Cost of Improvements
How much will these capital items actually cost the Borough?
The plan suggests a range of public improvements that can be made within downtown over a span of 15 to 20 years. Given the changes in construction techniques and costs, inflation and other variables that affect capital projects, the Plan includes cost estimates for the most near-term projects. These estimates are based on the cost of recent Borough projects and anticipated engineering, materials and labor costs for future projects. As we advance through the implementation of the Plan, make decisions on the scope of potential projects, and begin including future projects in Capital Improvements Programs and Capital Budgets, reasonable costs estimates can be prepared.
The estimated cost for improving the various streets in Downtown as outlined in the Master Plan will vary greatly. For instance, Allen Street is recommended as a short-term catalyst project and has been estimated to cost approximately $1.3 million. This would include demolition of all sidewalks, curbs, and pavement; regrading and base surface preparation; and installation of pavers from building face to building face. Because new streetlights have already been installed in Downtown, these features would not be changed, but some of the street trees on this block may need to be relocated. Some of this work will have to be completed in the next few years whether a new streetscape plan is engineered or not. Elements such as street tree and/or tree grate replacement, handicap curb replacement, reconstruction or resurfacing of the roadway and selected curb replacement are anticipated projects over the next few years. Additionally, several private property owners will also most likely have to replace some of the downtown sidewalks, which would be the owner’s expense.
The cost for implementing the suggested improvements along College and Beaver Avenues could be offset if the Borough pursues a turn-back option with PennDOT. Additionally, some of the improvements along the north side of College Avenue, such as the widened bike path, streetlights and crosswalk improvements could be implemented by Penn State if the opportunity presents for these to be included in their planned construction projects for the College Avenue area of campus.
The streetscape designs in this plan represent a concept. Approval of the Master Plan does not give the authority for these projects to be implemented exactly as they’re suggested, but rather gives authority for them to be evaluated in more detail. It is at this level of evaluation that more exact cost estimate could be drawn up—particularly for long-term projects—as materials, dimensions, utilities and other criteria are considered. Additionally, as estimated project costs are able to be more concretely developed, the Borough can search for grants and other funding alternatives that could be utilized to offset the cost of improvements.
It is important to note that a vast majority of the recommendations from this plan will not fall exclusively within the purview of the Borough to initiate or fund. For example, many of the future redevelopment opportunities identified in the Plan would be the decision of and funded by private property owners with interest in redevelopment. However, public investment in community improvements can often incentivize private property owners to invest as well. The consultants have noted that in communities which have recently experienced significant redevelopment, including public improvements and private development, the public sector can see up to a 20:1 return on investment for every $1 of public expenditure.
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