Berkeley streets in need of repairs

With the majority of its streets “at risk,” the city of Berkeley is working on a five-year plan to improve the deteriorating condition of its streets.

At a special meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council reviewed a report that revealed the deteriorating condition of the city’s streets, 62 percent of which require immediate attention, according to an audit report presented by the city auditor.

“The streets are deteriorating, and it will be much more expensive if we don’t start doing timely maintenance now,” said City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan, co-author of the report. “We gave the City Council model scenarios with different options and a different way to look at it.”

The council did not take any action Tuesday but said it would discuss a plan based on the findings of the report in the upcoming months. The city maintains a rolling five-year street rehabilitation plan for paving and reconstructing city streets that it updates annually.

This year, the council has to decide whether to spend money to fix residential streets that do not need to be repaired as often or to focus on main streets, such as University Avenue, that see more traffic and need speedier maintenance, Hogan said.

If the city spends its current $3.66 million budget for street construction and maintenance, the average pavement index would rise from the current 58 — out of a scale of 100 — to 63. But in the meantime, other streets that are not being repaired would continue to deteriorate, leading to a build up of cost totaling $41.7 million by the end of 2012 and $70.8 million by 2016.

“Every single year, the unfunded need is getting bigger and bigger, which is the wrong direction,” Hogan said. “If we start by spending $12.5 million, in five years, we would start moving in the right direction.”

According to the report, a $12.5 million spending would result in a pavement condition average of 73 and an unfunded need of $19.4 million.

Hogan said the deteriorating street conditions are due to the city’s divestment from street rehabilitation projects to fund for other services.

“The city stopped spending money on streets due to budget cuts, but you can only do that for so long,” Hogan said.

Expenditures for street rehabilitation projects in 2011 dropped to $4.6 million from $6.8 million in 2009, according to the report.

Hogan said the city has the choice to either take money from its general fund, which mainly serves police and firefighters, or ask residents to vote for a bond measure.

About 12.2 percent or 26 miles of the city’s streets are labeled as “failed” streets and would require $1.15 million per mile to repair — almost 32 times the cost of routine repair.

“If we can’t afford to fix the streets now, our children and grandchildren are definitely not going to be able to afford to fix the streets,” Hogan said at the meeting.

The city is looking at “green” options, such as permeable pavers, and weighing their pros and cons, Hogan said.

The city’s Department of Public Works and City Council will finalize a report for street rehabilitation and meet again in March.