Deterioration never rests
BY DAVID AVERILL Editor, Editorial Pages
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9/23/12 at 3:08 AM
In 2010, city contractors did a complete repaving and rehabilitation of 41st Street from Riverside Drive east nearly to Lewis Avenue.
Traffic on 41st was disrupted for the better part of a year, but the inconvenience - and the wait - was worth it. The new asphaltic concrete paving was smooth, seamless and unblemished. The manhole covers and storm drains were made level with surrounding pavement, which for motorists meant no more thumps or bumps when driving over them.
And in a couple of spots the storm drains were let into the curbs, eliminating the teeth-rattling jolt that can happen when you have to drive close to the curb. (This has especially been a problem on some of the city's older streets, which seem to have been sized for Model A Fords and for which right of way to widen them is not available or way too costly.)
Because the 41st Street project came less than two years after Tulsa voters, in November 2008, approved a $451.6 million program to fix Tulsa's crumbling streets, some motorists might have assumed, quite naturally, that it was an early part of that program, known as Fix Our Streets.
It was actually funded through a general obligation bond issue approved by Tulsa voters three years earlier, in 2005. It was part of a $4.9 million contract to rehabilitate Lewis from 31st Street to 41st Street. Work on Lewis Avenue began in April of 2009 and was completed in April 2010. Work on 41st then began, and it was completed in January of 2011.
As I noted earlier, the work on 41st Street produced a stretch of pavement that was nothing short of an absolute pleasure to drive. Unfortunately, stuff happens to pavement and that stuff is almost never good.
Earlier this year crews cut into the pavement and sidewalks on the southwest corner of 41st and Peoria Avenue, apparently to address some kind of utility issue. It was several weeks before crews finally repaired the spot, a hole about 10 or 12 feet square. To their credit, the crews attempted and almost succeeded in restoring the pavement to its original condition. That stretch of pavement was part of an earlier beautification project along Peoria, which features geometric designs made of asphaltic concrete, tinted Portland cement concrete and brick.
Then, a few weeks ago, crews cut another hole about 10 feet square in the pavement in the east-bound lane of 41st near Quincy Avenue in order to repair a water line leak. The pavement and curb were again repaired almost to the original condition, although two pizza pan-sized divots in the asphalt paving were left unrepaired for a couple of weeks. Just when it looked as if they wouldn't be fixed, crews were back Tuesday to repair them.
The problem is that no repair is perfect. The repaired sections aren't exactly the same level as the surrounding pavement. There are now seams where unbroken pavement existed. The unblemished surface of the street has been breached.
I'm no expert on street construction and maintenance, but I have 50 years' experience driving and observing Tulsa's streets. I can almost promise you that moisture, Tulsa's freeze-and-thaw cycles and scorching summer temperatures will go to work where the street surface has been breached. The deterioration may take several years, but this is the beginning of the end for this almost-new stretch of pavement.
Thanks to the Fix Our Streets program (which, by the way, was absolutely necessary), the city's street repair resources, including bonds and sales tax revenues, are committed for the next 10 years. The 41st Street rehabilitation wasn't part of that. When time comes again to fix 41st, will money be available to do it?
This small section of 41st Street is just one example - one I happen to be familiar with because I drive by it every day - of what happens with nearly every street project, all over town.
It's frustrating for a motorist and a taxpayer that despite our best efforts as a city, we just can't get ahead of the problem.
David Averill, 918-581-8333
Bang Vu runs a steamroller across a pothole repair near 21st Street and Sheridan Road in Tulsa. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file