MTC’s Report Lands Bay Area Pavement Quality of Local Roads in Fair Territory

Mon February 16, 2009 - West Edition
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Pavement conditions on the Bay Area’s local streets and roads continue to earn only a “fair” grade, according to a new report released Jan. 5 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), with the typical stretch of asphalt showing serious wear and likely to require rehabilitation soon. Pavement conditions on the region’s more than 42,000 lane miles of local streets and roads have been largely stable for the past several years, with the average pavement condition index (PCI) score over the 2005 to 2007 period rising a single point to a score of 65 out of a maximum possible 100 points from a three-year moving average of 64 points in 2004 to 2006.

“One of the goals in the new Draft Transportation 2035 Plan that MTC released [in December] is to improve the condition of the Bay Area’s transportation system, including our local streets and roads,” explained MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd. “The good news is that we’re holding the line on pavement quality. But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and it’s a constant battle against the forces of time, traffic and weather.”

The top-ranked jurisdictions for pavement quality are the eastern Contra Costa County city of Brentwood and the Santa Clara County city of Los Altos, which both recorded three-year average PCI scores of 84. The lowest-ranked pavement was found again in unincorporated Sonoma County, which recorded a three-year average PCI score of 44. The cities of San Mateo and Lafayette logged the biggest improvements in 2007, with their three-year average PCI scores jumping six points. The largest decline came in the Napa County city of St. Helena, where the three year-average PCI score fell five points to 53, down from 58 points in 2004 to 2006.

PCI scores of 90 or higher are considered “excellent.” These are newly built or resurfaced streets that show little or no distress. Pavement with a PCI score in the 80 to 89 range is characterized as “very good,” and shows only slight or moderate distress, requiring mostly preventive maintenance. The “good” category ranges from 70 to 79, while streets with PCI scores in the “fair” (60-69) range are becoming worn to the point where rehabilitation may be needed to prevent rapid deterioration. Because major repairs cost five to 10 times more than routine maintenance, these streets are at an especially critical stage. Roadways with PCI scores of 50 to 59 are deemed “at-risk,” while those with PCI scores of 25 to 49 are considered “poor.” These roads require major rehabilitation or reconstruction. Pavement with a PCI score below 25 is considered “failed.” These roads are difficult to drive on and need reconstruction.

“All around the Bay Area, and especially in our rural areas and older cities,” noted Dodd, “we see a lot of streets and roads with PCIs below 60, which is the point when pavement begins going downhill fast. One of our priorities is to make sure we invest in both preventive maintenance and in rehabilitation.”

MTC’s Regional Streets and Roads Program later this year will present its Most Improved Award to the City of San Mateo, which boosted its three-year PCI average to 67 from 61 in the 2004 to 2006 period. MTC’s Best All-Around Pavement Management Program Award will be presented to Foster City, which has consistently registered PCI scores of 80 or higher in recent years. A new award, recognizing the best streets and roads in the Bay Area, will be presented to the City of Brentwood.

MTC is the transportation planning, funding and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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