Photo by Judy Wiley
Age, spot repairs leave asphalt streets requiring millions worth of repair work
An uneven maintenance schedule, inadequate budget and rapid growth have left Colleyville losing the battle to keep up with cracks, bumps and crumbling edges on many major streets.
An analysis done for the city indicates that more than half the asphalt collector streets and arterials are in poor condition — in fact, it says that most of them need to be completely rebuilt.
The cost just to maintain the status quo, which would still leave some streets in bad shape: $2.7 million, city public works staff said. The city has $1.15 million budgeted now for contract street maintenance.
The City Council has called a special workshop for Jan. 29, to study infrastructure— roads as well as other needs — and look at a five-year plan.
“What we’re trying to do is try to start getting a handle on that, get a total assessment on where we’re at,” said Mayor David Kelly. “And then bit by bit start whittling away at this.”
Kelly said all cities have to do a balancing act between budget and needs.
“It’s always going to be a deteriorating asset,” he said.
The city has 283 lane miles of streets, and the pavement analysis done in February by Applied Research Associates, a national engineering company that specializes in pavement management, shows that the overall condition is good.
But that result is misleading, because so many concrete streets built in subdivisions over the last 20 years still are in good shape, says a city public works staff report.
The worst are former county roads that originally were built at least 30 years ago, said Bob Lowry, public works director.
The southern part of Heritage Avenue is an example. Many started out as dirt roads, were later covered in gravel and then eventually coated with asphalt.
The old roads were never designed to hold up under urban traffic and repeated pounding by heavy vehicles, such as garbage trucks.
Eventually, the unstable foundation led to cracks, dips, bumps and potholes.
Sometimes, old, worn pavement was simply covered over with a thin layer of asphalt, which didn’t hold up over time.
In other cases, maintenance work wasn’t done early on, which would have kept costs down and lengthened the roads’ lives.
“You’re dealing with limited budgets and amount of funds that can be put toward that purpose,” Kelly said. “Sometimes you have to make a decision to patch a road to make it serviceable.”
Once a street gets to the point of needing to be rebuilt, the cost is high — about $1 million per mile, Lowry said, compared to $200,000 per mile to resurface.
Lowry said the city is looking at the big picture.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is we’re trying to take a more comprehensive look at the city’s streets as a system.”
Kelly said that will allow the city to assess the need and “have a good plan to keep biting away at that need.”
In addition, the city has to look at what lies beneath the surface.
“We don’t want to go in and fix the street if the water and sewer lines need to be replaced,” Lowry said.
Another question confronting the council is what to do about the big bar ditches that line many of the streets.
Though the wide, grassy ditches contribute to the rural feel residents like in Colleyville, a photo in a presentation to the council shows some are deep enough to hold most of a small car, creating a hazard for motorists who can get stuck if they slip over crumbling asphalt edges and down a steep side.
Drainage, safety concerns and appearance all can be handled by putting a concrete pipe in the bottom of the ditch and burying it, Lowry said.
Looking ahead, standards also may need to change, according to a public works staff briefing for the council.
Narrower streets without deep bar ditches and a curb design that keeps pavement from breaking off at the edges of the ditches would be safer and less expensive than what the city Land Development Code calls for, according to the briefing.
The city approved a Street Capital Improvement Plan in 2008, and more than half of those projects have been completed.
But Lowry told the council recently the rest need to be re-evaluated, because priorities may change in light of the studies.
The council decided to call the special infrastructure workshop because the members have to consider so many issues both past and present before making decisions about something that everyone uses all the time.
“One of the things that really grates on citizens is when you say you’re going to do something and change your mind,” Kelly said.