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August construction set for first phase of Jordan Creek daylighting project

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The first phase of Renew Jordan Creek is expected to be bid out in the second quarter of 2024 and start construction by August. 

An update on the project, the city of Springfield’s effort to bring the buried underground stream back to the surface and surround it with recreational amenities, was provided during an open house and environmental information meeting last night at Missouri State University’s Brick City Gallery. 

The first phase, according to the project website, will construct a new, open, naturalized channel along about 1,000 linear feet of the creek. The site comprises two city blocks, bounded to the east by Boonville Avenue, to the south by Water Street, to the west by Main Avenue and to the north by Mill Street. 

At the meeting, a construction schedule for the first phase was presented as follows: 

  • May-June: Cultural resource investigation. The project team will conduct trenching work to look for evidence of cultural artifacts to better inform the level of monitoring needed during construction.
  • Summer: Traffic and planning impacts coordination. The project team is currently determining a general construction schedule and phasing plan, and the team expects to host meetings with area businesses, stakeholders and the public this summer to discuss schedule and traffic impacts.
  • July: Advertise for bid. Branco Enterprises Inc., the project’s construction manager at risk, will conduct outreach to local, regional and national contractors for bids.
  • Fall: Begin construction.
  • Summer 2026: Complete construction.

Chris Dunnaway, an engineer with the city’s Public Works Department, described some of the initial steps to be undertaken, including an archeological investigation being conducted in cooperation with tribal nations that have elected to participate.  

The city also has worked with BNSF Railroad to get permits for some new crossings and box culverts and with City Utilities of Springfield for utility components of the project. 

Budget breakdown 
Dunnaway outlined the project’s funding sources, which are currently tallied at $29 million. Local sources are the city’s level property tax, quarter-cent and eighth-cent sales taxes and city Environmental Services Green Infrastructure Funds. Local funds total about $15.7 million. 

External sources are Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Block Grant funds at $3.4 million, local American Rescue Plan Act funds at $500,000, a Department of Natural Resources ARPA grant at $5 million, Department of Economic Development ARPA funds at $3.7 million, an Environmental Protection Agency 319 Grant at $300,000, and a Department of Natural Resources grant of $400,000 – combining to about $13.3 million. Grant funds make up about 35% of the overall project budget, Dunnaway noted. 

Construction costs are currently estimated at $32.1 million, with other expenses, including environmental contingency, state historic preservation investigation, administration, master planning and design and property acquisition, estimated at $5.4 million, for a total project cost of $37.5 million. The cost estimates were generated by Branco Enterprises, and trust costs will not be known until after contractor bidding this summer. 

The current estimated deficit is about $9.9 million, Dunnaway explained. That’s the $8.5 million difference between the estimate and the funds already sourced, plus another estimated $1.4 million. 

Dunnaway said the city will not be able to fully utilize all of the grant funds it has received. 

“Every grant fund has multiple expenses that it can be used for, so just trying to match all of those grant funds and their match up to the eligible expenses gets to be a little bit of an accounting exercise,” he said. 

The city already has been approved for $13 million from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ revolving loan fund, which funds water and wastewater projects. The interest rate last year was 1.35%, Dunnaway said.  

Current calculations are that the city will use only $6.9 million from the revolving loan fund, meeting the rest of the expenses with $3 million in other anticipated grant funds. The annual repayment would be $570,000 over 15 years. 

Project goals 
What will be funded is an open stream bed with native plantings and wildlife for the creek that was regarded as a nuisance and buried a century ago. 

“That’s the intent – to make it look like what it probably would have looked like 100 years ago,” said Jared Rasmussen, senior vice president and geography leader at Olsson Inc., which is providing engineering work for the project. “It’s an engineered channel, but ultimately, we’re engineering it in a way that mimics the natural environment.” 

The result should help to mitigate flooding, according to Rasmussen. 

“There’s a lot of hydrology that goes into that, whether it’s the curve of the creek to make sure that it’s free and meandering and not a straight shot,” he said. “Alongside of it there’s locations for water quality basins where that water could spill over the side and slowly be filtered out over time.” 

As the creek maintains a free and healthy flow, wildlife should make a comeback. 

“The more critters you see in the water, the healthier the creek is,” he said. 

Rasmussen said the project will create green space within a downtown urban context while also spurring economic development around it. 

“We’re trying to create a space where people can really go and hang out and take a break from their workday and take a break from school and have a moment of nature in the downtown, urbanized area,” he said. 

Debra Finn, a stream biology and associate professor at MSU, was on hand to hear the public presentation. Finn said she brings her students to the exposed areas of Jordan Creek for a stream ecology unit every spring. She also does bio monitoring for the city. 

“There’s some nice habitat down there, and some nice places with really good riparian vegetation,” she said. 

Wildlife, however, is not where Finn believes it should be. 

“My gut feeling is that the extremes on the floods are too high,” she said. 

The project will be a big difference maker, she said, with overflow areas allowing the water to dissipate more slowly. 

“The floods last longer but aren’t as big at any one point in time,” she said. 

The offshoot, according to Finn: More animals will be able to make their homes within and along the restored creek. 

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