Council Mulls Asking SHA to Fund Route 1 Undergrounding Through TIGER Grants

Power lines on Route 1

Power lines on Route 1

In tomorrow’s Council meeting, the City Council will vote whether it should send a letter to the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) to request an additional year to decide whether to pursue undergrounding of utilities in the stretch between Paint Branch Parkway and Greenbelt Road on Route 1.

SHA has indicated that the project, including the rebuild and undergrounding of utilities, would be a good candidate for a grant through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant; however, TIGER grants are generally meant for projects that are ready to begin construction, and the project will not be eligible until after design and engineering is completed.

Accordingly, the staff has advised that the Council sending a letter requesting that SHA proceed with completion of design and engineering of phase 1 of the Route 1 rebuild, and the City providing $300,000 to fund additional design and engineering to allow for undergrounding utilities, while the City and SHA jointly pursue a TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding would be contingent on SHA submitting the TIGER grant request; if it does not, then the City would require that SHA reimburse the funds.

However, if the application is not successful, the SHA will not be required to return the money back to the City. The chance of getting the grant is very slim and the grant will not fund 100% of the total cost of the project. According to DOT’s TIGER website, in last year, a total of 585 projects were applied, however only 55 of them were actually awarded. This puts the chance of getting the award to less than 10%.

Although this could result in a delay to the Route 1 construction project, construction is currently not funded and is not in the State’s 2014-2019 Consolidated Transportation Program.

The 21st District delegation has raised concerns that any delay could hurt the ability to continue the project and obtain funding for construction , which could potentially delay the Route 1 development in north College Park by several years. The design and engineering cost of $300,000 is not currently not funded in FY15 budget and will most likely come from City’s reserve fund.

Staff hopes to be able to obtain funding through the TIGER grant program to proceed on a parallel track with undergrounding of the utilities during this first phase or during subsequent phases.

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3 Comments to “Council Mulls Asking SHA to Fund Route 1 Undergrounding Through TIGER Grants”

  1. By Bill Smith, May 13, 2014 @ 11:00 am

    What is the economic benefit of this?

  2. By Fazlul Kabir, May 13, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

    Bill, Thanks for your comments. Numerous studies have shown us that the undergrounding can potentially improve the walkability and aesthetic look of the corridor and thus will help revitalize the business district along that area.

  3. By Robert Catlin, May 14, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

    While a modest number of business districts have undergrounded their power lines and other wire utilities, i haven’t seen anyplace where it was done where the cost was so great as is faced on Route 1. That doesn’t mean the projected cost is excessive, but the magnitude of the effort and its complexity is greater here that elsewhere.