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Stepping it up on the sidewalk

Council moves forward to design walk to CCA

TIFFIN– The City of Tiffin is taking steps to fulfill its end of a bargain that would provide safer routes for kids walking to Clear Creek Amana (CCA) schools.
At a Wednesday, Jan. 9, regular meeting, the Tiffin City Council approved having engineering firm c design and prepare a cost estimate to construct a sidewalk along Highway 6 from Deer View Avenue east toward the district’s middle school property. The sidewalk will lead to a pedestrian tunnel underneath the highway so pedestrians do not have to cross the busy road.
It’s been a while in coming.
It was 2008 when officials from the city and the CCA school district entered into a 28E agreement to provide a sidewalk for students to get to school. At that time, the district was building its new high school to the west of the existing building that would become CCA Middle School, and the city was working toward upgrading and widening Highway 6. The agreement included the installation of a sidewalk that runs along the north side of the highway and leads through a tunnel underneath, with the $180,000 expense to be shared by the two entities. The underpass has since been constructed, but was sealed until the sidewalks on either side were in place.
Completing the sidewalk was the top priority on the council’s list of capital improvements drafted in a special work session in October 2012. The city wants the sidewalk done before June 30 this year in order to expend Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds already set aside for the project, but Mike Hart of Hart-Frederick said he was not optimistic to meet that deadline.
“Of all the projects you are asking to get done by June 30, I don’t see this one getting done because of the DOT,” Hart said.
Tiffin Mayor Steve Berner said after the meeting that the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) typically has a lengthy aproval process that involves extra steps for a project in the DOT right-of-way, as this one is.
“However, the process seems much quicker at the DOT with a new team responding to Tiffin issues and projects,” Berner noted. “For example, the Depot driveway and approach to Highway 6 and the paving of Jasper Avenue south of Highway 6 were both approved and permits issued quickly at the DOT.”
Council member Mike Ryan said he did not want the TIF deadline to be a reason for delaying the project further.
“We picked this as a priority because we thought there was a pressing community need for it,” said Ryan.
Berner reminded the council the city collected TIF revenues in 2012 that were still on hand.
“TIF money will be spent on this,” said Berner. “Maybe not the TIF money we’ve been discussing, but this is a TIF project.”
The city has another deadline to heed as well; the Iowa DOT requires the tunnel to be open within five years of the highway improvement project. Four of those years have come and gone.
The timeline was nearly stretched again, as council member Peggy Upton said she was hesitant to approve the project if the designated TIF funds could not be used to finance it. Ultimately, Upton voted in favor of moving the project forward, and the resolution passed 3-2, with council members Royce Phillips and Jim Bartels voting against it.