Maintaining our Infrastructure and Streets

Smooth, well-maintained streets have a positive effect on quality of life, increase property values, and reduce fuel consumption. Preventive maintenance of streets reduces the need for expensive street reconstruction, lowering the overall cost of maintaining roadways while improving the quality of road surfaces.

Summary of the Proposed Solution

Newton will develop a comprehensive infrastructure maintenance plan that emphasizes investments in preventative maintenance that reduce long-term repair and reconstruction expenditures. This plan will be designed to maximize our return on investment for each dollar expended on infrastructure and should take advantage of the most cost-effective, environmentally-sensitive and reliable technologies. It will include:

A street maintenance plan and

A bridge and culvert maintenance plan.

Discussion & Implementation Plan

i) Street Maintenance Plan

The appearance of well-maintained streets establishes a sense of well-being that comes from the knowledge that neighborhoods are well cared for and that citizens’ concerns are addressed. Street reconstruction and maintenance is a major component of our budget. In Fiscal Year 2008, Newton spent $1.7 million of state Chapter 90 funds plus an estimated $2.4 million of local receipts on road repair, reconstruction and maintenance. Newton can do a much better job of maintaining our streets, reducing the need for major street reconstruction, which can cost as much as 14 times as much as street resurfacing.

Neglect of roadway infrastructure maintenance provides a short term budget advantage but is costly in the long run because of continuing damage from ice and water. Maintaining streets is far more cost-effective than re-building them after they have failed. Patching and filling has the potential to reduce long term costs, provided that the efficacy and durability of the repairs is significant. Haphazard repairs may not be cost-effective. An additional consideration is cosmetic- extensive temporary repairs can themselves cause a street and a neighborhood to look shabby.

Other cities have developed comprehensive street surface maintenance programs that provide a wealth of information and experience applicable to conditions in Newton. Newton should develop a street maintenance program designed to maintain smooth streets throughout the City that incorporates the best aspects of programs already existing in other cities, including:

  • Developing a regular schedule of re-surfacing that allows us to resurface our three hundred miles of street on a regular basis (crack-sealing about every 5 years and overlaying every 20-25 years), preventing the need for costly road reconstruction.
  • Investigating and incorporating the most appropriate surfacing technologies for each type of street, including slurry sealing, microsurfacing, cape sealing, rubber cape sealing, overlaying, and rubber overlaying.
  • Maintaining transparency into street maintenance and repair budgeting, planning and operations, so that Newton residents and businesses will know when work is scheduled to take place on a given street.
  • Incorporating public input into prioritization of repairs, matching recommendations generated by engineers and software with local knowledge of street conditions and feedback from Newton’s customer service database (see the Finance & Management Section for details).
  • Interfacing with our transportation and environmental goals by considering possibilities for enhanced bicycle access (see Part C.1.iii) and making use of cost-effective, environmentally-friendly paving materials, such as water-based asphalt-like material and pervious concrete that uses stormwater to replenish watershed systems.
  • Exploring public-private partnerships to generated new sources of revenue that can accelerate implementation of the street maintenance and repair plan.

We will have a paving plan in place by May 15, 2010 (in time for the Fiscal Year 2011 operating budget) and will adopt service level agreements for infrastructure performance (e.g. potholes will be filled within 48 hours) by January 1, 2011.

ii) Bridge & Culvert Maintenance Plan

Bridge maintenance is essential to public safety. Currently, Newton lacks an inspection and maintenance plan for our bridges that are less than 20 feet in length (known as culverts) and relies on state inspections of longer bridges.

Newton must also work with state agencies to develop a regular schedule of bridge inspection and maintenance that includes:

  • Working with neighboring communities to inspect and maintain the bridges that join our municipalities;
  • Inspecting and maintaining pedestrian bridges for safety and ADA compliance;
  • Working with state agencies, such as the MBTA and MWRA to make sure that their bridges are safe for vehicles and pedestrians; and
  • Implementing a preventive maintenance plan for pedestrian bridges and culverts that are not inspected by the state.

We will have a bridge and culvert maintenance plan in place by July 1, 2010.

Implementation Plan

We will develop and implement an infrastructure maintenance plan that takes into account the fiscal impacts of deferred maintenance and the performance standard desired for our public infrastructure. Our roads and bridges should be safe and functional. We will implement service level agreements (please see the Finance & Management section for discussion) to establish performance standards for such activities as filling potholes and we will work to coordinate major street reconstructions with utility and water main work to minimize traffic disruptions.

An essential component of our infrastructure management plan will be to determine the frequency with which our streets should be repaved and to allocate resources accordingly, since the lack of a paving plan allows cracks to form in the surface of streets into which water can infiltrate, forcing the need for costly and disruptive street reconstruction.

We must also make sure that our bridges are safe for vehicle and pedestrian use.