Of all the public policy issues that face North Texans on a daily basis, none is as persistently frustrating as the condition of our roads.
If it’s not the orange cones and the confusing detours, then its potholes and cracks that threaten tires, damage vehicles and generally make commuting unpleasant.
Maintaining the 7,400 lane miles in Fort Worth is no easy feat. And the city has done a much better job than many commuters are likely to give it credit for. But it can still do more to save taxpayer dollars while demands are high and budgets remain tight.
According to Richard Martinez, assistant director of the city’s transportation and public works department, 70.12 percent of city streets are in either excellent or good condition. That meets the national standard for a city of Fort Worth’s size set by the Society of Civil Engineers.
About a quarter of city roads are in fair condition and six percent are beyond repair.
Most roads in poor condition that require reconstruction will be addressed by the 2014 bond.
Failing roads have a certain threshold for maintenance, Martinez explained in a Thursday presentation before the City Council. “If you don’t change your oil, eventually you’re going to have to replace the engine.”
Once that threshold is crossed, all the city can do is ensure that the streets are safe enough for travel.
By that point, the reactive maintenance needed can cost 500 times more than basic measures like crack sealing, usually performed on roads in better condition.
Which is why tackling cracking roads while they are still in good or fair condition is essential to the city’s new five-year rolling maintenance program that should optimize and extend the life of city streets, while saving money
The ultimate goal is to allocate about 25 to 30 percent of road maintenance funding to the excellent and good roads.
The city’s biggest challenge will be effectively communicating with citizens about why the city is addressing streets in good condition instead of those that have already failed.
That will require a strong communication plan, and the City Council members must play an active role in educating their constituents.