’ borrowing against anticipated STP funds to five years. The $1.35 million North Street project at present needs five-and-a-half years of advance borrowing, according to Niebuhr.
“Waiting a year would do that and keep us in compliance,” Niebuhr said. “We’d build up some funds, and then we’d only need five years.”
Matt Ferrier, Perry’s city engineer, also advised the council to wait. “We would be pushing a pretty late bid letting this year,” Ferrier said, “so I think we’d be fighting really high bid prices just on the time of the year.”
Several factors feed the current high price for concrete, he said, including the ten-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike and the recent closure of a Mason City cement plant due to fire.
“The market right now is flooded with projects,” Ferrier said, “so for the majority of contractors their workload is full through the summer construction season.”
Ferrier also the current project, which has been approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation, would need to be resubmitted for approval if the bike trail portion were removed. A redesigned project would also be delayed one year pending approval.
“My professional opinion would be not to try to push the project this year,” Ferrier said. “I think you’ll pay dearly on the prices for it. I would recommend bidding it in the winter this coming year.”
Council member Chuck Schott moved to postpone the project. “There are so many things that are iffy and changing by the hour and by the day that I will make a motion that we postpone this for 12 months to give this stuff time to come together.”
The council voted unanimously to tell CIRPTA they would put off the North Street project for one year.
Mayor Jay Pattee said discussions with the Dallas County Conservation Board led him to believe the Iowa Highway 141 route is not “etched in stone” and the more northerly route along the railroad right of way is still an option if landowners along the route cooperate.
Pattee said the North Street project will be a benefit to Perry whether it connects to the Perry-to-Woodward link or not. He also put the project into historical perspective.
“We talked about putting North Street through from 16th to 18th in 2002 at a council meeting, so maybe this one little delay isn’t going to seem like much when you consider how long it’s been coming,” Pattee said.
Niebuhr noted the 2015 Hiawatha Classic Bike Ride, scheduled for May 16, has been raising money for the Perry-to-Woodward link for 18 years.
Council member Phil Stone said he thinks the county conservation board “is probably looking for ways to save money, and I’m not sure they’re saving Perry any money in the sense that we already made a decision as to where it was going. I realize there are gravel roads between Bouton and Perry, but if you can visualize with me the turn out of Bouton and we’re going to take the trail south along that two-lane asphalt road with essentially no shoulders, so my question then would be, ‘Are we going to run it in the ditches?'”
Stone also asked whether the trail along Iowa Highway 141 would be in a ditch.
“This is going to make a really beautiful tour for people coming into Perry,” Stone said. “I’m a tiny bit encouraged by the fact that it may not be a final decision, but I’m wondering at some point if we need to say, ‘We’re not happy,'” he said.
Council member Dr. Randy McCaulley said the council should invite Dallas County Conservation Executive Director Mike Wallace to attend a meeting to discuss plans for the trail and the options for its route.
Council member John Andorf said it might be best to invite Wallace after the county conservation board gathers public input on the proposed trail route at public hearings currently scheduled for May 18 in Perry and May 28 in Waukee.
Pattee, Schott and Andorf also discussed possibly attending the next meeting of the Dallas County Conservation Board, scheduled for May 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Forest Park Museum near Perry.