When Fort Wayne residents ask their City Council representatives when their street will be repaired, the last thing they want to hear is “I don’t know.”
Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, introduced a bill at the Sept. 14 session that attempts to clarify the timing of street, curb and sidewalk repairs so residents have a better idea of when their street will be repaired.
The proposal adds language mandating the Public Works Transportation System include in its annual five-year Capital Improvement Plan a specific list of projects and when they will occur.
Easier said than done, implied Public Works Director Shan Gunawardena, who addressed council’s concerns in an amicable discussion.
Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, said she believed it might be unrealistic to ask for a specific list of street projects two, three and four years out.
Gunawardena said, “If we had more money this wouldn’t be an issue.”
One of the primary reasons why the department can’t predict that far out is because it can’t predict cost increases, he said.
Thanks to improvements in technology, the department now rates every city street every year based on the condition of the road. Gunawardena said staff try to pick streets equally among the six districts.
But situations change, as do prices, and that impedes some projects that have to be postponed.
“That is the reason I’m hesitant about putting together a list particularly beyond a year,” Gunawardena said. “This year we are constantly dealing with fluctuations in the market.”
Some projects may seem stupid to a neighborhood resident, but there is a method to the Public Works Department’s decision for prioritizing projects.
For example, a neighborhood may have a main artery running through it with potholes, cracks and other severe impediments. Cul-de-sacs that branch out from that main artery may need improvement, even though they’re not as damaged as the main street.
So people question why the department is fixing cul-de-sacs when the main artery has the most traffic.
If the main street was fixed first, they’d have to run heavy equipment over the brand-new street to get to the cul-de-sacs.
The department runs into a similar situation with underground utilities. They try to coordinate projects so the street only has to be torn up once.
Asphalt is much cheaper than concrete, and can be put over concrete if it hasn’t deteriorated too badly, Gunawardena said.
Council decided to hold the ordinance for a week to gather more information.
“I am not comfortable with the ordinance,” Paddock said. “… I get a really strong sense it’s too tight of a rein on you (Gunawardena).”
He was comfortable with holding the bill for a week.