Berkeley paves way for improving streets, implementing green infrastructure

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Berkeley has paved almost double the number of streets this summer as  compared with past years in part of an effort, initiated in 2012, to bring the city’s roads up to acceptable conditions and to implement more green infrastructure.

Allston Way, Ridge Road and Milvia Street are among the 25 streets that were revamped this summer. Money from Measure M — a $30 million bond passed in 2012 — funded about 40 percent of the work on streets this summer and will fund 60 percent of the 50 streets set to be paved next year, according to a press release.

In a 2011 report, the city auditor estimated that it would cost $54 million to perform all the resurfacing and reconstruction required for city streets. The average Berkeley road was in an “at risk” condition and needed to be brought to the middle range of “good,” in which pavement would mostly require preventive maintenance.

According to Ray Yep, Berkeley Public Works Commission chair, the fixing of Grizzly Peak this summer had been specifically requested by those who felt that the road needed to be made safer for bicyclists. The city is “ramping up” the street-paving schedule, Yep said. According to the auditor’s report, the longer the city waits to repair roads, the more expensive repairs will be.

In addition to fixing streets, money has also gone to green infrastructure.  For example, some roads have been fitted with permeable pavers, which prevent flooding by allowing water to soak into the ground.

“The harder it rains, the more water runs off,” Yep said. “(With impermeable pavement), you tend to have flooding in the flat part of Berkeley.”

Green infrastructure projects also include the installation of pollutant-filtering soil that cleans water before it enters storm drains.

Last summer, the city collected public input about how best to use the Measure M money. With improvements now underway, commissioners have received questions from residents wondering why their own blocks have not yet been repaved, according to Yep. Additionally, some disagree over whether to allocate more funds to basic street paving or more to watershed improvements.

“It’s a blend of street improvement and watershed improvements,” Yep said. “We’re trying to look for as much green infrastructure as we can as we’re improving the streets.”

Public Works Commissioner Stefan Elgstrand thinks that more Measure M resources should be spent on green infrastructure. Elgstrand pointed out the permeable paving pilot project on Allston Way as an example of such improvements.

“It’s just kind of to show what can be done and that’s looking promising,” Elgstrand said.

The city plans to pave another 50 streets next year. At its Thursday meeting, the Public Works Commission discussed the 2016 plan, which is set to be sent to Berkeley City Council in November.

Melissa Wen is the lead city news reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @melissalwen.