Inflation and ADA requirements have continued to cut into annual funding for resurfacing
With the Sarasota County Commission last year having approved more funding for road resurfacing in the unincorporated areas of the county, staff has been working to achieve its goal of maintaining 60% of the roadways with a condition rating of 60 or greater, on a scale that tops out at 100.
In May 2013, then-Chief County Engineer James K. Harriott Jr. explained that, below the 60 mark, a driver finds a road to be bumpier and more uncomfortable to navigate — in other words, that is the level when roads produce driver complaints, as he put it.
During the commission’s May 21 budget workshop, Spencer Anderson, the chief county engineer and director of the Public Works Department, offered an overview of the resurfacing program, noting that a pavement preservation initiative began this year.
The latter undertaking, Anderson said, is considered a best practice in other Florida communities and across the United States. It extends the life of a road’s level of service by 20% to 30%, he pointed out.
A Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) document says a pavement preservation program “consists primarily of three components: preventive maintenance, minor rehabilitation (non structural), and some routine maintenance activities …” A later FHWA document points out, “A common mantra of pavement preservation is keeping good roads good. Constructing quality pavement preservation treatments when the pavement condition is still satisfactory can impede deterioration, extend service life, and improve functionality in a cost-effective manner while also enhancing safety and contributing to customer satisfaction,” the FHWA added.
In March, the county website’s Traffic Operations Pavement page says, county staff started using “a pavement preservation product called Reclamite on county roads. Through a contract with Pavement Technology Inc., this asphalt rejuvenation treatment, which has been used by neighboring counties and cities, will replace the vital ingredients that have been lost from the pavement binder over time due to exposure to sun’s UV rays. This preventative maintenance process is a cost-effective way to extend the life of the pavement, helping Sarasota County protect one of our largest assets and increase the pavement service life.”
When it is sprayed on the road surface, the webpage continues, Reclamite initially appears pink, so workers can check that they have covered the roadway before the product is completely absorbed into the pavement. “The pavement is then lightly sanded to improve friction until the product gets absorbed and the sand is vacuumed the next day.”
During the May 21 budget workshop, Anderson also reported that this is the first fiscal year staff has used an automated condition assessment system on county roads. Previously, he explained, staff would go out with an inspector about every five years to check the status of the pavement.
The new process is handled by equipment that is driven around, he continued. The equipment not only examines the condition of the pavement, Anderson said, but it also notes trees, curbing and manholes in the county rights of way. Then the system creates a map with all those features included, he added.
The assessment will take a few months, Anderson said.
The funding considerations
Last year, the commissioners agreed to increase the annual resurfacing budget from $10 million to $13 million, starting in this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2020, Anderson noted.
Additionally, at that time, he proposed using a 3% inflation adjustment, starting with the 2022 fiscal year, to try to keep sufficient funding in place for road upkeep.
On May 21, he reminded the commissioners about their May 2020 decisions. By the 2025 fiscal year, he continued, staff proposes to raise the annual resurfacing budget to a base level of $15 million.
Anderson also showed the board members a series of slides listing the neighborhoods tentatively targeted for repaving through the 2025 fiscal year. “These are absolutely subject to change,” he stressed, as the actual expense in each year will determine how much staff can accomplish.
Among the communities on the 2022 fiscal year list are Village Green, Town & Country Estates, South Pointe Woods, various areas of Siesta Key, part of Honore Avenue in North County, Venice Palms and East Venice Avenue.
For the 2023 fiscal year, the targeted areas are Beneva Woods, Beneva Road between Clark and Proctor roads, Woodmere Lakes, various portions of South Venice, Gulf View Estates and Jacaranda Heights.
(During his May 2020 budget presentation, Anderson noted that staff had created an interactive graphic on the county website, which enables persons to see which roads are scheduled for resurfacing in a given fiscal year. That map may be found by typing in “Traffic Operations Pavement” in the inquiry box on the county website’s homepage.)
On May 21, Anderson showed the board members another slide that depicted the base budget for resurfacing starting in the 2013 fiscal year. Bars on a graph indicated how much of the funding was diminished by inflation and how much of it was necessary to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines the federal government implemented in 2017.
Chair Alan Maio said Anderson had explained to him that every time staff members “touch a road” — which Maio said refers to milling and resurfacing — they have to provide curb ramps.
The U.S. Justice Department explains, “Without curb ramps, sidewalk travel in urban areas can be dangerous, difficult, or even impossible for people who use wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility devices. Curb ramps allow people with mobility disabilities to gain access to the sidewalks and to pass through center islands in streets. Otherwise, these individuals are forced to travel in streets and roadways and are put in danger or are prevented from reaching their destination; some people with disabilities may simply choose not to take this risk and will not venture out of their homes or communities.
“Because resurfacing of streets constitutes an alteration under the ADA,” the Justice Department adds, “it triggers the obligation to provide curb ramps where pedestrian walkways intersect the resurfaced streets.”
Compliance with the federal guidelines consumed “a significant amount of the [county’s resurfacing] budget,” Maio noted during the May 21 discussion.
About 10% of the county’s annual budget for repaving roads goes to ADA efforts, Anderson said.
Yet another slide featured a graph showing that staff will not be able to maintain the 60% level-of-service mark from FY 2023 through FY 2025. After the bump to the $15-million annual budget begins in FY 2026, Anderson pointed out, staff again is expected to be able to meet and then exceed the 60% threshold.
“We’re not happy,” he said, about dipping below the 60% mark. However, he told the commissioners, staff members will look into other options to help them achieve the goal, “if possible.”