Laser-sensor gear helps city rate streets
BY BERNARD HARRIS, Staff Writer
Researchers spent about 10 days last summer cruising Lancaster city's streets looking for the good, the bad and the ugly.
And, they did so looking straight down.
The specially equipped van carried laser-guided sensors that recorded details of every inch of the 110 miles of city streets, 10 miles of city-owned alleyways and the 20 miles of state roads that cut through the city.
The result of the collected data is the city's first pavement management plan.
The plan lists the city streets and ranks them by which ones most need repair and repaving.
That block-by-block ranking is expected to guide city repaving for the next decade.
Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray said the plan eliminates the "squeaky wheel" approach that has long dominated street repairs.
"When your infrastructure has been ignored for as long as ours has and you have limited resources, this is really the way to do this," Gray said of the scientifically based ranking system.
The city annually has about $750,000 to spend on its streets, city Public Works Director Charlotte Katzenmoyer told City Council members Monday evening.
That money comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant and about $250,000 from the state's tax on gasoline.
Yet, she said, the gas-tax fund is also used to pay for snow plowing. A snowy winter, such as the one the city experienced in 2009, could cut repaving money in half, she said.
There are also other variables, she said. Some streets require only an "overlay" of asphalt to extend pavement life. Others require a complete reconstruction of the street down to the soil.
On the plan for this year are five blocks slated for reconstruction and 24 to be overlaid, she said.
Katzenmoyer declined to release the plan and the listing of the streets, noting the list remains fluid. It likely will be released in about two months and posted on the city website, she said.
Before then, she hopes the paving plan will receive the blessing of a federal judge. The judge monitors the city's installation of sidewalk handicapped ramps required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The monitoring follows a successful lawsuit 2005 in which disabled residents contended the city failed to make adequate progress installing ramps.
Katzenmoyer said building the ramps is best done when the street to which it is connected is being repaved.
Under the plan, 756 ramps are to be completed over the 10-year period, or 58 percent of the intersections that need to be upgraded, said Katzenmoyer.
If more ramps are required, fewer streets will be repaved, she said.
The van used sensors to record vibration and to determine a "rideability factor" for streets. It also recorded "alligator cracking" that signals a breakdown of the roadway base. Oxidation of the pavement was noted as an indication of pavement deterioration, Katzenmoyer said of some of the data collected.
Also analyzed were the best streets and alleyways where the city could install "green infrastructure" improvements to collect stormwater. Rain gardens, porous pavement and additional tree plantings are means the city can use to allow rain to soak into the ground and keep it out of the city's sewer system.
The $180,000 study by consultant CH2M Hill took several months to complete and is a "once and done" investment, Katzenmoyer said. Annual updates to the pavement plan will be done by city staff.