Archive for Monday, July 25, 2011

City audit finds Lawrence streets lasting longer, less prone to potholes

July 25, 2011


Lawrence streets really are better than they used to be.

A new audit out of Lawrence City Hall has found that changes to design standards made by the city in 2003 have improved the quality of city streets.

“They are lasting longer,” said City Auditor Michael Eglinski, who conducts performance audits of topics selected by the City Commission. “The changes should produce better streets, but it is going to take awhile.”

Commissioners ordered Eglinski to study whether the city’s current design standards for streets are providing the city with a better product. Eglinski said they are, and to understand why, you need to understand fly ash.

Fly ash is a by-product of burnt coal from power plants, and when you mix it with water it becomes hard like concrete. The city of Lawrence now requires that fly-ash be mixed with dirt to create a solid base for new streets. But it wasn’t until 2003 — about the time that Public Works Director Chuck Soules joined the city — that the city began requiring the base-stabilizing product. The result has been that older streets have bases that are prone to settlement and movement, and are difficult to keep in smooth driving condition.

In addition, Eglinski also found that the public works department is doing a good job of monitoring the best-practices of road design to ensure that the city doesn’t fall behind the curve again.

The audit, however, does not attempt to answer the question of why the city fell behind in the first place. The audit simply notes that the city changed its standards in 2003 but that “some other area communities had raised their standards years before Lawrence.”

As for what the audit did find:

  • The audit compared streets built in 2002 without the fly-ash and streets built in 2003 with it. The report found that 76 percent of nonresidential streets built without the fly-ash treatment had potholes. That compares to 41 percent of the streets that were built using the treatment.
  • Based on current pavement data — collected by public works employees who inspect and rate the condition of each street in the city — nonresidential streets built with the fly ash treatment are expected to last 25 percent to 40 percent longer before they need crack sealing, microsurfacing or mill and overlay.
  • Only 10 percent of the 205 miles of streets built in the 1980s and 1990s had a fly-ash treated subgrade. In the last decade, 70 percent of newly built streets have treated subgrades.
  • Public Works officials are monitoring street conditions and construction standards more closely and are implementing more frequent changes in construction standards. For example, last year the city changed its construction standards related to the use of recycled asphalt after officials began noticing the material seemed to be wearing at a much faster rate than standard asphalt. Since 2009, the city has been hosting an annual meeting with area contractors during which the city communicates changes to design standards.

Eglinski’s only recommendation for the city was to create a formal policy on how to maintain brick streets. The city for years has struggled with whether they should rebuild brick streets as brick or whether they should be replaced with traditional asphalt or concrete. It is definitely a money issue. Brick streets cost about three times as much to build as a conventional street.

City Manager David Corliss, in his response to the audit, said he agreed that a policy should developed. He said that one option could be that numbered streets that run east/west could be rebuilt with concrete or asphalt, while brick streets that run north/south could be rebuilt with brick. Those north/south streets tend to be more residential in nature, Corliss noted. Plus, he said the bricks from the east/west streets could be salvaged and used in rebuilding the north/south streets. Expect that idea, or something like it, to be presented to the City Commission in the future.

City commissioners tentatively are scheduled to review the findings of the audit at their Aug. 2 meeting.


evilpenguin 6 years, 5 months ago

Headline: Lawrence residents disagree with city audit's findings on potholes; complain.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, right. It's obvious you didn't check any of the streets in the Breezedale neighborhood, or in most of East Lawrence.

Oh, I just got it, you looked at the streets in JOCO West. Some of those have been redone three times in ten years; I guess practice does make perfect.

xclusive85 6 years, 5 months ago

ljworld staff, is there a way that you can do an interactive map showing which roads have been built since 2003?

Ralph, most of the streets in the east lawrence neighborhood haven't been built since 2003 meaning just over 3/4 of them would have potholes.

Ralph Reed 6 years, 5 months ago

I realize that most, if not all, of the East Lawrence streets predate 2003. The issue I have is that few, if any, have been rebuilt while some in JOCO West have been a couple of times in less than ten years. If the city paid as much attention to rebuilding East Lawrence streets as it does to JOCO West, then there wouldn't be any problems.

xclusive85 6 years, 5 months ago

Where does JOCO west start for you Ralph? What streets exactly have been rebuilt a couple of times in JOCO west? Mill and overlay doesn't count, only rebuilds. Also, keep in mind that I agree that the roads in East Lawrence are horrible and should be under a plan to rebuild them in a sensical pattern to reduce the effects on traffic flow in that part of the city. They could get them done in say 10 years (arbitrary number).

damnitimpissed 6 years, 5 months ago

People, the auditor is CURRENTLY looking at streets which were BUILT in 2003 in order to see how well they've held up in comparison to streets built the prior year, before the new requirement that "fly-ash be mixed with dirt to create a solid base for new streets."

In other words, he is not taking pothole data from 2003. This is 2011, he obtained current data, he broke that data down into two categories: streets built before 2003 and after 2003 (because 2003 is when Lawrence decided to raise standards for concrete). He then compared the two, and has come to the conclusion that streets built since 2003 are nearly twice as durable as those built before.


Also, I like the idea of a map! And where's the link to the full report?

John Kyle 6 years, 5 months ago

You're not allowed to post common sense! It even sounds like you read the article before you posted! Shame on you!

Ewok79 6 years, 5 months ago

Well put Queequeg!!! I get bored bouth 1/3 the way though, fall asleep, wake up & read the comments!!!

damnitimpissed 6 years, 5 months ago

Ahem... [insult to your intelligence]! [Presumptuous categorization of your political stance]! If you weren't so [socially undesirable characteristic] this godforsaken town wouldn't have so many [annoyance]s in the first place!! MODERATOR!!!

jsquared 6 years, 5 months ago

The town may want to check out towns that are ruining their aquifier's because of flyash heavy metals leaching into the soil. If you have a well you might want to check to see if your water is safe.

mdrndgtl 6 years, 5 months ago

At the rate Lawrence streets are developing potholes, we'll be the Venice of the midwest in 20 years.

CreatureComforts 6 years, 5 months ago

Well I DO carry an advanced degree in engineering, and it only takes one look at a Lawrence street "repair" crew to see how cheap the materials are that they use and how poor the repair work itself yeah, the original streets aren't that great to begin with (for more reasons than just the earth), and then the fixes on top are even worse.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 5 months ago

They can "SAY" whatever they like. I live in East Lawrence. The only new streets over here are in the "new" subdivision on O'Connell Road. But thanks for the roundabouts. NOT!

Richard Heckler 6 years, 5 months ago

If the city would spend less time and money building new streets elsewhere the city could better manage. All those new streets definitely increase the cost of living for all of us.

When visiting the east coast one thing I notice is the same two lane roads that have been around for decades and decades and decades. These roads handle way way way more rush hour traffic than 23rd or K-10 will ever carry. Day in and day out.

We've subsidized local profiteers at such a basic level for so long, that many people believe the status quo is actually fair and neutral. This is false. What we think of as a level playing field is tilted steeply in favor of local profiteers driving development.

There is one consequence that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes.

Lawrence,Kansas waste to much time and money satisfying local builder demands for new roads. There is simply no hard evidence that substantiates the developers desire for a South Lawrence Trafficway. People driving too fast and not paying attention is what causes accidents not the highway or streets.

waka3 6 years, 5 months ago

dude you people souldnt be driven cars

hail2oldku 6 years, 5 months ago

The city auditor needs to check out the overlay work done within the last two months on Parkside. The asphalt is already separated from the curb and there are seams that already need sealing.

Sometimes the low bid isn't always the best bid.

Oh, and as an aside, somebody please teach Ralph Gage how to properly navigate a round-a-bout. If there had been a car behind him this morning, he would have been rear-ended stopping in the middle of one to let a car enter.

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