Street plan should help preserve city roadways

By 
Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, June 25, 2020
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This old cast iron pipe was found under one of the streets being replaced as part of the East Downtown project. It is rotted out by Laurel’s “hot soil,” which degrades metal after a number of years. Workers have also unearthed wood, lead, and asbestos-concrete piping, all of which will be replaced with pvc pipe.

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This map depicts a portion of the Paser ratings for Laurel streets. The streets on the map (which can be viewed at laureloutlook.com) were rated by KLJ Engineering for the city to use for planning repairs and upkeep.

This map depicts a portion of the Paser ratings for Laurel streets. The streets on the map (which can be viewed at laureloutlook.com) were rated by KLJ Engineering for the city to use for planning repairs and upkeep.

Despite the overwhelming nature of repairing Laurel’s city streets, not to mention the cost, Public Works Director Kurt Markegard is optimistic about the system being used to determine which streets need what level of repairs.

“It’s a balancing act,” he explained, “We have to determine which roads can be patched or chip-sealed to extend their life, and figure out how much money we can devote to that.”

Towards that end, KLJ Engineering, the city’s engineers, have ranked every city street from 0 to 10 using the Paser Pavement Management Plan.

“Zero is essentially not a street at all and 10 is new construction,” Markegard said. “The plan takes into consideration the condition of the asphalt, if there is a good foundation under it and other factors. Then if we have to replace water or sewer, that is a separate cost.”

In addition to limited financing, many of Laurel’s streets are 30, 40 and up to 50 years old, he said. “In the past they put streets in with consideration for how much it cost, but disregarded how well they would hold up, and the result is streets without a sufficient gravel bed under them,” he said. “The asphalt on mud creates cracks. Cracks allow water in and with our freezing and thawing those streets then get worse and have cracks and potholes.”

The city does what it can to keep up with the road maintenance and this year Laurel was fortunate and got bids in early. When contracts fell through because of the coronavirus, the city was able to secure lower prices and get more work done. “We are doing our best to take care of

“We are doing our best to take care of streets graded 6 and 7,” Markegard said. “A lot of our streets [as shown on map #1 online] are good at one end and the other end has eroded because of water pooling. That’s another thing that can breakdown asphalt.” He cited Alder Ridge Trailer Park as an example. “There is only one drain there. It’s on the east end and that’s where we need to make repairs, if you look at the map.”

The map and additional items were produced by KLJ by inspecting every city street. When the council requests initial budget figures every fall, Markegard can easily see from the maps which streets need repairs most urgently and budget accordingly.

According to the PASER manual, “Experience has shown that there are three especially useful steps in managing local roads:

1. Inventory all local roads and streets.

2. Periodically evaluate the condition of all pavements.

3. Use the condition evaluations to set priorities for projects and select alternative treatments.

A comprehensive pavement management system involves collecting data and assessing several road characteristics: roughness (ride), surface distress (condition), surface skid characteristics, and structure (pavement strength and deflection).”

Markegard said that that he and city staff are looking out 50 years out, so having all the information at hand and computerized makes the job easier. “Streets have a life of about 15 to 20 years,” Markegard said. “People don’t understand that when we overlay or repair a street, we are trying to extend it’s life.”

The City’s plan calls for more than $35 million in repairs for the entire city, money Laurel doesn’t now have. That includes $6.2 million for crack sealing and chipping, $2.9 million for overlay, and $17.5 million for long-term overlay. The $35.5 million needed for repairs doesn’t include the cost of replacing the infrastructure like water lines and sewer. “It’s incredibly discouraging looking at the numbers,” he said. “If we don’t focus on tackling some of the work every year, it’s overwhelming.”

Although the City is repairing a number of streets this year, residents sometimes gripe because they think their streets are worse. “The streets we repair need it,” Markegard said. “Ask the people who live there. They know.”

East Downtown

The east end Downtown project is a different type of project. The streets are being replaced curb-to-curb through a grant from Tax Increment Finance District funds. Businesses or other entities can request funding from the LURA board for improvements to their property in the district. The funds are paid by property owners through local taxes in the district. That money is set aside for community development, including infrastructure.

Idaho, Washington and Wyoming Avenues are being replaced from Main St. to First St., including infrastructure.

“We knew the work needed to be done because of problems we had and when we got down there, there were 2 inch water lines and cast iron pipes rotted out,” Markegard said. Ensuring sufficient water for fire services requires bigger lines. So the neighborhood will be getting bigger lines and a new fire hydrant has been installed.

South Side

The streets on the South Side can’t even support the equipment necessary for making repairs. The entire neighborhood is rated 2. With a base composed primarily of mud and given their condition, they have to be replaced. City staff hope to find help with funding that project and are working with the State for the upgrade of W. Railroad, which is a major thoroughfare to a number of residences and businesses in that neighborhood.

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