Full speed ahead: City officials pushing for Manufacturing/Bluff project grant

Jake Mosbach/Clinton HeraldClinton City Engineer Jason Craft, center, explains the scope of a future roadway reconstruction process for Manufacturing Drive and Bluff Boulevard at an open house Thursday at Clinton City Hall.

CLINTON — Officials are back to work crafting a grant application that will aid in a massive Manufacturing Drive and Bluff Boulevard reconstruction project.

Stakeholders for the project are once again asking the U.S. Department of Transportation for $22.7 million for the plan, one which involves the complete reconstruction of the roadway from U.S. 30 to Seventh Avenue North. The stretch of roadway has become notorious to city public safety officials for its high accident rate, particularly incidents resulting in injury or death.

The narrow lanes have caused crowding and hazardous driving conditions – an issue that leaders say will be alleviated by the future project. The project will also improve curbing, gutter and sidewalk areas to make the road safer for pedestrians, as well as bicyclists. Totaling nearly $32 million, the undertaking is confirmed to receive $3 million from city funds, $3 million from the Iowa Department of Transportation, and $2.9 million from Iowa American Water.

With a mid-July application deadline, officials are now conversing with community members, including those who own property along or near the roadway who may be affected by the overhaul.

"This is probably the biggest project we'll ever do, and we want to do it right," Clinton City Engineer Jason Craft said at a community open house for the project Thursday. "We want to get off on a good foot with all the affected property owners."

A grant application for the federal funding was denied during the last round of applications, with several Clinton officials speculating that Washington, D.C. politics played a part in the denial. After learning of that denial, a group went back to the drawing board, working to eliminate any shortfalls that could have played a role in the decision.

One of those factors could have surrounded the project's Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA), according to Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke. A BCA of greater than 1 is ideal, he said, and now stakeholders believe they've greatly surpassed that mark for this newest application – potentially as high as 1.86.

A portion of the project (one whose scope is not clear yet) is slated to begin in spring 2021, and if all goes according to plan after this round of grant applications, the entire project is estimated to take roughly three to four years.

Officials will learn of the application's fate this winter, and after conferring with outside sources to craft what they believe to be a better version of last year's, Brooke, Craft, and others are keeping their fingers crossed for good news later in the year.

"We'd really like to see this project go through," Brooke said Thursday. "We want to get the best outcome with this. We're very hopeful...we think we're going to be very strong. We're going to hit every one of our senators, every one of our Congress members and say 'Hey, help us out,' because that's where the rubber meets the road at the end of the day on what gets decided."

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