Cedar Rapids creates "quick-start" streets program in 2014

list of 86 projects includes six reconstruction projects slated for 2015 and one for 2016 and 28 in-house

Rick Smith
Published: December 11 2013 | 4:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:44 am in
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One month after voters here agreed to extend the 1-percent local-option sales tax for 10 years to fix streets, the city’s Public Works Department has fashioned a priority program that it says will let it get twice as many streets repaired in 2014 as in a typical year.

Dave Elgin, the city’s public works director and city engineer, is calling the initial street-repair effort "the quick-start program."

This week, Elgin and Doug Wilson, the city’s capital improvement project manager, presented a priority list of 86 street projects to the City Council’s Infrastructure Committee, most of which they said the city hopes to take on in 2014.

The quick-start work will emphasize "preservation work," which will feature asphalt surface replacement and new asphalt overlays of concrete streets. This strategy will preserve the integrity of these streets for years to come so they don’t continue to deteriorate and need more costly street reconstruction.

"Look for a lot of construction cones in the upcoming year," Mayor Ron Corbett said on Wednesday.

In 2014, the first year of the city’s 10-year, sales-tax-supported street program, the city will study which streets it will begin to reconstruct beginning in 2015 as the city also continues its focus on preservation work in the years ahead, Elgin said.

The list of 86 projects includes six reconstruction projects slated for 2015 and one for 2016 and 28 that can be completed in-house by city streets crews.

Much of the preservation effort will target "local streets" and "collector streets," which carry less traffic than minor and principal arterial streets but which have largely been ignored in recent years because of lack of funds.

The city has estimated that the 1-percent sales tax will raise about $18 million a year, which is money that will replace and augment the $7 million a year on average that the city has used to help fix streets by taking on new debt. Debt has been paid off over time with property-tax revenue.

The city also receives about $12 million a year from the state road-use tax fund, some of which is used to support the city’s in-house street maintenance program.

The new revenue stream from the local-option sales tax will not begin to be collected until July 1, 2014, but Elgin and Rob Davis, the city’s engineering operations manager, said the city wants to be in a position to go out for bids on street work early in 2014 so contractors are positioned to complete work in 2014.

Elgin emphasized that the city’s list of streets to be repaired is subject to some change. Some projects may need to be delayed to time the street work with utility work. And some projects also might be delayed if city streets crews assigned to them get diverted by flooding or storm damage to city trees, he said.

He said the "priority list" will take more-certain shape as the City Council finalizes its annual budget by March 15, 2014.

Council member Scott Olson, who represents council District 4 in the city’s northwest quadrant, joked that only 15 of the 86 projects are in northwest Cedar Rapids compared to 19 in northeast Cedar Rapids, 24 in southeast Cedar Rapids and 28 in southwest Cedar Rapids.

Wilson noted that the city’s northwest quadrant is the smallest quadrant geographically.

Council member Chuck Swore, chairman of the council’s Infrastructure Committee, asked about the additional street work’s impact to local businesses, and Elgin said some contracts can require contractors to work evenings and weekends. Wilson said asphalt preservation work can be done more quickly than street reconstruction work.

"We are going to be able to do a lot more than we ever have done before," Swore said.

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