Patching the problem
With roads and their lanes totaling more than 550 miles in Albany, the city has a large amount of upkeep when it comes to their condition. Every year, city commissioners have the task of hearing each department's wish list, then deciding what projects can be funded from SPLOST, or the Special Local Options Sales Tax.
"The money that's available to do that is so small so you have to make sure you prioritize based on traffic flow, the condition of the road, the age of the pavement, all of those things you have to take into consideration when you come up with the list for the project of construction or street resurfacing, whichever it entails," said Albany Public Works Director Phil Roberson.
Safety concerns can also play a part in deciding what areas need attention. In both 2012 and so far in 2013, the intersection of Slappey Boulevard and Whispering Pines Road topped the list for most reported accidents.
However, the city says they're limited in how SPLOST funds can be used to resolve certain issues depending on location.
"Slappey itself is a state route, so we don't have much of any control, the only thing that we could consider is if there are better ways for us to bleed traffic off of Whispering Pines and onto Slappey. I'm sure there's some consideration given to that, then you come back to the funding issue," said Assistant City Manager Wes Smith.
In order to prioritize what areas need work, Albany Public Works travels every road and categorizes it using software that assigns a number grade. Using that grade, the department will then work to make a list.
"We will go to where it needs most. Now do we do some geographical consideration? We do some because we want all the people in the community to feel comfortable about SPLOST, but with the alleys typically each commissioner will get three alleys in each SPLOST," said Smith.
At an average cost of $150,000 per alley, city officials set the strict limit to have enough left over for street resurfacing, but they're currently testing using crushed asphalt as a temporary fix to reduce costs. Departments say they have to tighten their belts when it comes to using the estimate $62.7 million dollars of revenue because it's only a projection.
"You don't know exactly how much SPLOST revenue you're going to get at any given five or six year period, but we project the projects based on what we believe the revenue will be. Sometimes that revenue doesn't come to fruition, so what you have to do is carry those projects on to the next list," said Roberson.
Despite some limitations, construction projects on roads like Third and East Broad Avenues have already begun to provide a much-needed facelift. For now, the commission will keep a close eye on revenue to continue moving down the list of potential projects before the next SPLOST is voted on in 2016.