At its meeting Tuesday, Asheville City Council will consider adding $6 million to its budget for a massive River Arts District infrastructure project as construction costs soar.

City staff received bids on the $56 million project last month that were 50 percent above estimated costs.The project includes road improvements such as bike lanes, greenways, roundabouts and sidewalks along Riverside Drive and Lyman Street in the River Arts District.

“We went through a period of not believing it was true,” Stephanie Monson Dahl, an urban planner who is overseeing the RAD work for the city, said in an interview Friday.

After reviewing the information and talking with officials from the Federal Highway Administration, a key funder of the project, city staff scaled down the project. That was necessary to keep the $14 million in federal money that was granted to the project a couple of years ago.

Here’s what will get put off: portions of roadway improvements at the north and
south ends of the project area, which is a 2-mile stretch of Riverside Drive and Lyman Street in the RAD; Town Branch and Bacoate Branch Greenways; French Broad River Greenway West; and the Livingston Street “complete street” project.

Area residents, business owners and bicycling and pedestrian advocates have all reacted with dismay. They’re worried that some key aspects of the work may never get down, and they want the ability to offer input on how to proceed.

“My message to the community is (the project) is not dead,” Monson Dahl said. It may take longer, and some aspects of construction may get reworked to cut costs, she added, but the city’s goal is to move forward with the project and do what it can with the money it has.

The Federal Highway Administration grant requires that construction begin by Aug. 1. So far, some $13 million has been spent to demolish structures in the RAD corridor, move utilities and do some other work.

Monson Dahl said city staff had already met with a number of stakeholders about how the project will be reworked, and there will be other efforts for the public to speak up.

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