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Making improvements to East High Street must be a priority next year, the Cole County Commission emphasized during Wednesday’s meeting.

City Engineer David Bange presented an update on projects Jefferson City and Cole County have or plan to partner on, using a combined $11 million in Sales Tax G funds. While the list includes several projects, conversations centered around improvements to East High Street and the Dunklin Street bridge.

The city and county have been working toward improving East High Street, between Cherry Street and Vetter Lane, with city staff currently working on design plans. Improvements include curb, gutter and sidewalk repairs, street overlay, and retaining walls and stormwater inlets improvements, with an estimated price tag of $1.7 million.

Each entity would pay $850,000 for the project, Bange said.

The city hopes to bid the project in the spring, with construction beginning in the summer of 2019.

City staff expects to receive design documents to replace the deteriorating Dunklin Street bridge before the East High Street improvement design plans, which begged the question: Will Jefferson City and Cole County have enough funds to do both projects in 2019?

The Dunklin Street project would not only include a replacement bridge, but also improvements to the surrounding corridor, such as bike lanes, a sidewalk, greenway trail and stormwater system reconstruction.

Bartlett & West plan to complete the design process in February, with construction possibly beginning in June, Bange said earlier this month.

To offset the $2.6 million construction project, Bange proposed Jefferson City pay more than $1.8 million of the project and Cole County pay $800,000.

The county won’t know if it can set aside the funds for that project until the end of the year, County Engineer Eric Landwehr said. He added the county most likely could have the money next year but that would push off the Dunklin Street bridge project until 2020.

“If there’s no chance for that funding to be there, we’ll have to hold off building Dunklin Street until we have the funds,” Bange said. “The city won’t like it.”

The county and city have the funds for the East High Street project though, a point Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher said.

While he understood the need to replace the Dunklin Street bridge, Hoelscher said, he did not want the city and county to delay the East High Street project.

“Dunklin is not a priority right now,” Hoelscher said. “If you punt the East High (Street project) again, it’s going to keep getting punted. … The plan was 2018, but now it’s being punted to 2019 and then it’s going to be punted for 2020 because of (the Dunklin Street project).”

Bange said the city does not plan to push the East High Street project off another year, adding the project was delayed this year due to the downtown streetscape project.

The city’s downtown streetscape project repaired the crosswalks, sidewalks and streets along East High Street, between Adams and Washington streets and in the 200 block of Madison Street. It also added electricity to portions of East High Street.

Other joint projects the city hopes to pursue in 2019 include the Capital City High School road, which is mostly finished, Bange said. The city and county agreed to provide $1.5 million combined.

The holdup is the Jefferson City Public Schools district has not signed the agreement with the city, Bange said. Part of the agreement included the school district taking over the operation and maintenance of Union Street and Lewis and Clark Drive, which has created a “point of contention because they don’t want to take over maintenance of those roads,” Bange said.

JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum on Wednesday told the News Tribune the school district’s and city’s lawyers were currently finalizing the agreement, and he anticipated the Jefferson City Public Schools Board of Education would discuss the agreement next month.

The county and city have also agreed to contribute $400,000 combined from Sales Tax G toward helping Morris Packaging construct a rail spur. Bange anticipates this project will move forward in 2019. The city is also contributing $125,000 from Sales Tax E toward the project.

Other projects on the Sales Tax G list include designing a roundabout for Creek Trail and Edgewood drives, and making improvements to Clark Avenue.

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