If you think the condition of Bloomington city streets is going to improve any time soon, you would be wrong.
Bloomington Public Works Director Jim Karch says it took many years of neglect to create the problem, and it’s going to take time to fix it.
“We can’t make this town perfect overnight. We’ve got to start turning the tide and so we have to understand it’s going to take some time to turn it around," said Karch.
How long? Karch is proposing it’ll take a decade of spending $8 million each year to bring the city’s busiest streets that carry about 10,000 cars a day to an average rating.
Karch began his career with the city in 2000, a year he points out the city spent no money on repaving. It has underspent for many years since with the exception of 2014, when the city council borrowed money and pumped $10 million into street repaving. It finished 45 street resurfacing projects and associated sewer, sidewalk and pavement preservation applications to extend the life of existing streets.
Take a closer look at City of Bloomington spending for the last decade on street resurfacing:
Note: In 2010, that $10 million figure includes some sewer and sidewalk work.
But Karch said that barely put a dent in work that needs to be done. Main arteries and connector streets that see the most vehicles per day are given higher priority, but they are more costly and quickly exhaust budgets. Check out an interactive map to see how the public works staff has rated every street within the city limits.
Neighborhood streets are patched or repairs are put off, which Karch admits has frustrated residents. He’ll also be proposing additional spending and an in-house solution for residential streets that he’ll outline in the second part of a GLT's Sound Ideas interview Friday.
Extending the Lifespan of Streets
New technology and pavement treatments are helping extend the life of existing streets and new surfaces. Karch says the city has been willing to spend additional money treating new streets with a sealant that can double the lifespan. The city has also experimented with a thicker sealant for crumbling streets on the west side.
Town of Normal Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich says his staff meets regularly with the city of Bloomington to share information. So far, Aldrich says he is going to take a wait-and-see approach before spending big money on pavement preservation.
"We're still in the phase of looking at what other cities are doing and seeing if there is a payback on extending the life of the pavement," he said.
The town uses concrete for new street construction unlike the city's asphalt paving approach.
"Typically the town will build a concrete street with the thought that a concrete street has a longer life span." But he adds, "That is kind of a matter of opinion in the industry." Subdivision developers are given the option of using asphalt instead of concrete.
By comparison, Normal spends an average of $1.5 million per year on resurfacing. It has about 200 miles of town streets, far less than Bloomington, which has 240 miles of residential streets and another 80 miles of main routes and connectors.
Normal is getting ready to do a comprehensive rating of all streets because it has been a couple of years since they were reviewed. The town's website has a list of paving priorities that includes a link to street ratings.
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