Hagerstown set aside $650,000 for pavement preservation program

June 18, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Traffic barrels separate new center lane construction on South Edgewood Drive at Dual Highway.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Maintaining roads might not be the most glamorous of state and local governments' responsibilities, but when cracks, ruts and potholes appear, local drivers find its importance all too clear.

In recent years, shrinking budgets and lower distributions of highway user revenue have made it more difficult for local governments to keep up with the needs of area roads. In this two-part series, which began last Sunday, The Herald-Mail examines how funding shortages have affected road work from the state level to local towns.

The City of Hagerstown will receive more than $400,000 in fiscal year 2012 to invest in its roads, but a spike in the price of liquid asphalt since December will limit how much bang the city can get for its buck.

The city has set aside $650,000 for its fiscal year 2012 pavement preservation program, the bulk of which comes from highway user revenue, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

"This is well within what a municipality our size should be doing," he said.

Pavement preservation is part of the city's annual capital improvement program, and includes milling and paving portions of several streets, patching isolated deteriorating areas and crack sealing, Tissue said.

Hagerstown will receive $477,670 from the state in highway user revenue next year, Jack Cahalan, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman, wrote in an email.

Tissue said $390,000 will go to the pavement preservation program, while the remaining $87,670 will be put into the general fund for road-related projects.

In fiscal year 2011, the city budgeted $604,000 for pavement preservation, of which only about $77,000 came from highway user funds, Tissue said.

The allocation included $404,000 in federal stimulus dollars, distributed by Washington County, and was to be used for both fiscal year 2011 and 2012, he said.

Of the $604,000, the city will carry over $174,000 to fiscal year 2012 for pavement preservation.

The remaining funds will come in the form of $16,000 in prior bond proceeds and a $70,000 carryover from the Edgewood Drive project — which will be used to pave the rest of South Edgewood Drive to the city limits, Tissue said.

Choosing which projects make the city's annual list of priority projects, and ultimately which of those projects will be paved, is not simply a matter of determining the streets in the worst condition, Tissue said.

What is perhaps the city street in most need of repair, West Antietam Street — from Walnut Street through the West Washington Street intersection — is on the list to be milled and paved this summer.

Issues with residents installing new curbs and sidewalks pushed the project back a year, Tissue said.

Utility work often determines the paving schedule, as the city tries to avoid utility companies milling newly paved streets to do work.

But it is the price of liquid asphalt that will determine how many projects on its priority list the city can afford to complete in a given year.

"We may not have the money to get to all the paving projects, and some might be pushed to the next year," Tissue said.

Since December, the price of liquid asphalt has jumped 37 percent, from $472 per ton to $645 per ton, Tissue said.

The city will buy about 6,000 tons of asphalt this year, he said.

Due to its petroleum composition, asphalt's price is directly linked to the price of oil, which has risen since winter, he said.

Based on the oil market, city staff recommended June 14 that the city council cap its pavement preservation program spending for fiscal year 2012 at $620,000 and award its contract to low bidder Craig Paving.

The remaining $30,000 will be used for pavement markings, testing and miscellaneous items, according to city documents.

Bid in full, the 2012 priority list would cost the city $736,201.20 through Craig Paving, the documents said.

Bids for pavement preservation exceeded budgeted amounts because of the price of liquid asphalt, Tissue wrote in a memo to the council.

"Staff will postpone paving certain streets to stay within budget based on street condition and/or curb sidewalk replacement program," he wrote.

Regardless of market trends, there will always be streets in need of repair.

"If you get 15 to 20 years out of a street, that is pretty good," Tissue said. "Some of these we have gotten much more than that."

Some of the streets on the city's current list have not been touched since the 1980s, and Potomac Heights was last repaired in 1969, Tissue said.

"I think, in general, our streets are in good condition," he said. "But we could always do better."

One way the city extends the life of its streets is through isolated patching.

Next fiscal year, the city will spend about $40,000 on isolated patching, Tissue said.

Patched streets are streets that are in pretty good shape, but have the occasional pothole or alligator crack, he said. If not patched, those areas can grow into larger, more costly repair problems.

The city also plans to seal cracks on 15 streets, Tissue said.
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