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Riverfront, Bicentennial Park, Heritage Trail

Juggling Madison development
projects a challenge for mayor, others

Delay in redesign puts riverfront
restrooms on hold until spring 2009

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(August 2008) – Despite facing various roadblocks along the way, Madison city officials say they are determined to push forward to complete several important projects that will help define the town into the future.
The Riverfront Develop-ment Project, the Heritage Trail of Madison, Madison Bicentennial Park and the Michigan Road sidewalk upgrade are among the primary initiatives being managed from Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong’s office. Although volunteer committees meet regularly to manage these projects, funded in part by federal transportation money and grants, the mayor is ultimately responsible for their success, he said during a July 24 interview at City Hall.
Several of the projects have been hampered or stalled by construction costs, environmental and design delays, and pending approval by state officials. But Armstrong said many of those issues have been resolved, thus allowing the projects to move forward.

Madison Riverfront

Photo by Don Ward

Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong has
diverted $500,000 in grant money
originally earmarked for Heritage Trail
to finish the Madison Riverfront
development (above). He says both
projects will eventually be completed,
along with Bicentennial Park.

“I want to commend our volunteer groups that have worked hard on these projects,” said Armstrong, who took office last January following a close election to unseat 13-year incumbent Al Huntington. “Without our community volunteers, many of these projects would not be possible because we simply don’t have the manpower to handle them.”
In addition to running the day-to-day affairs of the city, Armstrong inherited a long list of ongoing capital projects and federally funded initiatives. The Madison Parks Department oversees all but the sidewalks.
The Riverfront Develop-ment Project, Heritage Trail and the Michigan Road sidewalk project have all received approval for federal Transportation Enhance-ment grants. The Indiana Department of Transporta-tion administers contracts that involve federal funds, therefore environmental study and design work must be approved by INDOT before funds are released for construction.

Following is an update on these projects:

Madison Riverfront Development
In late 2007, the Madison Riverfront Development Committee met the $300,000 matching funds required for $1.2 million in T.E. grants approved to complete the sidewalk along the Ohio River on Vaughn Drive.
The project, which actually began nearly two decades prior, comprised of several phases, including the construction of Lamplighter Park and the concrete tiers that step down to the river.
The last phase of the project plans to extend the brick and concrete walkway from Vernon Street in the west end of the city to just beyond the Ohio River Bridge in the east. An earth stabilization process east of the point at Lamplighter Park was part of the design plan. That design plan would have included a steel retaining wall with steel tie structures. The idea behind the design would be to create a green space with a terraced embankment for the enjoyment of walkway users.

Mayor Tim Armstrong

Mayor Tim Armstrong

The design approval process became stalled at the state level, while at the same time construction costs were increasing. Armstrong said the estimated cost for the project came back well over budget at $2.69 million, and INDOT would not approve it.
Bernie Hauersperger of FPBH Inc., the North Vernon-based engineering company hired to design the project, said that in the original study for the project, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had recommended the steel stabilization as a way to improve the look of the area.
“It is a rough area that is hard to maintain,” Hauersperger said. “The solution to improve it aesthetically proved to be too costly, so that design element has been cut.” He also said it would not impact the safety of the area.
Hauersperger said a redesign of the riverfront has been estimated at $1.7 million. To pay for it, Armstrong asked INDOT to move $500,000 that was originally slated for Heritage Trail to be used to fund the additional cost for the riverfront. INDOT recently approved the request.
“We made the decision to redirect the funds because the Madison Riverfront Development Project is closer to being finished than the Madison Heritage Trail Project,” said Armstrong. “This decision will in no way adversely impact the Heritage Trail Project.”
Armstrong said the city could have applied for more federal money, but after conferring with INDOT officials who visited Madison in February, he decided it was better to “shorten the scope of work” and get some of the ongoing projects finished before applying for any additional federal funds.
INDOT’s Marvin Jenkins, spokesman for the Seymour District in which Madison belongs, said, “Local officials and INDOT share a common goal of producing a quality product that benefits not just the local community but all Hoosiers.”
Armstrong said there will be a special letting of funds Aug. 20 and, if approved, work is scheduled to begin this fall, with completion set for September 2009.

Heritage Trail of Madison

In 2002, a group of volunteers that included Madison residents Karen Bump, Tom Pritchard, Jim Olson and Julie Rubio, developed the Heritage Trail Inc. It operates as a nonprofit organization under the umbrella of the Historic Hoosier Hills. The group had conceived an idea for a non-motorized trail that would connect downtown Madison to the hilltop. Once completed, the trail would be added to the list of thousands of similar trails across the nation that are being built to enhance economic opportunities in those communities. The group applied for and received approval for a $1 million T.E. grant.
Over the course of the next few years, the group hired Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects Inc. to complete an environmental and design study. The contract for Ratio has expired, and the City of Madison and Heritage Trail committee members are discussing whether to renew that contract.

Heritage Trail of Madison

Photo by Don Ward

Heritage Trail of Madison is
nearly complete, starting here
from the hilltop with a paved
path to the downtown.

Officials said there were some issues with completing the design study. “The environmental study was not as complete as we had earlier thought,” said Heritage Trail President Tom Pritchard. “Ratio Architects was in charge of coordinating it.”
Currently, the environmental study for the trail is awaiting INDOT approval.
Jim Olson, treasurer for Heritage Trail, said Ratio Architects was paid $50,000 for its work on the project. That money was part of the matching funds collected for the 80-20 matching funds T.E. grant.
“At this point, we have used only matching funds for the project,” Olson said. “We have not yet used any federal money. Those funds will be used for property acquisition, easement rights and actual construction costs when the trail is extended on the hilltop from Madison State Hospital grounds.”
The trail continues along Ruckers Sports Complex to the pedestrian entrance to Clifty Falls State Park.
Already, a small, 3/4-mile section of the hilltop section, which runs from the Madison State Hospital to Crooked Creek, is paved and being used by walkers and cyclists. A temporary wooden bridge has been constructed over the Madison Railroad’s Crooked Creek Bridge that allows hikers to cross over crooked creek.
Cathy Hale, president of Madison Railroad, said the temporary bridge will eventually have to come down because of concerns over the integrity of the railroad’s historic stone arch bridge.
“We had a bridge inspection team look at the wooden structure and fencing placed over the stone arch. They recommended the fence and bridge be removed to prevent damage to the integrity of the historic arch.”
Olson said Heritage Trail Inc. has acquired a historic, 1885-iron bridge from Washington County, Ind., from Jim Barker and Associates. The bridge, currently in storage, will eventually erected over Crooked Creek and the temporary bridge will be taken down.
“We are expecting a cost estimate for construction of the bridge from Barker,” said Olson. “We are hoping to construct the bridge using community donations.”
The trail project had become stalled due to a property rights dispute at the edge of Crooked Creek. But Pritchard said that issue appears to be resolving itself, and the trail will be routed over newly acquired property.
Olson said $40,000 was used to buy Millie Dailey’s property at the edge of Crooked Creek. Dailey will be allowed to continue to live on the property for as long as she lives.
Olson said the diversion of federal funds away from the Heritage Trail to the Riverfront Development should not be a problem. “We will hopefully have the project completed in the next few years, but these things take time and money.”
Recently, Bump and Rubio resigned from the Heritage Trail leadership “due to other commitments.” Pritchard and Olson have retained their current roles in the Heritage Trail and are looking to “bring some fresh minds and insight into the project,” according to Pritchard.
Olson said he would like to see Bob Greene, a Madison volunteer who played a key role in developing the riverfront portion of the trail, become involved in more of an official capacity.
“Greene has put new life into the project,” said Olson. Green has recently been instrumental in helping to develop other landmarks adjoining the trail, including historic cat steps leading up the hill from the river and the historic Madison Railroad Incline.

Madison Bicentennial Park

Before former Madison Mayor Al Huntington left office, he directed a plan to create Madison Bicentennial Park on the riverfront. The goal was to complete the project in time for the city’s June 2009 Bicentennial Celebration.
“The park was going to be a gift from the city to itself,” Huntington said in a July 22 telephone interview.
Design components of the park included public restrooms, an amphitheater with a terraced lawn, a splash park for children, an ice skating rink and other upgrades for the area. “We expected to complete the project in phases because we knew it would be an expensive undertaking,” he said.
Ratio Architects, which has done work on other city projects such as King’s Daughters’ Hospital and Health Services and Clifty Inn, was hired to design the park. According to city officials, Ratio was paid around $300,000 on the project. Initial estimates suggested the project, as designed by Ratio, would cost $3.5 million to construct.
One of the first phases of the project was to design public restrooms along the riverfront. They were supposed to be in place by 2007 but were stalled because of disagreement over style, cost and location. The original estimate for those restrooms came in at $690,000.
At a public meeting in 2006 in which Ratio presented its plan at City Hall, city officials debated the issue of building a more ornate restroom vs. a more practical, affordable one.
In the end, Huntington asked the architects to rework the design into a more affordable plan. “The cost was too high, and the style was too high,” said Huntington. “We told them to scale back.”
Huntington left office before a decision was made to proceed with the restrooms. To date, they have not been built or even started.
“The restrooms are essential for the riverfront,” Huntington said. “It is certainly a do-able project that I hope will get completed.”
Armstrong said his administration has scaled back plans for Madison Bicentennial Park because of cost concerns and the current economic climate. “We will have Madison Bicentennial Park, and we will have restrooms in the park,” he said. “We simply do not have the funds to add all of the design elements that were originally conceived.”
Armstrong has directed his own staff to design plans for the restrooms.
After Madison’s Ribberfest festival is over in mid-August, Armstrong said more than 7,000 cubic yards of dirt will be hauled from the Madison Business Park on the hilltop to Madison Bicentennial Park to create the terraced lawn. It will cost the city $24,000 to move the dirt, he said.
Hre hopes to have the restrooms built in the park by spring 2009. “The design and style of the restrooms will be simple but appropriate for the history of the area,” he said.
In the meantime, he has applied for $3.5 million in congressional appropriations through Rep. Baron Hill’s office. “We don’t know if we will get those funds, but if we do, then we will use them to add additional elements to Madison Bicentennial Park, like an amphitheatre structure and upgraded landscaping.”
Katie Moreau, press secretary for Congressman Hill, said the appropriations request has been submitted to a subcommittee of the Interior. “Chances are slim the money will be approved this year, but we will keep pushing to get those funds in the future,” she said.

Michigan Road Sidewalk

Mayor Armstrong said the city’s plan to implement a sidewalk along Michigan Road to Clifty Drive is “in the works.
“At this point, we are getting easement rights signed and working with engineers on the project,” he said.
Construction on the project could begin next year if the T.E. grant funds are let in the spring. Original plans called for the sidewalk to run from State Street to Clifty Drive, but Armstrong said building materials may force planners to scale back.
“Our goal is to put in a sidewalk to Green Road, but it may not get that far because of increased cost.”

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