It’s that time of year when the winter’s havoc is unveiled in full pot-hole splendor.
Everyone looks forward to the return of warm weather — including our street crews who will finally be able to pack the snow plows into storage and load up on hot mix asphalt so that they can get busy un-doing all the damage that winter’s freeze-thaw cycle left us.
2014-15 turned out to be a particularly rough winter on City streets so City Council asked the staff to come up with some recommendations for how to catch-up. Here’s a summary of the strategy that we’ve put into action — with more discussion to follow with City Council in their meeting next Wednesday night (May 6th).
1. On-Going Pothole Repairs — Gene (City Public Service Director) is working up the numbers of potholes already filled this year but needless to say the crews have been working street repair as often as the weather has permitted (dry conditions are required) and hot mix asphalt has been available. Cold patch used in the winter has minimal benefits so part of what the crews face is going back to all the cold patch locations, cleaning out the hole, squaring up the street cut, and then layering and compacting the aggregate and hot mix in the hole. Unfortunately it’s a time consuming process but potholes done wrong (“dump and run”) come right back so we’ve tried to emphasize to the crews that even though the list of work is long, take the time to do it right the first time.
2. Triple-Down Plan — Gene (City Public Service Director) has been meeting with the crews and street supervisor to layout an overtime plan with a goal of tripling the time and resources committed to internal street repairs in order to catch up following this rough winter. Gene is wrapping up and confirming his calculations but he is planning to propose converting from 8 hour days to 12 hour days for City crews (with Saturdays as an option as well) for the duration of time it takes to eliminate the current backlog of pothole repair work orders. Gene estimates that the cost of “catching-up” in time and materials is likely going to be about $275,000. He will share the derivation of his cost and work load estimates with Council at our May 6th Committee meeting.
3. New Durapatch Pothole Repair Machine Purchase — Our 2015 approved Capital Plan includes a Durapatch portable pothole repair machine which was approved for purchase by the City’s Board of Control. With that order in place we’re anxious to receive the equipment and accelerate the completion of the pothole repair list.
4. Street Repair Contractor Supplement — City Engineer Jim Bowling has identified a couple of street repair locations (VFW Parkway, Tallmadge Avenue, Whitehall Blvd., Walnut Street and School Street) where he and Gene believe a private contractor (to be hired by the City) would be better suited to make the repairs due to the size of the job and equipment necessary to complete it. Jim will present his recommendation for the street repair contractor, including costs (estimated at $350,000) and street locations, at the May 6th Committee meeting.
5. Capital Plan Street Budget Re-Evaluation — Gene, Jim, Dave Coffee and I have met to start discussing options to ramp up our on-going capital commitment to street maintenance on an annual basis. Generally speaking we have tried to set aside about $500,000 annually to street paving and for the last 3 years we’ve been able to bump that number up to between $750,000 and $1 million. From an order of magnitude perspective it probably would take about $3 million a year to keep pace with all of the City’s street needs but that’s money we don’t have so in our presentation later this summer we’ll try to outline a couple of options for Council to consider to make some incremental gains towards that number.
It’s worth noting that a portion of our annual street paving funding goes towards the advance concrete work (curbs, gutters, driveway ramps, etc.) that is required to be completed before the street can be milled and re-paved. We generally try to get the concrete work done this year in preparation for next year’s paving. So in all likelihood if Council votes to allocate additional street repair funding in the capital plan we would likely use the funds this year to do the advance concrete work with the paving next year. I point that out only to say an increased capital allocation won’t have an immediate impact which is why we feel it’s important to “triple-down” on our pothole repairs at this time.
Also, please keep in mind that Gene and Gerald are approaching the pothole repair list in much the same way that they handle snow plowing — they’re starting with the most heavily traveled streets first (e.g., state routes), and then as they finish those streets they will move to the secondary/collector streets (e.g, Crain Avenue, Main Street), before they will then be able to shift their attention to neighborhood streets.
Gene is estimating that even at an accelerated pace it will take 1-2 months to wrap up the state routes and secondary streets so with the exception of a pothole that is so deep/large that it poses an imminent safety risk to the motorists on a residential street that we will dispatch a crew to repair immediately, residents are unlikely to see many city crews working potholes in neighborhoods until mid-summer.
We realize that everyone is anxious to have their street repaired asap and we would like nothing more than to do that but given the length of the list of potholes and the hours available in a work day, sticking to a methodical, logical and defensible strategy of busiest roads first is critical to the effectiveness of spending our time and limited resources.