By Donald Harmon, Public Works Director
The results of last year’s citizen survey made it clear that maintaining our roadways are among our residents’ top concerns. It’s a priority for the Public Works Department, too.
The poor soils in our area contain highly expansive clays that make proper road construction and maintenance a formidable challenge. A proactive preventive maintenance program and responsible construction standards are essential to extending pavement life and substantially reducing the need for expensive maintenance.
In November, the College Station City Council directed the city to move from asphalt to concrete when building new residential and collector streets. A year-long review found that while initial construction costs for concrete were higher, maintenance and life-cycle costs were lower. Over time, that means concrete provides the best value.
As part of our thorough review, we met extensively with industry experts and area contractors along with representatives of the Greater Brazos Valley Builders Association, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the City of Bryan. Depending on variables such as lot size, roadway width — and if a collector street is involved — the study suggested a cost increase of about $1,400 per lot.
New development builds the majority of our residential and collector streets, and the new standards are without question a substantial expense. The trade-off is that the reduced maintenance costs mean more resources will be available to maintain our 773 lane miles of existing streets.
Our current street inventory includes 645 lane miles of asphalt and only 128 lane miles of concrete, and more than half of our streets are residential as illustrated in the following graphic. Collectors are streets like Victoria Avenue, while Barron Road is an example of an arterial:
The study showed that over the 30-year lifecycle of a typical residential street, using concrete would reduce maintenance costs by about 63 percent. Even when you factor in the higher initial cost of construction, concrete residential streets are about 20 percent cheaper in the long run.
Over three decades, that adds up to millions of dollars in savings.
What else are we doing?
We’re always looking for advances in materials and technology to address street maintenance concerns. For example, we’re evaluating a new product that’s designed to more effectively seal asphalt pavement from water infiltration, which is one of the leading causes of pavement failure. The initial results of a pilot study look promising.
In addition, a consulting firm will update the pavement condition index for all city streets this spring as part of our ongoing asset management program. Accurate information is critical in determining where to allocate resources to more efficiently maintain our entire roadway network.
We agree that proper street maintenance is essential. That’s why we’re taking responsible steps to improve the quality of our roads now that will benefit the city and its residents for generations to come.
Donald Harmon is in his 18th year with the City of College Station and his fourth as director of public works.
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