May 272011

By Naomi Hatch–

“If you build it, you must maintain it,” said Snowflake Town Engineer Rob Emmett at the May 24 town council meeting in reference to roads.

Emmett explained that street maintenance consists of all activities necessary to maintain user safety and comfort, and includes pavement preservation. He explained that pavement is the largest capital investment in a transportation or street system, and is the most costly to maintain, as that requires a significant amount of time and material.

“Pavement preservation is typically achieved through the application of a pavement management system,” explained Emmett, defining it as “a set of methods or activities that provide cost effective and efficient strategies to sustain pavements in a condition acceptable to the traveling public at the least life cycle costs.” He noted that a successful pavement management system incorporates all aspects of an asset management program.

The required components of a pavement management system include: a street inventory and maps history of construction and maintenance measures; a condition survey, including evaluation of pavement roughness, ride, pavement distress (cracking, raveling, etc.), rutting and surface friction; traffic counts; and a database management tool.

Emmett also explained the pavement condition rating system categories, including: very good, pavement structure is stable with no cracking, no patching and no deformation evident, and riding quality is excellent; good, stable, minor cracking, generally hairline and hard to detect, little patching, dry or light colored appearance; fair, generally stable structure with some weakness evident, cracking easier to detect, patched, but not excessively, deformation pronounced, and the aggregate is clearly visible, but the ride is still good; poor, areas of instability, marked evidence of structural deficiency, large crack patterns (alligatoring), heavy and numerous patches, deformation is very noticeable and riding qualities range from acceptable to poor; and very poor, pavement is in extremely deteriorated condition with numerous areas of instability, a majority of the section is showing structural deficiency and the ride quality is unacceptable.

The town’s public works staff initiated the development of a rudimentary street inventory and condition rating survey. Based on this inventory, they determined Snowflake has approximately 60 miles of local streets with 39 miles of paved streets, which is approximately 12 miles more than estimated last year. They estimate approximately 21 miles of dirt streets remain.

Public Works Superintendent Terry Cooper discussed the inventory, noting, “A windshield survey was performed to develop a general pavement condition assessment.” The results are that 4.5 percent, or 1.78 miles, of streets are very good, 10.5 percent, or 4.10 miles, are good, 24.2 percent, or 9.47 miles, are fair, 55.7 percent, or 21.82 miles, are poor and 5.1 percent, or 1.98 miles, are very poor.

In response to a question posed by Mayor Kelly Willis, Cooper said that it could take years for a poor street to go to very poor, noting that it depends on the conditions; drainage and heavy traffic break down a street faster.

Cooper explained that due to the current level of available funding from Highway User Revenue Funds (HURF) or the general fund, they must use a phased approach, spreading the cost over many years, to elevate pavement condition to an acceptable level.

Mayor Willis expressed concern that streets are in that condition, then asked, “…why we let our streets deteriorate, purely economics?”

Town Manager Paul Watson explained that prior to his hiring, there was a capital program that included capital needs on streets, as well as other departments. “With the decline in the economy, that capital program has been put on hold,” he said. “We’re just trying to maintain our services the best we can. It’s not because we weren’t aware. I will say, thanks to Rob and Terry, we are getting a better handle than we’ve ever had,” citing the inventory of roads and their condition, and what program they need to put in place to maintain them.

“I think what you have tonight is a presentation that says despite the fact that our budget has been cut dramatically and despite the fact that staff has been cut, we have established a program that staff feels good about,” said Watson. “Part of our maintenance program is identifying the needs. Needs include traffic counts and weights being put on those roads.

“The sad thing is the fact that the newer roads are being maintained and kept, but there has to be something said for people that have been here all their lives and the only people that get good roads are the people that live in the newer areas. I don’t personally think that it’s fair and that it’s right.”

“It’s not doom and gloom, in fact, I’m personally excited about it and optimistic,” said Cooper. “There are band aids that we can put on it to help maintain it. There are things that we can do.”

“I think we need to support you guys in what you’re doing. You’re the experts,” said Councilman Chris Brimhall to Cooper and Emmett.

Mayor Willis agreed and explained, “I’m just trying to find a long term solution and this may be it.”

“We have what we have in the way of money, and we’re doing an excellent job in stewardship in way of roads,” said Councilman Jason Whiting, who then requested a work session to talk about future options.

Cooper then explained the pavement preservation program that initially addresses streets in fair condition or better, noting staff is already evaluating the program for next fiscal year and it would cost $150,000. He said that the focus for fiscal year 2011-12 would be material maintenance with no change in funding. It would provide minimal pavement preservation treatments to streets that are in poor condition with a supposition that additional funding in the amount of $100,000 may be generated and dedicated to the HURF funds by an improved economy.

All council members thanked the staff for their work on a road maintenance program and the information that they put together.

There was no action required on the presentation.