MANCHESTER — The kids are out of school, the temperatures are hot; it can mean only one thing: detour ahead.
City officials have targeted 8.3 miles out of the city's 400 miles of streets for roadwork.
The work involves everything from a relatively easy repaving to a major reconstruction, which calls for digging up the asphalt, replacing the underlying gravel and creating a new street altogether.
“Wouldn't you agree the streets are in pretty tough shape?” said Mayor Ted Gatsas, whose upcoming budget will devote $1.5 million in debt for street maintenance. “The bad ones are bad; they need to be fixed before next winter.”
According to a list released by the city Public Works Department, 11 streets will be reconstructed or coldplaned this summer, representing 4.3 miles of city streets.
For a map of the roads being paved, go to www.unionleader.com/pavingmap.
The most expensive reconstruction work involves removing all pavement and even the gravel base, as well as adding new sidewalks. That work is taking place on Pearl Street.
Coldplaning involves digging up, regrinding and replacing an inch or more of the surface. Doing so lowers the street and raises the curb level.
The least expensive option is resurfacing, where a coating of hot top is placed on the street. Twenty-five streets, representing 4 miles of blacktop, are slated for resurfacing this summer.
City officials said the streets are selected after an engineering analysis that looks at factors such as cracking, the condition of edges, thickness of the pavement, condition of the substrate and the depth of the curb.
“There's a certain amount of engineering that goes into the analysis of the roadway, but like any other system, there's some subjectivity involved,” said Tim Clougherty, deputy public works director for the city.
Gatsas said aldermen don't have a lot of pull when it comes to what streets are paved. The Public Works Department compiles a list that ranks streets in the ward as poor, good or excellent.
“When I was an alderman, the streets that needed paving were obvious,” Gatsas said. “Who am I to tell them what to pave?”
This year, Gatsas and aldermen pledged $1.5 million in city debt for roadwork. Last year, the city devoted $1.26 million for the work, but paid for it with state gas-tax revenues.
“It's a great start,” said Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard. “The streets need attention, and the mayor and Board of Aldermen realized that.” A lot of the money will go for coldplaning, he said.
The 8.3 miles of work is about 1.6 miles more than last year's total of 6.7.
Gatsas said the debt obligation is still less than $3 million that was devoted to roadwork in the 2009 budget under former mayor Frank Guinta.
He said this summer is the first time since the 2009 budget that the city used debt to pay for roadwork.
He said roads are in bad shape because the state has reduced the amount of gas-tax revenues that it distributes to local government. The city received about $2 million in highway block grant money for this budget year; expectations call for about $270,000 less this coming year, Sheppard said.
Another source of money for roadwork has been federal community-development block grants. In years past, the city has used the grant money to reconstruct several streets in the center city.
But Sheppard said the block grant money won't be spent on streets this year.
Is enough being spent on roadwork?
Sheppard said he'd like to see the current amount continue.
Clougherty said the state Department of Transportation and other sources recommend that streets be resurfaced every 15 to 20 years. He invited a reporter to do the math.
In a conservative scenario — repaving every 20 years — the city would be doing 20 miles of streets a year.