December 6, 2021

Let the bidding begin

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

A portion of the Clinton Avenue sidewalk was under construction Thursday in Cortland.

The bidding process for a $13 million project to rebuild Clinton Avenue in Cortland — a project seven years in the planning — will begin by the end of the month, after the city was found eligible for a $9 million federal loan, the city has announced.

Construction could begin by spring, said Mack Cook, the city’s director of finance and administration.

The project is estimated to cost between $12 million and $14 million. The $9 million loan from the federal Environmental Protection Agency would bring the amount available for the project to $17 million. But the city would not use the entire $17 million.

“We’ll only borrow the exact dollars that we need,” Cook said. “It’s always been designed as funding through grants and then through loans. We still have some grants pending.”

The project is meant to improve the first impressions people get of Cortland when they get off Interestate 81 at Exit 11. It would be a total rebuild of the water, wastewater and stormwater systems along Clinton Avenue.

The project will cover the length of Clinton Avenue from Main Street to Kennedy Parkway. Work will include:
• Replacing aged water, sanitary sewer and storm drainage.
• Reducing the width of the roadway.
• Adding bike lanes.
• Adding parking.
• Adding vegetation to mitigate storm runoff.

Another possibility, said Mayor Brian Tobin, is installing an underground conduit for possible future fiber optics, connecting Clinton Avenue to Main Street.

“It’s important to recognize it’s a phased project,” Tobin said.

Tobin said the project will be done in two phases over two years to minimize inconvenience to people using the road.

The EPA’s program, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, invited 39 projects in 16 states and Washington, D.C., to apply for up to $5 billion in loans to finance $10 billion in water infrastructure investments and create up to 155,000 jobs. The loans will help address two national water priorities — providing for clean and safe drinking water and addressing aging water infrastructure.

The EPA’s list of places that qualify for the loans include 38 communities including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri.

“That talks about the validity,” Cook said, noting the project is on the same level as nationally recognizable cities. “The bar is set pretty high in Cortland for quality.”

While there may be some frustration with traffic due to construction, it will all be worth it, Tobin said. “The long-term vision is well worth the short-term inconvenience.”