We’re posting this response from Phil Williams, City of Edmonds Public Works Director, regarding the letter emailed from Peter Hodges that questioned how the city would prioritize street overlays.
It is difficult to know where to start in responding to this email. There are a number of misunderstandings and misinterpretations included in Mr. Hodges review of Proposition 2.
The City never said we had a “cast in stone” list of paving projects should Proposition 2 receive approval. Mr. Hodges seems to believe we have either a secret list of streets we don’t want to share or absolutely no idea what we would do with the money from Proposition 2. Neither of these is true. If we had a precise list of projects we would certainly share it with our citizens.
The “Top Ten” list that was discussed at the Levy Forum meeting is merely a numerical reporting of the worst rated streets in Edmonds based on their most recent Observed Condition Index (OCI). All of the street segments in our database are re-rated every two years using state approved protocols administered by employees specifically trained in those techniques. The “Top Ten” list is actually two lists. One is composed of our worst-rated local streets (mostly residential streets). The other list is our worst-rated collector/arterial street segments. My recommendation, should Proposition 2 pass, would be to split the funding raised equally between local streets and arterial streets. This would ensure that significant progress is made addressing the needs in both our residential communities and on our arterial street system.
Certainly, the basic condition of the street would be the primary factor in developing an actual project list to be put out to bid. But there would be, and should be, other criteria considered. Specifically for arterial streets, we would develop a matrix which weighed both the condition of the street and the traffic volumes carried on it. It makes sense that the worst-rated, busiest arterials would be targeted for improvement first. These streets are, overall, the most important to the community in terms of commerce, public safety, and commuting to and from work. Another complexity that should be considered for both arterial streets and local streets would be other capital projects planned for the street. We are currently pursuing, for example, an ambitious water line replacement program and will soon be starting a similar program for our sewer collection system. It would be inefficient and unwise to pave streets without coordinating closely with both our own utilities as well as with the capital replacement programs for telephone, electric, gas and other “dry” utilities that have franchises to locate in the City’s streets. Nothing so inflames the public as when they see a new street being cut in the first few years of its life. It always sounds good to say that we will strictly enforce a “no cut” policy for the first, say, five years after paving a street. I have never seen that approach be entirely successful however. What does work is to coordinate with all of these utilities closely upfront, before paving, and try to minimize their need to open the street later by encouraging them to do their work first. This balancing act can affect the sequence of paving individual street segments. For these reasons a paving program, developed in a deliberate fashion, can be a complex process. So what would be the best approach to developing a specific project list?
I would propose, if Prop 2 passes, staff prepare a recommended policy for City Council and the public that outlines a process for producing an annual project list. The process should include the considerations and features listed above and any others added as a result of Council input and public comment. That policy should then be followed to the letter. One of the elements of a policy should be a communication strategy for getting accurate and timely information out to our citizens so they will know what is coming and when, and can follow our progress.
Another concern expressed in Mr. Hodges email dealt with the question of whether there would be either a “downtown” or “bowl” bias in selecting paving projects. Whatever criteria are adopted by Council would be applied uniformly by staff without any geographic bias for one part of town over another. I think the best way to accomplish this would be to set aside half of the funding for local streets as suggested above.
I will admit I am a little confused by the obvious emotion and distrust in Mr. Hodges email. I don’t know exactly where that is coming from. I wasn’t at the Levy Forum meeting. I intended to go but didn’t end up making it. I wish I had been there to hear exactly what was said. What has been reported to me so far and even what is relayed in Mr. Hodges’ email suggests to me that Darrol Haug very accurately conveyed the facts of the matter. We are getting ready today to post information on the City’s website about Proposition 2, the amount of the levy would be $3 million over three years, and it would all go toward paving streets in Edmonds that badly need it. We would develop a very specific project list each year of the program. That list would be reviewed and approved by council after public comment and input. The approved list of projects would be implemented faithfully.