Pictures couldn’t portray the complexity of problems with certain streets in Robinson, so elected officials and staff took their latest meeting on the road.
Under the leadership of a new city manager, officials are working to determine how to revamp the city’s streets under a new plan focusing on the worst areas. City staff abandoned an old street program last year before City Manager Craig Lemin joined the team in May. Many of the city streets were not originally constructed with a proper base structure and needed constant repairs.
Reviewing the current state of streets has revealed the varying level of problems in different areas and an understanding that a “one-size-fits-all” approach won’t work.
The city will look at sections that need preventive maintenance, reclamation or full rehabilitation. Mayor Bert Echterling said he would rather focus on ensuring smaller sections are done correctly than trying to log more miles.
Lemin said once the plan is complete, work can start immediately on some streets. Other roads will require more work than originally expected, he said.
The first stop for council members’ on-the-road meeting put everyone on South McLendon Drive.
Leading the tour, Walker Partners client manager Clark W. Gauer pointed to one end of the street and its 16-foot width, then to the point where it narrows to 14-feet wide.
Gauer said he picked that street for the field visit because there are at least a half-dozen similarly narrow roads, he said.
A 20- to 21-foot road width allows for two cars to comfortably pass in opposite directions, Gauer said. However, that’s assuming residents don’t park on the side of the road. A 22-foot width isn’t enough for two cars to pass if another one is parked, he said.
Echterling asked if the city could post “No Parking” signs to allow for two cars to pass on a street. Lemin said the signs are a possibility but would need to be reviewed.
“We’d love to widen every single road and have a 50-foot easement, but we can’t afford that,” Echterling said.
South McLendon is also an example of a road that sits too high compared to the surrounding land, Gauer said. It and other roads that are higher than the ground floor of the adjacent homes cause runoff problems, he said.
Any road included in the plan that’s higher than adjacent homes should be lowered a few inches, he said.
While stopped at East Ward Avenue and Sturgis Street, Gauer said it’s important to review historical data of areas with drainage problems.
“I’ve not been here after heavy rains but I’ve heard stories,” he said, adding the entire intersection has been known to go underwater during a heavy rain.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Mastergeorge said if the city improves all its roads but doesn’t address water flow, all the work could be undone.
Council member Vernon Leuschner said it won’t be possible to address the full extent of the drainage problems, but if the city could prevent 75 percent of the issues it would be a significant improvement.
At Lou Drive and Elizabeth Drive, Gauer pointed out how curb and gutter on one block is fair, while the next block down it is in poor shape.
“You can tell where water has stood for extended periods of time,” he said.
While the convoy drove down Lou Drive, Echterling pointed out the window and said, “That curb is playing hide-and-seek right there.”
Lemin pointed out that South McLendon Drive has a wider right of way than some of the other streets throughout the city.
As they define the project, city leaders will have to consider how expanding and lowering roads, working on curbs and gutters, or improving ditches affects the adjacent utility infrastructure. Lemin said many of the streets have city utilities below them, in addition to lines and other infrastructure owned and operated by third-party utility companies, all of which adds to the overall cost of the project.
Gauer said there’s no reason to fix a street with a poor waterline under it that could rupture and require a newly rebuilt street to be torn out.
East Ward Avenue is another 14-foot-wide street but has a 35-foot right of way, leaving the question of how to add a larger road with the necessary drainage in so little right of way, Gauer said.
Inconsistent construction adds to the complexity of the effort.
Just off North Robinson Drive, there are three parallel streets, each with different widths. Brewster Street is about 30 feet wide. Meadowbrook Street is about 40 feet wide, and Darden Drive is about 35 feet wide.
“I can’t give you a reason why Meadowbrook was built 40 feet wide,” Gauer said, adding they are considering narrowing it.
All 80.1 miles of Robinson streets were ranked into six categories in a 2013 inventory.
Streets in excellent shape make up 5.4 percent, or 4.3 miles, of the total. The city’s main focus is on streets ranked in the last three categories, which account for of 59.3 percent of the roads, or 47.5 miles. But in looking at road improvements the city council also has to consider if they want to incorporate water and wastewater lines into the plan.
Council members received a presentation in November that detailed a $4.3 million street program that would cover a portion of the 47.5 miles in the greatest need of repair. According to the report, it would cost about $3 million per year after the first three years to complete the 47.5 miles of roadway in about a decade. The $3 million per year would account for half of the city’s general fund annual budget.
Traveling down Denison Drive, staff pointed out how on every block the amount of right of way differs from the next adding to the complexity of the work.
The city council will meet April 4 and discuss options for funding the project as they define and prioritize the project and its costs.