While $5 million is a lot of money, it is hardly more than a few drops in the bucket when it comes to addressing all of the city’s road problems.
As part of the upcoming budget the City Council, setting the condition of city roads as a priority, increased former Mayor Scott Avedisian’s $1 million allocation for roads to $5 million. That more than doubles what has been appropriated for roads annually for decades, if not is a historic record.
But with so much state road work, not to mention other municipalities also faced with road projects, is there the capacity to accomplish all this work?
That won’t be a problem, says Department of Public Works Director Richard Crenca. He doesn’t envision a problem spending millions on city roads.
“I could spend $5 million in a second,” he said Thursday.
In actuality, Crenca is looking to spend 20 to 30 percent more than the $5 million without the city dolling out the funds.
How does that work?
The answer is the agreement former Mayor Scott Avedisian and Director of Public Works David Picozzi worked out with National Grid. With Grid’s ongoing program to upgrade natural gas lines, rather than simply leaving a patched trench down a road, the company agreed to pay a portion of the overall repaving of that road. The percentage of payment is based on a percentage of the road disturbed by the gas work, hence if the trench is down the middle of the road, Grid would pay for half the repaving. Most of the work, however, is on the edge of a road, meaning a lesser sharing of the overall repaving.
There’s no lack of streets where Grid has completed its work and the road is ready to be repaved.
Crenca said he has 40 streets on the most current list plus an additional 80 streets on a second list. Every street needs to be walked with a Grid representative to arrive at an agreed percentage on payment. He said Grid reimburses the city at a rate of $10.50 per cubic yard for its portion of repaving projects.
He said in the past fiscal year the city spent $713,000 on repaving, of which $303,000 was reimbursed by Grid. This year the total is about $1.2 million of which more than $560,000 has been reimbursed by Grid.
Even by stretching the repaving dollar, Crenca is hard-pressed to estimate how many of the 120 streets the city will have money to repave. The cost of the work varies on the length and width of the road and its condition. Some roads can be resurfaced after a scarifying of the surface, a relatively fast and easy process, while others that have severely deteriorated require rebuilding. As a point of reference, Crenca said the city most recently repaved 3.9 miles of city streets for $1 million. He did not have total mileage for the 120 roads on the list.
But that’s just the roads where National Grid has done work. There are a number of roads that need work that don’t come under Grid’s replacement program. Crenca said those roads need to be prioritized. Some of them – he didn’t name them – shouldn’t wait as the city piggybacks its funding with National Grid.
Crenca agrees a long-range plan is needed to address what promises to be the most costly projects, such as the repaving of Jefferson Boulevard. With four heavily traveled lanes and critical to the city’s manufacturing, office and service business, that section of the road south from the Route 95 connection to Kilvert Street is showing signs of its age and needs attention.
Crenca has no qualms whether Cardi Construction, which currently has the city’s repaving contract, has the capacity to take on $5 million of city repaving projects.
“They’ll have crews here going all the way through the paving season,” he said.
Before all this works begins, however, Crenca said he wants to look at the work “ward by ward” as well as assess the work by neighborhood regardless of the Grid work.
“In many cases, if one road is bad in a neighborhood, the chances are there are going to be more,” he said.