Intern proposes five-year plan for road repairs

The results of the assessment conducted by the Cornell Local Roads Program (CLRP) are in, and the bottom line is that the cash-strapped town needs to strike a balance between repairing roads that are badly deteriorated and ensuring that roads that are still in relatively good shape do not deteriorate any further.

The program was designed by civil engineers at Cornell University to assist local municipalities in not only maintaining the quality of their roads, but improving their quality in a fiscally difficult environment. The program helps municipalities develop a strategy to keep the good roads good while simultaneously improving the condition of the poor roads in the most cost-effective way possible.

Conclusions and recommendations

CLRP intern Meghan Collins, an engineering student at Cornell, worked with Highway Superintendent Peter Ripperger and Deputy Highway Superintendent Joe Posadas over the summer to inventory the town’s paved roads; visually assess their condition; develop maintenance and rehabilitation alternatives to restore the quality of the roads; assign repair alternatives to each road in the network; prioritize repair and maintenance needs; develop an organized strategy to accomplish road quality goals; and generate a five-year report and budget to carry out repairs and maintenance.

After several weeks of work in Lewisboro, Ms. Collins came to Monday night’s Town Board work session to present her conclusions and recommendations.

She said that Lewisboro’s 86 miles of paved roads have suffered severe damage over the years. With the current limited budget, many roads haven’t been maintained beyond drainage work and pothole patching in many years.

“However, these kinds of repairs are often only temporary fixes that do not address the major issues a road faces,” she said. “The longer a road is left without maintenance, the more it will cost to rehabilitate. For example, it is far less expensive to repair cracks and micro surface a road when it is in fair condition than it is to reconstruct a road in poor condition.”

Lewisboro has a wide range of roads in varying conditions and a very limited budget for repairs. “The best strategy in dealing with this kind of situation is to prioritize the roads based on the principle of keeping the good roads good while rehabilitating the poor roads,” Ms. Collins said. “The plan we have developed focuses on the next five years with a budget of $480,000 per year. Between 2014 and 2018, the town could complete about 24 miles of roads.”

She said if this plan were followed, 32% of the roads in Lewisboro would be repaired to good condition within the next five years. By following this plan, the town can begin to return all the roads with severe damage to the quality of roads with minimal damage. In this way, all roads will eventually catch up and brought to a standard that will be less costly to maintain.

Ms. Collins suggested that one town highway employee be trained to use the CAMP-RS (Cornell Asset Management Program-Road Surfaces) program and the roads be re-evaluated at least every five years.

“The high level of success that can be achieved entirely depends on the town’s active participation in updating and utilizing the program consistently,” she said. “With regular use, this method of evaluating roads and developing repair strategies will vastly improve the quality of the town of Lewisboro’s road network.”

Response

Board members and Highway Department members thanked Ms. Collins for her hard work. “All of this says our roads need a lot of work,” Mr. Posadas said. “Many of them are really in a lot of distress.”

Mr. Ripperger spoke in favor of cold-in-place road resurfacing, a method that chops up and recycles existing deteriorated asphalt, mixes it with strengthening substances, then lays it back down with a new top coat. “This method has a lot advantages,” he said. “A lot gets done at once and it is cost effective, especially when compared to $175,000 for a single mile of traditional blacktop.”

Town Board member John Pappalardo asked about the life of cold-in-place. Mr. Ripperger replied, “You can go eight years without touching it. The beauty is you are recycling what you’ve got and then putting a micro coat on top.”

Mr. Parsons also favored the same approach.

“I am coming to the conclusion that our number one priority should be to create a situation where roads can get a microchip surface before they deteriorate. We can balance that out with work on the really bad roads.”

Town Board member Dan Welsh said the key was “to find a balance between the easy fixes and the hard fixes and work out the finances.”

Speaking to The Ledger on Tuesday, Mr. Parsons reiterated that the town’s first priority is not to allow roads in a decent condition to deteriorate to the point where repairs become four to five times more expensive.

“We also need to do repairs on roads that are in really bad condition,” he said. “But that should never trump the ongoing maintenance of good roads.”

Mr. Parsons said he advised the public to “stay tuned” for what happens with the roads and possible bonding to pay for the work. “Public budget discussion starts Sept. 9, and this will be a part of it. At this point, the cold-in-place process is very attractive for a number of reasons, but we will see where the discussion leads.”

About author
Jane K. Dove is an independent journalist and publicist working in the tri-state area. A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago and honed her skills as a writer working as associate director of public affairs at New York Medical College. She has reported for the Ledger for three decades.

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  • Longtimer

    The Town Board, year after year, kicks the road maintenance can down the road. For several years now we’ve heard about all the roads that need to be worked on, the claim that CHIPS money will go towards that, yet very little gets accomplished. Last Fall, at budget time, they talked about bonding. Now we are coming into Fall again, and they start talking about bonding again. The Highway Superintendent is given no support, no equipment, and no manpower. It never changes.

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