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January 27, 2013

The high cost of fixing streets

Close to $30 million bond package could be on May ballot

GREENVILLE — It is no secret that many of Greenville’s streets and roads need to be completely rebuilt. Anyone who drives on them can tell you that.

Whether local residents will agree to pay to get them fixed is another question.

The Greenville City Council received a briefing last week on 11 streets which city engineers believe need to be reconstructed, and two more which they feel should be built to help relieve mounting traffic problems. A vote to approve the issuance of bonds to fund the projects could be included on the May municipal election ballot. The work won’t come cheap.

“You’re talking about $30 million in projects here,” said City Manager Steve Alexander.

Director of Public Works Massoud Ebrahim said the streets and roads which are being considered were chosen using a complex formula.

“We created a matrix for each project,” Ebrahim said. “Each matrix had 10 criteria.”

The roads were judged based on their current condition, expected growth of traffic, connection to other major roads, whether the street was part of the city’s long range thoroughfare plan and other factors. A  2006 assessment of the 200 miles of streets in Greenville was also utilized.

“We feel these are the priorities of the city,” Ebrahim said.

Number one on the list is the reconstruction of Stonewall Street between Mockingbird and the Interstate 30 service road, a project estimated to cost $1.43 million. Ebrahim said the city had planned on completing the project since 2002, but held off while awaiting the reconstruction of the Wesley Street overpass across Interstate 30. The current street is too narrow, Ebrahim said, which means right-of-way will need to be acquired and two parallel sanitary sewer mains will have to be replaced and relocated.

Coming in at number two is Webb Avenue between Wesley and Sayle Streets, at a cost of $1.22 million. Ebrahim said the city needs another east/west connector street to help relieve traffic congestion and noted Webb has never been upgraded to an “urban pavement” condition.

Roy Warren Parkway between Traders Road and FM 1570 is third on the list, at $4.18 million. Roy Warren, once known as Dent Road, is pretty much only a dirt path through the area and Ebrahim said building the section would open up a new corridor between Interstate 30 and FM 1570, helping relieve traffic congestion and adding a new region to economic development.

Moving down the list a bit to number seven is Shelby, between Enterprise and Montana, which is also the most expensive project at an estimated $6.8 million.

“We got a lot of complaints when Rubbermaid was in business,” Ebrahim said, noting Shelby is a direct route from the residential areas along Sayle to the industrial parks along State Highway 66. The subgrade under the road has completely failed and will have to be replaced.

At number eight on the list is Stonewall Street between Park and Stanford, costing an estimated $1.5 million. Ebrahim said the plan is to add storm sewer improvements and new sidewalks along the road, due to the problems with high water across Stonewall every time there is a heavy rain.

“We’re going to keep the same width,” Ebrahim said. “That area is so populated, getting the right-of-way would be so messy.”

The total for all of the projects comes to an estimated $28.47 million and the Council debated whether to add some or all of the projects to the May ballot.

“Obviously you are not going to do all these projects at once,” Alexander said.

The options could involve having all of the projects on the ballot in one package, then if the bonds are approved completing about $5 million in projects per year. Or voters could be given the chance to give their approval or rejection to groupings of projects or each project individually.

“I’d like to focus on fixing what we’ve got, rather than building new roads,” offered Council member Dan Perkins. “These roads need to be taken care of and they’ve needed to be taken care of for a long time.”

“I think the preference would be to put it all into one,” said Mayor Steve Reid, noting how interest rates are at all-time lows, meaning it would cost less for the city to sell the bonds now than in the future. “If you do have a problem, now is the time to fix the problem.”

The Council has about another month to decide whether to add the road bonds to the May ballot. But even if they are approved and the bonds sold right away, the work won’t begin for a while.

“We’re not going to move any dirt for between one year and 18 months,” Ebrahim said.

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