Do you think the streets in your neighborhood are in the worst shape they’ve been in a long time? Well, you’re probably right.
The condition of our streets is a perennial problem, and my staff handles calls, emails, and site visits every day that have to do with road conditions. It seems that particularly terrible stretches of road may not get the repaving they need for a very long time. Unfortunately, every year, the city’s paving program has to deal with rising costs and a growing pool of need--and every year, it gets bigger and bigger.
Pittsburgh has a lot of asphalt roads. Hundreds and hundreds of miles. Stretched end-to-end, they would reach from the Point all the way to Minneapolis! Because of weather and climate, weight and pressure, and various chemical exposures (like gasoline, oil, and salt), asphalt deterioration begins almost as soon as it’s freshly laid down. An asphalt road is expected to last for a decade in Pittsburgh. Doing the math, that means we should pave about 86 miles of road every year so that no street is left unmaintained for more than ten years.
But since at least 2004, the city hasn’t been able to keep up with that measure, paving much fewer than 86 miles every year. Last year the city took out a bond for $80 million for the first time in over a decade, and one stated purpose for the money is necessary infrastructure projects, including resurfacing. For 2012 and 2013, approximately $10 million has been spent on paving, and last year we were able to pave a record 61 miles--which is still short of the necessary amount of 86 miles to keep our streets up to date.
Add to this the fact that for every year that we pave fewer than 86 miles, we add streets to our paving deficit, meaning we start the next year already behind. For every street that enters its tenth year (meaning it’s time to repave), there’s a street entering its 11th, 12th, 13th...
An audit by the controller’s office in 2009 found a mile of paving costs approximately $315,000 (to read this audit, and see our infographic about this information, check out http://pittsburghpa.gov/district4/paving). As revenue from the federal government, local non-profits, and city property taxes has remained steady or declined--not to mention the rising costs of crude oil globally--paving is becoming a more expensive proposition every year. And unforeseen problems like landslides, erosion, and structural issues can compound the cost of a simple paving job.
The total cost to repave all of the roads that are over a decade old would be approximately $103 million, roughly ten times the amount that we can afford to budget this year. The cost to repave all the roads would actually be nearly double our total capital budget this year (which would mean no pools, parks, senior centers, fire trucks, ballfield lights, or dozens of other programs for the next two years).
Given all of these realities, we continue to listen to your suggestions, drive through the district to investigate, and submit our recommendations for street resurfacing to the Department of Public Works, which is tasked with making the final decision based on their own system. We do everything we can on our end to advocate for residents, including monitoring 311 requests, going out and taking pictures, submitting your letters and petitions, and working with you all to make your voices are heard in the process.
Please continue to call my office, 311, or both to report potholes and other infrastructure issues that Public Works should look into.