From Elm Street downtown to Russell Street in the Heights, the city plans to spend up to $1.7 million rebuilding stretches of nine sidewalks, ranging from 75 to 2,400 feet long.
That plan — still in draft form — came before the most recent meeting of the city’s four-person Resource Allocation Committee.
The four-person committee convened in 2012 to make more transparent decisions about the controversial process of choosing which neighborhood sidewalks and streets to fix.
It is now in the process of considering three separate plans: The one for fixing sidewalks; one for paving streets, introduced the previous week; and one for putting “traffic-calming” measures to dangerous roads, which has not yet come before the committee.
Municipal Civil Engineer Joseph Krupa handed out the tentative list for repairing the nine sidewalks at the most recent meeting, held last Thursday in the 200 Orange St. municipal office building.
The first draft of the sidewalk plan — click here to view all of it — spends the $1,711,000 budget for this fiscal year on the nine sidewalks (listed at the top of the story) with an 18 percent contingency reserve in case of a sidewalk emergency. As it stands, $153,000 of the budget remains to be allocated.
The members of the committee are considering more than just the most dire needs for the city at this moment as they weigh which sidewalks and streets to pave and which streets to slow down with “traffic-calming” measures.
Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Pugh told the Independent the committee is trying to consider projects with a timeline of up to five years from now in mind. Such a plan for the city’s street-repair funding does not currently exist, she said, because the budget is completed annually in terms of projects from July to the following June.
“There is the traffic-calming element, sidewalk element, paving element and limited dollars,” Pugh said of determining which streets and sidewalks to upgrade. “It’s definitely kind of an art.”
How Far Should We Go?
Once Krupa (third from right in photo) handed out paper copies of the tentative recommendations for sidewalk repairs and reconstruction, a silence filled the room as the eight people surveyed the approved project list at the top and the list of large aldermanic requests for sidewalk repairs at the bottom of the page.
Before approving the budget, the group would have to discuss why the Engineering Department chose those nine sidewalks, and assess whether they were the best candidates for renewal based on their current condition, location and cost.
Annex Alder Alphonse Paolillo Jr. asked Krupa whether all the sidewalk projects listed had to be completed in full, or whether some — such as the longest 4,000-foot stretches of planned repair along Lloyd Street and Wolcott Street, which are both in Fair Haven’s Ward 16 — could be spliced to service the parts in worst condition.
Krupa responded that in many cases, once construction crews are on site, it makes financial sense to continue repairing along a sidewalk rather than undertake a different project.
Paolillo pointed out how the plan allocates “basically 75 percent of the budget in one community” due to the two long sidewalk repairs.
Ultimately, members of the group said they were pleased to move forward with planning the sidewalks, since having the information clearly laid out should make approving the budget that much easier in upcoming weeks.
The Rolls Royce Repair Method
City public works chief Douglas Arndt also handed out a document of street-paving recommendations, prompting a continued discussion about how to decide where to spend the $800,000 budget for that project.
Arndt explained the report was updated from last week with some additional information and two alternate organizations, grouping streets on one side by approval and on the other by location.
The recommendations for repaving nine streets were based on location, street use, cost, a consultant’s recommendations to the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the pavement condition index (PCI), which rates the quality of a street’s pavement from 0 to 100 (with 0 representing the worst condition).
Arndt said the consultant reported that the average PCI in New Haven is from the mid-to-high 70s. The PCIs of the streets slated for repaving range from 60 to 44.
Questions arose over why the nine streets Arndt recommended were chosen over some other streets with PCIs as low as 40. In response, Arndt compared street rehabilitation to maintaining a Rolls Royce, Mercedes or Volvo.
“There’s a point in road PCI — between 55 to 50 range — at some point in time there, it’s equivalent to a car,” he said. “You just keep replacing parts.”
If kept within that PCI range sweet spot, functioning streets would have the longest lifespan and incur less cost over time, using the “mill and fill” strategy of tearing up the top two inches of road and replacing that part with new pavement.
If left for too long, those streets would pass the point of no return, and require the much more expensive “base rehab.” For that reason, streets with PCIs around 59 and 60, such as parts of College and Crown Streets, are better choices for repair than a residential area such as Peck Street, with a PCI of 40.
Still, Dwight Alder Frank Douglass said he thinks the committee should substitute out some of the nine streets for roads that were not recommended for repaving.
“Peck Street I know is hell,” Douglass said. “That street is beat up and it needs to be redone.”
The committee also considered ongoing construction near streets on the Department of Public Works (DPW) list. High Street, for example, runs right next to the two Yale construction projects on Old Campus; Paolillo (far left) asked whether that would delay or damage the street’s resurfacing.
Before moving forward in approving the list of streets, the committee decided that it would like to hear more information from DPW about why these nine streets were chosen, and that DPW should consult with the Engineering Department to make sure there are no construction projects planned that would tear up any roads soon after repaving them.
Arndt expressed confidence in the DPW reasoning behind each street’s inclusion, and said that if a street is on the list, “it’s probably on there for a very good reason.”
Once Hausladen presents his recommendations for traffic-calming measures, such as speed humps costing between $3,000 and $6,000, the group will work to approve the final budget plans.
The difficulty of the decision-making led to hypothesizing at the end of the meeting.
“What if we could do the whole city, just get it done?” Paollilo asked.
“I estimate at $6 billion?” Hausladen responded, prompting laughter.