The two-lane Morrisville Carpenter Road has become a congested thoroughfare as the town has grown and was a focal point in the recent decision to build 70 homes on what’s known as the Stadelmaier property.
In the case of the development, the town’s decision to tie construction to securing funds to widen the thoroughfare was an unorthodox one, but Mayor Mark Stohlman said it was the only way he could justify the resulting increase in congestion. Some council members wanted to restrict the development until it was guaranteed the town could fully pay for the road work to expand capacity.
But the question of whether the town will see any of that money will remain unanswered until early next year, though, when Morrisville finds out if it will get the grant it needs to complete the widening on schedule.
The funding was discussed at the Town Council’s Aug. 9 meeting, with council members debating what the town can do to ensure that the project isn’t passed over again for federal road funding, administered in this case by the Locally Administered Projects Program, or LAPP. LAPP is a subprogram of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which distributes federal money for roadwork throughout the region.
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CAMPO’s LAPP share this year is about $14 million. Morrisville could receive nearly half that amount if the town offers to match 20 percent of the project’s $8 to $9 million construction cost.
Town transportation planner Ben Howell said the town’s decision to fund all non-construction aspects of the widening has positioned the project well to receive that money. He said LAPP funding typically is awarded to “shovel-ready” projects. Morrisville already has agreed to fund design and right-of-way acquisition at a cost of about $1.7 million, something it hadn’t decided when it previously applied for the grant.
The strength of this year’s application complicates the math involved in determining the town’s contribution to the project, staff said. At minimum, towns must agree to match 20 percent of the total cost of construction to be considered for LAPP money.
“In past years, it’s been quite competitive, so the larger percentage we go in with, the higher benefit-cost ratio it gets scored on, and the lower amount of LAPP money is needed for the project,” Howell said.
Morrisville must decide by the Oct. 31 application deadline whether to offer more of its own money to boost its chances or hope that the project scores well enough on its own merits without an increase in the town contribution, saving the town a million dollars or more. Grant recipients would be notified in February.
“We need to express to residents that the only way this project gets done is with LAPP funds,” Councilman TJ Cawley said. “And I’m not sure how optimistic we can be at 20 or 30 percent.”
Councilwoman Vicki Scroggins-Johnson said she was more concerned about the town’s ability to afford that greater probability of success.
“The percentage I have a little bit of heartburn over, because 20 percent to Morrisville is a lot of money,” she said.
Because the grant is a reimbursement rather than a direct payment, the town has to finance the project, or front the full cost out of its own cash reserves either way, which puts Morrisville in a potentially tight situation as it plans to approach its debt ceiling toward the end of the decade.
Howell said there could be a potential partnership with the state Department of Transportation, which may agree to give the town money that had been set aside for a now redundant resurfacing project on Morrisville Carpenter Road. That, plus about $350,000 owed to the town as part of the just-approved rezoning conditions for the Stadelmaier property, should strengthen the town’s position.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan