City Council ponders long-term street maintenance issues

Consultant study recommends that Camas invests in preventative maintenance now

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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Camas continues to look at possible solutions to the question of how to fund the long-term maintenance of the city’s roadways. A recent report suggests that ideally the city should be investing upwards of $700,000 per year in its streets.

On April 15, the City Council was presented with the findings of a pavement management program report created by Capitol Asset & Pavement Services, Inc. An $18,500 professional services contract to hire the company was approved in December 2012.

Owner Joel Conder completed a survey of 112 miles of asphalt, taking note of every “crack, patch, pothole, depression and distortion.” That information was transferred into a pavement management software program, which revealed that on a pavement condition index of zero to 100, with 100 being the best, Camas streets average a 78.

“Not too bad — it really wasn’t,” he said, although Conder qualified his statement by adding that the newer streets on Prune Hill may skew the average a bit.

According to the study, 82.6 percent of the city’s streets are considered in “good” condition, meaning preventative maintenance would require slurry seal treatment.

“If you apply a seal coat to a lot of those streets in that condition, you raise them back up,” he said. “It resets the life cycle and extends the life of pavement. If you don’t spend that money, you see how that falls off and you get into really expensive rehab costs.”

Approximately 9.3 percent of Camas roads were rated “fair,” and 5 percent were rated “poor.” Approximately 3 percent were put in the “very poor” category, which indicates that complete reconstruction is needed.

“As more “good” streets deteriorate into the “poor” and “very poor” categories, the cost of deferred maintenance will continue to increase,” the document stated. “The cost of the deferred maintenance backlog will stop increasing only when enough funds are provided to prevent streets from deteriorating into a worse condition category, or when the whole network falls into the “very poor category.”

For the past several years, approximately $300,000 to $350,000 in road maintenance funding has been taken from the city’s Real Estate Excise Taxes annually. The city has also contributed some of its general fund dollars to various road projects, and obtained grant funding.

“You are not even treading water at the current funding; your deferred maintenance is growing,” Condor said. “You are still losing ground at $600,000 per year [according to the study]. We really want to try to find that happy medium now, and it looks like that is basically at $700,000 [to get to the point where] you are not gaining and not losing.”

The report’s conclusions indicated that at current funding levels, the pavement condition would continue to deteriorate. As street conditions worsen, the amount of money needed to maintain them increases.

“Unless funding is allocated to support an increase in the city’s street rehabilitation program, the city may lose the opportunity to utilize lower cost preventative maintenance and light overlay treatment options,” the report states.

Other than the continued use of REET and general funds, alternative funding channels that have been discussed include establishing a “Transportation Benefit District” — a quasi-municipal organization and taxing district created to fund transportation improvements and maintenance.

Under the TBD umbrella, without voter approval the city council can implement an up to $40 annual vehicle license fee charged to all vehicle owners.

Levison said another option to consider is implementing a franchise fee for utilities.

“With current funding, we will continue to do the best we can,” he said. “Our policy is to limit ourselves to [maintenance of] arterials and collectors, because that is where the most traffic is, and try to stay on top of those.”

Councilman Don Chaney commented that he expects the information in the report will be useful.

“Essentially you have given us a road map to at least approach this problem that I think we’ve had focus on for a good number of years,” Chaney said to Condor. “It’s helpful.”

The topic is expected to be discussed at a future City Council workshop.

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