By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Residents don’t see a lot of a city’s infrastructure. Water and wastewater pipelines are buried. Even electricity lines are buried in some neighborhoods.
Everyone sees streets. Motorists mutter under their breath as they dodge a pothole or drive over a rough patch of road.
Stillwater’s street system is in pretty good shape, Stillwater Transportation Department Manager Jason Peek said. The city completed a street inventory in 2012. An independent company inspected the city’s 44 lane miles of streets and arrived at a 78 ranking. The scale goes from 0 as worst to 100 as best.
“(It) puts a lot of the streets in the good category, but that also means we have streets in that poor or fair condition in need of repair,” he said.
The city wants to be in the 78-81 ranking, but must reduce the number of failed streets — the ones that have to be ripped up and rebuilt.
In 2001 and again in 2006, Stillwater residents approved a half-cent sales tax earmarked for 15 major road improvement projects. The city is completing the Jardot Road and 19th Avenue project and will start on the final project later this year — widening Country Club Road from West Sixth Avenue to Lakeview Road. It is a joint project with the county and state.
City officials probably will ask residents to renew this tax before it expires in 2016.
The city earmarks money from its general fund for street maintenance. In the budget year that starts July 1, the city has set aside approximately $4 million for street maintenance. Recently, Peek talked with Associate Editor Chris Day for another webisode of the NewsPress’ public affairs program “Conversations With ...” The full interview is available on the paper’s website, www.stwnewspress.com, and on our YouTube channel youtube.com/stwnewspress.
Here are excerpts from that conversation.
Q: You have created a pavement management strategy for the city. How does that work?
A: “The example I like to talk about is everybody has a car, right. You know those cars you’ve got to do an oil change. The outside of the car looks great but after 5,000 miles or 3,000 miles you are doing that first oil change. Our streets are no different. You have a brand new road out there. In three to five years, we are going to have to do some crack sealing on that road. If we don’t do that crack sealing on the road it will continue to deteriorate, but by doing that crack seal we can extend the life of our street.”
Q: The city recently approved its 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. The transportation department will have approximately $4 million for street maintenance. Can you describe Stillwater’s pavement management strategy?
A: “We will be making a recommendation to the City Council on Monday, June 17, for the FY 14 budget project. It includes multiple strategies to manage our pavement systems. So going back to that car example. Your car needs an oil change, but at a certain point in life it may need brake repair, transmission repair, more expensive repairs. We have got that same level of inventory with our streets. We have some streets that we need to do just routine maintenance — crack seal and preventative maintenance ... all the way down to reconstruction. ... The council will receive a report on Monday night that basically breaks the streets... about 80 lane miles worth of pavement out there — into preventative maintenance, what we call rehabilitation — asphalt or concrete streets that need some type of repair. It could be replacing panels on a concrete street or on an asphalt street we may go in and mill a portion of that existing surface and put new asphalt down. The other treatment strategy is reconstruction. ...”
Q: How is cycling going to be incorporated into the transportation plan?
A: “There was a 2007 trails and bicycle master plan put together by a committee for the city. That identified trails as well as on-street cycling needs throughout the city. The first part of that was creating all the share the road routes. ... That was our first phase. Within the last year, we have actually added some bike lanes. There has been some work over at OSU where the bicycle committee kind of sparked an interest saying we need more than just share the road. We need to start thinking about dedicated bicycle facilities. We also have been looking at that internally in the city. A lot of our collector and arterial streets have been designed widthwise to an Interstate highway design — 12-foot interior lanes and 14-foot outside lanes. In an urban city, you can narrow those lanes down to 10 feet, depending on speed limit, and still serve relatively the same volume of traffic. On Hall of Fame and 12th when we had to refresh the pavement markings, we looked at those street widths and said this is an area that we know we need some bicycle facilities. Is it possible to put those lanes there? The result was the bike lanes you see out there today. Going forward, we are evaluating when we have streets slated for pavement remarking, is it possible to add the bicycle facilities? As we update our transportation plans, we will be moving away from an auto-centric focus and looking at how we integrate vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, transit and trails into a more comprehensive transportation planning document.”