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Taxpayers disagree whether Victoria's streets are getting better

By DAVID TEWES
April 16, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated April 16, 2010 at 11:17 p.m.


HOW SURVEY IS CONDUCTED

The street survey is done by employees who drive all 311 miles of city roads, not including highways maintained by the state.

They look for such problems as pavement cracks, potholes, rutting and poor drainage.

Each of the 12 possible defects are rated and added to provide an overall rating for the street. The ratings are then used by the staff and city council to make decisions about which streets to repair.

Those decisions also hinge on such factors as cost, the amount of traffic and the condition of water and sewer lines beneath the pavement.

HISTORICAL RATINGS

Victoria has conducted surveys on the condition of city streets every year beginning in 1994, with the exception of 2006.

In 1994, only about 40 percent of the city's streets were rated as good to very good. That compares to just over 85 percent today.

Victoria businessman Jeff Lyon said he sees improvements in the streets. But he said the road to perfection is still miles away.

"They're making improvements, but it's a very slow process," said Lyon, vice president and general manager of GAP Broadcasting-Victoria. "They still have quite a ways to go in improving many of the residential areas."

Gilbert Gonzalez, who has driven Victoria's streets for 38 years for the United Parcel Service, described them as "terrible." He said he doesn't see the progress the city claims.

"Politically, they say yes," he said. "But in actuality, no."

Gonzalez said the potholes are numerous and even recently paved residential streets are getting cracks in them.

A yearly survey conducted by the city each summer give Victoria a solid B for the condition of its streets. The city's average street rating increased to 85.18 in 2009 based on square footage compared to 84.46 the previous year. Public Works employees rank Victoria's 311 miles of streets on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being the best condition.

Public Works Director Lynn Short said the method used to judge the streets isn't perfect, but he said it's based on recommendations from the Asphalt Institute. The institute is the international trade association of petroleum asphalt producers, manufacturers and affiliated businesses.

Short said the survey doesn't take into account such factors as traffic volumes and it is somewhat subjective.

"As they drive the street, it's that person's interpretation," he said. "So, yeah it is somewhat subjective."

Freshman Council Member Denise Rangel said the increase listed in the report, though seemingly small, is good news.

"We have X amount of money, and you do the best you can," she said. "I think we're doing exceptionally well."

Rangel said the weather the past couple of years has not been much help to the city. Short agreed.

"When it dries, the ground moves around and the asphalt cracks, he said. "When it rains, obviously you get moisture in the base and you get potholes and failures."

The city street survey was conducted last summer and shows 73 percent of the roads were in good to very good condition. Another 19 percent were in fair condition, 6 percent were in poor condition and 2 percent were in very poor condition.

Short said he considers the nearly 1-percentage point improvement in ratings a sign of steady progress. He attributes the improvement primarily to the city rebuilding such thoroughfares as Laurent Street and Lone Tree Road.

"Some of those large thoroughfares that were in very poor condition have now been completed in concrete," he said. "That has brought up the score."

Short said he expects to see further improvements in the coming years when the city completes rebuilding part of Red River Street near The Victoria College and Sam Houston Drive.

"I think we're doing very well on our large thoroughfares," he said. "We still unfortunately have a lot of residential streets that we need to work on as funding becomes available."

Short said the city has $1.7 million available for general street maintenance this budget year. That includes $525,000 to seal street cracks that allow water to get into the base and cause pavement failure.

The city has another $878,275 to hire a contractor to help repair residential streets and $300,000 for the city crews to make general maintenance repairs.

"We're probably holding our own on the residential streets," Short said. "They haven't been increasing like the thoroughfares, but we've got a lot of residential streets out there and a lot of needs as far as residential efforts."

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