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“It’s pretty remarkable, what shape most of them are in,” Kennedy said. “They last a long time. ... But when they go, they go fast. We have some that are in very rough shape.”
Minneapolis doesn’t build concrete streets anymore, and it is checking out the latest in concrete renovation to figure out how to extend the life of the ones it has, Kennedy said. It has patched some concrete streets with asphalt — a technique Edina rejected because of the black-and-white “Swiss cheese” appearance — but repairs holes made for utility repairs with concrete.
Concrete has some cracks
For cities, the biggest headache with concrete is that when concrete ages, panels shift and joints need to be repaired. Richfield has county roads that were originally concrete and were overlaid with blacktop, but the concrete base is so deteriorated that “the cracks just shoot to the surface,” said Jeff Pearson, city transportation engineer.
In the next few years, Hennepin County will join with Richfield to replace concrete-based arterial streets like Portland Avenue and 66th Street with new asphalt, a decision Pearson favors.
“For a local street, I’d be hard-pressed to find a use for concrete over asphalt,” he said.
Edina’s Millner agrees. If the concrete streets in Birchcrest were just 30 percent damaged, the city might have repaired them, he said. But about half of the panels in those streets either need repair or will be damaged by major utility work that will be done this summer.
Millner said if those concrete streets were replaced with concrete, residents could not drive on them for a week and the surface would not reach its full strength for almost a month. And residents would be paying about $3,000 more per household to replace their streets.
Rietkerk acknowledges that concrete is not perfect. In some places, his street is cracked and concrete is crumbled around manhole covers.
“Sure, you get chucks, bump, bump, bump,” he said. “We put in speed bumps to slow traffic. It’s the same effect.”
He says he didn’t lose the debate over what to do with Tingdale. He’s getting a nice, smooth, new blacktop street.
“I think the city lost,” he said. “Because they will have to maintain it and they will lose it sooner.”
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380