The Council has been mulling over its best option at least since February when the Tennessee Department of Transportation presented the two-year construction project to the public. Council members delayed action in July when they learned it would cost the city $1.2 million to buy right of way properties and cost Cleveland Utilities $1.6 million to relocate utility poles.
The vote on Monday came after TDOT planner Robert Rogers presented a brief overview of two scaled-down alternative designs. The original design showed seven lanes in all directions, and included dual left turn lanes and a dedicated right turn lane with a total cost of $6.2 million. The two alternatives presented Monday essentially eliminated either a left turn lane or right turn lane in every direction.
Since the Cleveland Metropolitan Planning Organization requested the modifications, the federal government would have paid 80 percent and the city would have been responsible for 20 percent of the cost.
By voting to turn the project over to the state, the city will not have to pay for the intersection improvements. However, the project will now compete with other TDOT projects for funding, indefinitely extending the timeline.
“If the project as it exists now goes away and it is resurrected as a state project, the cost to the city would become zero,” Rogers said. “When a project is sponsored and put forward by the MPO, they essentially take over the state’s role as far as payments are concerned. It’s just a matter of whether you’re participating on your timeline or whether it’s in the pot with the 95 other counties which may have worse situations.”
City Manager Janice Casteel recommended the City Council turn the project over to the state because it is not in the budget.
“You do not have the local match,” she said. “Not only do you not have the local match, you can’t fit the whole $6 million project in your Transportation Improvement Plan.
“I’ve recommended that you ask the state to put us in competition with the other 95 counties and whenever they can get to that project, let it be a 100 percent state project.”
The modifications were downsized based on the outcome of a traffic study conducted in early September. TDOT lowered its traffic projections through the intersection based on the study. Traffic projections were based on predicted volume in the year 2033. The new traffic projections showed left turn movement from 25th Street onto North Ocoee dropping to less than 300 vehicles daily.
“That’s important because when traffic gets over 300, that indicates to us the necessity for double left turns,” he said. “One of the alternates we now have shows a single left turn off of 25th Street onto North Ocoee Street.”
The total cost of the project, including the two alternatives, ranged from $5.8 to $6.2 million. The city’s share would have been reduced by $80,000 by choosing the least expensive option.
Rogers said the final decision boils down to how important the problem is to the community and how much money the community is willing to spend to solve the problem.
“If we were to do this right now (the original proposal), for the first five years people wouldn’t even think about this intersection. They would fly through it. It’s 10 years from now, 15 years from now; if we do this right, that’s when problems start reoccurring at this location.”