City playing catch up on street repaving
By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 22, 2001
After eight years without a consistent paving program, Meridian Public Works Director Benny Wolfe said Thursday his department is playing catch up with neglected streets.
Wolfe, who heard a barrage of complaints about street conditions earlier this month during the mayoral race, says his department is making headway on improving the streets, but admits there is still a lot of roadway ahead.
So far this fiscal year the city has spent $855,000 on street paving, coupled with an additional $800,000 from Lauderdale County through an interlocal agreement.
Although the amounts represent a large increase from the lack of attention streets got from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, Wolfe said more funding is necessary.
In the past his department has recommended an annual stipend from which to draw money for repaving projects.
Wolfe says a lack of funding being spent on infrastructure has been a troubling trend nationally, especially to officials who hold positions similar to his in other cities.
Street repaving isn't getting any cheaper.
As more time passes without any action to bring streets up to basic standards, Wolfe said the potential cost is also escalating because of the rising price of materials.
Asphalt that several years ago could be bought for $25 per ton has skyrocketed to $42 per ton, according to Wolfe. As with consumer gasoline prices, the oil-based components that help create asphalt has been the culprit behind the price increase.
Currently, which streets get paved depends entirely on city council members, who submit a "wish list" of what streets they want paved in their own wards. Wolfe's department then informs the council of how much asphalt tonnage is available for the entire city. The council divides that figure into five equal parts for each ward and edits their lists accordingly.
But Wolfe doesn't believe, as many residents do, that Meridian has the worst street conditions of other comparable cities in the state.
In order to properly maintain the streets the way Wolfe said he would like, city leaders would need to loosen the purse strings.
The Public Works Department plan would recommend resurfacing main thoroughfares every 10 years, collector streets every 15 years and residential streets every 20 years.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know?
On average, repaving a mile of a two lane residential street costs about $60,000. For four lane thoroughfares, such as 14th Street and Eighth Street, one mile of repaving costs about $120,000.
The City of Meridian maintains between 400-450 miles of roads.
So far in fiscal year 2001 the city has used about 17,500 tons of asphalt for resurfacing.