Report ranks pavement condition in ‘fair’ category

Gayley Street's potholes are a result of Berkeley's deteriorating pavement. The city's pavement condition was given a score of 60 out of a possible 100 points in a report by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Jeffrey Joh/Staff
Gayley Street's potholes are a result of Berkeley's deteriorating pavement. The city's pavement condition was given a score of 60 out of a possible 100 points in a report by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The overall condition of pavement on the city of Berkeley’s thoroughfares is just shy of entering a level that would greatly increase the need for major rehabilitation, according to a recent report.

The report, released last Wednesday by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, gave Berkeley a pavement condition index of 60 out of a possible 100 points, placing the city in the “fair” category. According to the report, deterioration accelerates rapidly and the need for restoration increases below this threshold.

“Years of deferred maintenance have caught up with us,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz.

The Bay Area was given an overall pavement condition index of 66 and is in roughly the same condition as it was 10 years ago, according to the report.

“The condition of pavement on the Bay Area’s local streets and roads is fair at best,” the report states. “The typical stretch of asphalt shows serious wear and will likely require rehabilitation soon.”

According to the report, better pavement can assist in efforts to meet state targets for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Low-cost preventative maintenance can also reap environmental benefits because it requires less asphalt to be used and fewer heavy truck trips than is mandated by major rehabilitation projects, the report also states.

Kamlarz attributed the score in part to the fact that Berkeley is an older city with aging infrastructure. Investment to maintain it has been pushed back over the years as the city has opted to fund its more immediate needs instead, he said.

The  issue of how much to fund  pavement maintenance relative to other city services is what Kamlarz referred to as “policy decisions and trade-offs.”

Moreover, Kamlarz said Berkeley has more social programs to fund than some cities, including a health department subsidized by the city.

In the proposed biennial budget recommended by Kamlarz — which is up for consideration by the Berkeley City Council at its Tuesday meeting — the Streets and Sanitation Division of the city’s Department of Public Works is proposed to be funded $11.7 million in fiscal year 2012 and $11.9 million in fiscal year 2013. In fiscal year 2011, $11.1 million was adopted for the division.

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that though he likes paving projects, he would rather see more money go toward some of the city’s social service programs slated to see major cuts in the upcoming budget.

“Stopping layoffs, stopping social service cuts and having a fiscal reserve — all three of those things are more important to me than paving projects,” Worthington said.

According to Kamlarz, roughly $400,000 for paving projects will come from the county.

“The thing about streets is they’re not so exciting until it’s the street right outside your house,” Kamlarz said.

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor.