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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
AF Road Bond: The Right Plans Are in Place

Plans for life-cycle maintenance, minimizing cuts into good streets, and acting intelligently beyond the bond funds, that is.

This is the eighth in a series of eleven short pieces on American Fork's proposed bond issue for road repair. The first is here.

Before you vote to raise your property taxes to rebuild American Fork streets, I'm guessing, you want to be reasonably certain we will exit the present mess within a reasonable span of years and not return thereafter.

You want to know that there's a plan for the streets the bond money won't rebuild, and you want to know how responsibly the City will care for the rebuilt streets. You've heard certain candidates complain that there is no plan.

There is a plan, assembled gradually over the past four years, which now guides the City in these matters. One piece of it went into effect as recently as two weeks ago. This plan will be executed whether the bond issue passes or not, but things will happen much faster with the bond money than without it.

The City has already implemented a new plan for life-cycle maintenance of streets that are in good condition. By using seal coat, crack seal, surface treatment, minor overlay, and structural overlay at the right times, in the right ways, and in the right order, we can stretch the time between reconstructions from the old 20 years to 60 years, and cut the overall cost roughly in half over that period.

The City's new "street-cut policy" took effect this month. If a street is less than eight years old, anyone who needs to cut into it for repairs or new construction must then rebuild it from curb to curb and take certain other measures. For its part, the City plans to replace aging storm drain, culinary water, and sewer pipes before rebuilding a street above them, to minimize future cuts. Approximately 20 percent of the road bond funds, if approved, will be used for such repairs.

The City has a prioritized list of all streets to repair, based on usage and present condition. Timing depends on funding, but they can always tell us which street will be next. (See the City's web site for a smaller list, the streets to be rebuilt with proposed bond funds.)

It's widely understood by now, I believe, that the road bond issue will leave most needed reconstruction (about 77 miles) unfunded, if it passes. The City's goal is to rebuild the remaining failed streets within 15 years. The precise mix of funding sources is not carved in stone, because it cannot be. There are too many variables. 

Here are some of the possible funding sources the City is watching. Improved sales tax revenues could help enormously but are quite volatile. The state may increase the gas tax, which funds roads. Federal funding may help to a degree; one-time stimulus funds rebuilt 50 South a few years ago, and other federal money funded recent improvements to 700 North and 900 West. Some new technology may help. Once we pull out of our barely-perceptible post-recession recovery, economic growth could help in more ways than just sales taxes.

Five years ago, the City's half-(ahem, baked) approach to five proposed bond issues had me voting against all five. If that was night, this is day. This bond issue is part of an intelligent long-term plan.

Next in this series: Halloween and Elections Belong Together

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