After a particularly brutal winter, during which our streets took a beating, many residents have questions about the City’s road paving policies. Here’s how it works:
The City’s engineering staff conducts a comprehensive examination of road conditions each year, considering factors such as breaks in the asphalt, quantity of potholes, traffic intensity, years elapsed since the last resurfacing, and drainage problems. On the basis of this examination, our engineers assign a score to each road. This “wide” list is usually completed in the early spring.
From the wide list, the Department of Public Works creates a smaller “bid” list that includes the streets scoring highest. The size of the bid list is based on the amount of funding available and on the square footage of the roads. The bid list is generally completed in April.
(Elected officials have no role in choosing the streets that receive attention, and thank goodness for that, because you can imagine how council members would clamor for action in their own districts. The selection is non-political and merit-based.)
The City then solicits bids from private contractors on the proposed scope of work, choosing the responsible bidder that submits the lowest per-unit cost. In recent years, New Rochelle has merged our local contract with those of nearby municipalities to increase our bargaining power – a good example of shared services. The contract is typically bid in May.
Once a contractor is selected, the job has to be sequenced and staged, and work usually gets underway in the early summer, continuing through early fall.
To pay for all this, New Rochelle utilizes State funding from a program called CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street & Highway Improvement Program.) CHIPS dollars are distributed by formula, and New Rochelle’s 2014 allocation is $1,127,961. Each year, we pave as many roads as we can, until the money runs out.
Keep in mind that this whole process is distinct from simply filling potholes, which has been occurring on a rolling basis for several months now, and which is funded primarily by local tax dollars.
All in all, our road repair activities have worked pretty well, but I think there are two possible improvements that should be explored: (1) enhanced maintenance, such as crack sealing, which may extend the life of roads; and (2) “complete streets” upgrades that facilitate cyclist and pedestrian mobility and/or include green infrastructure to control flooding – an assessment of whether and how such improvements are appropriate and cost-effective should be built into our annual roadway analysis and potentially into our scope of work.