Driving around Rye the last few months, the major challenge has been navigating the snow mounds that continued to relentlessly pile up on our city streets.
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
Driving around Rye the last few months, the major challenge has been navigating the snow mounds that continued to relentlessly pile up on our city streets. But as winter finally begins to fade, the hazards of giant snow mounds are now replaced by potholes — some are more like craters — that appear on many of our well-traveled routes in town.
Unfortunately, the harsh winter wreaked havoc on our city streets, and many are in as bad or worse condition than Station Plaza was prior to the repaving. Midland Avenue between Apawamis and Peck avenues is in very rough shape, as are several parts of Forest Avenue, Milton Road, Purchase Street, Smith Street, and Cross Street, just to name a few.
In October 2014, the City retained Vanasse Hangren Brustlin, Inc. to evaluate the condition of Rye’s 52 miles of City-maintained roads. Based upon the results of VHB’s Pavement Management Study, the City’s 2015 Budget cites the need for “an aggressive maintenance program of crack sealing and localized patching to prevent the need for more expensive repairs in the future.” The Budget also identifies the need to “increase annual spending on street resurfacing to $1,000,000 per year and to maintain that level for the next decade to maintain the current overall condition of city streets.”
City Manager Frank Culross in a recent interview said that the $1,000,000 budget for street resurfacing this year is by far the largest ever, but he agreed that this level of spending is necessary. He noted that street repair fell behind for several years and that significant dollars need to be spent in order to remedy the backlog and maintain our city streets. In fact, the filling of potholes, what Culross refers to as yearly maintenance work, has already begun in some of the worst areas, namely Midland Avenue near Midland School and near Peck Avenue, as well as the traffic circle near Christ’s Church. Culross mentioned that as soon as the weather permitted, these repairs commenced and the City will continue the patchwork throughout the spring.
The filling of potholes certainly helps the rough ride around town, however, this is only a temporary fix and some of the streets in Rye will need resurfacing as well. In 2014, the city spent $600,000 on street resurfacing, including repaving sections of Boston Post Road, Locust Avenue, and Station Plaza. Unfortunately, Midland Avenue, which is sorely in need of resurfacing, is a County-owned road. As such, the City is filling the damaging potholes but is not responsible for repaving the road. Culross said the City will certainly encourage the County to do the needed repairs, as Midland is one of our main thoroughfares and will continue to deteriorate if not repaired in a timely manner.
As for the other trouble spots around town, the Pavement Management Study evaluated every single City-owned street in Rye and rated them based on a PCI (Pavement Condition Index) from 100 (excellent condition, no repairs needed) all the way down to 0 (poor condition, significant reconstruction needed). Streets with a PCI index between 41 and 79 are considered in “deficient condition” and are in need of structural improvement.
Sections of the Boston Post Road not previously repaved (from Central Avenue to Cross Street) as well as sections of Forest Avenue (from Apawamis Avenue to Grace Church Street); Osborn Road (from Boston Post Road to the city line); Purchase Street (from Boston Post Road to Ridge Street); and Milton Road (from Stuyvesant Avenue to Oakland Beach Avenue) all fall into the “deficient condition” category and are in need of some form of structural improvement.
There are also several side streets in the same category, including Smith Street in town, which received a PCI of 40, one of the lowest scores of all the streets in Rye. Fortunately, Smith Street is included in a larger reconstruction plan, along with Elm Place, that will be funded by the 2012 Bond Referendum. The area will be repaved and new sidewalks, new crosswalks, and other curb and aesthetic improvements will be added. A November 2014 update of the bond issue projects states that the redesign will be on the City Council agenda for public review and comment in the first half of 2015, before construction documents are prepared for bidding. Culross stated that the City hopes to begin construction on this project in the fall.
Another factor contributing to the poor road conditions is the new home construction that has become so prevalent in Rye. Drive past almost any home construction site and you will notice the sidewalks and roads in front of the project torn up to access utilities. While the utility companies (or other contractors) are required to repair the portion disrupted to its prior condition, this often takes months and temporary patches or plates do little to correct the hazards. Culross said that the City does require utility companies and private contractors to post money for such street and sidewalk repairs when they pull their permits in the event that these companies fail to repair the area. The frustrating part for residents, said Culross, is when temporary patches or plates are put down in the interim.
As for a street-resurfacing timetable, Culross anticipates that bidding for any chosen repair projects will occur in the 2nd quarter, with work to commence sometime later in the summer. Based upon the $1,000,000 budget and the Pavement Management Study, City Engineer Ryan Coyne will make recommendations as to which streets take priority and should be attended to first. Culross did mention, however, that there is a limit to how much the City can do all at once, and that the tolerance of the citizens of Rye is a factor. Since there are also other large construction projects planned (i.e. Smith/Elm), a balance must be achieved in order to maintain minimal disruption for the community.
With a $1,000,000 budget, the largest in City history, here’s hoping for smoother sailing on our city streets later in 2015.