Archive for Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Detour ahead: 31% of streets need rebuilding

Ninety miles of city roads are beyond repair; no cost estimate given for replacement

February 7, 2006


A new City Hall report shows 31 percent of Lawrence streets have deteriorated to the point they cannot be repaired. Instead, they must be rebuilt.

City Commissioner David Schauner said that's because the city for too long has put off until later needed repairs.

"It is now later," Schauner said. "That's a huge problem. I think it means that historically we haven't been doing enough preventive maintenance. It has been a pay-me-now or pay-me-later situation, and we have oftentimes chosen later."

The report by the Public Works Department doesn't estimate what it would cost to rebuild the streets rated unacceptable. Instead the report focuses on providing additional maintenance to streets still deemed adequate.

Chuck Soules, director of the city's Public Works Department, said the department needs $6 million per year through 2009 to keep additional streets from falling into the unacceptable category.

"We have some needs, and they are more than what we've previously budgeted for," Soules said.

Concerns about funding

Currently, the city spends $4 million for its primary street maintenance program, which is up $1 million from 2005 levels. City commissioners on Monday said they would work hard to come up with the extra money but were concerned about what it would do to the city's budget and taxes.

"I know we can't just allow our debt to continue to grow," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said of the city's budget, which includes about $100 million worth of debt. "But we have to take care of our infrastructure. We can't allow it to deteriorate beyond the point of repair. This is a really basic service that people expect."

Schauner said a bigger concern than finding the money for proper maintenance may be finding ways to replace streets already past fixing.

The city has about 300 miles of streets, meaning that about 90 miles of streets have been rated unacceptable. To put that in perspective, rebuilding about seven blocks of Kasold Drive near Clinton Parkway is slated to cost the city approximately $3.7 million this year.

"I don't know how much it will cost to fix all of them, but I know it will be more than $6 million a year, a lot more," Schauner said.

Braxton Vardys, 13. Lawrence, along with his dog Bella, avoid the bad part of 21st and Tennessee as he was out  skating Monday afternoon.

Braxton Vardys, 13. Lawrence, along with his dog Bella, avoid the bad part of 21st and Tennessee as he was out skating Monday afternoon.

Soules said the problem is manageable. He said that after 2009, the city shouldn't need to spend the entire $6 million per year for preventive street maintenance. Some of that money could be redirected to major repairs or rebuilding.

Longer-lasting streets

Soules said future streets also should last longer. Since he joined the department in 2002, he's implemented new building standards that beef up the base of city streets. The city also is turning to concrete over asphalt more often for its building material. Soules said concrete streets should last approximately 30 years without major repairs.

The bad news is that there were plenty of Lawrence streets built under older standards. For example, Wakarusa Drive was built directly on Kansas clay that frequently shrinks and expands. The results are numerous cracks and potholes for motorists to avoid.

"At some point, we're going to have to rebuild that road," Soules said. "We can keep patching and patching and patching, but at some point it is going to be a waste of time."

A city engineer during the past year rated every city street based on the severity of cracking, potholes, rutting and other structural issues. The survey ranks each segment of street on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best score. The overall average for the city was 69.

City commissioners will review the report as part of their weekly meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


bankboy119 12 years, 4 months ago

Don't want to mess up the nice cars there.

craigers 12 years, 4 months ago

of course, all the lexus', mercedes, and hummers can't go over potholes you know.

12345 12 years, 4 months ago

Many of the streets around Alvamar are privately owned and maintained by neighborhood associations. That may be the case with El Dorado Street.

Centrist 12 years, 4 months ago

Fix the damn roads! Oh wait ... they are actually considering it? Good ... let's use those tax dollars properly for a change. No more sculptures of fictional birds and Dadaism ....

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

"No more sculptures of fictional birds and Dadaism ...."

I'm not sure what the bird cost, but the Dadaism proclamation cost absolutely nothing out of city coffers.

This problem is likely 100% a result of growth. Limited city funds are having to build and maintain more and more roads for more and more traffic because growth isn't required to pay for itself.

KsTwister 12 years, 4 months ago

Just a quick point,last year Kasold was resurfaced to fix potholes and quiet the noise from all the citizens dissatifaction with the Lawrence streets. Now, mind you we have had a very mild winter,no freeze and thaw excuses. But Kasold had new cracks and potholes before winter even set in. Someone has to be lining their pockets to give such a cheap repairs to all of us......or maybe they move it to pay for more important things like round-abouts? I suggest that Lawrence needs "monitored" city officials by other city department officials.At least I want the truth this time.

mcoan 12 years, 4 months ago

No, you can't just ignore traffic calming devices. They're needed, too.

But It's all part of what is known as "planning." You plan for growth, you plan to rebuild your streets every X years, you plan a budget for traffic calmers when needed, you plan for stop lights that are synchronized. Then you implement the plan and FUND it (and not with debt, dammit). That's what a real public body does. That way, you don't get any $20M surprises.

How about a 5-cent fuel tax to fund a Street Rebuilding Fund? Sure, some folks will scream, but that represents only about a 2.2% increase in the price of gas. It's doubtful you would get much "leakage" to other towns if that's all it is. It's not right that people who don't drive should have to pay for it, so a fuel tax is the safest way to go.

But don't implement the tax before the damn plan.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

I like the idea of the fuel tax, but I don't think the city has the authority to implement it. Anybody know if that would be possible?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

Now that there aren't semis driving 40 mph down Barker Street, I have to disagree that they weren't needed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

They don't use it nearly as much any more. I assure you that they used to-- a short cut to downtown, N. Lawrence, 6th St and west.

spikey_mcmarbles 12 years, 4 months ago

The city inspection department is mostly to blame for our failing infastructure; just look at the crumbling curb and gutter along 6th, 15th, Kasold, etc etc. Without proper oversight, poor construction materials and contractor shortcuts are the cause for many of our street problems.

I say the city manager should fire the entire city construction inspection staff!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm not entirely convinced of the utility of the traffic islands, either, but we don't have enough law enforcement officers to rely on them alone (and signs along with a couple of bucks will get you a latte.)

irnmadn88 12 years, 4 months ago

Uh...when the residents along Haskell Avenue were asked to pay for the improvements to Haskell Ave, the City assured them that NO trucks would be allowed to use that street...

As for road construction. It is always a trade off whether to build more expensive, durable roads with cheaper roads that WILL require more maintenance. The tipping point is how many roads have to be built when and how soon they need to be built (or with how much sustained interuptio...Kasold Drive and the Lecompton Bridge for example.)

Or as a saying goes...

You can have a job done two of three ways: quick, good, or cheap.

A quick, good job won't be cheap; A good, cheap job won't quick; A cheap, quick job won't be good.

Quite frankly, I think it is planned obsolesence. You'd think that with all the advancements in the last century, somebody would have figured out a better way to build a lasting road.

wheatridge 12 years, 4 months ago

Don't you just love the city commission form of government. And don't forget development is BAD for the community, capitalism is evil, can't we all just live together in walking neighborhoods with mom and pop shops.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

NO NEW TAXES! Use the millions you already receive for things we really need. No more roundabouts. No purchase of Farmland property or greenbelt. Close Eagle Bend. No new library. No new sport complex. None of this until you get the streets and the sewers fixed. Other than police and fire protection, those are the only required functions of the city; if you can't do those things well, then don't even attempt to do anything else.

And NO RAISES for City Administration. They don't deserve it.

When is the next election?

Jamesaust 12 years, 4 months ago there a surprize that ever-increasing acreage of sprawl leads to more miles of road to be repaired? Is there any avoidance of that fact?

dviper 12 years, 4 months ago

City Commissioner David Schauner said, "That's because the city for too long has put off until later needed repairs."

Well, he should know, because he is one of commissioners who decide where money is allocated and authorized for street maintenance. Also, didn't he make a statement at the city commission meeting during the last couple of years that money could be diverted from street maintenance to fund other city projects? Does anyone have access to the city commission meeting minutes or video tapes that might show this?

dviper 12 years, 4 months ago

Bozo said earlier that growth does not pay for itself. Where is your data and proof? Isn't that what you are always telling other posters?

One thing that the public should understand is that during the original development of property (commercial, multi-family, single family, etc:) the developer pays for all infrastructures, and the city does not pay for anything. All infrastructures means, all streets, sewers, water supply lines, electrical, telephone, cable, sidewalks, street signs, street lights, mail boxes, fire hydrants, bike lanes / paths and traffic calming devices. The developer also gives / grants the land for all streets and rights of ways to the city free of charge.

For example consider this tract of ground in west Lawrence between Bob Billings Pkwy on the south and 6th Street on the North, and from Wakarusa on the east and George Williams on the west. In this tract of ground the city did not pay for anything during the original development, the developers of this ground paid for everything, which is standard practice.

For major collector streets such as Wakarusa, George Williams and Bob Billings Pkwy, the city does pay for a portion of the streets usually around 45%, with the landowners on either side of the new street paying for 55% plus of the cost of all improvements.

In these new development areas as mentioned above, the city of Lawrence is forcing developers to build roundabouts and traffic circles or they will not approve the development projects. That's why in these areas, the streets are flooded with traffic impediments, which only slow the traffic briefly before people continue speeding along their way to Langston Hughes School. Additionally, guess who's paying for the roundabouts, traffic circles, bike lanes, additional sidewalks etc:? It's not the developer or builders; it's ultimately the new homeowners of the new housing in this area. Just another reason why housing prices continue to increase.

lunacydetector 12 years, 4 months ago

i think marion hit the nail on the head regarding his 1903 car to maneuver around lawrence's rutted streets. it is smart growth in action. smart growth AKA new urbanism is all about living in the late 1800's. what better way to regress in time by letting the streets go to hell? bring back the chamber pot and the horse and buggy with that VERY expensive roundabout! now we're talking....i see utopia just around the corner.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

They started uncovering the brick streets to slow down the traffic. At least that is what they said when they did it in my neighborhood.

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

Man, you must be joking. Ruts and holes and heaving paths of bricks is aesthetic?

Godot 12 years, 4 months ago

That last phrase doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean. I guess one could start heaving while trying to navigate those streets.

wonderhorse 12 years, 4 months ago


But you have to admit, it does make you go really slow!

Harry_Manback 12 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, it just took me 25 minutes to drive 2 miles home because of all the one way and one lane streets here. I guess I should just walk next time...

tpatric 12 years, 4 months ago

It is time to reform the structure of our city government. Lawrence has grown too large to be managed by part-timers. We have real problems which need real answers, and we need a representational city commission based upon the makeup of the distinct districts of this city.

nonimbyks 12 years, 4 months ago

Well, whatever you do, don't come down my street to fix them. All that noise will disturb my cat, create dust, and the chemicals needed are not good for my wellbeing. Oh, but find a way I can drive my HUMMER so I don't get it dirty or have to drive around the potholes on these trashed roads from all of the OTHER SUVs.

gontek 12 years, 4 months ago

Nice work slash, glad to see the report, it should make for a great map.

I often wandered about base repairs back in the 90's, when I lived off of quail creek drive. There was a pothole there big enough to park a car in, a major base failure, that was treated repeatedly with cold patching. A well built street should have 6" of base mix below 2" of fine asphalt. Often new residential construction probably has 2-4 inches of asphalt. Developers probably save a ton of money that way, and once approved by the city's inspectors, it becomes the city's long term maintenance problem. 2-4" of asphaltic street does not hold up very well to a trash collection truck once a week.

I am happy to see Chuck is beefing up the standards. Development may cost more, but it will save taxpayers millions if these things are done right the 1st time.

gontek 12 years, 4 months ago

Maybe what the city needs is a couple of public works crews with jackhammers, to or three dump trucks, a uniloader, and a road construction crew. Patching is for cold weather, but get out there in the summer and rebuild some streets! Doesn't the city have a million dollar paving machine?

I wonder if it would be cheaper to DIY a lot of this rather than contract it out. I would think it would be, plus then the city could prove it can do things right.

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