Archive for Thursday, May 19, 2005

KDOT grants downtown Baldwin wish

May 19, 2005

Revitalization of downtown Baldwin City cleared one of its biggest hurdles Tuesday when the city was awarded grants totaling $2.254 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The announcement on the downtown project and restoration of the "Women's Bridge" caught city officials a bit off guard, but still overjoyed.

"I've had dozens of emotions going through me this (Tuesday) afternoon since hearing the news of both grants being awarded," said Tony Brown, a city council member who has been at the forefront of the downtown project, referred to in KDOT's terms as a "streetscape enhancement" project.

"There is no doubt that the money we have to contribute to the project is considerable -- we don't have $225,000 sitting around in drawers at City Hall," said Brown. "On the other hand, our contribution is only about 20 percent of the overall project and I think that is a heck of a deal for the city. I view this as an investment in the future of Baldwin City. We need to work out the details of the financing, but I am confident we can do that in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner. We wouldn't have applied for the grant if we didn't believe that was the case."

The "streetscape enhancement," with a price tag of $1.27 million, will encompass much of the downtown business district and will include adorning the streets with planters, trees, decorative brick elements and lighting, as well as improving handicapped accessibility.

The city's cost for the project, which will encompass several blocks of High street, as well as some other areas, will be $255,000. Now the city council will have to determine where its portion of the money will come from.

The same holds true for rehabilitation of the "Women's Bridge" on High Street between 10th and 11th streets. That project has a price tag of $984,000, with the city's 20 percent at $197,000. The design plans must be paid for by the city on both projects, as well.

"Improving the site both in terms of accessibility and aesthetics will assure that (the bridge) is remembered for many, many years," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

The "Women's Bridge" is a 19th century stone arch bridge which has architectural as well as historic significance. It was built by an all-female governing body and mayor in 1889, a time when it was very progressive for women to run for or be elected to public office. The governing body's first objective was to build a bridge over Tauy Creek to keep their petticoats from getting muddy when crossing the stream.

Details of both projects will have to be determined regarding cost and time frames for when they begin. The grants were submitted last year and the news of approval was greeted at City Hall upon notification.

"It's pretty good news," said Dingman. "This streetscape enhancement project is vitally important to us because we intend to keep putting our best foot forward in welcoming guests, as well as improving the overall beauty and accessibility of our quaint, charming downtown district."

Council Member Amy Cleavinger, who also had a leading role in the efforts, credited hard work for the city's bounty.

"I am beyond pleased that we have been awarded both grants," said Cleavinger. "This is a big deal for Baldwin and I am so grateful to everyone who was involved in the process and gave countless hours of their time to make this happen.

"I hope now that everyone will embrace these projects and realize what a great thing this is for all of Baldwin City," she said.

The grants are a part of a total of $44.7 million granted by the state agency. KDOT received 67 applications from local units of government for funding consideration totaling more than $59.4 million.

Transportation Enhancement projects under this federal program fell under three major program categories. They include Historic, Pedestrian/Bicycle and Scenic/Environmental projects. The Baldwin City projects were selected in the Scenic/Environmental and Historic categories.

"The Transportation Enhancement program provides federal highway funds for projects that strengthen the cultural, aesthetic or environmental value of our transportation system," said Deb Miller, KDOT Secretary of Transportation. "This program has been very popular in the state and these improvements couldn't have happened without local partners and KDOT working together."

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