Bridge, Riverwalk Improvements Proposed

After a long and difficult process, a plan to improve a portion of the downtown Rochester Riverwalk and the Paint Creek Bridge is on its way to city council.

The Downtown Development Authority has been discussing improving pedestrian amenities for the bridge on North Main Street, and the section of the Riverwalk beneath it, for the last two years.  Requirements from the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, which controls access to Paint Creek, have complicated matters and are blamed for driving up engineering costs to a level that shocked some members of the DDA board.

When construction bids came in at around $2 million, nudging the total cost of the project toward $3 million, city-council’s representatives to the DDA board said they could no longer support the project. At a special meeting last week, the DDA voted to send a simpler, less expensive proposal to city council. The matter is scheduled to be discussed at council’s June 25 meeting.

“We’ve really scaled back the project,” DDA Executive Director Kristi Trevarrow said. “It was originally to be a full beautification and enhancement of the bridge and the Riverwalk.”

Trevarrow said the project came about because of complaints that the DDA spends all its money south of University Drive. “A lot of people had some concern that North Main was neglected,” Trevarrow said.

In addition, several years ago a consultant suggested the city enhance its entry points at the north and south bridges on Rochester Road and create a move visible entrance to Rochester Municipal Park. Trevarrow said it’s surprising how many people don’t know they can enter the park from the Riverwalk, behind Lipuma’s Coney Island.

The latest plan calls for planters on the bridge railings, new stairs from the street down to the Riverwalk, cleaning out debris in the river and, hopefully, addressing water dripping from the bridge onto the path. No fixes to the bridge itself are included, but Trevarrow said MDOT has been notified about issues the DDA would like to see addressed.

Deputy City Manager Nik Banda said the plan also calls for handicap accessibility between the bridge and the Riverwalk. He said Pierre Atallah, who owns the Atallah Heart Center immediately south of the bridge, donated some land to the city to make the access possible.  The improved access “will open it up,” Banda said. “It’ll be awesome.”

The DDA is asking council for permission to amend its 2011-12 budget to add $698,000 for the project.  Somewhat less than that was budgeted for the project in the 2010-11 budget, but wasn’t used. Given the uncertainties, it was left out of the new budget, Trevarrow said.

If council votes to approve the budget amendment, work could be completed this year. Under the terms of a state permit, work in the creek must be completed by October 1. If there is any delay, the project would have to wait until next year, when Main Street is already scheduled to undergo reconstruction.

Banda said the project was bid out three times and will be accomplished in a “less fancy” way.

“It’s just a tough project,” he said. “It’s a good project. We’re not going to abandon it. We’re going to get this thing.”


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