Kingman's roads finally getting some long-delayed TLC
Budget squeezes have left the city years behind on maintenance
KINGMAN - If Rob Owen had the money, he would pave, repave, repair or rehabilitate every single street, road, drive and avenue within the city of Kingman.
But the director of the city's Public Works Department doesn't have the funds to magically make up for seven years of wholesale neglect to Kingman's road network.
That's how many years state lawmakers kept fuel tax money, known as Highway User Revenue Funds, which is generated by motorists who buy fuel in Kingman. It is the primary revenue source for street projects large and small.
The state took hundreds of thousands of HURF dollars from the city and multiple millions more from cities across Arizona in order to shore up depleted budgets.
The cost to Kingman has been profound.
"We're seven or eight years behind our old schedule," said Owen. From 2008 until 2014, virtually zero maintenance projects were completed. Last year was the first chip seal work done in years and it only impacted a few key miles on major roads. Left alone were the rest of the roughly 208 miles of paved roads within the city limits.
And while funding from HURF and a special tax have provided the department the means to renew its maintenance and pavement preservation programs, Owen warns it will take time.
The City Council a couple of years ago dedicated 1 percent of restaurant and bar taxes to pavement preservation projects in an effort to replace HURF. This year, Owen will get about $600,000, which helps but barely scratches the surface. Last year, state lawmakers agreed to return HURF money to cities, but it will be years before Kingman receives its full share of the redistribution.
What would it cost to bring Kingman's road network up to par? Multiple millions of dollars, said Owen, and while the department will likely never catch up to a seven-year backlog, work is being done.
Owen and Jack Plaunty, the city's street superintendent, will focus on chip sealing and maintenance of existing roads. Specifically, arterial and collector roads - those that handle the most traffic - will be the focus of work.
The Big Project
There are tentative plans to do major work on Stockton Hill Road between Detroit and Airway avenues this summer.
If the City Council ultimately approves the capital improvement project when the final budget and plan is formalized later this spring, the mill overlay could begin by July or August, said Owen.
Plaunty said the work will be invasive for motorists, but it will not be as lengthy or as expensive as would a complete rebuild. The overlay is expected to add another 10 years to the road's life.
Crews will mill off the top two inches of asphalt and replace it with new asphalt, giving the most heavily traveled street in Kingman a base between 6 and 11 inches.
The city will also do the work under the Interstate 40 overpass at Stockton Hill Road for the Arizona Department of Transportation.
"It's their right of way," said Plaunty, "but ADOT doesn't have the funding."
Overall, the project will cost an estimated $400,000.
On the subject of Stockton Hill Road and traffic, Owen said there isn't a lot that can be done.
"We have lots of issues with Stockton Hill," said Owen. "There are too many driveways and the (traffic) signals are too close together."
He said engineers have determined the amount of traffic dictates Stockton Hill should have three lanes in both directions rather than the existing two.
He said the city is also working with an expert to better coordinate signal timing. The lights, contrary to popular opinion, are synchronized during the day, but after 7 p.m. lights can be triggered when someone wants to enter Stockton Hill Road from a side road controlled by a signal light.
The need for improvements is obvious, said Owen, especially when Stockton Hill Road carries on average 31,000 vehicles a day, most between Detroit and Airway avenues.
When asked which neighborhood in Kingman is home to the poorest quality roads, Owen and Plaunty replied in unison: "Kingman."
"That's why we concentrate on collectors and arterials," said Owen. "This funding source from bars and restaurants has been very good to us and we're looking to hit it hard."
As for prioritizing, Plaunty said it's a matter of need.
"We've been doing worst is first on maintenance," he said, "but it's also cost-effective for us to hit streets that are still in decent shape."
Pavement preservation is a key component to the street plan because it's less expensive to maintain a road than it is to allow one to fail and rebuild it.
A pavement condition index is used to determine when to work on what road. The index is on a scale of one to 100, with 100 a brand new road.
"We want to keep the index above 80," said Plaunty. For roads that are below 80, and many are, the plan is to improve them until they meet that threshold.
"I anticipate people will see us doing a road and ask why when it doesn't look too bad," said Owen. "This is why. We want to get to it before it's too bad."
Chip seal season
While critics claim chip seal - a mixture of rock and oil - doesn't last, Owen and Plaunty believe the alternative to asphalt is a "necessary evil."
"Chip seal is noisy and it can be messy," said Plaunty, "but it costs 10 times less than any other system."
The city's plan is to treat 500,000 square yards this season, most of it with chip seal.
A square yard of chip seal costs about $1.60, while the mill overlay work that will be done on Stockton Hill Road will cost an estimated $22.50 per square yard.
"The whole world uses chip seal," Plaunty said. "The cost benefits are huge."
Owen said the emulsion, or oil, used in chip seal rejuvenates the underlying pavement. Also, it helps to keep water out and seal cracks.
"We are working on this," said Plaunty. "We're trying to cover as much ground as we can."