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3/27/2013 9:38:00 PM
New approach will improve roads
By Michelle Charles

The City of Stillwater has been struggling to improve its street condition and a new approach will do it but will also cost more.

The City Council heard a presentation from Transportation Program Director Jason Peek that outlined a more proactive maintenance program designed to intervene before pavement condition is too far gone and extend the life of city streets.

He told them every $1 spent when a road is still in good condition would cost $8 if the maintenance were deferred until the road reaches poor condition.

Stillwater's overall pavement condition score has improved from 76 in 2007 to 78 in 2012 but that includes several new streets.

The city's overall investment in that time was $38 million, primarily focused on large street expansion or rebuilding projects.

The number of arterial streets, which have traffi c counts over 7,000, classified in poor condition have increased over the last fi ve years. During the same period, the number of collector streets (traffi c count over 2,500) and local streets (below 2,500) rated poor decreased.

The number of all three classes of streets classified as 'good' decreased over the fi ve years while the number of streets in 'very good' condition increased due to new construction projects and city road projects.

Peek said 2007 through 2012 was a dry period with limited freeze and thaw cycles, which probably kept pavement in better condition.

The city doesn't currently spend enough money to maintain road conditions as they are and the failing roads will continue to deteriorate, Peek said.

It would take about $3.6 million annually to keep the city's roads, when looked at as a system, in their current state.

Increasing that funding to $4.6 million would eventually allow the transportation department to get all city streets to at least a 'good' rating and keep them there, he said.

Spending more on preventative maintenance and increasing pavement rehabilitation programs while cutting the amount of reconstruction projects from 89 percent to 40 percent is part of the new approach.

Targeted repairs that redo only failed portions of some streets will also be part of the repair and deferred maintenance program. To do this, the city will need to find a source of funding for the maintenance program.

It currently has a 1/2 cent sales tax to pay for road expansion and reconstruction projects but nothing similar to cover maintenance.

The sales tax expires in 2016. City Manager Dan Galloway said funding options for the new program could include making the sales tax permanent, increasing it 5/8 or 3/4 cent, or possibly issuing bonds.

The councilors said they agree there should be a permanent source of funding but didn't have a financing plan in mind at this time. Peek said the old approach of listing specific projects and asking the council to pick which they wanted to do will be giving way to a more complex set of recommendations with projects chosen based on budget and overall pavement system condition.

Councilor Joe Weaver said the new approach might be a tough sell if people don't see road construction "People want to see those paving dollars at work and they want to know it's something that's going to affect them," he said. Mayor John Bartley said investing in streets and other types of infrastructure is important because its also an economic development issue and a quality of life issue.

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