A consultant that studied Hollister's streets to determine 2016 traffic mitigation fees said the city must spend a minimum of $4 million annually — $3 million more than it currently does — just to maintain streets in their present condition. Even so, Hollister's streets still rate better than most in the state, the council learned.
Pavement Engineering, Inc. helps cities and counties inventory and manage their roads. It reported this week on the city’s traffic impact fee study prepared by San Benito County Council of Governments (COG). The purpose of the study was to provide an update of the city’s street inventory and pavement management strategies through the use of the pavement management program, Streetsaver.
Joe Ririe, senior principal engineer at Pavement Engineering, presented the study that began with the basics in what he called Pavement 101, to explain paving in general, and why it breaks down so quickly, in particular. The presentation also included tips on how to preserve and treat pavement in order to extend its lifespan. Then he got down to the the numbers.
The city has 104 centerline miles, which is the area down the middle of the roads, 220 lane miles, and approximately 21.6 million square feet of roads, he said, describing the roads as the largest asset the city has.
“The replacement cost, if you were to remove and replace just the asphalt, not including curbs, gutters and sidewalks, is $254 million,” Ririe said.
According to a scale developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) that rates the condition of pavement from failed, with a PCI of 30-0 to excellent at 100-91, Hollister’s streets, on average, rate a PCI of 69, which Ririe said was better than most cities in the state.
“I want to commend you on that,” he said, “because we do lots of these systems throughout California and 70 is everybody’s goal, and they’re far from it. Statewide, the condition of the roads on average are at a PCI of 66, so you’re better than average.”
“The thing that stands out is you have this bubble between 90 and 61. That’s where most of your pavements are,” Ririe said. “You’re at the point where you’re about to tip over the curve. And when you do, the pavement deteriorates really quickly. This indicates that in the past you’ve worked really hard on a lot of your streets, but they’ve aged and deteriorated to the point if you don’t do something you’re one of those ‘at risk’ places. You’ve got to take care of it or it’s going to cost a lot of money.”
Ririe described the basic philosophy of how most cities repair streets. He said where the inclination might be to fix the worst streets first, he said this is just the opposite of how it should be done.
“When you’re tight on money you should be spending the money on the pavements that are used the most,” he said. “So, if you have to decide if you’ve got to do a residential street or an arterial street, more often than not, a city will choose to spend the money on an arterial street because it services more people.”
Discussing budget impacts, he said if money were no object, the ideal would be to increase the PCI throughout the city to 81, which would cost $11 million annually.
“Remember, we’re talking about a $254 million asset, so while $11 million sounds like a lot, compared to the size of the asset, it isn’t,” he said. “To take your PCI from 69 and jump it up to a 74 that is $8.4 million. And just to maintain your system at 69, it’s $3.8 million.”
Councilman Raymond Friend asked Ririe if by maintaining a PCI of 69 meant all streets with lower PCIs would have to be brought up to 69. Ririe said the 69 was an average of all streets and none would have to be brought up.
“You’ll fix some streets while others will be allowed to deteriorate a little bit more,” he said. “If you were to do nothing you could expect your system to go from 69 to 60 in five years. By only spending $1 million your system will deteriorate down to a 62 over the next five years. If you were to spend $2 million you could expect to be at 64 and you’ll continue to lose the battle.”
Ririe told the council that one of the best strategies to extend the life of pavement is filling cracks. He said that while residents may think the streets look terrible when all that is done is to fill cracks, the process is, in fact, the best and least expensive method used to prolong the life of the pavement.
“You’ll need an education process to help them (residents) understand that ‘yes, there’s a big black line there, but we’ve sealed the crack,’” he said.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez asked if the city spent $11 million annually for five years to reach the 81 PCI, what would happen after the fifth year. Ririe said after the fifth year, the cost would come down a little, but not much because the city would still be shifting repair priorities because the 81 is an average of both good and bad streets. So attention would shift to the bad streets.
“To maintain our roads, if we only spend what we’re spending now and we double that, we’re only putting off the drop to 62 by five years,” Friend noted. “If we triple what we’re spending, we don’t really gain anything. At the end of five years we’re still in the same ballpark and still have the same level of deterioration.”
“You’re pushing it further down the road,” Ririe agreed, “but if you spend more your pavement may be deteriorating, but you’re slowing down the amount of deferred maintenance.”
Velazquez asked, “If we’re looking at a budget of $4 million that’s keeping us right at that 69 PCI, so we need to be budgeting, at a minimum, $4 million for our roads?”
“That is what the Streetsaver Program is telling you,” Ririe said. “I’ll be honest with you; as we work with cities and counties throughout California, there are ways to stretch those dollars to do a little bit more. If you were to consistently commit $4 million, I would expect it to be a little higher than 69 because you would look at those cost saving, value-engineered ways of stretching the dollars.”
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about our roads,” the mayor said, “and I think we all realize the importance of doing something now. Hopefully, we can explain to the public the importance of the funding to do this before it fails. The way we’re going we’re headed for a disaster with the roads and a financial disaster in trying to fix it.”
Councilman Victor Gomez said it was important to get the report because the half-cent transportation tax that will be on the June ballot, if passed, would allow the city to invest an additional $1.2 million on top of the current expenditure.
“It’s time that we invest,” he said.