A more aggressive Pavement Management Program is required that starts with an accelerated paving program to catch up. We need to convert our reactive program into a proactive program.
Our current, reactive strategy means paving is done on a ‘worst first’ basis where there are always a long list of Town roads in poor condition. To restore these roads, reconstruction, significant drainage work, and complete milling/overlay work is often required. We get to as many miles of road as possible based on a fluctuating budget.
A new, proactive strategy means that the paving cycle is accelerated to get the Town to a point where we only need to repair roads that are still in good condition (at a significantly lower expense). Looking at the chart below as an example, you can get a sense of the importance of being proactive—we are flushing our money down the drain if we wait until the road is in shambles to resurface it.
Paving has gotten significantly better over the past 6 years. There are about 105 miles of Town roads with widths between 12 and 36 feet. This excludes parking lots. That is a lot of pavement. Our Department of Public Works does a great job maintaining all that road. They work with the resources the Town Board allocates.
In some years prior to 2014 the Town paved less than 1 mile of road per year—that was an unsustainable 100+ year paving cycle! We are now paving around 5.5 miles of road per year which brings us to a paving cycle of between 19 and 20 years.
To restore all roads to near perfect condition would cost at least $15 to $20 million. We cannot afford that and don’t need that. But, just like you cannot afford to have a leaky roof, we cannot afford to let our road assets continue in disrepair. When they are left too long or not maintained they are often so deteriorated that they cost significantly more to restore. Drainage problems increase and this is expensive to restore. And often drainage problems extend the problem to resident property and driveways.
We need to work with those that know our roads best and develop a full plan for addressing the current condition of every road in our Town and for a maintenance strategy going forward.
Road Maintenance Strategy. New Castle should implement a more aggressive road maintenance strategy. Some Towns like ours have been able to almost double the life of their roads by implementing a more aggressive maintenance program. This program should provide for rigorous annual road inspections and data collection (and it could also consider modern technology to collect data at a fraction of more labor-intensive methods). The program should identify and solve small problems and drainage problems before they cause significant wear and damage.
Revisit techniques and materials. There are innovations in road and material science, including new materials that can be cheaper and can extend the life of a road, and material that is more sustainable from an environmental perspective. We should make sure our Town considers this cutting edge and has all paving materials and methods at our disposal. This may require revisiting Chapter 109 of Town Law on Roadway Pavement specifications. And although certain road standards are required in order to receive state-aid (e.g. CHIPS funds), certain low-volume roads may warrant different standards.
Transparency. Many residents have asked us for more transparency about the road paving schedule. We understand that the Town Board has not been involved in making specific paving decisions, but it should have an increased oversight role to make sure we adhere to this goal: The goal of New Castle’s pavement management program should be to use funding as efficiently as possible, maintain roads as fairly as possible, and to distribute improvements in as balanced a manner as possible throughout Town using best in class practices and engineering analysis.
State and County Roads. While the County roads (Greeley, Seven Bridges, Pines Bridge, Washington, North State) appear in relatively good condition, the State roads (numbered roads) are in varied condition. Many residents have complained about the lack of pothole repair and resurfacing of these roads and feel they are not heard at the state level when they complain. The Town should do its best to coordinate concerns and work with the State DPW to address them.
Potholes. The Town does a good job filling potholes even thought it is currently a daunting task to keep up with them. Residents have an efficient way to notify the Town of a pothole and the Town has good equipment and response time to make a repair. We don’t want to fill more potholes, however, we want to stop them from forming in the first place.
Road Safety. Smooth pavement certainly makes navigating our roads easier and safer. But safety on our roads goes beyond the surface and safety must be a priority for the Town Board. There are a number of other safety concerns residents raised including through-street-speeding, the need for sidewalks, the need for improved drainage, and the need for additional signage and blind-spot mirrors. Addressing these concerns could save a life and is worthy of our time and commitment.
Conclusion. Our Town roads are one of our biggest investments. We travel continually on these roads with our families. People looking to buy a house in Westchester drive through the roads in many Towns and compare. We must protect our investment. Like all decisions in our Town, we should always ask: What is the impact on residents/taxpayers? What is the impact on property values? We support an improved Pavement Management Program because we believe it will have a positive impact on residents and property values.