After two years of planning, phase one of the Richmond Hill Streetscape Project is reaching the final preparation stages, according to Jan Bass with the city. Bass appeared before the Richmond Hill Exchange Club this week, and reported that the downtown enhancement project will break ground by late spring or early summer.
City Manager Mike Melton said phase one should be totally completed by mid-summer, after four to six months of construction.
"We’re just waiting on final approval from the DOT (Department of Transportation), but it should just be a formality," Bass said. "We’ve submitted all changes per their request. After that, the bid process should start, followed by construction."
Bass said DOT’s deadline to have the project reviewed is about 30 days from now.
Phase I will include sidewalks and a grassy median on Hwy. 144 in front of Richard R. Davis Drive. Benches and landscaping will stretch from City Hall to the police station. There will be new short term parking spaces in front of City Hall, a grassy traffic island, live oak and sidewalks and crosswalks added to the area between City Hall and the police station. A new sidewalk will also border Richard R. Davis Drive.
Bass said there have been two recent changes. A crosswalk was vetoed by DOT because of its close proximity to the railroad and Richard R. Davis Drive will be have limited access to traffic in front of city hall.
City council unanimously approved the phase one plans in July.
"It’s going to go a long way toward creating a downtown Richmond Hill," Mayor Richard Davis said. "You’ve got city hall, J.F. Gregory Park and Dr. Trout’s Station Xchange project, and the Streetscape project will truly enhance all that. It will look appetizing to people to get out and walk."
Davis said the next phase may include brick walkways to encourage traffic to slow down. Davis said the project has been on hold due to being held up at the DOT office. He also said the funding is secure, as it is coming from federal funds.
In 2006, the city applied for a $2.1 million federal grant to undergo the project. Bass said only $300,000 ended up being federally allocated, and $75,000 in city funds are being allocated. Therefore, the project had to be broken up into stages.
Bass said the Streetscape Project will have two or three more phases, and a grant for phase two will be applied for in the near future. Current plans call for future phases to extend the grassy median all the way up to Hwy. 17 and see the addition of a traffic light at the intersection of Hwy. 144 and Cedar Street.
Bass said, if the project is successful, future Streetscape projects may eventually continue down Hwy. 144 in the opposite direction.