All roads lead to disrepair.
To delay that problem, the city is doing a 180 in how it handles road maintenance by prioritizing streets already in excellent and good condition, as opposed to solely focusing on deteriorated streets.
Richard Martinez, asistant director of the city’s transportation and public works department, explained the change in a presentation to Fort Worth City Council on Thursday.
Fort Worth has over 7,400 of lane miles in varying conditions. Martinez said about 34 percent are in “excellent condition” 36 percent are good, 24 percent are fair and about 6 percent are beyond repair. He said almost all of the $27 million currently allocated to maintain those roads is being used on the streets in fair condition.
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In reality, the focus should be on repairing seemingly minor problems with streets in “excellent” and “good” conditions, Martinez said, because the repairs are significantly cheaper at that stage and extend the life of the road.
On a concrete road, for example, fixing a crack in the pavement costs about $21,000 per lane mile. Right now, city doesn’t fix those cracks, which means as the cracks grow over time, the city is forced to replace entire panels of the road. To replace a mile’s worth of concrete panels would cost $450,000 — a 2,042 percent cost increase.
Martinez said it will take him about three months to create a five-year, rolling maintenance program that will prioritize the roads. The goal is to allocate about 25 to 30 percent of road maintenance funding to the excellent and good roads.
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh urged communicating that plan with residents to explain the new maintenance process.
“It is hard to look and see a good street getting something done to it, when another neighborhood has absolutely poor streets,” she said.
Thursday’s discussion on city roads was part of a larger transportation workshop that also talked about the progress of the 2014 bond; Fort Worth’s need for more infrastructure; and the region’s plan for the recently-approved Proposition 1, which takes half of the money from oil and gas production taxes going toward the rainy day fund and redirects it to statewide transportation needs.
“If we don’t have our transportation problems solved, we aren’t going to be a fast-growing city for very long,” warned Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman at the end of the meeting.
Zimmerman said there is huge funding gap in transportation needs.
“We have over a $1 billion of road work we know we have to get done, and we don’t have $1 billion worth of resources to go do that with,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t know how we are going to catch up with all the work anytime soon.”
The 2014 bond package included $219.74 million in transportation and infrastructure fixes, including road expansions, new bike trails, sidewalk and maintenance and rehabilitation programs.
Zimmerman said the city needs to get creative in addressing transportation problems, including looking at public transit systems that don’t require obtaining right-of-way.
Councilman Sal Espino said the city needs to focus on mass transit, including finding more funding to create a “world class transit system.”
He brought up new funding streams, such as transit development districts, using and tax increment finance districts and also bringing in more Tarrant County cities to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
“Today we did talk mass transit, but it was primarily roads. The other missing piece of this is mass transit and how do we get there,” Espino said.
Prop 1 money
Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Texas Council of Governments, said one of his organization’s priorities is getting this region’s share of the statewide transportation money from Proposition 1.
Estimated to bring in $1.7 billion a year, Morris estimates the Metroplex should receive about $350 million to $400 million annually, based our population.
Morris, Councilman Jungus Jordan and Collin County Judge Keith Self are North Texas’ representatives on the committee responsible for making recommendations on how to use the money.
Morris said they are working to make sure the committee doesn’t “oversubsidize the other portions of the state,” especially in regions were the energy industry is booming and the wear and tear on roads is more prevalent.
“The bottom line is how much money goes to the maintenance of the energy-producing areas of the state, and we don’t want them to get all excited about the latest energy areas and forget about the previous energy areas … that could potentially be ignored,” Morris said.
The money cannot be used on mass transit systems or toll road projects. Instead, the money must be used for construction, maintenance, rehabilitation and acquiring right-of-way for public roads.
“It cannot go to transit. We have a very conservative legislature who feel that transit in some parts of the state is a four-letter word, unfortunately,” Morris said.