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Local roads: Where do we go from here?

Posted at 4:43 PM, Nov 08, 2018

Keeping roads in top condition is tough, especially when nobody maintains them. That is the problem with Corpus Christi’s roads in a nutshell.

“They’ve had a lack of maintenance for a long time, and that has resulted in our roads being in pretty bad shape,” said engineer John Michael.

So how bad are Corpus Christi’s streets?

To understand, you have to know that roads are divided into three categories: arterial, collector, and residential.  City engineers say 19% arterial streets are in poor condition.  The same can be said for 32%  of collector streets, and 50% of residential streets.

Officials hope to a many of the city’s roads back to good condition within the next 20 years. That’s the idea behind the Street Improvement Plan passed in 2012.  It’s a comprehensive four-part program, designed to get our roads back in the best possible shape.

“City council has made it a priority to improve and fix our streets,” said Engineering Department spokesperson Michelle Villarreal-Leschper.

The first part of the plan is simple, build better roads.

“When we reconstruct streets now, we build them to a 30 year life cycle,” said Villarreal-Leschper.  “Previously it was a 20 year, but now it’s a 30 year life cycle.”

A better road starts beneath the surface.  City contractors now use a limestone base, a more durable material.  On top, the latest in asphalt technology.

“We’re using much better technology and better materials to build roads, roads that will last 30 years,” said Michael.  “If you maintain them, they’ll last 50 or 60 years. But you’ve got to maintain them.”

To keep rebuilt roads in top shape for 20 years and beyond, city council passed a Street Preventative Maintenance Program in 2014.  This includes resealing every five to seven years, and resurfacing every 15 years.  That’s the second phase of the Street Improvement Plan.

The third, reconstructing arterials and collectors most in need.  But road repairs don’t pay for themselves,

which is why roads have been a big part of every city bond since 2012.  The recently passed Bond 2018 included another $74 million dollars for road projects.

“The voters have said that if you fix our streets, we’ll pay for it,” said Michael.  “Every time we’ve gone to them for a bond issue, they’ve said yes overwhelmingly.”

Michael is a Senior Vice President with Hanson Professional Services, and has worked on several bond projects for the city.  He also served on the mayor’s task force on residential streets.  Fixing those is the fourth part of the Street Improvement Plan.

“We spent probably six to seven months looking at ways to fund residential reconstruction,” said Michael.

Bond 2018 included more than $10.5 million for residential streets.

“This is the first bond program I’m aware of, that we were able to get residential streets in the bond program,” said Michael.

Officials expect Corpus Christi to grow over the next 20 years, but growth brings another problem.

“As we grow as a community, we’re going to see much more traffic on our roads,” said Michael.

Michael believes increased traffic makes road maintenance even more important.  He is encouraged though, by the progress he’s seen, and what he hopes to see over the next couple decades.

“We’re chipping away at it,” said Michael.  “We’re not going to have it all solved in 20 years, but we’re going to be far greater ahead.”

As the city grows, Michael believes there will be a need for more streets, especially in rapidly expanding areas like the south side.  He also says plans are in the very early stages for an “outer loop”,  and “regional parkway” to reduce traffic on major thoroughfares.