Gibbs Road over I-635 bridge replacement project to begin May 5

The Gibbs Road over I-635 bridge replacement project will begin May 5. (Kansas Department of Transportation photo)

On Monday, May 5, a replacement project will begin on the Gibbs Road Bridge over I-635 in Wyandotte County.

Project work includes the replacement of the existing 40-foot steel girder structure (built in 1971) with a new 40-foot steel girder structure complete with sidewalk. Work will take place during daylight hours, Monday through Friday, with some occasional overnight and weekend work.

Beginning on Monday, May 5, after morning rush hour, eastbound and westbound Gibbs Road from 42nd Street to 47th Street will be closed to all through traffic, round the clock, throughout the project duration. A marked detour will be provided. Traffic will detour via 42nd and 47th Streets to Shawnee Drive.

Demolition of the existing Gibbs Road Bridge will begin on Monday, May 5, as well. The exact demolition plans have not been finalized as of yet. When the bridge is demolished there may be full roadway closures on I-635. A marked detour route will be provided. Traffic will detour via K-32 to 18th Street Expressway to I-35. Advance separate notification will be issued when the full schedule for bridge demotion work is completed.

Northbound shoulder and southbound I-635 left lane will be closed for eight consecutive weeks for bridge pier construction work. Northbound I-635 will be restricted at this time to three 11-foot wide lanes. The posted speed limit will be reduced to 55 mph through the project work zone during this eight-week closure. Advance separate notification will be issued when the start date has been scheduled for this portion of work.

Advance message boards will alert traffic to roadway closures on both Gibbs Road and I-635. Traffic will be directed via signs and cones through the project work zone. Drivers should expect delays and allow extra time during peak commute times on I-635.

Updated daily traffic information for this project and for the entire Kansas City metro area can be viewed online any time at: www.ksdot.org/kcmetro/laneclose.asp.

The Kansas Department of Transportation urges all motorists to be alert, obey the warning signs, and slow down when approaching and driving through the project work zone.

Phillips Hardy, Columbia, Mo., is the primary contractor on bridge replacement project with a total contract cost of $2.38 million. The scheduled completion date for the entire project is early September 2014, weather permitting.

This project is funded by T-WORKS, the transportation program passed by the Kansas Legislature in May 2010. Find out more about this and other T-WORKS projects at: http://kdotapp.ksdot.org/TWorks/.

UG adjusts TIF policy

The Unified Government has adjusted its TIF policy after a staff analysis requested by commissioners.

Left with a number of nonperforming residential TIFs after the economic downturn of 2008, the UG has changed the way it handles the financial instruments in the future. The policy was changed at the April 24 UG meeting.

TIF stands for tax-increment financing, a method of government financing of developments. After the recession, Wyandotte County was left with some housing subdivisions that were started and not completed.

In general, the UG staff analysis found the UG’s commercial TIFs were doing better than its residential TIFs.

The staff noticed a trend that some of the older TIFs weren’t performing as well, and commission members had questions why the newer ones were better, said George Brajkovic, director of economic development for the Unified Government. This study of TIFs was initiated at the request of Commissioner Jim Walters. In the past, other commissioners, including Commissioner Ann Murguia, have addressed the subject of nonperforming TIFs.

A comparison showed that residential TIF debt in 2013 was $504,879, and residential TIF revenue in 2013 was $663,483, according to the UG staff report. There are some nonperforming residential TIFs, according to the study, while there also were some that have been successful and were paid off early.

Commercial TIF debt in 2013 was $3,773,879, while commercial TIF revenue in 2013 was $5,356,929, according to the report. The Village West and Kansas Speedway area was excluded from the study.

There are currently no recourse options on the current underperforming TIFs, according to the policy report. But on larger commercial TIF projects, some of the newer policy directives are being used and there are options to address any future downturn, according to the report.

Lew Levin, UG chief financial officer, described some “lessons learned” through the years with TIF projects. These lessons, now being used on TIF projects, have now been put into writing as guidelines for future use.  For example, one is to do feasibility studies  that would account for market fluctuations that might negatively affect revenue generation. Another is to prefer pay-as-you-go as opposed to general obligation bonds.

Also suggested by the policy directives is to require a guaranteed level of payment to insure the performance of the TIF. Another “lesson learned” is that before issuing financing, the property acquisition should be in place or there should be a clear letter of commitment from a bank before reimbursement, and the developer has to build a certain number of units first.

Also, project investment from property and sales tax payments would be minimized, and a sunset provision would be added between district approval and plan approval. In the future, the UG plans to look more closely at developers who were involved with failed TIFs and are proposing a new TIF project.

Among other guidelines are that there would be specific language on noncompliance included, such as options for the local government to take the property if there is nonperformance, according to Levin.

A UG official said a downturn in the market was a reason some of the earlier residential TIFs did not perform.

UG Administrator Doug Bach noted that the UG hasn’t done a single-family TIF development in a number of years, although he would not want to write a policy that says the UG will not do one in the future. He talked about one residential TIF development that was very successful and has paid off its TIF after about 20 years.

Commissioner Ann Murguia said that while she agrees the UG has had significant issues with the residential TIFS, she also agrees that they should not totally be eliminated, as that does not resolve anything and penalizes residential TIF developers who are successful. As a committee, the commissioners thought it was better to come up with other ways to review if a TIF project was a good investment, she said.

Flexibility is the key to being very successful at development, she said. Having the TIF development tool is good, it just needs to be scrutinized to make sure it will perform.

Mayor Mark Holland said the TIF report separated fact from fiction on what caused some TIF projects to fail. He said single-family home projects struggled the most, while multi-family development projects did better and commercial projects did well.

He noted there were two kinds of single-family TIFS – those before and those after the recession. The ones that went through the recession took a beating and the UG did not have the tools built-in at the time, so the UG ended up also taking a beating, he added.

He said the UG needs to make sure it is specific about where things went bad and where the policy can be adapted to be better, if a single-family project comes forward again.

MeMa’s opens at Wyandotte Plaza

MeMa’s bakery and restaurant has opened at Wyandotte Plaza, 7720 State Ave. (Photo by Lou Braswell)

by Lou Braswell

MeMa’s bakery and restaurant has opened at Wyandotte Plaza, 7720 State Ave.

MeMa’s offers breakfast, as well as lunch. There are sandwiches, paninis , salads, pizzas and soups available for lunch. Tuesday is “Taco Tuesday.”

Available for breakfast are breakfast burritos, breakfast pizza, biscuits and gravy, breakfast sandwiches, including lighter breakfast sandwiches.

The bakery and restaurant is operated by the Waldeck family of Kansas City, Kan., and moved recently from The Legends Outlets to this new location.