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Portland Tribune: City Exceeded Street Maintanence Pledge

Pamplin Media Group | June 30, 2014 6 a.m. | Updated: June 30, 2014 2:18 p.m.

Contributed By:

Jim Redden

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick announced the city exceeded their pledge to maintain at least 100 miles of streets in the fiscal year ending Monday.

Hales and Novick made the announcement during a Monday morning press conference at a paving project in Northeast Portland, where they were joined by Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat.

Appearing at the last paving project of the year on Northeast Holladay Street between Ninth and 13th avenues in the Lloyd District, the three noted the city will have maintained 103 miles of streets in the 2013-2014 fiscal year — more than double the amount maintained last fiscal year.

“We promised we’d get back to basics and we have,” Hales said. “Thanks to the hard work of our maintenance crews, and using new techniques like fog seal, we have achieved our goal. Portlanders know we need to do more, and when we approve more funding for transportation later this year, we will be able to build on these achievements and get our streets back in the shape that all Portlanders deserve.”

This year’s work includes the return of maintenance projects to low-traffic neighborhood streets. The City Council voted to curtail such work in 2009 because of budget problems. Neighborhood work focused on streets around schools.

“Preventive maintenance saves money in the long run,” said Novick, who is in charge of PBOT. “The more we can do to keep our roads in good condition, the more we can avoid more expensive rebuilds later on. We will continue to focus our limited resources on the meat and potatoes of our transportation network by prioritizing maintenance on our streets and other critical assets.”

Novick also responded to a question he has repeatedly heard from the public.

“We know that sometimes people see us doing preventive maintenance on a street and they ask `Why are crews working on that street when there’s another nearby that’s a lot worse?’” Novick said. “The truth is that we get the biggest bang for our buck doing preventive maintenance on streets that don’t look bad yet but are beginning to show signs of wear. We get an additional 10 years of life on those streets for a fraction of the cost of a rebuild.”

During the press event, the three officials also promised to preserve at least 100 lane miles of city streets for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that starts tomorrow. The goal includes 50 miles of paving on arterial streets, and 50 miles of so-called fog sealing on neighborhood streets, a cost-effective preservation technique that is new to Portland.

“I’d like to thank our maintenance crews who have done an outstanding job, exceeding our 100-miles goal,” Treat said. “We have learned from our first season using the new fog seal technique and are focused on process improvements to become even more efficient in applying this technique next year. I applaud and encourage our employees in their efforts to find new and innovative ways to maximize resources and deliver much needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure.”

During the past year, PBOT treated the 103 lane miles with a variety of techniques. Crews paved 47 lane miles of arterial or higher-traffic streets. They treated 53 lane miles of streets with fog seal. And crews dug up, repaired and repaved three lane miles of badly damaged street sections. A lane mile is one mile of street that is 12-feet wide.

“I also want to thank the public for their patience,” Treat added. “We know that paving and fog sealing can be a short term inconvenience but the results serve our community for many years.”

One of the challenges facing PBOT is rising material costs. Asphalt, for example, cost about $15 per ton 20 years ago and has quadrupled to around $60 per ton.

The first two paving projects for 2014-15 will begin after the July 4th holiday weekend. First, 2.3 lane miles of Willamette Boulevard will be paved from North Portsmouth Avenue to North Woolsey Street.

Then, 2.5 lane miles of North Rosa Parks Way will be paved from North Delaware to Maryland avenues.

Fog sealing will begin once temperatures rise above 80 degrees and continue through September, as weather allows.

The mixture of emulsified asphalt and recycled rubber tires is highly cost effective, requiring about $10,000 per lane mile as compared to paving which is roughly $150,000 per mile.

In its first year, PBOT crews learned that the technique works for Portland streets even in our rainy climate, but requires warm and dry weather to apply.

PBOT crews will focus fog sealing on streets that are within one-quarter mile of schools and along neighborhood greenways, the low-traffic streets that are part of Portland’s bicycling network.

More information is available at: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation

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