Opinion

Maintaining the city’s roads | GUEST OPINION

Cities across Washington state over the past decade have faced significant challenges to provide adequate transportation funding for area roadways.

Marysville and other cities have relied on motor vehicle excise taxes (MVET) to provide for street overlays and other road improvements. However, voter-approved initiatives cut or greatly reduced MVET, and historical funding sources have dried up. Combined with overall economic shrinkage, roadway maintenance has been largely discontinued or greatly reduced in cities and counties statewide. This much has probably been apparent to you during your daily commute.

With scant funding available for street overlays, we turned our focus to basic streets and right-of-way maintenance, patched potholes and improved sidewalks and shoulders, work that our Street crews do so admirably.

Marysville’s economy is turning a corner that will start us on our way toward rebuilding funding again for government services like our vital transportation infrastructure, which we put on hold because of the unstable economy.

One innovative idea rolled out by Marysville government this year to help address deteriorating roadways is the practice of “skimming.” Regular roadway overlays can cost up to $400,000 per mile. Due to the high cost and limited city budget, overlays have not occurred over the past three years.

Public Works Director Kevin Nielsen worried that continuing to deter needed maintenance would have dire financial consequences in the years ahead, since ignored roadways could need major overlay or reconstruction if allowed to deteriorate beyond simple repair and maintenance. He proposed a short-term solution known in engineering circles as “skimming.” This road surface rehabilitation process uses the city’s paver to lay 1.5 inches of asphalt over travel lanes to fill potholes and protect the roadway from water.

I fully endorsed the concept and the City Council authorized funds to complete work this summer. In 2012, the Street Department completed about two miles in skimming, while staying under the Council’s budget of $100,000.

As further commitment that we need to invest more in our roads network to the extent that budget realities allow, the Council increased funding to $350,000 for pavement preservation in 2013. Surface rehabilitation treatments can protect and extend by up to five years the life of the pavement for some of our well-travelled roads most in need of repair, as determined by our Public Works staff.

If you want to see skimming in action, the best example this year will be an overlay from Grove Street and 67th Avenue extending on Grove into the Marysville foothills, as far east as funds allow. The work will most likely start at the end of July or early August — skimming needs a reliable window of dry weather to be most effective. City traffic engineers determined that this section of Grove meets the textbook definition of a failing road, especially considering how much use it gets from commuters travelling to and from home. Another project on tap will be an overlay of 51st Avenue NE from Grove north to 80th Street, which will also include shoulders. The shoulder work will begin over the next few weeks, with the actual road overlay occurring this summer.

While roads revived through skimming are not as nice looking, and they may not drive as smoothly as a full overlay or road rebuilt from the ground up, skimming is a viable, cost-effective street repair alternative during unpredictable economic times.

Mayor Jon Nehring can be reached at mayor@marysvillewa.gov or 360-363-8091.

 

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