MIAMI – Tired of repetitive flooding blocking major inlet and outlet highways to Miami, the Miami City Council is working proactively to assist the ODOT (Oklahoma Department of Transportation) to help remedy the problem.

The council approved a work order for $43,000 to Olsson Associates for an engineering feasibility study to raise a portion of E Street SW/Highway 125 at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.

The idea is to take advantage of the upcoming ODOT project scheduled to re-deck the Highway 125 bridge over the Neosho River at Riverview Park starting in 2018.

In recent meetings with ODOT, Senator Micheal Bergstrom, State Representative/Miami City Attorney Ben Loring, Miami Mayor Rudy Shcultz, City Manager Dean Kruithof, and representatives from the Northeastern Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Council several Miami road projects were discussed, according to Kruithof.

The discussion included Miami projects such as elevation changes for Steve Owens Blvd. at Tar Creek, the Steve Owens Blvd. and Hwy. 69A intersection at the Will Rogers Turnpike, and the re-decking of the State Highway 125 bridge over the Neosho River.

“When that happens that bridge is going to be closed down and we are already talking about routing traffic over the other bridge on 69A to be able to get to the south side of town,” Kruithof said. “We've been talking to ODOT that when that bridge is closed, it would be an opportune time to raise and elevate the approaches to the bridge.”

Kruithof said the Neosho River bridge could be closed as long as a year while the renovation construction is underway.

“This is a major project, but they are anticipating once it's done it will far outlast us with a lifespan of 20 to 30 years,” Kruithof said.

State Highway 125 is closed repetitively in Miami during flooding events when water flows over the roadway between the bridge and the Ottawa County Fairgrounds. This can be especially important to emergency service response times.

“If the approach was above the base flood elevation we wouldn't have situations where we're closing off the south part of town,” Kruithof said. “The response we got form ODOT was they saw that was a good idea, but with the state procurement process they said they would first have to do a feasibility study and then a number of other permitting, and it just takes time and this project with the bridge decking is going to start next year.”

The City's offer to ODOT is to use the contracted engineering firm of Olsson Associates to proceed with the feasibility study to save time by bypassing ODOT's bureaucratic constraints and much lengthier procurement times for studies and funds.

Olsson's study is to be conducted to ODOT required standards for their acceptance to help move the project along in a more timely manner. This added efficiency would allow the simultaneous reconfiguration of the Hwy. 125 approach to help prevent roadway flooding during the time the bridge is closed for some much-needed repair.

“This is probably one of our best chances for less interruption of traffic flow,” Kruithof said.“We want to make sure when we have high water events people can get to their homes, or in the event of an emergency there is access to the south part of town for the betterment of the community. The study would be paid for out of our road funds.”

Early anticipation is the possible use of an earthen dam with conduit outlets to redirect the water from the roadway and possibly raising the highway above the flood level, according to Kruithof.

Mayor Rudy Schultz said although the City of Miami would be providing the feasibility study, ODOT would still have to provide environmental studies and permitting and the project would be constructed by ODOT and would be a state project.

Councilman Brian Forrester wanted reassurance the City's study would be accepted by ODOT.

“I don't want to pay $43,000 and not have something concrete that they're going to accept something like that,” Forrester said.

Kruithof said ODOT would first have to approve the methodology used, and the engineers, and therefore would accept the study before any large amount of money was put out, or further work was begun on the feasibility study.

Offering the City of Miami's help with the ODOT project was a way to get a major infrastructure issue dealt with in a much timelier manner and is a way to get the project completed while traffic is diverted for the bridge re-deck project, according to Kruithof.

“It did seem like ODOT was very open to this and very open to working with us,” he said.

Schultz agreed and said ODOT was excited about the alternative opportunity.

Olsson Associates engineer Sean McConnaughey said he would be using the proposed effective FEMA flood maps in his study model for the project.

“They are actually working on establishing the floodway along the Neosho through Miami, so that means we have a zero rise, a no rise condition we have to meet for this,” McConnaughey said.

Councilman Doug Weston asked about the smaller bridge further south on Highway 125, which McConnaughey said will be considered in the overall practical plan.

In other business, council approval was given to expend some revenues and donations to the City of Miami Ketcher/Keheley Animal Shelter for use to make additional renovations to the site for the grooming room for use for spay and neuter clinics.

“We want to just keep making it bigger and better,” Public Works Director Alicia Hogan said.

An update was given during the Miami special Utility Authority meeting on the City's ETC fiber service survey conducted asking Miami residents about possible interest in fiber optic services for phone, internet use.

“79 percent of the residents surveyed were wanting high-speed fiber for internet,” Director of Public Utilities Tyler Cline said.

Cline said the main concerns raised about fiber service has been with the speed of the service, the reliability and the price.

The survey's results will be presented in full by ETC at a later council meeting on April 18 and then provided to fiber service providers such as BOLT, to see if they are interested in the development of fiber infrastructure to Miami.

Cline said BOLT has indicated an interest level of 42 percent take rate was needed to determine an adequate amount of consumer interest in order to pursue expansion here.

“That would give them the ability to basically cash flow the rest of the project and do the complete build out in Miami,” Kruithof said.

The council's consent agenda included approval for the award of the bid to MJM Construction for $88,530 of FAA grant funds received for the Miami Regional Airport Hardstand and approval of a contract With MJM Construction for the concrete jet hardstand project.

Approval was made by resolution to waive the City’s garage sale permit fee for the Miami News-Record’s Annual Citywide Garage Sale May 6.

Mayor Schultz proclaimed the week of April 18 as Community Crisis Center Volunteer Appreciation Week.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.