You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

San Diego accelerates road repair during pandemic

San Diego Union Tribune logo San Diego Union Tribune 3 days ago David Garrick
a man sitting on the side of a road: The city of San Diego has paved more road in the last six months than it did in fiscal 2011 and 2010 combined. It paved 550 percent more miles of road in fiscal 2012 than it did in fiscal 2011, which was a particularly bad year for paving. On Tuesday, a crew slurry-sealed first avenue between C and Ash Streets. © Provided by San Diego Union Tribune The city of San Diego has paved more road in the last six months than it did in fiscal 2011 and 2010 combined. It paved 550 percent more miles of road in fiscal 2012 than it did in fiscal 2011, which was a particularly bad year for paving. On Tuesday, a crew slurry-sealed first avenue between C and Ash Streets.

San Diego has accelerated its street repair campaign during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created opportunities to more conveniently upgrade prominent streets while local traffic has sharply fallen.

Despite financial problems created by the pandemic, San Diego is on track to spend about $100 million on street repair during the fiscal year that runs through June 30.

Recent projects include re-paving North Harbor Drive near the airport, Montezuma Road near San Diego State, and a network of streets near Mission Bay. Each of those was prompted by the prospect of reduced traffic, officials said.

The city recently began a fourth high-profile project on Scripps Poway Parkway, a six-lane arterial crucial to commuting in San Diego’s north inland neighborhoods.

The city has repaired 1,700 miles of its streets in total — more than half of San Diego’s 3,000-mile street network — since Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office in 2014 and made infrastructure his chief priority.

That far surpasses Faulconer’s pledge in 2015 to repair 1,000 miles of streets by the time he leaves office this December due to term limits.

“You could drive from San Diego to the California-Oregon border and back, and that’s about how many miles we’ve paved over the past six-plus years,” Faulconer said this week. “We’ve made unprecedented investments in fixing our streets after decades of neglect by past city leaders who allowed basic infrastructure to crumble.”

San Diego’s focus on street repair comes after years of budget troubles created by a pension scandal in the early 2000's and the 2008 recession. City leaders cut infrastructure spending to avoid laying off firefighters and police.

Because the city has completed repairs on just over half of its street network, not every neighborhood has seen a major difference. Faulconer said he hopes future leaders maintain his focus.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure smooth streets in every San Diego neighborhood, and we will need the next mayor and City Council to continue the same robust road repair efforts so we never again repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said.

That could be a challenge in the recession sparked by the pandemic. San Diego has been hit particularly hard because the city relies on hotel taxes and other revenue from tourism more than most other cities.

Faulconer recently chose to delay a once-every-five-years assessment of the city’s streets to maintain the city’s focus on repairs, a spokeswoman said.

In 2016 the survey cost $560,000. That assessment showed a significant improvement over the 2011 survey.

Called an “overall condition index,” the 2016 survey showed that the average condition of the city’s streets rose from 58.9 to 71.5. A rating of 70 is considered “good” condition.

While San Diego’s average was 71.5, about 60 percent of individual streets were classified in good condition, with 34 percent deemed “fair,” which is a rating between 40 and 69, and 6 percent classified as “poor,” which is a rating below 40.

In 2011, 35 percent of streets were in good condition, 40 percent were deemed fair and 25 percent were classified as poor.

City officials had predicted that the 2021 assessment, which was scheduled to begin this year, would have shown a significant improvement.

That’s because of the sharply increased spending on roads. In 2006, the city repaired 24 miles of streets total. Since Faulconer’s pledge to repair 1,000 miles in five years, the city has been repairing 25 miles a month.

The focus on street repair has played a key role in the city nearly tripling its annual spending on infrastructure, which has increased from $179 million in fiscal 2014 to roughly $500 million in recent years.

Some community leaders, however, have criticized the city for spending much of its road repair money on short-term fixes like slurry seal instead of on more aggressive repaving projects.

In 2017, San Diego made some policy changes to improve the quality of road repair work.

Paving contractors now must formally evaluate the quality of their work, and they don't get paid by the city without submitting proof they completed such an analysis.

That requirement built on a policy change in 2016 that barred contractors with bad performance evaluations from seeking work with the city.

Councilman Mark Kersey, chairman of the council’s infrastructure committee, said that crossing the 1,700-mile mark of roads repaired is a notable achievement.

“When the mayor and I took our respective offices, we inherited a backlog of infrastructure needs that exceeded a billion dollars with no strategy to address it,” he said. “We promptly developed the city's first-ever multi-year infrastructure investment plan, we slashed internal red tape to save both time and money, and now we've repaved nearly half the city’s street network.”

Community leaders have praised the efforts to repair prominent streets during the pandemic.

“The timing for the roadway improvements this spring was excellent because our passenger levels were significantly reduced due to the pandemic,” Kimberly Becker, chief executive of San Diego International Airport, said of the work on Harbor Drive.

Bob Ilko, president of the Scripps Ranch Civic Association, said the work on Scripps Poway Parkway was crucial.

“The road fell into poor condition that negatively impacted the lives of our residents,” he said. “Scripps Poway Parkway is a vital artery.”

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego Union Tribune
San Diego Union Tribune
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon