Albemarle council discusses ways to improve street maintenance

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

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The Albemarle City Council received a detailed update recently on the condition of the city’s roads.

The topic is of great importance to the citizens, as street maintenance was voted the second most important city service during a community survey completed by residents late last year, behind only economic development.

Steve Lander, director of pavement management for the engineering company WithersRavenel, presented the 2021 Pavement Condition Survey, where he and other officials rated each of Albemarle’s asphalt and composite pavement streets, totaling about 116 miles.

The PCS is an assessment of the city’s current street condition along with analysis of the types of maintenance and repairs needed. The assessment grades Albemarle’s individual streets on a numbered scale, known as the Pavement Condition Index, from 1 being “very poor” to 100 being “very good.”

The last PCS was performed in 2015, when the city received a score of 66.5, which is categorized as “fair.” It was recommended at the time that to keep the city’s street infrastructure at its current state, it would take approximately $1 million per year invested in annual pavement maintenance, according to a memo circulated by the public works department.

Even though annual funding for pavement maintenance has increased over the past several years — $400,000 has been budgeted for the 2021-2022 fiscal year compared to $150,000 which was allocated for the 2015-2016 fiscal year — the streets as a whole have declined.

For this year, Lander told council the city received a PCI score of 64, which is a “poor” score and almost three points lower than in 2015. He recommended the city perform a PCS on the roads every two to three years to keep updated regarding current conditions.

Lander presented a variety of funding scenarios over a 10-year span, including allocating the $400,000 to address the worst streets first (which would drop the PCI score to 47 because good streets would invariably decline), and increasing yearly funding to $1.4 million to maintain the current 64 PCI score.

Over the past several years, public works has focused about 50/50 on preserving roads through micro surfacing (protective seal coat which extends the life of pavement) and rehabilitating them through the mill and overlay technique, according to the memo. Lander told council that under its current operations, eventually the city will run out of roads to micro surface.

Staff has not addressed the worst conditioned streets, including portions of Brenda Drive, Montgomery Avenue, Pee Dee Avenue and North Second Street, which are the ones that receive the most complaints from residents. Many of these poor roads are just not feasible to work on as they can cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to rehabilitate, Public Works Director Ross Holshouser told council.

Citing the survey that citizens completed last year, Councilwoman Martha Hughes mentioned that because street maintenance is such an important issue to many people, the council would continue to prioritize funding for improving the roads.

“I think it’s obvious as a council that we’re going to have to continue to increase our funding,” she said. “We can’t stop at $400,000, it’s got to continue to go up.”

After much back and forth, council decided to continue with the current $400,000 funding and agreed to look at the issue again during the next budget year.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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