Sunday, August 3, 2014

Everything You (N)ever Wanted To Know About Repaving

by Sue Nielsen

I recently asked David Morgan, Public Works Coordinator for the Roads and Drainage Division of the Orange County Government, for his assessment of our Belle Isle roadways. Mr. Morgan’s knowledge and expertise really helped me understand the condition and needs of our streets, and I want to share some of what I learned with the citizens and commissioners of the City of Belle Isle. 

First, the principal method of repairing streets used since the early 2000’s is a “mill and overlay” paving process. This process requires the damaged streets to be milled down 1½ inches. The streets are then resurfaced with a thick layer of asphalt known as a “super pave” mix. This mix must be put down at a depth of at least 1½” or reflective cracking will result. Streets resurfaced by this method will last an average of 15 years. The cost for this process is approximately $10/square yard, and it is considered the proper means for repairing roads with a good base.

However, in the 1980’s and 90’s, a cheaper method of restoring roads known as “microsurfacing” was popularized. Before applying the microsurfacing process, asphalt sealant is applied to repair cracks in the pavement. Then the road is then microsurfaced with a layer of asphalt 1/8 inch thick, or about the thickness of two pennies. Two sequential applications of this microsurfacing were recommended. The microsurfacing treatment was said to last 6-8 years, but the appearance deteriorates much sooner than that because the tiny bits of rock wash out, leaving the ugly sealant patches visible. The rock pieces cause problems by accumulating on or near the road, in drainage systems, and eventually in our lakes. 

Mr. Morgan calls the microsurfacing process a “bandaid.” The microsurfacing process should never be done more than once, as repeating this process after a few years is like putting another bandaid over the first one. One reason for the past popularity of microsurfacing was its cost of around $2/square yard. But even with its seemingly low cost, microsurfacing is today considered a poor value for the money. 

The good news is that Mr. Morgan believes that the roads in Belle Isle are generally solid with a good base. However, many need to be repaved, and some require more thorough evaluation. The standard for determining the condition of roads is called the Pavement Condition Index (PCI). Roads are assigned a PCI number within the range of 1-100, with 100 being the best. PCI ratings under 70 indicate the road will need to be repaired in the very near future. PCI ratings are very useful for government planning and scheduling of road maintenance. PCI values below 70 are described as poor, very poor, serious, or failed. In some parts of Belle Isle such as in Lake Conway Shores, the asphalt is only 3/8 inch thick. In cases like this, it is good practice to obtain core samples because to mill and overlay at 1½ inches will remove some of the base, and you want to be sure of the condition of the base before you begin. 

Mr. Morgan and I did not drive every road in the city, but it was apparent that many of our Belle Isle roads are in dire need of attention. The roads in Lake Conway Estates were assigned a PCI of 65-70, as were the streets in Windsor Place, where granite bits from the degrading paving have collected in the cul-de-sacs. Mr. Morgan could tell that Chiswick had been microsurfaced twice, using granite aggregate first from Nova Scotia and later from Georgia. He said that the streets in Lake Conway Estates are in good condition but that the valley gutters should have been repaired before paving. Lake Conway East streets differ from one another in condition, but Quando Drive has serious asthetic issues requiring attention. 

The Lakes and Landings streets are in good shape, but Trentwood Blvd was rated at PCI 60 (poor) due to high level cracking and broken ribbon curbing. Daetwyler is on the County schedule for repair in the near future, as are Seminole and Hoffner (which is a state-maintained road). 

Belle Isle Pines and Wind Harbor streets are in need of immediate attention, while those in Belle Isle West probably have another three years left.  In Wind Harbor and the Pines, the condition of the base needs to be checked as well. Horizon Court off Matchett is in “terrible” condition with a PCI of 30-40. Delia, Gibson, and Stockbridge are “on borrowed time” according to Mr. Morgan.

We did not have a chance to drive through the Pleasure Island and Oak Island area, but a quick tour at a later date revealed that those streets are also likely in need of attention.
Belle Isle has around 850,000 square yards of roadway that the City Council has charged our City Manager with maintaining. At $10/square yard, the cost to do them all at once would be over $8.5 million – more once you figure in the cost of repairs to our city’s gutters and curbing. 

But to maintain our property values, we must maintain our streets. For the last several years, the CIP has listed the streets of Daetwyler Shores, Wind Harbor, and the streets around Warren Park to be “resealed and resurfaced.” Some residents recall that the streets in Wind Harbor were last paved 30 years ago. 

I submit that our streets need more than “bandaids” that will leave ugly scars in 2-3 years. We need a Capital Improvement Plan that addresses the needs of the city. We need a well-reasoned, definite schedule for maintenance and improvement of our infrastructure. We cannot afford any longer to postpone the road maintenance that is already well past due.

Legal Note to City Commissioners:
According to the Florida Attorney General in Advisory Legal Opinion number AGO 2008-07, a City Commissioner may post an article or otherwise distribute written materials to other members of the City Council regarding city matters without raising any issues under the Florida Sunshine Law. However, City Commissioners should note that any responses to such an article or written material would run afoul of the Sunshine Law. Therefore, responses to the author of this article by other City Commissioners are NOT permitted.

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