The big caught

Plans for long-awaited Marion overpass back on the table

Mayor: ‘ We are closer …

than we have ever been’

news@theeveningtimes.com

A long talked about railroad overpass in Marion is back on track but will likely require voters to go to the polls to approve extending an existing one cent sales tax to pay for it.

Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman told the street committee that a $5.1 million federal earmark has been freed up for the project, and that the state has already made $1.7 million available.

The cost to build a four lane overpass over the Burlington-Northern railroad tracks is estimated to be about $11 to $12 million.

“We’re about seven million shy,” Fogleman said.

The overpass would provide relief to residents who live on the east side of the railroad tracks in neighborhoods such as River Trace and Delta Acres who frequently have to wait at the railroad crossing while dozens of trains pass through the city daily.

The city would like to build the overpass next to the Wal Mart Neighborhood Grocery by extending L.H. Polk from Hwy. 77 to Military Road.

Fogleman said the city could pay for the project by refinancing some debt using an existing one penny sales tax which has been in place since the early 1980s.

“If we refinance, we can create $15 million new dollars if we go with another 30-year repayment,” Fogleman said.

Fogleman said city voters would have to approve extending the tax in a special election, but that the city could use some of the money for other capital projects as well.

Those projects include building a new Fire Station 1 on the west side of Interstate 55 and refurbishing the old station for other city uses, possibly for the water department. The state is planning to widen Military Road in the near future and the city will lose parking in front of the annex where the water department is currently located.

“We could build something that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that we have in Fire Station 3 and maybe put some money into Fire Station 1 for some other purpose,” Fogleman said.

Fogleman also mentioned the possibility of using some of the money to overlay additional city streets, clean up Marion Lake, improve access into the city, drill another well, or possibly even to make more improvements to the city’s ballfields.

“There are some other things we might put money in to,” Fogleman said. “We refinanced in 2006 to do the lift station and the refueling station. We did some overlay work. We did fire station No. 3. We did a water tank. We did a well.”

Fogleman said all of the projects would be one-time expenditures.

“The biggest item is the overpass,” Fogleman said.

“We won’t know how much it will cost until we put it out to bid. But I think this would be a good opportunity to get some additional capita expenditure items done.”

Councilman Jim Spence agreed.

“I think doing Fire Station No. 1 is a good idea,” Spence said.

Fogleman said he would like to put it to the voters in the next three to four months.

“I do want to move forward with this,” Fogleman said. “We are closer to an overpass than we have ever been.”

By Mark Randall

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