Getting tired of utility companies digging up the street to put in a new service or fix something, and then the street is never quite the same?
So are Fort Worth city officials. The Transportation and Public Works Department is now trying to reverse a 16-year policy that in most cases does not require utilities to restore the street to the way it was when they dug it up.
Doug Wiersig, the city’s transportation and public works director, is putting together a committee of utility company representatives and city staff to review Fort Worth’s policy and street restoration policies from other cities. The move comes after a recent presentation to the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee of the City Council.
The current policy was established in 2001 during the height of the dot-com rush, a time when utilities went crazy putting in infrastructure, Wiersig said. For whatever reason, the council at the time established a policy that didn’t require full restoration, rather the work was based on the age of the street, he said.
The policy is “not robust enough,” and that is more evident now than ever with an increase in repairs and maintenance the city is handling, Wiersig said.
I find it incredible we would ever consider putting substandard repairs back into the street.
W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, District 3 Fort Worth councilman
District 3 Councilman Zim Zimmerman, who sits on the committee, said the utilities should be held accountable for their street restoration work.
“I find it incredible we would ever consider putting substandard repairs back into the street,” Zimmerman said.
Wiersig, who joined the city in 2011, said it’s not possible to put a dollar figure on how much it will cost to repair the degradation that’s taken place.
It’s just millions of dollars. That’s the best estimate.
Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth’s transportation and public works director
“It’s just millions of dollars. That’s the best estimate,” Wiersig said.
Under current policy, if a street is less than two years old, a utility contractor is required to replace the concrete fully, or if it’s asphalt, replace it curb-to-curb for 300 feet. Restoration is reduced if the age of the street is two to 10 years old, and it’s even less if the street is older than 10 years, or the work was done because of an emergency or new service.
Issues usually arise at the pavement joint, or where the new surface meets the old surface. Over time, if there are too many joints in a street, the street quality degrades, making traveling difficult. Just one cut in the street pavement can significantly reduce the life of the street.
The city has been transitioning to a program of assessing street quality on a number system up to 100, with 100 being in the best shape, from the age of a street. The lower the number, the worse condition the street is in and likely to get priority in replacement or repairs. The department is in the process of assessing every city street.
Mark Stefanik, transportation and public works construction superintendent, said utilities more and more are tagging their work as an emergency, the least costly restoration method for the utility.
“The biggest thing Fort Worth does that other cities don’t do, we allow reduced standard paving for emergencies or new service,” Stefanik said. “Nobody else does. We stand alone.”
Wiersig said he expects to have a new policy ready for the City Council to vote on by year’s end. The new policy will likely better define asphalt and concrete restoration techniques, among other things.