Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Budget crunch may take bite from county road and bridge projects

December 12, 2012


Some major road and bridge projects in Douglas County may be scaled back or delayed in the coming year as county officials try to brace themselves for an expected drop in revenue.

County administrator Craig Weinaug said he is expecting drop of about $2 million in property tax revenues next year because of changes in appraised valuations. He said those changes are the result of recent studies showing real estate in the county had been over-appraised by an average of about 3 percent.

Much of that is expected to be absorbed in the county's annual capital improvements plan, or CIP, which is funded money the county sets aside to fund major expenses, some of which can be stretched out over a period of years.

Weinaug said the county typically commits about $4 million a year out of its capital improvements budget, setting it aside to pre-fund major projects in the future. But officials are hoping to pare that down to about $3 million for the upcoming year, which means projects lined in the next two or three years would have to be pared back or delayed.

One of the major items that could be on the chopping block are road improvements on Route 1055 between Lawrence and Baldwin City. That road, which turns into Haskell Avenue in Lawrence, was originally slated for a total of about $11 million in improvements.

One part of that project, which the county plans to start funding in 2013, with construction scheduled to begin in 2015, is the stretch from Route 12 on the north edge of Baldwin City, north to Vinland. That originally called for major reconstruction and was estimated at $6.5 million. But officials are now suggesting to cut that to $1.6 million, limiting the project to replacing culverts, right of way acquisition and rehabilitating the existing pavement.

Similar cutbacks are being proposed for the stretch running from Vinland north to Route 458, paring the cost of that project back from $4.4 million to $2.2 million.

Two other major projects are on the near-term list that county officials said are too critical to delay any longer. Those include reconstructing part of Route 442 (Stull Road) near the Shawnee County line, including improvements on two 90-degree turns; and major improvements on Route 458 south of Lawrence between Bannings Corner and U.S. Highway 59.

The county has already set aside most of the expected costs for those projects through previous CIPs. The project on Route 442, estimated at $4 million, is scheduled to begin in 2013. Construction on Route 458 is scheduled to begin in 2014 and is budgeted at $2 million.

The commission expects to vote on a final capital improvements plan in early January.


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