To maximize the useful life of a street, maintenance must be performed to keep the street surface sealed. This prevents water from penetrating into the pavement structure and reduces oxidation from heat and sun exposure, which make the asphalt brittle.
The optimal program would provide the following, timed from date of paving:
• Arterial streets would be crack sealed every five years, chip sealed at 10 and 20 years, and repaved at 30 years, with the addition of a cement-treated base where needed. This base treatment is needed because many arterial streets do not have a proper base and therefore cannot perform satisfactorily over 30 years, and is faster and less expensive than conventional excavation and base reconstruction.
• Collector streets would be crack sealed every five years, chip sealed at 10 and 20 years, and repaved at 30 years with the addition of a cement-treated base where needed.
• 35 percent of the local streets would be crack sealed every 5 years, and chip sealed every 10. Sixty-five percent would be repaved and then crack sealed every 5 years and chip sealed every 10 years.
• Gravel streets and alleys would need to have tw0 inches of new rock applied at 10 and 20 years, and a 6-inch full-depth replacement at 30 years.
Targets under an optimal maintenance program would average 15 miles per year of crack sealing, 6.5 miles per year of chip sealing, and 2.4 miles per year of repaving. The total cost to optimally maintain the city’s existing transportation system over a 30 year period would be about $44 million if all the work was performed by City crews and using a cement-treat base where needed, or $82 million with contractors, or $1.46 million and $2.72 million annually respectively.
Funding for street maintenance and ADA upgrades in The Dalles is inadequate and the city council is considering adding a $5 transportation fee to city utility bills as one part of a long-term funding solution.
The annual department budget falls $1.2 million short of optimal maintenance, and in addition federal law requires upgrading 1,614 non-compliant sidewalk curb ramps in the city that will further tax the street department budget, according to a report presented to the council at its Jan. 28 meeting.
Other funding options presented to the council were paying for street and traffic signal lighting out of the general fund; and dedicating Public Utility District franchise fees to streets.
Transient Room Tax funds and an increase in the local gas tax were also discussed. Raising the gas tax would require a public vote, by state law and city ordinance.
“We have a rough estimate, I think we need to decide how we’re going to pay for it. Let’s see if we can get some money to get started,” suggested Councilor Russ Brown after the report had been presented.
Mayor Rich Mays agreed. “What we need to go forward is find funding sources, where are we going to get the money?”
The $5 street maintenance fee would cover much of the ADA ramp costs, noted City Manager Julie Krueger. “Would you like to consider that (in the budget process) or take that off the table?” she asked.
Council reaction was mixed, with many questions being asked regarding funding details.
“I realize it’s not popular, but streets have been coming in second best for a long time and pulling another $300,000 out of what we’ve got isn’t going to get them better,” said Brown. “You’ve got to pay for it, the money has to come from somewhere, you can’t pull it out of a hat.”
Others noted that a $5 fee would be a burden on some, but also said taking the money out of the general fund would require taking money away from other programs.
“We agree that it’s important, but it’s hard to tell if it is more important than something else,” said Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss, who recommended the council have a work session on the issue, with information available showing how each option would impact the budget overall. “I want to know the impact on the general fund before I decide on a fee increase,” she said.
The council agreed, and scheduled a work session Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 5:30 p.m., in the council chambers to discuss the issue further.
The council first considered the possible funding options for street maintenance and ramp upgrades, which are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in August of 2018. The council at that time directed staff to provide more detailed information regarding the disparity between current funding levels and the cost of maintenance and upgrades, spread out over 30 years.
The resulting 8-page report, presented by The Dalles Public Works Director Dave Anderson, shows $254,623 per year available for street maintenance materials like rock and sealants, enough to complete about 8.6 miles of crack sealing, 6.5 miles of chip seals, .2 miles of paving and no ADA sidewalk improvements. In contrast, the city’s street system consists of a total of 6.5 miles of arterial streets, 33.5 miles of collector streets, 47.5 miles of local streets and 10.8 miles of gravel streets and alleys, for a total of 98.3 miles of streets — 87.5 miles of which are paved. In addition, city has 1,614 curb ramps that are too steep or not level enough to comply with the ADA.
Current funding is inadequate, Anderson said.
The analysis showed a cost of about $1.46 million annually for an optimal maintenance program. That number is primarily materials costs, with city and county crews doing the work.
“We have the equipment, we have the labor, this is the out-of-pocket costs that would have to be budgeted for,” Anderson told the council. “That leaves us with a shortfall of about $1.2 million.”
“Isn’t the optimal street maintenance program unrealistic?” asked Brown. “Don’t you think that is unobtainable?”
“I think it would be very difficult to obtain,” agreed Anderson. “This is what a fully-funded, optimal street maintenance program would look like.”
It was created to help council address the question of increasing funding in the upcoming budget.
“I think what I find troubling about this is that we want to have an optimal street maintenance program but we have a mandate from the federal government to deal with the ADA ramps,” said Brown. “We are in trouble with them, given the severity of the problem with our ramps not being level. We can hardly do what we want until we do what we have to do.”
Anderson agreed, noting that staff is developing an ADA transition plan, and said he believed it would be unrealistic to implement that plan in only 30 years.
He said that based on a cost average per ramp, it would take about $330,000 annually to fix all the ramps in 30 years.
“The funding’s just not going to be there,” he said. “It will probably be a longer period of time. What we have to do is develop a plan, adopt it, and start making progress toward meeting those ADA requirements.”
Some funding is included in the maintenance program to address curb replacement on those streets undergoing significant maintenance work.
“We will need to focus our energy on prioritizing, and using the funds we do have in the places that will do the most good,” Anderson said.
Some of the ramps, like those that were part of an ODOT project on East Second Street, will need to be replaced despite being brand new.
“These ramps tripped the triggers, and we didn’t know they tripped the triggers,” Anderson explained, because ADA standards were being misinterpreted throughout the state by ODOT.
As a result, additional work on those streets will need to address the backlog of ramps built.
An ODOT survey in 2018 showed 97 percent of agency curb ramps in Oregon violated ADA standards. That survey was done as part of a 2017 settlement in federal court regarding a lawsuit brought against ODOT by Disability Rights Oregon (DRO).
Ultimately, an ADA Transition Plan will be coming before the council, said Anderson, with a timeline and priorities. It is unlikely that information will be available prior to the upcoming budget cycle, although money has been proposed for the coming year to begin that work.
“What would be the consequences if we don’t do the ADA ramps?” asked Councilor Linda Miller. “Does it help if we are doing something?”
Anderson said enforcement is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of justice.
City Attorney Gene Parker agreed, and noted enforcement was generally complaint driven and the city would be in a better position legally if they could show progress on fixing the problem.
“The numbers can be quite high,” he said of monetary settlements already made by the state.
Ten to 15 percent of the city’s streets don’t have existing curb cuts or ramp cuts, and paving projects and maintenance can be done without adding ramps. “You are not required to put in sidewalks and ADA facilities just because you’re paving the street in places that don’t have them,” Anderson explained. “What you do have to do is, if there is a sidewalk already there, you have to make that sidewalk compliant as you go through paving those streets.”
Anderson said there was state funding in hand for some fixes, like the recent project on Sixth Street, but there is no guaranteed funding stream for updating ramps in the state.
“We will be actively pursuing any future funding that is made available,” he said.