Just about everything in Smithfield has changed in the last 11 years, but the town is still using a study from 2006 to decide which streets need repaving.
The town council decided last week to order a new assessment of its streets for the next fiscal year. In the meantime, to spend what’s left of this year’s paving funds, Smithfield will rely on a list of priority streets compiled by town engineer Bill Dreitzler.
“We were concerned this year that the study has grown out of date,” Town manager Michael Scott said.
Since 2006, Smithfield had used its street study to resurface roads as they were ranked from highest to lowest needs. Scott said about 18 streets get paved every year, and the town has relied on the 2006 study, assuming that streets would age and deteriorate at similar rates, keeping the rankings relatively steady.
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That might have worked for the better part of the last decade, but Dreitlzer said he found major inconsistencies between what he felt were the worst streets and those the study said should be the highest priorities.
“What I determined is that there was a lot of inconsistencies in streets that I felt were deteriorated to the point where I felt like if we didn’t resurface this year or next year, you might get to the point where you’re talking about reconstruction,” Dreitzler said. “I wasn’t looking at this to specifically rank streets for resurfacing. This was to look at an overall sampling to see if the rankings in that 11-year-old study still hold. And my recommendation on that is that they do not.”
The worst street on Dreitzler’s list is a block of Caswell Street, which he said is about 20th on the 2006 ranking.
The town council conceded that the study is outdated, but the question remained what to do with this year’s remaining paving funds. Dreitzler recommended sticking to the old ranking as a matter of consistency, but the council decided to use the town engineer’s sampling. Scott argued that going that route meant known problem streets would get fixed.
“We know we’re fixing streets that need to be fixed,” Scott said. “There may be other streets out there that need to be fixed too that Bill didn’t evaluate, but we’ll capture those, if we do a study, next year. But we’ll be fixing streets we know that need to be fixed sooner rather than ones that are 20 or 30 down on the list.”
Councilman Marlon Lee noted a number of streets in East Smithfield that appear to need work.
Dreitzler said Lee was right and that that was the reason Smithfield needs a new study.
“The intent of doing this new evaluation is the streets that all of you see by driving through town, saying ‘Hey why aren’t we looking at this street? It’s in poor condition,’ ” Dreitzler said. “That’s because the 2006 study is showing 20 or 30 streets ahead of it.”