Road work to hit full stride next year

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Crews are working on the backlog of street improvements around the city, but some of the work takes years of planning to coordinate with utility work. The infusion of new street-work dollars from two voter packages in 2015 will reach its peak tempo in about a year. Photos by Steve Dunkelberger

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By Steve Dunkelberger
stevedunkel@tacomaweekly.com

While road crews are spotted more and more around Tacoma, fixing streets and improving intersections thanks to the influx of cash from the voter-approved street packages two years ago, the effort is still building up to an even larger push next year.

In 2015, voters approved two ballot propositions to fund additional maintenance and improvements to Tacoma’s transportation infrastructure. Proposition 3 increased property taxes by $.20 per $1,000 of assessed value and added a 1.5-percent increase in the gross earning tax for power, telephone and natural gas utilities. Proposition A approved 1/10 of 1 percent increase to the city’s sales tax. Both packages are expected to generate $175 million before they sunset in 2025 and leverage grants and other sources to tally some $325 million for road and transportation projects around the city.

The work comes after decades of underfunded street repair programs that have left many streets, particularly residential ones, pitted with potholes and depressions that require full replacement of the roadways rather than patches and fills.

Work is being done but much of it is still being coordinated since full street replacements require coordination so sewer and utility repairs are done at the same time rather than having new streets torn up to do that work in a few years. The city has more than 2,000 miles of roadway after all, and about half of them are in need of significant repair or replacement.

“The startup is probably taking a bit longer than we expected because we have never done this before,” said Public Works Management Analyst Reid Bennion. “By 2018, 2019 we will really be hitting our stride.”

The added time also comes with the benefit of allowing the city to aggressively seek grants to help pay for the projects that would otherwise come from the new local tax packages. The city raised $54.8 million last year, with about half of that from grants. Crews repaired some 579 blocks of the 5,614 blocks of residential streets around the city that were targeted for repairs or replacement so far.

Public Works officials will present the year-in-review and year-ahead forecast in January.

Residents can learn more about road improvements and track the progress of the improvement efforts by visiting tacomastreetsinitiative.org. They can also report potholes at cityoftacoma.org/residents/reportapothole.

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