City of Laurel Street Repairs

To the Citizens of Laurel and to our many visitors:
I appreciate you so very much.
Streets are a major topic in the city of Laurel right now. Streets are being discussed on Facebook, in the barber shop, the grocery stores, the restaurants, the mechanic shops, at church, the court house and just about anywhere else where at least two people are gathered. We understand your frustration and offer some clarity on the street situation in the city.
First of all, we are not creating holes for you to hit with your vehicle, contrary to popular belief, we are not agents for the tire, rim or front-end repair companies.
For the record, the city of Laurel has approximately 340 lane miles of streets that we are responsible for the maintenance of. To put that into perspective it is 346 miles from Laurel to Atlanta, and it is 350 miles, round trip from Laurel to Pensacola. I know you would agree that this is a large amount of street miles to maintain. For further information, it costs approximately $500,000 to pave a mile of street, and that is only for the asphalt, that does not factor in any work on the water or sewer lines that are located under just about every street in the city, and these lines are usually in as bad or worse shape as the streets above them. As the saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20,” if it could be done over, many years ago when it was done, the best solution for water and sewer lines would have been to place them in the alleys behind the houses or in the rights-of-way off to the side of the street, then we would not have had to dig up the streets to fix water and sewer lines when there was a problem. But that is not what happened and now we have the situation that we have now.
I hear the question often, “when are ya’ll gonna fix these streets?” the answer is that we are working on them in some form or another, daily, when the weather permits. Cold weather, hot weather, rain and traffic have a lot to do with the conditions of our streets. Cracks form in the asphalt from freezing temperatures or from extremely hot temperatures, and then when it rains, the water gets into the cracks and it exacerbates the situation. As the asphalt continually contracts and expands, and causes more cracks, and the continued traffic on the streets, with passenger vehicles and eighteen wheelers, this combination of events eventually leads to the formation of a pothole. People complain often about potholes, and rightly so. We normally patch potholes with what is called hot-mix which is basically hot asphalt. When it is raining or cold, the asphalt plant usually does not make asphalt, which means we cannot patch potholes. The plant also does not make asphalt unless they have a certain number of tons that they know will be sold. We are in the process of testing another product, which is sometimes referred to as cold patch, and we are in hopes that it will be effective enough to allow us to patch potholes during the times that the plant is not producing asphalt. You probably notice that more potholes are evident after we have had great amounts of rain, by the way, the city of Laurel recorded over 70 inches of rain between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, it was a very wet year, which lead to many severe potholes. We have one crew dedicated to repairing potholes and utility cutouts, where a water or sewer line is repaired and it has to be filled with asphalt. If this cold patch works during the winter, we intend to deploy additional manpower to assist in getting caught up with the pothole repair, in hopes of lessening the likelihood of you hitting a pothole with your vehicle.
The city of Laurel is like many cities across the country who are having to deal with aging infrastructure that has sometimes been in the ground over, or close to 100 years. The routine way of handling underground infrastructure for years was to ignore it, “out of sight, out of mind,” so the street would be paved and the water, sewer and drainage that was underneath was not addressed. You would end up with a newly resurfaced street, that is fine until the next sewer cave-in, next water leak, or next collapsed drainage culvert, sometimes this happens within a week of paving the street. When these events happen the newly paved street is then dug up to make the repair, and you have a patch in the street that now allows water, heat and cold to infiltrate and the deterioration of the newly paved street begins, and the street that was newly paved ends up filled with potholes, because the underlying cause was not corrected previously.
The current administration and council have chosen to be proactive and to repair the underground utilities whenever possible prior to resurfacing a street, it simply makes more sense to follow this plan. Following this plan takes more time and is costlier, but in the long run, it is a better maintenance plan for our streets. Again, whenever possible, this is the direction we attempt to take, there are though sometimes a street that is in such a severe condition, that waiting to repair or replace the infrastructure is not possible, and we must overlay the street, these are usually on shorter more neighborhood-type streets, where there is not a great deal of traffic. On major thoroughfares we attempt to stay with the replacement or repair of the underground utilities.
The refrain is often heard that “every” street in Laurel is horrible. I agree that there are many streets in Laurel that need attention, but not “every” street is horrible. Over the last few years we have spent millions of dollars on resurfacing streets, and I know that if you ride down a particular street daily or live on a particular street that has not been resurfaced, then it definitely seems worse than it may be.
Keeping in mind that it costs approximately $500,000 to pave a mile of street, these are some of the streets in the last six years, where all or parts of them have been resurfaced. Cleveland Street, S Magnolia St, Maple St, Palmer Ave, N 7th Ave, University Ave, 10th Ave, E 16th St, Haddon St, Front St, 29th St, , 10th St, Rogers St, Queen St, Pine St, Northgate Dr, Mason St, Jefferson St, Green St, Gilbreath Dr, Buchanan st, S 6th Ave, 2 nd Ave, 28th st, 27th st, 20th st, E 1st st, W 1st st, 11th Ave, 10th St, 12th St, Poplar Dr, Roberts St, Rose Ave, E Elmo, Ash St, Bartlett St, Bay St, Elm St, Hickory St, Mc Conkey St, Joe Wheeler St, Walters Ave, 14th St, 1st Ave, Grandview Dr, West Dr, Old Bay Springs Rd, Custom Ave, Chestnut St, Monroe St, MS Ave, Lee St, Laurel Dr, King St, Jarvis St, Highland Park, Flowers Dr, Ferrell St, Conti St, Congress St, Carole St, Carter Ave, Broadmoor St, Anderson St, Jackson St, 25th St, Victoria Ave, 11th St, 14th Ave, 15th Ave, 26th St, 3 rd Ave, and 9th St.
There is a method to all this seeming madness. Most of you are familiar with the work being done on 5th Ave and 13th Ave, 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, 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2019. The utility work is approximately 55% 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 Ave and 13th Ave is terrible, at the present time, you are correct. In order for the physician to do heart surgery, first he 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 Ave and 13th Ave 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: W 10th St from 16th Ave to Wansley Rd; the water and sewer lines have already been replaced, and now paving is next. Parker Drive, the water and sewer are being worked on now, and the paving will follow. 7th Ave from 13th St to Northview Dr, Northview Dr, 12th St from 7th Ave to 10th Ave, Gladioulus Dr, Iris Dr, Sandra Dr, Yates Ave, Commerce St, 8th St from 10th Ave to 7th Ave, MS Ave, 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 5-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 5-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, and 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