There are more than 2,300 lane miles of paved road within the City of Huntsville. That’s enough to stretch from Big Spring Park to the Golden Gate Bridge.
That’s also enough to stretch the City of Huntsville Department of Public Works to the max when it comes to maintenance and repair.
It’s one of the most frequent calls and questions for the department: “How do I get my road resurfaced?”
Chances are, if you’re having to ask, your road is already on the radar. In fact, a working list for resurfacing in the fiscal year 2018 has already been created and a more ambitious budget for the work has been presented to the City Council.
The FY18 budget includes a large increase for road resurfacing, topping out at $12 million with $8 million of those funds targeted to neighborhood roads and $4 million dedicated to major collector roads (think moderate capacity roads that move traffic from local streets to arterial roads. Local collector road examples include: Old Madison Pike, Whitesburg Dr., and Bailey Cove.)
An evaluation process
According to Chris McNeese, Director of Public Works for the City of Huntsville, there is a constant evaluation process.
There are four Right of Way inspectors in his department, each with a different assigned area. Each inspector evaluates every street in his or her area and looks for deficiencies – potholes, patches that are beginning to wear, cracks, depressions. Each street is examined at least once every two years.
There is a numerical system, a zero to 60 rating scale. Sixty is the worst.
“We keep a ratings database of all the city streets,” McNeese says. “Each year, we pull the worst streets that need to be considered for resurfacing. We start with the worst and work our way down until the allocated funds are depleted.”
Typically, he says, they’ll be able to work their way down to the streets rated in the 40s before time and money are exhausted for the year.
“We try to maximize cost and efficiency by tackling projects in the same area and moving on,” McNeese says.
Streets are divided into two categories: The highly traveled “major collectors” and the “minor collectors,” the residential streets. Obviously, the major collectors are a higher priority for major repair. Then again, they’re also more likely to have suffered wear-and-tear damage than, say, a cul de sac in a subdivision.
Beyond major resurfacing, there is the day-to-day repair of potholes or so-called “alligator cracking,” where pavement loses its bonding strength. The potholes are on a similar evaluation procedure for priority.
The Department of Public Works tackles upwards of 2,800 potholes a week.
Because the pavement expands and contracts, “All roads are naturally subjected to weather. It causes overall deterioration. But some hold up better than others,” McNeese says.
To bring attention to problem streets, the best method is to use the Huntsville Connect app on your mobile phone or on HuntsvilleAL.gov, the City’s official website.