Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Years of Neglect Create Potholes Aplenty in City

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Years of Neglect Create Potholes Aplenty in City

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh's pervasive pothole problem has its roots in decades of neglect as financial problems and other priorities caused the city to fall far short of the paving needed to keep the roads in good repair.

With 866 lane-miles of asphalt streets, the city would need to pave about 80 miles each year to maintain the roads in good condition. It hasn't done that since 1999 and often has fallen well short of that threshold.

The city budgeted $9.8 million for resurfacing and paved about 50 miles of streets last year. This year's capital budget allocates $7.1 million, or nearly 28 percent less. As a result, the city expects to pave only 28 or 29 miles, said Guy Costa, chief operations officer.

Sixty miles of streets were paved in 2012, the most since 1999. In the five years before that, it averaged fewer than 40 per year.

"In an ideal world, you'd want to do 80 miles," Mr. Costa said. With its financial limitations, "it would be great if Pittsburgh could get to 60."

According to news accounts, when Richard Caliguiri ran for his first full term as mayor in 1977, he had 117 miles paved and did another 90 the following year. It became part of the city's political lore that he had paved his way to that first election victory. In the decade preceding that blacktop binge, the city had averaged 28 miles per year.

More recently, the city mostly has chosen a road to ruin. After hitting the 80-mile standard in 1999, it did less and less until reaching a low of 24 miles in 2004.

The city's website estimates that the need to repave a street occurs every 10 to 12 years. When pavement gets older, it is far more susceptible to cracking that allows moisture to penetrate. Freezing and thawing causes expansion and contraction that crumbles the asphalt.

"Water's a big factor," Mr. Costa said. Vehicle weights, traffic volume and the condition of the base below the asphalt also factor in. On some streets, asphalt was placed atop old brick and cobblestones; on others, on top of dirt, he said. …

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