A new round of major Waco street reclamation projects began Monday, thanks to a funding boost from the city, and more are in the pipeline.
Big Creek Construction is beginning work to replace failing pavement on a portion of New Road near Franklin Avenue. When it’s done, crews will move on to sections of Bagby Avenue and Old Hewitt Road, wrapping up by the end of October.
City officials say the $3.4 million price tag will result in new pavement with a life expectancy of half a century.
The road projects are part of the city’s pavement management program, known as Better Streets Waco. All three are long overdue, said Jim Reed, public works capital improvement plan manager.
“We really do rely on citizens’ voices, what they think should be done and shouldn’t be done,” Reed said. “If we can’t take care of our citizens, it doesn’t matter what programs we have that can tell us what we should do, we’ve got to get eyes and feet and hear voices.”
Waco City Council raised the streets department’s budget from about $3 million to $17.1 million for the pavement program, slated for 2018-2019. Reed said that number should increase with every following year.
“Our problem is that we haven’t had a true pavement program in many years,” Reed said. “We’ve had money, but nothing that could start an emphasis on pavement.”
The first project, at the intersection of New Road and Franklin Avenue, will take roughly six weeks. Construction is scheduled between 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to minimize delays during the day.
“The traffic concerns there are so dynamic, especially when people are getting off of work,” Reed said. “A lot of people want to stop at Walmart and the businesses along there.”
Rodney Duron, co-owner of Freddy’s Glass on Franklin Avenue, said he’s watching traffic at Franklin and New Road grow steadily worse over the years.
“Each year it’s backing up further,” Duron said. “We’re used to it. We just have to be patient.”
He said while traffic usually slows down around 6 p.m., restricting the construction to nighttime will likely save everyone some grief, whereas daytime construction would be “a whole different story.”
Reclamation involves removing and replacing pavement entirely, while leaving storm drains and utility lines intact. Reed said the new New Road is designed to last about 50 years.
“In this situation, we believe the road is borderline-failure,” Reed said. “You’ll start having large sections that will start popping up during the freeze-thaw situation you have in winter.”
Reclamation projects, which are more expensive and take longer than mere resurfacing, are reserved for roads in very poor condition.
“It’s a huge investment that you make when you do road condition,” Reed said. “So, your intent is to have a product that’s going to last.”
A section of Bagby Avenue between Loop 340 and New Road is next on the list. The section includes Central Texas Marketplace and Waco ISD Stadium.
Reed said work on the wider road will take longer.
“It has a lot of important venues alongside it, but it is a great conduit to avoid having to use I-35, so we see it becoming a more popular route,” Reed said.
Bagby Avenue first came to Reed’s attention in 2015 during a community meeting initially meant to be about West Waco. Attendees quickly shifted the focus to Bagby’s poor condition.
“Bagby is important, and we knew we needed to do something before it went into total failure, where you just have your operations team out there trying to keep it glued together,” Reed said.
The Old Hewitt Road section will be reclaimed between Highway 84 and Mars Drive.
School traffic on Old Hewitt Road has caused pavement to shift over time. Reed said the road was also headed toward complete failure, and trying to do work piece-by-piece is only a greater risk to the workers and the public.
“We think that road is ideal for a complete reclamation,” Reed said.
The city conducted a study on its pavement quality in 2015, based on a high-tech scan of every street by a contractor. Waco scores a 40 on the Pavement Condition Index, which grades cities on a scale of zero to 100. Waco has roughly 630 centerline miles to care for, and many have been largely untouched for 25 years.
“We were trying to do rehab of the roads that had really turned bad, the ones we were getting calls about,” Reed said. “Well, while you’re doing that, you’re starting to get oxidation, you’re starting to get cracking, and you’re starting to see those cracks.”
Roads in less dire straits can be repaired with less expensive methods, like mill and overlay rehabilitation, which involves grinding down and replacing only the top layer of pavement. The city is set to begin work on a $4 million mill and overlay package that covers about seven centerline miles of city streets. Reed said mill and overlay is a common approach for city governments, more extensive than a restoration but less expensive than replacing the road entirely.
“A lot of roads have a big, heavy crown on them because they just keep milling out the edges and putting overlay on them,” Reed said.
Another upcoming reclamation project on Speegleville Road, from Highway 84 to Middle Bosque River Bridge, will cost roughly $3 million. Additions will include a guard rail on the bridge, extended culverts with safety features and an intersection signal by River Valley Intermediate School. Reed said the stop is currently marked by a stop sign on Oak Road.
“That’s a complicated issue when school is in session, there’s a lot of traffic in the morning,” Reed said. “That’s a great project. We think it’s important.”
The pavement management program also includes a $1.8 million preservation package that will cover about 28 miles of road, sealing it and protecting it from the elements.