Lawton city officials are working to identify the first 10 priorities in a series of road repair projects to be funded with ad valorem revenue.
Members of the City Council’s Streets and Bridges Committee are moving forward with a plan that Ward 4 Councilman George Gill has said will emphasize repairs rather than immediately moving to rebuild deteriorating roads. That plan is a priority the Streets and Bridges Committee set even before Lawton voters agreed Sept. 12 to extend the existing Ad Valorem Road Improvement Program another 10 years, providing another $60 million for road and bridge work.
The key is focusing on roads that can be repaired, saving a complete “rebuild” for the worst of streets beyond repair. Quality repairs on qualified streets mean extending the life of that street, and because repairs are less expensive, more streets can be upgraded.
Elected officials have said they are trying to focus as much attention as possible on Lawton streets and bridges, which is the reason for the Ad Valorem program extension.
“We’re way, way, way behind,” committee chairman Gill said.
While the city staff helped identify the first priorities for bridge work funded in the new Ad Valorem program — sets of bridges on South 11th Street near the city landfill and on Cache Road between Oak Avenue and Northwest 47th Street — they are working to identify road priorities. City officials actually are looking at several sets of projects: arterials and collector streets identified for upgrades and candidates for mill and overlay.
Last week’s committee focus was on what Mayor Stan Booker calls Ten Wins for the Citizens, On Target On Time. The plan is to identify 10 streets where upgrades would begin immediately. Gill said those first priorities — chosen from a list of 31 identified sites — are candidates for mill and overlay. That process grinds off the top 1-2-inch layer of asphalt and applies a fresh layer to give the street a new smooth surface while protecting it. It also means eight to 10 years more of life.
Committee members plan to meet Wednesday, after Gill gave them time to review the list of recommended streets. The group plans to reach consensus on 10 priorities in time to make a recommendation to the full council at its Oct. 10 meeting. That, in turn, is following a directive from Booker, who wants the council and city staff move forward with road improvements by specific dates.
Booker has said he wants the Ten Wins to be completed by Thanksgiving, but Gill said that means compiling a project list and beginning work, adding it isn’t possible to have all 10 segments completed in a month’s time.
“But we will have started it,” he said.
Gill said the timeline means he, Ward 5 Councilman Allan Hampton and Ward 2 Councilman Kelly Harris will identify their 10 priorities, then compare notes with city staff. The next meeting should be a discussion of the formal recommendation, Gill said, adding consulting firm EST also will have cost estimates for those mill and overlay projects.
Projects on the master list were based on a rating system that states streets at a certain level of deterioration could have their lives extended by mill and overlay. City Engineer Joe Painter said all asphalt streets are designed for mill and overlay work. The work does not change the grade of the road surface, he said, adding it merely provides a smoother, water-tight finish.
Mill and overlay isn’t the only way the city is addressing deteriorating Lawton streets.
Streets Superintendent Cliff Haggenmiller said the city has hired a private firm that is doing crack and seal work on arterials. Now located on Lee Boulevard, crews are cleaning cracks then sealing them, a process that extends pavement’s life because it repels the leading cause of deterioration: water. Haggenmiller said the goal is to do every arterial once every seven years. In the meantime, the city’s streets department will handle the crack and seal program on residential streets.