An update from Public Works on street repair, sidewalks, and snow removal

Elizabeth Orosco
Northeast News

With the upcoming winter season upon us, representatives from the city’s Public Works gave a presentation to guests at this month’s Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce luncheon to discuss what residents can expect.

Maggie Green, public information officer with the Public Works Department and Uday Manepalli, registered engineer and sidewalk program manager with the Public Works Department Capital Projects Division, highlighted the GOKC Sidewalk Program, the resurfacing program, snow program, and gave an update on potholes.

Kansas City voters approved $800 million in general obligation bonds on the April 2017 ballot, which included $600 million to repair streets, bridges, and sidewalks.

Of the $600 million, $150 million would be dedicated to creating a new, city-funded sidewalk repair program that eliminates the homeowner assessment.

This bond passage allocates $7.5 million each year for sidewalk repairs for 20 years, or until bond funds are exhausted.

All sidewalks will also be inspected on a 10-year cycle.

“Our goal is to know how bad our sidewalks are throughout the city,” Manepalli said. “There are a lot of repairs that need to be done.”

Public Works is tackling the current sidewalk backlog, which includes all 311 cases from 2008 to 2016.

The backlog list included 1,471 cases on the citywide waitlist up to January 1, 2017.

Currently in year three of the program, Manepalli, sidewalk program manager, said they anticipate 55 percent of the sidewalk backlog in District 3, 42 percent of the backlog in District 4, and 52 percent of the backlog citywide to be completed by the end of spring 2020.

The entirety of the backlog they anticipate to be completed in 2022.

In the first year of the program (2017-2018), 79 blocks of sidewalk and 202 ADA corners were completed.

To determine priority of sidewalks that need repair, the Systematic Sidewalk Inspection Program, approved by Kansas City City Council in August 2017, uses a data-driven point system to prioritize inspections.

A Sidewalk Inspection Priority Map is available online at www.kcmo.gov/sidewalks.

Any current concerns about sidewalks, curbs, or driveways can still be reported to 311 and will be included in the citywide inspection process.
Although a call to 311 might not prompt immediate inspection, the reports are reviewed and prioritized according to the points assigned.

Green said that if a sidewalk repair is a few years away and neighborhoods want to see improvements sooner, she advises applying for Public Improvement Advisory Committee (PIAC) funds.

“The Public Improvement Advisory Committee is a great source of funding,” she said. “If someone wanted to accelerate the sidewalk repair in their neighborhood, the PIAC funding could be a source for that.”

Green also discussed current street preservation projects and plans.

The Street Preservation Section resurfaces streets from late spring to late fall, depending on weather conditions.

The 2019-2020 budget is $16 million, including $500,000 for maintenance of Parks roadways and $500,000 for Complete Streets activities.

This current budget is 60 percent more than last year, but Green said it is not enough to maintain the current conditions of the roadways, which they estimate to be about $45 million.

Their role is to determine how to do the best with the funds they have been given.

“We know that roads and the conditions of roads are a big priority and concern for our residents,” said Green. “Our challenge as a department is to determine how to utilize the funding we receive to see the biggest benefit.”

With 70 percent of the roads in Kansas City being residential roadways and the remaining 30 percent being arterial roadways, Green said the focus is on preserving and resurfacing arterial roadways.

“Our focus on arterial roadways was a council priority,” said Green. “Our five-year plan is aligning with what the City Council set forth for us as a recommendation.”

Public Works has created a rating system that determines the health of the roadways in Kansas City.

The collective network of roadways in Kansas City is at 53 percent, which translates into a “low fair” category.

All arterial roadways are at 57 percent, a “high fair” category. The goal is to get arterial roadways to 60 percent.

“Our goal is to make sure our roads are traversable for the travelling public,” said Green. “We have worked hard over this last year to provide a data-driven approach for this program so we could use the information we have and the expertise of our engineers to get the biggest benefit and the biggest bang for the budget we have.”

More information on the Street Preservation Program can be found at www.kcmo.gov/streetpreservation.

Regarding potholes, Green said crews have patched about 97 percent of all the potholes that have been reported to 311 this year.

Since January 1 this year, 18,679 potholes have been reported to 311, which Green said is only a fifth of the actual potholes that have been filled.

As potholes are reported, crews inspect the area around the address given and will oftentimes find more potholes that need patched, she said.

Crews will continue to address potholes throughout the winter months.
Finally, Green discussed Public Works’ snow removal plan for the winter season.

There is roughly 6,400 miles of pavement that must be cleared during an event of snow, which takes trucks one business day to make one pass through every road.

Green said it’s important to understand the different level of service on arterial roadways versus residential streets.

On the city’s 36 arterial snow routes, they use larger trucks, try to get curb-to-curb clearing, have larger plows, salt the roads, and have crews who work in a.m. and p.m. shifts.

Residential streets are plowed once, through the middle of the street, with smaller plows and are salted at intersections, hills, and curves.

Green said ultimately, it comes down to funding.

“We do our best with what we are funded,” she said. “A lot of it comes down to how many trucks and how many people we have and what we are staffed and equipped to do.”

The city’s current snow removal budget is $2.75 million.

She said Public Works has sent a proposal to City Council to outline what it would look like to double the residential program and provide more than one pass on the residential streets.

The trucks’ GPS systems have been updated and replaced, allowing real-time information as to what streets have been plowed and how recently.

The map can be accessed at www.maps.kcmo.org/apps/SnowPlowMap.

The city, when fully staffed with Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Water Services equipment, has approximately 200 vehicles for snow removal.

For more information on snow removal, please visit the city’s website at www.kcmo.gov/snow.

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