In case you hadn’t noticed, Lawrence streets are starting to get better.
The fact that you may have needed a city report to tell you that, however, means the condition of city streets still has a ways to go.
Tonight, Lawrence city commissioners are scheduled to review a report that shows that a local sales tax levy approved by voters in 2008 is starting to have an effect. At that point, city officials saw little or no way to catch up on local street maintenance without finding a new revenue stream to fund that work. Dedicating the revenue from a local sales tax of 0.3 percent seems to have the streets heading in the right direction.
The report that is part of tonight’s City Commission agenda indicates that about 20.5 percent of the city’s streets now are classified as unacceptable. That’s one-fifth of the city’s streets, which isn’t great, but it’s significantly better than at the end of 2009, when nearly 30 percent of city streets were in that category.
As has been obvious from the number of street closings during the last couple of summer construction seasons, the city has been working hard to catch up with major street projects. Preventative measures also have been a priority. This is the time of year that used to have local motorists dodging around hundreds of potentially damaging potholes. In 2011, the city received 675 pothole reports, compared with 320 reports in 2012 and 260 reports in 2013. The city acknowledges it was helped by milder winters with fewer freeze-and-thaw cycles in 2012 and 2013, but big increases in the amount of crack sealer the city put down in the latter two years as a preventative measure also was a significant part of the equation. Keep your fingers crossed for the remainder of this winter.
City residents are happy to see revenue from the sales tax they approved having a positive impact on streets, but maintaining city streets is a never-ending challenge. More than $5 million is scheduled to be spent this year on major rebuilding projects, including work at 23rd and Iowa streets and Sixth and Iowa streets as well as portions of Wakarusa Drive and Bob Billings Parkway. Another $4.2 million is budgeted for maintenance projects.
Most Lawrence motorists still can identify at least a few trouble spots on local streets, but it’s good to see some tangible results from the sales tax commitment.