City Manager’s Weekly Comments – City Streets

Dale Martin

By Dale Martin


As the 2022-2023 budget process continues, a topic of significant discussion at Wednesday’s evening City Commission workshop was City streets. Street projects are a significant annual expenditure in the City budget.

In an effort to develop a long-term plan for street projects, the City hired an engineering consultant, Infrastructure Management Systems, in 2018 to complete a pavement assessment of the City’s nearly seventy miles of streets. The subsequent report would then be utilized to prepare a pavement management plan based upon collected data. The final report was presented to the City Commission in April 2019.

The report indicated that the City’s 69 miles of pavement included 824,000 square yards of pavement (predominantly asphalt). With an estimated cost of $600,000 per mile for replacement, the City’s investment in roads is approximately $44,000,000.

The streets were evaluated and rated based upon two factors: roughness and distress. When combined, the two factors generated a Pavement Condition Index (PCI), a score between 0 (poor) and 100 (excellent). Please note that the streets were evaluated in segments rather than the entirety of the road, so, for example, some segments of a street may score well while a different segment scores lower.

The report’s Executive Summary indicated that the City’s overall PCI was 72, above the national average of 60-65. The City’s roads considered Excellent (PCI > 90) also exceeded a recommended amount (28% scored; 15% recommended). Finally, the “backlog” of very poor/poor roads within the City was less than the average value (5.8% actual versus 12.0% average.) In general, the report provided objective testament to the City’s road maintenance efforts over the past several years (those efforts were led by former Streets Director Mr. Rex Lester).

At the time of the report, the City’s annual road budget was approximately $350,000. The report indicated that, given current estimates and costs at the time, if the City maintained its $350,000 annual investment for roads, the overall PCI would remain steady at 72, but the backlog would double from roughly 6% to 12%.

The report offered insight into the impact of pavement preservation:

Preservation of existing roads and street systems has become a major activity for all levels of government. Because municipalities must consistently optimize the spending of their budgets, funds that have been designated for pavements must be used as effectively as possible.


The role of the street network as a factor in the City’s well-being cannot be overstated. In the simplest of terms, roadways form the economic backbone of a community. They provide the means for goods to be exchanged, commerce to flourish, and commercial enterprises to generate revenue. As such, they are an investment to be maintained.

The overall condition of an agency’s infrastructure and transportation network is a key indicator of economic prosperity. Roadway networks, in general, are one of the most important and dynamic sectors in the global economy. They have a strong influence on not only the economic well-being of a community, but a strong impact on quality of life. Well-maintained road networks experience multiple socioeconomic benefits through greater labor market opportunities and decreasing income gap.

Comprehensive data illustrates that road surfaces, like nearly everything else, deteriorate over time. To efficiently maintain (and improve) a road network, the best investment is to invest in roads that are nearing the bottom of the “Good” range rather than investing significantly larger amounts in “Very Poor/Poor” roads: one dollar invested to maintain Good roads instead of eight dollars needed to repair bad roads. It is with those costs in mind that City staff works to program investments in the City’s road network.

The City is investing in additional tools to become more efficient in addressing road needs. Yes, at a quick glance, the City’s roads are in great shape, but it is critical to continue the long-term investment in this widespread and utilized community asset.

The report referenced throughout this article is available on the City website for review (Public Works page).

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DAVID LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago

Huh? “…the best investment is to invest in roads that are nearing the bottom of the “Good” range rather than investing significantly larger amounts in “Very Poor/Poor” roads: one dollar invested to maintain Good roads instead of eight dollars needed to repair bad roads.” So is the expectation that the Poor/Very Poor roads are going to get better on their own? I understand the rationale if you are trying to stretch your current dollars as far as possible, but at some point the lower category roads are going to be at a stage of failure and require substantially more dollars to repair than the 8:1 ratio. The phrase “pay me now or pay me much more later comes to mind.”
Sadly, a very poor maintenance philosophy from my perspective.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_65854)
1 year ago

I hope industrial activities that use our roads for loaded, heavy trucks to reach their facilities pay their way here. See Rayonier, WestRock, and the Port of Fernandina.

Daniel Mansfield
Daniel Mansfield (@guest_65855)
1 year ago

The increase in log truck traffic to the two paper mills, most of which was previously handled by rail, has accelerated the wear on the city roads. Perhaps the paper mills should pay a fee to the city for each truck delivery.

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_65859)
1 year ago

Do industrial users of our local city roads pay their fair share of taxes to accommodate damage done by heavy trucks and cargos going to/from Westrock, Rayonier, and the Port?

mike spino
mike spino (@guest_65876)
1 year ago

The City’s use of objective data to make street repairs is an appropriate and responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Good job! We need to raise the annual budget for sidewalks from $25,000 so we can get around safely. Every resident survey points to the need for more sidewalks, paths and trails. We can’t build anymore roads to deal with the expanding population on the island and the 1.3 million annual visitors. So we need alternatives like more sidewalks.

DAVID LOTT(@dave-l)
1 year ago

Sorry, but the strategy of “the best investment is to invest in roads that are nearing the bottom of the “Good” range rather than investing significantly larger amounts in “Very Poor/Poor” roads” is fine if you only have a one-time amount of money. It makes no sense if there is a recurring, but limited, amount of funds in subsequent periods. Without any maintenance Poor/Very Poor roads are only going to deteriorate to FAILURE and the cost will be substantially more. Good thing this philosophy isn’t used in healthcare or education.: