Rocky roads

Water collects in a pothole on 5th Avenue in front of the tax collector’s office on Wednesday morning. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

 

Street Talk with Mayor Magee, Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series written by Mayor Johnny Magee to address the progress of the street repairs in Laurel. Part 1 appeared Thursday.

Most of you are familiar with the work being done on 5th Avenue and 13th Avenue, which is in one construction project. The total cost of this project for the utility work is $5.25 million. This is being funded through three separate sources: $500,000 from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, $100,000 from an appropriation from the state acquired by Sen. Juan Barnett and the remainder from a city utility bond. In this project, water lines will be upgraded, fire hydrants will be added and replaced, water services will be replaced, sewers will be lined and replaced, sewer services will be replaced and manholes will be lined. 

This project began around April 1 and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2019. The utility work is approximately 55 percent complete, and we ask you to not be fooled by the appearance of trench patching that makes it seem like the project is nearing completion. In fact, driving conditions will probably get worse before they get better. 

So, when you post on Facebook that 5th Avenue and 13th Avenue are terrible, at the present time, you are correct. In order for the physician to do heart surgery, first the surgeon has to open the chest, and I am sure the sight of an open chest does not look good. We have the chest of 5th Avenue and 13th Avenue open, and we are currently doing utility surgery. After the utility surgery is complete in the fall of this year, then we will have a separate project to pave the streets.

Please be patient, please be careful and also, whenever possible, avoid the streets where you know construction is taking place. As soon as the weather permits, we will begin another round of street paving. In order to pave streets with asphalt, the temperature must be 50 degrees and rising, so it makes sense to not pave in the middle of winter. 

The streets on that list include West 10th Street from 16th Avenue to Wansley Road. The water and sewer lines have already been replaced, and now paving is next. On Parker Drive, the water and sewer are being worked on now, and paving will follow. 7th Avenue from 13th Street to Northview Drive, Northview Drive, 12th Street from 7th Avenue to 10th Avenue, Gladioulus Drive, Iris Drive, Sandra Drive, Yates Avenue, Commerce Street, 8th Street from 10th Avenue to 7th Avenue, Miss. Avenue, near Vic’s. The cost of this paving project is approximately $3 million. Remember, the $3 million for paving does not include the cost of replacing underground utilities.

The city has a plan. The mayor recommended and city council passed a 4-mil ad valorem increase dedicated to street improvements that will generate approximately $650,000 per year. The mayor recommended and council approved that the Road and Bridge funds that the city receives from the county annually be removed from the city’s General Fund and be placed into its own fund to, again, assist in maintaining streets. 

Remember, we have over 340 lane miles of streets and it costs approximately $500,000 to pave a mile of street. The city also contracted with Neel-Schaffer Engineers to prepare a five-year plan for street paving. Neel-Schaffer partnered with Fugro for the 2019 Pavement Management Assessment, at a cost of $96,000. This assessment examines 340 lane miles of city streets and develops a five-year plan using infrared pavement assessment technology. The data collection was completed in December 2018 and a completed plan should be in hand by Spring 2019. 

The purpose of this assessment is to grade and rank streets from the worst to the best and identify, scientifically, which streets are in the greatest need of being overlaid, and also identify those that may be able to be put off longer. It is hoped that we allow science and technology to dictate which streets are paved instead of politically choosing which streets need paving. We’ll see how this plays out. Note that this assessment does not identify streets needing utility repairs done.

I hope this brief synopsis of the street plans that Laurel has will shed some light on what the city is doing about our streets and give you some assurance that we are working on it, not just twiddling our thumbs and hoping that it gets better. 

We do have a plan. I know there may be a better plan, and if you have a better plan, please feel free to share it. I am always open to listen. You may reach me at 601-428-6401 or imagee@laurelms.com.

Thanks,

Johnny Magee, Mayor

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