There was disagreement at the Urban County Council meeting Tuesday over the city's plan to overhaul a section of South Limestone, but the council voted to accept a contractor's bid and allowed the project to move forward.
Lexington plans to replace sewer lines, bury utility lines, create a bike lane and install street trees, rain gardens and signs along a portion of South Limestone to improve the corridor between the University of Kentucky and downtown.
Work is scheduled to start within the next few weeks. South Limestone between Euclid Avenue and Vine Street will be shut down to most traffic during the first part of the project, which the city hopes will be finished in November. The entire project is slated to be completed by July 2010.
Vice Mayor Jim Gray cast the only vote against accepting ATS Construction's $13.1 million bid.
"There's three things that aren't right about the project: the process, the priority and the price," Gray said. "We're shoehorning ourselves into the project."
He said he's "very uncomfortable" that the city received only two bids, and they're higher than original estimates.
Mayor Jim Newberry responded that "we're paying a premium" for the work but that it's "an appropriate premium" based on the need to get the work done as quickly as possible. Incentives have been included for getting the project finished ahead of schedule.
Businesses along the street have voiced concern over how the work will affect them.
Third District Councilwoman Diane Lawless said that while she supports the project, the city did not do a good job of informing businesses early on about how it would affect them.
"They're scared to death that their entire livelihood is going to go down the tubes," she said.
Fourth District Councilman Julian Beard said he hopes the city can encourage the public to keep customer traffic flowing during the street's shutdown.
"It would be pretty silly to have this beautiful streetscape and nothing but empty buildings along it," he said.
On Tuesday, Newberry appointed a commission to provide input on the project. The South Limestone Reconstruction Commission includes property owners and representatives of businesses, UK and city government.