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Extending road could boost safety
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MONROE - Members of the city's Board of Public Works identified a number of benefits to completing 30th Street on the city's south side - not the least of which is public safety.

City Engineering Supervisor Al Gerber approached the board Monday with the concept of extending the street - and connecting it with 14th and 17th avenues - to reach the far southeast corner of the city.

The street now ends at 11th Avenue.

"We have been holding off, but it's become a public safety issue to provide access to the southeast side," he said.

Gerber said extending the streets would provide more direct access to two public schools in the area, Abraham Lincoln Elementary Accelerated Learning Academy and Monroe High School, to the high school's Performing Arts Center and to residential developments on the east side.

"The reduction in fire response time would be huge," Fire Chief Daryl Rausch said.

Gerber said school district officials also think the plan is a good idea, especially for bus traffic in and out of the schools.

But board members said they were also aware the new street could encourage future economic development to the south of the city. Michael Boyce, vice-president of the board, said developers interested in coming to the city have noted a lack of housing.

"There's a potential for significant growth," he said. "It's exciting from that standpoint and overall housing market."

Phil Rath, city administrator, said planning needs to start now.

"If there is any economic development, we need to know now, with the wastewater treatment plant planning its expansion. We want to make sure projects like this are in the five-year capital project plan," he said. A lift station in the project area would probably need to be moved to make way for the street, said Gerber, but it is old and ready for reconstruction anyway. Moving it should be considered before reconstruction begins, he added.

Charles Koch, a board member, said the lift station has been having problems "for a while," and that the 30th Street extension is "long over due."

A cost estimate for the project is about $1.6 million, based on the highest rates of previous bonds the city holds, according to Gerber. Relocating the lift station would cost about $300,000.

The board agreed to let Gerber proceed immediately with research and design for the project, but first, he needs to find money in the budget, perhaps as much as $100,000.