Four residential streets in Turlock will soon win the road construction lottery, as the Turlock City Council decided to change the way roadway projects are selected.
Council members concluded at a special meeting on roads held Thursday that the City’s previous strategy of spending the majority of available funds on updating large thoroughfares — like the West Main Street project funded by Measure L —should be changed to include more residential streets.
“We’re not going to see a drastic difference overnight, but we have to make some effort to hear you and try to do something different because what we’re doing hasn’t really shown people that their money — their taxpayers money — is coming to them in that way,” said Mayor Amy Bublak.
In an effort to appease their residential constituents, the Council decided to have the City Engineering Department come up with a plan to fix at least one road from each Council District area. Council members from each of the four District areas in Turlock will submit a list of roads to the Engineering Department and then crews will investigate the feasibility of repairing each road.
The Council is expected to consider a list of residential road projects for repair at their next meeting.
Putting a priority on residential road projects was a recurring request from community members who attended the Sept. 26 workshop.
“Being at a disadvantage of not being privy to much of the data that is at your disposal, I’m still willing to bet that the deterioration of Wayside Street, which of course I’m describing, has been long term and certainly this should be a factor in your thinking. And presuming that’s the case, I think it’s fair to conclude that pot hole filling has not been sufficient. To maintain that as a continuum, to keep doing the same thing, in this case simply is not cost effective at all or cost efficient. Unless the City opts to close the street itself, Wayside will continue to get worse and more costly to repair and that I think should be a major component in your thinking in terms of how you want to distribute funding,” said Sam Regalado.
The Council and City staff agreed with all who complained about their failing roadways that something has to change, however, the problem is funding. The City does not have sufficient funds to repair all the deteriorating roads in Turlock and has to make choices on what projects to move forward with.
“There’s some conventional wisdom and conventional thought that if you have a limited amount of funds, you would use them in the most efficient manner as possible. Currently, we have an estimated $4.75 million worth of project funds and we, according to the analysis done by Street Saver, need to spend roughly $13.5 million per year, just to maintain the status quo PCI,” Director of Development Services/City Engineer Nathan Bray said.
Bray explained that many times the City has chosen to move forward with road repairs on larger thoroughfares instead of residential streets, because federal funds and some state funds can only be used on those arterial roadways.
Also, there’s a Pavement Deterioration Curve that illustrates that the better condition a road is, the longer it goes until it really starts to deteriorate. Then the curve starts to change and it really gets steeper. The drop in pavement quality occurs over a relatively short amount of time. Bray said this curve is typical for most pavements, whether they’re asphalt concrete, Portland cement concrete, whether they’ve been overlaid or not.
“The goal is to address pavements before they get into that red part, it’s more cost-effective on the life cycle. The conventional thought is to spend your money, as much as possible, on your good streets to preserve those from getting worse and let the bad streets fail. In terms of cost effectiveness, that is the best approach,” said Bray.
“That is not what I recommend and definitely not what this community would like to see for sure, I understand that. But I wanted to point out that if we wanted to effectively use our dollars, that’s what we would do.”
Maintaining good roads while they’re still good is the theory behind assessment districts.
The Landscape and Lighting Act of 1972 and the Benefit Assessment Act of 1982 allow for the formation of special district areas so that developments can pay for their own ongoing maintenance. The City of Turlock currently has approximately 220 assessment districts. Residents in those districts — which are in the newer developments of town — pay extra taxes to maintain their roads. Assessment district taxes can only be used to maintain the roads for those specific areas of town.
Some community members seem supportive of the City creating new assessment districts for the older parts of town.
“I live in an area that doesn’t have assessment districts, but I would be willing to pay for extra money for our roads to be as nice as the ones (in areas with assessment districts),” said Manuel Lopez.
The City Council is expected to continue considering changes to the way the City prioritizes roads projects, how City crews are utilized and possible revenue sources during future meetings.