Securing rights of way and additional funding are the top two challenges facing the multi-modal transit center and associated recreation paths planned for Montpelier's One Taylor Street project.
In his weekly report issued on Friday, Montpelier City Manager William Fraser outlined both efforts. He also noted, if all goes well, construction bidding could be completed by this time next year.
"The City continues to work with the State to complete the right-of-way acquisition phase," Fraser wrote. "This past week, the State approved all plans and information to be forwarded to the private appraiser for completion of the appraisals. This work will be completed in mid-November. We expect quick final approval from the State by the end of November which puts us in active conversations with the property owners in December."
Fraser added, "This whole process has certainly taken far longer than anticipated."
Part of the delay can be attributed to the city's inability to negotiate a deal to buy and take down the M&M Beverage building on Main Street, which sits at a critical juncture for connecting two bike paths. Now the city is attempting to take the property through eminent domain.
Montpelier Discount Beverage, as M&M is formally known, is owned by a revocable trust of Thomas J. Mowatt. According to Frasher, a hearing to determine if the property is eligible for eminent domain is scheduled for Oct. 29 and a follow-up hearing to determine the property value is tentatively set for Dec. 9.
As for other right-of-way acquisitions, Fraser stated, "In addition to the bike path easements, we have also reached agreement with VTrans and Vermont Railway for re-alignment of the rail right-of-way along the entire corridor of this project. VTrans would like to wait until all other rights-of-way have been acquired before finalizing this piece. If, however, the Mowatt acquisition stretches out, we will ask that this work be split into two transfers, one on each side of the North Branch."
In regard to closing the gap between the estimated cost of the project and identified funding sources, Fraser noted the city has started closing the approximately $1.4 million funding gap. He stated Montpelier has secured $250,000 to fund stormwater mitigation work, $128,000 in sales tax reallocation to fund infrastructure work, and $100,000 from the Chittenden County Transportation Authority and the Green Mountain Transit Authority for work on the transit center.
"Therefore," Fraser wrote, "the current funding gap is $922,000." He added, "The City is exploring several other sources of alternative funding including working with CCTA/GMTA on a possible additional capital request and applying for a state grant to cover soil management efforts. We continue to be confident that we can close this funding gap."
Fraser reported of the updated project schedule, "With the assumption that the rights-of-way will be secured and additional funding identified by January 1, 2016, we will then move into 50 percent design, permitting, final design and construction bidding. If all goes smoothly, it is possible that construction contracts could be awarded by October 2016."