Scottsdale street-condition rating drops

The condition of Scottsdale streets has gradually declined since 2009, according to a rating system, though the change might not be obvious to drivers.

Scottsdale’s average streets rating of 75, where 1 is the worst and 100 the best, is considered “very good” to “excellent” by common standards, according to the pavement index rating, which measures road segments across the city.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed the system, called pavement-condition index. Its methods are standardized by ASTM International, a Pennsylvania company that defines standards for a variety of industries.

In 2009, the average rating of city streets was 85.

“Overall, our streets are still in good condition compared to a lot of other places you’re going to drive in the Valley,” said Dan Worth, Scottsdale’s public-works executive director.

The worst-rated segment is Scottsdale Road between First and Second streets, in downtown Scottsdale. That stretch has an index rating of 19, according to Randy Ghezzi, Scottsdale street-operations director.

A 2012 report to the city’s Transportation Commission says pavement with a rating greater than 65 is considered “good” to “excellent,” while anything below 65 is “fair” to “very poor.”

Scottsdale, like many other government agencies, uses the pavement-rating system to track road conditions and prioritize street-maintenance projects to keep roads in top condition. Many drivers don’t pay attention to the streets they ride on every day, until major cracks, potholes or bumps begin to appear.

In 2012, the city adopted slightly more stringent standards for measuring pavement, resulting in an automatic drop of two points, Worth noted.

The city contracts with a firm that does the high-tech measurements.

“It’s actually very objective,” Worth said. “It’s looking at the frequency and size of cracks in the asphalt. It’s looking at the, in layman’s term, rutting, when you drive cars down a road repeatedly over a number of years.”

So what has led to the drop in rating?

Scottsdale, like many other cities impacted by the recession, “cut back funding in 2009 for our pavement maintenance, among other things,” Worth said.

In November 2013, Scottsdale voters rejected a $212 million bond package, which would have raised taxes to pay for nearly 40 public projects. One of the projects would have removed expired asphalt road surface that exceeded its life cycle in southern and central Scottsdale, replacing it with quieter, rubberized asphalt pavement, according to the city’s website.

For the time being, road conditions appear fairly stable, and the city is looking at reallocating money and finding new ways to economize, Worth said.

“We’re continuing to look at ways to stretch the dollars we do have, which come mostly from our local transportation sales tax or from highway user funds,” he said.

Mayor Jim Lane said the slight rating drop is far from an emergency.

He said is it a consequence of the recession and a major drop in tax revenue for the city.

Still, Lane acknowledged that Scottsdale — a city that prides itself on its infrastructure as one of the many qualities tourists and residents can rely on — must maintain its roads in the long term. That could mean dipping into savings and, eventually, another bond election.

“Overall, we’re not that far off the mark from where we were and certainly within the reasonable realm where everyone else is, anyway,” Lane said.

“An awful lot of municipalities have been forced into a much more precarious position with regard to the quality of their roadways,” he said.

Vice Mayor Guy Phillips said he was confident the city’s public-works department can maintain roads within its current budget.

“As a council we need to prioritize city projects to insure proper maintenance in the future and not waste precious taxpayer money on social experiments like double-lane roundabouts,” he said.

Best and worst

Randy Ghezzi, Scottsdale street-operations director, provided the local street segments with the best and worst pavement index ratings:

The highest-rated streets fall between Yearling and Jomax roads, and Paso Trail and Pima Road. The lowest-rated streets are between Cactus Road and Sweetwater Avenue, and Loop 101 and 90th Street.

— For arterial streets, which are high capacity, the highest-rated segment is Scottsdale Road between Grayhawk Drive and Deer Valley Road. The lowest-rated segment is also Scottsdale Road, between First and Second streets in the downtown area, with an index rating of 19.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/scottsdale/2014/11/18/scottsdale-street-condition-rating-drops-roads-still-good-overall/19225795/