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The city pays more for asphalt than other cities in Texas: Here's why

Posted at 8:07 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 22:21:59-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The City of Corpus Christi has a reputation for having bad roads, and its new director of public works wants to help turn that reputation around.

Richard Martinez told KRIS 6 News he chose to come to Corpus Christi in January after seeing that the city's roads were rated a 57 out of 100.

"The national average is 70," he said.

If there's one factor that Martinez faces with maintaining local roads, it's the price of asphalt. He said the City of Corpus Christi pays about 25 percent more for asphalt than cities such as San Antonio.

The city currently buys its asphalt from two vendors. Those three-year contracts expire this year.

The city pays $76.50 to $79.50 per ton for asphalt, which has to be imported.

"We have no rock or aggregate quarries in our area, so everything has to get either trucked in or railed in," he said. "Or even comes from the Yucatan on barges."

Martinez hopes that with a bid for a new contract, and more demand for asphalt, the price of asphalt will be lower. But that's dependent on industry standards.

When he began seven months ago, Martinez implemented new strategies to change the way roads are handled in Corpus Christi.

Public works created its own paving program, which allowed it to acquire some more equipment and re-train staff to pave streets with neighborhoods in mind. Primarily, so more than one street is being paved in a neighborhood.

Martinez said the paving teams will help the city cover more ground more efficiently. However, this will also means the city will be buying more asphalt.

"We didn’t have an in-house paving crew, so our demand was less," Martinez said. "So again, we’re gonna be using twice the amount of asphalt than we did in the past."

He said the department also takes a new approach to how it repairs city streets.

"So before, we used what we call 'seal-coating application,' and you probably saw that you'd see a lot of gravel on the top, and sometimes it got loose," he said. "That's not a good application to do in an urban setting."

Martinez said the new application involves a more structural overlay, so the streets last longer.

"Now, with our milling machines and pavers, we can go and level a road back off again, smooth it back off again and then put a new smooth asphalt surface on it," he said.

Roads being paid for with bond funds, such as Holly and Everhart roads, are being completely rebuilt with concrete, Martinez said, whereas the city's maintenance projects are milled and just overlaid with asphalt.

"You can get about 9 sq. yds. done with a ton of asphalt," he said.

The Public Works department is working on a five-year plan for the city's roads. Martinez said he forecasts in the next two years that the city's roads will be rated around the 60-65 range.

He hopes by the end of the five-year plan, they will be closer to 70.