By Casey Crowley

Baker City’s streets continued to get rougher over the past year, a trend that dates back almost two decades.

And although a 2017 transportation package approved by the Oregon Legislature has boosted the city’s annual gas tax revenue by about $60,000, the budget for street maintenance falls short of what’s needed to reverse the trend.

The City Council reviewed the 2019 pavement management plan during a work session Wednesday evening at City Hall.

In 2000, the city, which reviews the condition of its paved streets each year, rated 97 percent of the street mileage as being “good” or “very good.” Just 2.76 miles were rated as “fair.”

Now just 52 percent of streets are rated as “good” or “very good,” and 24.78 miles are “fair.”

Jay Fuzi, an engineering technician w ith the city, rates streets each fall in five areas. When possible he drives the same route, in the same vehicle, each year. Fuzi has been responsible for the street ratings for the past eight years.

He rates streets based on ride quality, surface cracking, trench settlement, drainage issues and other factors affecting th e street’s structural integrity.

To reverse the trend, the city would need to repave 2.4 miles of street each year. But the current budget only allows the city to repave about 2.4 blocks, every other year.

This is due in part to asphalt costs that have risen from $103 per ton in 2009 to about $135 per ton now.

Overall, including the cost of moving utilities, curb and gutter work and improved pedestrian access, the city estimates it would cost $14 million to $24 million to upgrade all streets to the “good” or “very good” categories.

This year the city is scheduled repave about three and a half blocks of Washington Avenue from the Powder River east to Clark Street. The estimated cost is $332,000.

In 2018 the city didn’t do any repaving, to save money for this year’s project.

On average an asphalt street lasts between 20 and 25 years. The city has about 1.28 miles of street built in 1959 that haven’t been repaved since.

According to the 2019 Pavement Management Plan, it’s considerably more expensive to repair a severely dilapidated road — these require repaving or in some cases complete reconstruction — than it is to maintain a street that is already in good shape.

In those cases chip-sealing , which is much less expensive than repaving, can maintain a street in good condition.

See more in the March 8, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.