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County decides to fund pavement management study

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / NOVEMBER 15, 2019

Brian Singleton, Assistant Public Works Director for Alachua County, gave a presentation to the County Commission on November 12 about the methodology the county uses to determine which paving projects to prioritize. 

The county has 678 paved miles and needs to resurface 35-49 miles per year to keep the backlog stable (the backlog is currently growing). Of the 678 miles, 355 miles of pavement are in fair condition, 98 miles are in poor condition, and 31 miles are in very poor condition.

The current methodology is known as “worst first”: all funding goes to the bottom end (worst condition) of the inventory. Pavement is only replaced when it decays (the county does little, if any, interventions like crack sealing). Singleton said the county should consider the “optimization” methodology, which splits the budget between preservation of pavement (intervention when damage first appears) and replacement of pavement. He showed a graph of the projected backlog in Polk County under the “optimization” methodology, showing that although the amount of pavement in very poor condition decreases slowly, if at all, the overall backlog is reduced over time.

The county staff recommendation is to update the pavement condition inventory so they know the starting point, then run different budget scenarios based on the data. The goal is to have the results of the study for the 2022 budget cycle. A decision between methodologies can be made at that time, based on the outcome of the various budget scenarios. 

Commissioner Hutchinson said that no matter which methodology the county chooses, it goes out the window “as soon as people fill this room.” He also said that no matter the methodology, the county will never get around to fixing neighborhood roads. 

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During public comment on the motion to accept the staff recommendation, various citizens pointed out major problems with neighborhood roads (that are often used as through roads) in very poor condition. James McKnight said that in an ideal world, the optimization methodology would make sense. But, he said, poor roads like the ones they were describing are a safety issue. He asked the commission to factor in safety issues (like driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid potholes) when determining which roads to fix.

Hutchinson said the county spends more on roads than they take in from gas taxes. This may be technically correct, but less than half of it is spent on paving roads: the county’s published budget says “[The County’s share of the Gas Tax] will generate approximately $7 million to the County for transportation needs in FY20. The 1st through 6th cents are expected to generate approximately $4 million which will be used in the Gas Tax Fund for operations. The remaining five cents will generate approximately $3 million and will be used for construction and debt payments on road projects.”

The motion was in three parts:

  1. To accept the staff recommendation to fund a Pavement Management Study & Training with Gas Tax Reserves in the amount of $250,000.
  2. To accept the staff recommendation to present an Optimized Pavement Management Program vs. Worst-First Management Program no later than the FY2022 budget cycle.
  3. To look at NE 27th Avenue from a safety standpoint, determine if they could add “No Truck” signs, and bring back recommendations or “just do it.”

The motion passed unanimously, with Byerly absent.

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