But most of the Capital Improvement Program is intact for this year

ROCKFORD — Rockford is scaling back some road and infrastructure projects because of the new coronavirus pandemic, but it is taking advantage of low construction costs to forge ahead with much of its five-year 2020 Capital Improvement Plan intact.


City officials are planning to delay a $1 million portion of a plan to improve Alpine Dam, reduce spending on residential road improvements and reschedule other projects.


“We’re looking at an 8 to 10% reduction in our revenues,” said Timothy Hinkens, Rockford Capital Improvement Program manager. “So the question is: What projects do we need to push back to balance our budget? In the short run — at least in 2020 — not much, is the answer.”


Officials are projecting the city in 2020 will collect $24.5 million in infrastructure sales and motor fuel taxes — the primary sources of local revenue for city road, bridge and storm water repairs. The local dollars are used to leverage millions in additional state and federal funds.


That is $3.7 million less than previously anticipated as the pandemic response slows economic activity and travel. The city is also predicting that between 2021 and 2024, the city will collect $102.7 million from those sources, $16.8 million, or 14%, less than projected before the pandemic.


The losses in part mean this year’s planned $2.5 million reconstruction of Sandy Hollow Road from Kishwaukee Street to Ninth Street is being pushed back to 2022. The delay is also a chance for the city to better coordinate the project with planned railroad improvements.


Rockford is also delaying a portion of its plans, years in the making, to rehabilitate the earthen Alpine Dam in Reuben Aldeen Park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending the addition of a $1 million auxiliary spillway that would be needed in case of a torrential flood.


That part of the plan will be delayed until 2024.


But the city has already awarded bids for a $1.7 million portion of the project to improve the dam’s obsolete gate system and rehabilitate the concrete spillway. The concrete spillway is designed to slow flood waters before entering Rockford neighborhoods if they ever rose high enough to overcome the dam.


Instead of requiring a public works employee to physically go the dam and crank the gate in Keith Creek up or down, the project will add video cameras and electronic gate controls, allowing the city to control the gate and monitor for flooding remotely.


The city still plans $48 million worth of capital improvement projects in 2020, in addition to $7.7 million in water system improvements.


Helping to maintain the construction program is the low price of construction this season.


At the same time tax collections are falling, oil prices are low and companies are hungry for business. Project bids are coming in lower than engineering estimates. A bid to reconstruct Strathmoor Drive, for example, was $500,000 less than expected and is helping to defray the cost of other projects.


Rockford is adding a planned estimated $2 million reconstruction of Madison Street from East State Street to Y Boulevard in 2021 to coincide with Union Pacific railroad’s plans to improve tracks in the area of a derailment Monday.


Highlights of this year’s plan include $5.5 million for neighborhood roads, down $500,000 from the original plan; $7.5 million to reconstruct East State Street from Mill to Bell School roads; and $2.5 million for Ninth Street from Woodruff Avenue to East State Street.


Public Works Director Kyle Saunders said the updated CIP does not assume any pandemic-related state or federal relief packages or grants. The plans predict the recovery will be painfully slow from pandemic-related economic losses in a pattern similar to the recovery from the Great Recession after the housing market collapse of 2008.


“We are not saying this will be a very short decrease in revenue and a subsequent return back to business as usual,” Saunders said. “We’re projecting this decrease in revenue and that a very slow recovery will continue over the next five years as we implement our overall capital improvement program.”


Jeff Kolkey: jkolkey@rrstar.com; @jeffkolkey