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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cities playing catch-up on street maintenance, road work

July 30, 2006

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University towns similar to Lawrence are constantly looking for new technologies and considering new methods of taking care of street maintenance.

Earlier this year, Lawrence hired a consulting firm to study and report ways the city can better fund street projects and other infrastructure. Manhattan, home to Kansas State University, has done the same thing.

"We hired a consultant to rate all our roadways," Manhattan city engineer Robert Ott said. "We're supposed to be getting all that data in August."

While Manhattan used ground-penetrating radar to detect problems with its 187 miles of streets, other cities use different ways of rating their streets. They drill for samples to see what's beneath the pavement, and they feed into a computer information about road conditions, traffic levels and other factors to come up with maintenance and rebuilding plans showing where to spend the money.

Street maintenance and construction budgets also vary among the cities the Journal-World contacted: Norman, Okla.; Ames, Iowa; Iowa City, Iowa; and Columbia, Mo., as well as Manhattan.

Lawrence is trying to catch up on street maintenance after cutting back on money spent in previous years. If it's approved, the 2007 budget would add $2 million to street maintenance, bringing the total up to about $6 million.

In Ames, $2.67 million was budgeted for this year to fund basic street maintenance. Attempts are made to add more funds to the city capital improvements budget and use general obligation bonds as street reconstruction is needed. The city follows a continuous five-year plan for maintaining and rebuilding streets. The plan is updated yearly.

But Ames also is trying to catch up on street work.

"Unfortunately, we don't have enough money to catch all of those streets in a rehabilitative state, and so we end up having to reconstruct them, and it gets more costly," city engineer Tracy Warner said. "We are in pretty good shape compared to some communities."

Ames is reconstructing residential streets that are now on public bus routes. Those streets were not designed to handle heavy bus traffic, Warner said.

Norman is using a $25 million bond issue to get caught up on its major street maintenance problems. It is in the second year of a five-year improvement plan. Its street and sidewalk daily operations funding is $4.86 million.

Columbia has $4.85 million budgeted for operations on its 425 miles of streets.

"We're not in real bad shape, but our citizens expect better," street superintendent Jim McKinnon said. "We've had citizen surveys, and they are concerned about road conditions."

Ott thinks Manhattan's streets generally are in good shape. The city will use information from its consultant about how to prioritize street maintenance. The city has $3.73 million set aside for maintenance.

In Iowa City, the Street Division contracts for $40,000 in crack-sealing asphalt operations each year, assistant superintendent John Sobaski said.

A total of $443,345 was allowed for street maintenance in 2006. For 2007, the city has budgeted $765,000 for capital improvements.

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