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City of DeKalb finds more than half of roads are in failing or prefailing condition

DeKALB – More than half of the city’s roads are in failing or prefailing condition, and it would cost $9 million a year to maintain them, according to DeKalb city engineer John Laskowski. 

The city analyzed DeKalb’s road network using infrastructure management services (IMS), which allowed staff to use software and assign each road in town a pavement index number. 

A rating of 59 or below indicates a failing condition. Streets with indexes between 60 and 79 are considered prefailing. If a street is at an index of 80 or above, it is considered acceptable, Laskowski said. 

“Our average street is at 78, which means we are just under satisfactory condition of the roadways,” Laskowski said.

The projected road maintenance costs would keep the streets at that level of service and include a variety of different projects. 

“That could include anything from ripping the entire pavement off the street and starting brand-new to resurfacing. … Usually the deeper the problem, the most costly it is going to be,” Laskowski said. 

This fiscal year, there are $390,000 in motor-fuel tax funds and $300,000 in capital allocated toward street maintenance and reconstruction, according to Cathy Haley, finance director. 

“Overall, we’re spending about the same as we have in past years with those funds,” Haley said.

There also is $1 million in tax increment financing funds allocated toward roads within the TIF districts. 

A major problem the city faces is that there are a lot of roads that need reconstruction instead of maintenance. Reconstruction costs about four times as much as preventative maintenance, Laskowski said. 

Some issues that have contributed to poor road conditions include the continual freeze-and-thaw during the winter months and heavier trucks on the roads on a daily basis, such as garbage trucks, Laskowski said.

Mark Espy, assistant director of public works for the city, said he was nervous about how future winters could escalate deterioration of the roadways. 

“This past winter was an average winter for potholes,” Espy said, “But the winter prior to that was absolute havoc. If you think about a piece of wire, you can bend it back and forth so many times before it breaks,” 

Grants for road maintenance are rare and difficult to secure, Laskowski said. 

“Funding sources are very limited. … There are no real grants dedicated toward road maintenance these days. [Grants} aren’t a reliable or sustainable funding source for the roads,” he said. 

The most cost-effective way to bring road conditions up is to take care of the streets that don’t need a complete reconstruction. 

“By attacking more streets in the prefailing category, it will bring the average up quicker than doing a shorter reconstruction,” Laskowski said. 

Money allocated to the roads this fiscal year will mostly be spent on a pavement patching program, which will result in the roads declining at a slower rate, Laskowski said.

The patching program will begin in August. In February 2016, Laskowski said he will begin to put bids out for additional road maintenance. 

“The road network may not have had adequate funding in the past,” Laskowski said. “In the future it probably won’t have it either. … But maybe we can make some progress,” 

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