Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Time to Fix Topeka's Roads

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Time to Fix Topeka's Roads

Article excerpt

As public officials prepare to implement the Momentum 2022 plan to stimulate economic development and improve quality of life in Topeka and Shawnee County, it's important to be candid about the problems our community faces. This is why the Market Street community assessment -- which addresses problems ranging from a lack of community pride to our static population and aging workforce -- is such an essential resource. It's also why we can't ignore other longstanding issues that make our development goals harder to pursue.

The poor condition of Topeka's streets may be the most notorious of these issues. When Stantec Consulting conducted a Pavement Condition Index study for the city last year, it found that 57 percent of our streets are "poor," 18 percent are "fair" and only 25 percent are "good." This gives Topeka a PCI score of 55 out of 100, which Stantec defines as "fair to poor." On its website, the Topeka Public Works Department acknowledges how dire this situation has become for residents of the city: "Comments from the public indicate our current street conditions aren't acceptable, so we need to determine what grade we want to reach."

In April, Topeka's governing body decided to prioritize improvements in road quality by establishing a minimum PCI target of 60 and a goal of 70. The Public Works Department estimates that these scores will "require annual expenses of $24.4 million and $38.3 million, respectively" -- far more than the city has been spending. Over the past decade, Topeka has invested an average of $14 million per year in street maintenance, but Public Works director Jason Peek says more than $19 million is necessary just to maintain the city's current PCI score -- a score that's far too low.

In 2006, Stantec reported that 40 percent of our streets were "poor," 30 percent were "fair" and 30 percent were "good. …

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