Minneapolitans likely to pay soon for street repairs

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2008 - 10:01 PM

To speed its flagging street repair program, Minneapolis is likely to ask its property owners to dig into their pockets sooner than expected.

The City Council is expected to authorize the start of a multi-year street resurfacing program today. The new approach is designed to give streets a quick resurfacing rather than waiting for more thorough work that's not likely to happen for decades at the current pace.

Property owners will pay less for the resurfacing than they'd pay for full renovation but they'll pay a higher share of that cost through special assessments on their property.

Most homeowners to get streets repaved in 2008 will pay about 16 cents per square foot assessed, with the city adding another nickel. That's about half the cost of more extensive renovation work, in which the homeowner pays 32 cents per square foot and the city kicks in another 96 cents. The new approach is cheaper but won't last as long.

"It's a fairly well-used strategy in the suburbs," said Mike Kennedy, who directs city street and bridge repairs.

The first areas to be repaved would be the northern and southern ends of the Willard-Hay neighborhood and southern Whittier neighborhood. Some residences and businesses on selected state-aid streets also will be paved, under tentative 2008 plans.

The new strategy is designed to get preservation work done faster on city streets that were last paved in a 30-year paving program that was completed in the 1990s.

Planned renovation of those streets has slowed to a snail's pace, especially since the state cut aid to the city by more than $30 million in 2003. The city's budget for major street repairs has fallen from $14.4 million two years ago to $4.5 million this year. Other street projects are paid through property assessments.

Meanwhile, delayed repairs mean that on a scale of 100, the city's pavement condition rating has slipped from 79 in 1998 to 73 in 2006, according to the Department of Public Works. It's expected to fall by about one point annually.

The resurfacing is intended for the city's 632 miles of residential streets and another 209 miles that the city maintains with state aid. They comprise the bulk of the city's street mileage.

The new program will resurface about 15 to 20 miles of street annually. In contrast, the city can give more thorough repairs to an average of fewer than 5 miles annually.

The resurfacing involves milling pavement near the curb, then paving up to two inches of fresh asphalt. That's quicker and cheaper than more extensive renovation that often involves replacing curbwork and fixing problems in the roadbase.

"I would refer to it as 'reconstruction light,'" said Council President Barbara Johnson.

Kennedy expects the resurfacing to add at least 10 years to a street's life, and probably more, compared with 20 to 30 years with more extensive renovation. He said the program is a stopgap effort designed to keep streets viable until funding for more regular streetwork can be restored.

To see a map showing areas proposed for street resurfacing this year, go to: www.startribune.com/a4011

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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