Mayor Robert Garcia and Councilman Roberto Uranga and Al Austin at a Measure A kickoff ceremony in March. Photo: Ariana Gastelum
The condition of the nearly 800 miles of streets in Long Beach is improving but the estimated amount needed to bring them up to a pavement condition index (PCI) score of good/excellent stands at over $500 million.
A report from the Long Beach Public Works Department showed that while the city has made progress since 2015, the year the city’s street conditions were last presented to the city council, a lot of work remains to be done.
An influx of funds from voter-approved tax increases at both the city and the state level have provided the city with additional means to address the issue but a large backlog of work has created the running tab which sits at $510 million. That figure has risen from $420 million in 2015 due to the city’s decision to invest in streets considered to be in “good” and “fair” condition and allowing those in poor condition to fall into further disrepair.
Long Beach Public Works Director Craig Beck said the decision to invest in those streets instead of those already in poor condition was a conscious one made by the department and the council as the cost to repair and seal a higher rated road comes with a smaller price than a complete rehabilitation of a street rated as poor.
“We wanted to stop any further decay of the streets that were in the fair and good range, so we focused our investment in those categories,” Beck said. “I think the expectation is that we would see some of this growth down here in our worst streets, but at the same time we were able to improve our PCI overall, and make that investment to extend the life of those streets while we could for less investment if you will.”
In 2015 the number of Long Beach streets that were rated as “very poor” stood at 20 percent, a figure that rose to 22 percent this year. Overall, the city’s PCI average of 62 ranks it behind Orange County (79), the City of San Diego (72), Los Angeles County (67), the State of California (65) and leaves it tied with the City of Los Angeles.
The Department of Public Works report showed the city’s average PCI (pavement condition index) score trailed most of the city’s neighbors.
The $510 million figure represents the amount it would take over the next decade to bring the city’s streets from its current PCI to a PCI of 80, or the higher end of “good”. The city’s average score has improved since the last update on the city’s street conditions, raising its citywide average score from 60 in 2015 to 62 this year. But Beck clarified that this year’s assessment was completed before all the planned fiscal year improvements were completed, meaning the average score could be higher.
“Our streets are in better shape today in 2017 than they were in 2015,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “Many cities right now, their PMPs [pavement management plans] are going down, and you’re seeing that in a lot of places. I talk to mayors that are obviously obsessed about these scores. The fact that we increased our PMP in the last two years I think is a huge accomplishment for the city. We’re going in the right direction.”
The report also included for the first time an analysis of the city’s alleys made possible by $150,000 allocated from Measure A funds. That study revealed a need of $98 million to repair the city’s alleys, a sizable chunk of which are rated in very poor condition.
The city has invested over $71 million over the last three fiscal cycles but that figure falls far short of the new projected annual need of $51 million. Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said that it’s important for the council to address the current need, but also to save for future repairs so the current backlog doesn’t present itself for future councils.
“I would love to see a council that makes a commitment not only to the $51 million we’re going to need a year, but I want to work toward being a council that says ‘I’m replacing my roof today. It costs me $20,000 to replace my roof. My roof is good for 20 years,’” Mungo said. “‘And therefore we should be putting aside $1,000 per year so that when it’s time to buy a new roof, we have the $20,000 in the bank that we can loan out to ourselves and borrow from ourselves throughout that time, but we have the money in the bank to be fiscally prudent and pay for the streets that our residents are entitled to.’”