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Road maintenance: Are we there yet?

Citizen's View: Jeff Gudman

GUDMANRoads are getting better. But without sustaining maintenance, roads will deteriorate.

How has the City been doing on road maintenance? What is the status today? Where do we go from here? There is good news and bad news.

The good news:

1) The City has completed the work necessary to execute a successful pavement management plan going forward. Part of the work, since 2002, has been tracking how the City has been doing through a measure called the Pavement Condition Index (PCI). The PCI is a digital measure between 1 and 100 of the overall status of roads in the city.

2) Thanks to a narrow-and-deep, multiple-year focus, not only has the PCI decline since 2002 been slowed, it has been reversed. In 2002, the PCI was 76. It declined to 64 in 2013, before improving to 68 in 2016. To continue progress and minimize losing ground, the 2016-17 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget has the highest five-year projected yearly average spending since 2011-12 five-year projections.

The bad news:

At the budgeted/projected investment level over the next five years, despite progress made, the PCI will likely decline and deferred road maintenance will likely increase as more streets fall into the “Poor” and “Very Poor” condition. The City categorizes roads into “Good,” “Fair,” “Poor” and “Very Poor.” Without increasing maintenance/rebuilding expenditures to sustain roads, they will deteriorate.

To reduce the deferred maintenance backlog, additional expenditures over and above current budgeted/projected five-year expenditures and support from various decision making/advising bodies are required. Unless additional expenditures are allocated to support an increase in the City’s projected road maintenance and street rehabilitation, the City may lose the opportunity to utilize lower-cost preventative maintenance and light overlay treatments.

Pavement management programs are designed to operate with a more cost-effective “best first” approach. The reasoning is that it is better and less expensive to treat streets with lower-cost, preventive maintenance treatments, such as slurry seals, chip seals and crack seals, and extend their life cycle before the street condition deteriorates to a state where it requires a significantly more costly rehabilitation/reconstruction treatment. This is the most cost effective life cycle approach to street maintenance. Early treatment means a street will remain at a good PCI level for a longer period of time.

There are sources of funding over and above the current five-year budgeted/projected expenditures.

The City can transfer the general fund reserve for City Hall work to roads. The needed City Hall work also can be funded with East End Urban renewal district dollars, actual property tax revenues received in the general fund over and above what was budgeted, giving priority to road projects in the East End urban renewal district and other potential dollars in the general fund.

With the road maintenance dollars, an overall plan is needed. This is accomplished by:

1) Dig once — link major street repairs with utility maintenance schedules and pathway, sidewalk, bike pathways and projects.

2) Obtain detailed subsurface information on selected sections before major rehabilitation projects are contracted.

3) Evaluate specific treatments within the context of the overall pavement management program.

4) Keep the focus of available city dollars on a narrow and deep basis, not wide and thin allocation.

A continued sustained long-term focus on roads matters. Otherwise, progress made will be for naught.

Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council. But the column is a reflection of his views and not necessarily those of the City Council.