There are enough combined lane markings painted on Sarasota County roads to stretch from downtown Sarasota to New York City. And, according to Sarasota County Public Works, more than half of the 2,830 miles of county roads could use some kind of work.
Jim Harriott, executive director of public works, gave an overview of roads, bridges, streetlights and signs at the Tuesday, May 7 budget workshop. His presentation showed that the county is following the national trend of failing transportation infrastructure. He recommended that resurfacing and intersection improvement projects be combined, so when funneling Surtax 3 funding to road improvements, the needs of different types of projects could be weighed as a whole.
“You could decide whether you need an intersection improvement at one site or a road repaved at another,” he said.
Also, projections presented showed that the resurfacing program’s budget is expected to shrink this year and in 2013. The average forecasted budget for the next five years barely meets half of what was spent in 2011 on resurfacing. With the price of asphalt expected to increase to $120 per ton by 2015 from $90 per ton today, costs could squeeze the purchasing power of the program’s budget.
One of the only cost-cutting alternatives has generated complaints from residents. The process, called micro-surfacing, is 33% cheaper than repaving and ostensibly extends the life of a road by seven years. But, a road has to be treated when it falls in a certain range of the “Overall Condition Index,” a score from 0 to 100 used to rate a road’s condition — and it’s rough.
“The surface becomes almost useless for rollerblading,” Harriott said about Bahia Vista Street, which was recently micro-surfaced. “We’ve fielded complaint after complaint about these roads, but based on our evaluations they’re just fine.”
Commissioner Nora Patterson said she would like to see line items considered for Surtax 3 funding re-evaluated to look for more funding for repaving. Patterson and Commissioner Christine Robinson said they were concerned about an increase in complaints that micro-surfacing could bring.
Patterson wasn’t sold on the potentially controversial cost-cutting measure. It could cost a third of what repavement costs, but said Patterson: “It only lasts a third as long.”
Rating a road
Sarasota County Public Works uses the “Overall Condition Index” to evaluate a road’s condition when considering a repair. Cracks, water leakage, potholes and other imperfections are used to score a road from 0 to 100. Dirt roads get a 0 while roads that need resurfacing fall below 60. The public works presentation to Sarasota County commissioners suggested that roads falling between 60 and 70 OCI should be candidates for micro-surfacing, which ostensibly adds seven years to a road’s lifetime.
More than 30% of the roads maintained by Sarasota County, 785 miles in total, are below 60 on the index and more than half are under 70, meaning that public works recommends that more than 50% of the roads under county management need some type of repair.
Sarasota County Public Works gathers road and bridge data in a system that allows anyone to research the condition of a road on the organization’s website.
At the Monday, May 7 budget workshop, Public Works Executive Director Jim Harriott ran a live demonstration of the system. Commissioner Joe Barbetta suggested Richardson Road, for which he receives many email complaints. The web report states the road hasn’t been paved since 1983 and has an OCI in the 30s.
Barbetta expressed some frustration that re-pavement was allowed to surpass the 20-year average lifespan of a road.
“This just isn’t acceptable,” he said. “We have to come up with a better system.”
By The Numbers
2,328 — the miles of lane roads maintained by Sarasota County
1,200 — the miles of lane markings supervised by the county
50,000 — estimate of the number of raised pavement markers, the reflective pieces used as audible lane boundaries
37,843 — the number of road signs maintained by the county
236 — the number of county-maintained traffic lights
4,681 — number of streetlights supervised by the county
760 — the miles of sidewalks maintained by the county
137 — number of countywide bridge structures
*Data provided by Sarasota County Public Works