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$1 million could restart city street program

Springfield leaders say neighborhoods need road repair program that fell victim to budgets.

The lack of a neighborhood streets program since 2008 has one city commissioner proposing $1 million in funding to restart road resurfacing work as soon as possible.

City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill said residential roads will only get worse if not addressed quickly. He said the commission and staff would discuss the neighborhood streets program at the upcoming retreat in February.

“Not only do we have to get started up again, we have to get aggressive,” he said.

O’Neill would like to see $1 million used to help improve neighborhood streets and would be willing to dip into the city’s reserve budget or take on more debt to reinstate the program.

City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said, “We’re all of the opinion, commission and staff, that we’d like to get back to a program that has some systematic way of repairing the streets.”

At last November’s city budget meetings, commissioners discussed the need for a neighborhood streets program, which had been funded through permanent improvement funds, but which hasn’t been implemented the last five years because of budget restraints.

The city has done paving projects with grants from the Ohio Public Works Commission, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Neighborhood Stabilization Program, but most of those projects dealt with more heavily-trafficked roads and not residential streets.

“We’ve shifted our focus to the pursuit of federal and state funding wherever possible,” Bodenmiller said. “We’ve been able to get a lot accomplished, but that money is quickly running out.”

Bodenmiller said they’ve been able to get a reasonable amount of paving done, even without permanent improvement funds, but said there’s a growing need for paving on neighborhood streets.

“The harsh weather can deteriorate them,” Bodenmiller said, “and without a set, consistent program, you run the risk of having the streets fall apart on us.

The city does general maintenance on roads through its service department.

“There’s obviously more of that needed when you’re not doing a regular and consistent paving program,” Bodenmiller said.

The city spent approximately $6.4 million on its neighborhood streets from 2000 through 2008. However, with revenues shrinking due to the recession and $2.5 million of cuts from the state and federal government in 2012, the city hasn’t had the resources to keep up with the program.

O’Neill feels if the city doesn’t get started soon, the previously completed streets will needed paved again.

“We do need to address it and quit pushing it back,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the city has done a good job of funding bigger projects through match grants but said some of the older neighborhoods need attention.

Springfield spent $200,000 on road resurfacing projects last year.

In 2012, the city won state grants to pay for repaving the main road through Snyder Park and for Harding Road from Fountain to St. Paris Pike. The Harding Road project was fully funded through $701,000 in grants from the Federal Highway Administration and the Ohio Public Works, while Snyder Park, paved from Bechtle Avenue to Plum Street, cost approximately $211,000 with most coming from a $134,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The city also used $100,000 in Ohio Public Works money to repair sections of roads including Bechtle Avenue, McCreight Avenue, Belmont Avenue, St. Paris Pike, Limestone Street, Dayton Avenue, West John Street, Miracle Mile, Santa Monica Avenue and Home Road.

This year, the city will convert a section of North Fountain Avenue between Main and Columbia streets from one-way to two-way traffic as part of a $1 million streetscape project funded through federal earmarks awarded to the city during former U.S. Rep. Dave Hobson’s final term in office. It received a total of $6 million that paid for the North Street relocation project, the North Limestone Street bridge replacement and the North Fountain Avenue streetscape project.

“It’s tough to pick and choose what projects you’re going to do, what specific streets you’re going to pave,” Bodenmiller said. “Everybody wants their street done, but you can only do a limited number.”

The city will use another $190,000 from Ohio Public Works to fund shaving and paving of Home Road from Fountain Avenue to the bridge overlooking the multi-use trail. The project is estimated at $380,000 with the other half of the funds coming from the city’s permanent improvement fund. The Home Road project is projected to begin in July.

Already, $3.2 million worth of grant-funded road construction is planned in 2014, including $1.8 million in repairs to sections of Limestone Street, Kenton Street, John Street and McCreight Ave. and another $1.4 million to replace the Bechtle Avenue bridge over Buck Creek.

“We have to concentrate on those (main roads) when we have little revenues,” Bodenmiller said. “We have to concentrate on the streets that get the high volumes of traffic. They’re the ones that are typically available for state funding or state assistance.”

It is more expensive to fix roads. The price of asphalt had risen from $29 per ton in 2000 to $46 per ton in 2007. In 2012, the price of asphalt was between $71 and $75 per ton.

“It’s skyrocketed over the last five to seven years,” said Fredrick Pausch, the executive director of the County Engineers of Ohio Association.

Bodenmiller said the city’s situation is similar to other cities.

“As municipalities funding levels have decreased across the country, they’re only able to do so much with limited dollars,” Bodenmiller said.

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