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Pavement predicament: Budget constraints keep streets in a rut

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Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2005 10:00 pm

Maple Street resident Lucy Gomez was not shocked to learn her street is one of the worst in Lodi when it comes to pavement conditions.

"I'm not really surprised because it doesn't look good at all," she said.

Cracked and marked with the occasional pothole, Maple Street is one of Lodi's most deficient streets and is in need of a complete reconstruction.

Gomez would like to see that happen, but she also wants drivers to slow down as they drive on the street because of her young son.

Most residents likely feel the same way; street maintenance is great, but public safety is more important so more funding should go to the city's police and fire departments.

As Lodi continues to struggle with a tight General Fund budget, maintenance has taken a hit. Maple Street, for example, needs to be rebuilt, but the city just can't cover the $270,000 price tag.

Other streets in Lodi's eastside are in poor condition, and in fact more than half of the very worst can be found there because of deferred maintenance and poor construction materials.

Street Superintendent George Bradley said his department only receives about half of the $4 million it needs for maintenance, but he understands the city has higher priorities.

"We as a community want good trained cops in a patrol car that can get to my house in a minute when I call," he said.

While performing maintenance work is crucial to keeping Lodi's streets in good condition and residents happy, it's becoming harder for the city to keep up as the General Fund gets stretched further.

Half the funding, half the maintenance

In 2002, the city worked on more than 700,000 square yards of roads, or nearly a quarter of a square mile, but by 2005 the city only worked on about 100,000 square yards, less than half of what was needed.

Current unfunded street projects
Project Cost
Hutchins Street $465,000
Vine Street $280,000
Maple Street $270,000
Maxwell and Ackerman overlay $218,000
Lodi Avenue reconstruction $2.25 million
Walnut Street $345,000
Oak Street $104,000
Sacramento Street $235,000
Locust Street $124,000
Grapestake fence $876,000
Total $5.17 million
Source: City of Lodi

More than $8 million projects are unfunded through fiscal year 2008-09, with about half of those being maintenance. Some of those projects include work on Walnut Street from Church Street to School Street, and Oak Street from Sacramento to School.

A little more than 35 percent of Lodi's roads have nine to 10 years of remaining service life, and 4.5 percent only have a few years left, before they need to be rebuilt.

Bradley said Public Works is tossing around a few ideas to cut costs in the future. Those include using paving stones in some residential streets or levying assessments for maintaining alleyways.

To keep track of the city's street condition, Lodi has a computer system that includes a "pavement condition index," which is used by most cities. Each section of Lodi's 4,102,631 square yards of pavement is given an index number of 0 to 100, with 100 being perfect.

Most of Lodi's streets receive a score in the mid '60s, which is the "good" range of the index.

The city's large "arterial" roads such as Lower Sacramento Road come in at 76 or "very good." And residential streets average 64.

Several of Lodi's worst streets are located in the Eastside, but a few can be found in the western part of the city as well.

Lodi's Assistant Street Superintendent Curt Juran said the department fixes streets based on their condition, not their location.

For example, while Maple Street may be cracked and in need of work, so too is Vine Street from Ham Lane to Crescent Avenue and Hutchins Street from Lodi Avenue to Walnut Street.

Juran said some streets in the Eastside such as Maple and Accacia, built in the '50s and '60s, have poor base structure that easily lets in water and that leads to cracking.

Other streets have a base of "macadam" a mixture of small broken stones and a binding agent such as tar or asphalt that holds up better through time, Juran explained.

The city is also waiting on some repairs in the Eastside because of its sewer and water line replacement program.

A section of Charles Street, located between Stockton and Washington streets in the city's Eastside, needs to be rebuilt, but Bradley said the street division is waiting for new pipes to be installed beneath the road.

It wouldn't make any sense to lay down new pavement just to rip it out a few years later, he added.

One of the longest stretches of poor roadway in the city is Sacramento Street from Lodi Avenue down to Vine Street that has area's measuring 40 and 46 on the PCI index.

Retiree Howard Babcock lives on Chestnut Street just off the cracked and pitted section of Sacramento Street. He would like to see the city do some work on the street and even widen it because of the growing amount of traffic on the road.

"Something should be done to it," he said. "I think they can put a little money in the budget for that street and maybe put off some other streets that need work."

Babcock may like to see some work on Sacramento Street, but he understands the city has plenty of other projects and services to fund and not too much money to do it.

"I think the city is doing a good job with what they have," he said.

Holding work up

Officials say a large portion of the city's new roads in the southern and western neighborhoods rate high in the city's pavement quality index because they've been built in the last few years.

Once a street reaches the mid-40s it's time for major reconstruction work, but other issues may hold that work up, Bradley said.

Bradley said the index is not the only tool the city uses to make decisions on street repair and maintenance, but a key component to track what streets need what kind of work and when.

And if the city knows its going to have to make major improvements to a street, Bradley said it will let the road deteriorate because there's no point paving a two-lane street if its going to be expanded to three.

Bradley said streets have an expected life of 20 years, but Lodi has been successful in extending that time through regular maintenance.

"At minimum I'd like to get 40 years out of my streets," he said. "If we have the proper preventative maintenance strategies we can double the life."

Just like changing the oil on your car and taking it in for tune ups can extend the life of the vehicle and keep you from paying for expensive repairs, periodic maintenance keep streets from falling to such a state of disrepair they need an expensive overhaul.

Bradley said pavement innovations such as rubberized cape seals that maintain the smoothness of the street and protects it from water damage, makes dollars go further than before, yet if Lodi doesn't stay on its street repair in could reach the point where a couple million in repairs has ballooned into tens of millions.

"We can defer maintenance, and we do," Bradley said. "We can not defer maintenance indefinitely."

Contact reporter Andrew Adams at andrewa@lodinews.com.

Ranking Lodi's streets

Like most cities, Lodi uses a pavement management system that ranks streets with a Paving Condition Index number that helps the city's street staff decide when to do certain maintenance.

PCI is based on a 0-100 scale with the following classifications: 90-100, excellent; 75-89, very good; 60-74, good; 45-59, fair but needs immediate attention; below 45, very poor and may require major reconstructive work.

Citywide average ranking: 66

Breakdown by street type

Major arterial: 76

Minor arterial: 65

Collector: 65

Residential: 64

Best and worst streets in Lodi

Top 10 Streets

(All have a PCI of 97.1, very good)

1. Barkley Lane

2. Olson Drive from Pinkerton Way to Legacy Way

3. Pixley Parkway

4. Mammoth Way

5. Kingsbury Drive

6. Snowbird Drive

7. Sun Valley Drive

8. Mills Avenue, from Millbrook Drive to Incline Drive

9. Millbrook Drive

10. Mills Avenue, from Wyndham Way to Millbrook Drive

Bottom 10 Streets

(Most have PCI of 40, which requires reconstruction)

1. Lodi Avenue, from Main Street to Cherokee Lane

2. Hutchins Street, from Lodi Avenue to Walnut Street

3. Sacramento Street, from Tokay Street to Chestnut Street

4. Charles Street, from Stockton Street to Washington Street

5. Stockton Street, from Kettleman Lane to Elgin Avenue

6. Kirkwood Drive, from Ham Lane to Junewood Drive

7. Maple Street, from Washington Street to Cherokee Lane

8. Acacia Street, from Washington Street to Central Avenue

9. Vine Street, from Garfield Street to Cherokee Lane

10. Sacramento Street, from Spruce Street to Vine Street (PCI: 46)

- Source: City of Lodi Public Works Department.

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