Council hears options for street maintenance

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) During Monday’s Ponderay City Council meeting, engineer Dan Larson gave a presentation on street maintenance in which a software program was used to identify street conditions due to age. Schweitzer Plaza Drive was identified by the software as needing reconstruction, but until a visual inspection is done after the snow melts, actual street conditions are unknown.

PONDERAY — It was a night of presentations for City Council members Monday with few action items on the agenda.

Dan Larson from HMH Engineering, acting city engineer in the absence of Eric Olson, gave an in-depth look at possible projects and funding for street maintenance that could begin later this year.

While the streets are mostly covered in ice and snow, a software program ranks the condition of the streets based on age. For example, Schweitzer Plaza Drive is ranked at the top for reconstruction with a price of $179,122. Unfortunately, the software doesn't account for actual road wear, so some of the streets identified might be in better or worse shape than it anticipates. Staff will have to wait until spring before visually identifying the actual condition of the roads, Larson said.

"Before we go spend money I am sending a technician out to rescore the road," Larson said. "If it says you're due for a reconstruct, it's possible you may not and we can do some patching or some overlay and save the road for another five or 10 years."

Larson said the city's maintenance budget is $30,000, uncommitted project funds are $52,700 and estimated excess bridge funds are $44,600, leaving a possible $127,300 for street maintenance and repairs. The average spending per year on Ponderay street maintenance is $68,000, Larson said.

On bids city staff received last year, the estimated cost for some of the street reconstruction is about $35 per square foot. Chip sealing doesn't save much money, he said, and saves little to none compared to doing an overlay. An overlay typically is an addition of about two inches of asphalt after grinding down the existing street surface and adds five to ten years to the life of the road. Larson said resurfacing a road gives it a 20-year life span, but costs three times as much as an overlay. Chip sealing, he said, is about the same cost as an overlay and gives the road about five additional years.

Councilwoman Karen Engel asked Larson if chip sealing causes potholes to form sooner than other repair methods, to which Larson answered, "That is the perception."

"This is from driving these roads my whole life, and my perception is that chip seals tend to get torn up faster," Engel said.

With the excess of snow and possibly more on the way, the ultimate decision of which streets and which method to use for repair, as mentioned, will have to wait until spring.

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