HERE’S THE ENTIRE QUESTION: The City of Choctaw’s tax proposals are based upon a projection of $29.8 million in costs to complete 9.3 miles of resurfacing and improvements to city roads. This equals $3.2 million per mile and reflects various levels of complexity in improvements (with no projected land acquisitions or bridge construction projects).
Looking for a comparison to the City’s cost projection, ODOT’s County Improvements for Roads & Bridges (CIRB) five-year plan is based upon a projection of $920 million in costs for 820 miles of improvements to county roads state-wide. This equals $1.1 million per mile (including land acquisitions and 324 bridge replacements). FY2018-FY2022 was the plan I found online.
It is hard to imagine reasons that can justify the City’s cost projection of 3x over the ODOT CIRB program cost projection. At the City’s projected costs, the City’s program should be proposing 25 miles of road resurfacing and improvements, rather than the 9.3 miles proposed. If there are reasons that can explain the City’s cost projections of $3.2M/m vs ODOT’s cost projections of $1.1M/m for road resurfacing and improvements, they should be shared. Otherwise, taxpayers/voters are getting shortchanged.
ANSWER - ODOT’s County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) five-year plan is used to improve mostly rural County roads. This fund is used for overlay projects, mill/overlay projects while Choctaw’s is complete reconstructions. The Counties typically prefer this type of construction over full-depth reconstruction because the money can be stretched so much further and get as many roads painted black as possible. In fact, mill / overlay or resurfacing projects are typically about 20%-25% of the cost of full-depth replacement. In the County’s case, many of their roads on the County system are good candidates for these lower cost improvements, but that is not the case in Choctaw, as explained below.
With Choctaw streets specifically, the issue with “stretching the money further” and “painting as many roads black as possible” is that this would result in a much shorter life-span. In some cases we would see as little as 3 years of life expectancy due to the condition of what’s underneath (the base). As stated above, the City could have potentially gotten 3-4 times more roads resurfaced and actually went into this looking for areas that we could mill / overlay. But as a condition of the plan, the City still wanted to achieve the 20-30 year life-span goals.
To make the decision on what surface the City was going to put down, they spent considerable expense taking roadway cores of the areas scoped for improvements. However, in our case, and as the engineer stated in the public meeting, “no sections chosen for rehabilitation are candidates for a mill & overlay (resurfacing).” The City could have painted the roads black with a new surface that would last 3-5 years. The engineer said “being the best steward of public money and giving the citizens the most bang for their buck, the plan calls for roads that have a lifespan of 20-30 years.” Simply stated, what had been done in the past (overlay, mill, overlay, mill, etc.) left us no roads that were good candidates for additional mill / overlay or resurfacing without sacrificing life span.
So, rather than just paint more roads black, the City elected to construct roads that have a much longer life span and little maintenance cost so that our future dollars can be directed to more roadway sections that are still in need of rehabilitation. This followed the direction of our geotechnical engineer and pavement design engineer, and is the best spend of taxpayer dollars, and will result in the best overall condition of our roads for the future.
As a practical example, we are building 30-year streets. This means that there will be little-to-no maintenance during this time period and, in turn, little revenue required to be devoted to these streets. If we were to construct a street that was 25% of the cost but only had 10%-15% of the life, we would be doing a disservice to the Citizens.
In terms of the establishing costs, the City used the exact same numbers that the CIRB program uses. These are historical averages for costs of construction published by ODOT. So, it isn’t whether or not CIRB funds are used or City of Choctaw funds are used. The roads are going to cost the same. The difference is that the City has made a conscious effort to build the best road section possible to minimize future maintenance and allow the City, long-term, to maximize the improvements were are able to make and thereby most drastically improve the condition of our roads.
Choctaw is not the only city using bond election and sales taxes to perform road resurfacing or reconstruction. I direct you to the City websites for Sapulpa, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs, Durant, and Tuttle, for starters. Compare the City of Choctaw’s process and numbers to these Cities; we believe we are far and above the study efforts done by these cities, as well as our transparency in numbers.