Cruising down Second Street in Clayton can test even the most forgiving suspensions, but overall, the town’s streets are in pretty good shape, according to a recent study.
That study gave Clayton an 86.1 “pavement condition rating,” above the North Carolina average of 80, said John Fersner of US Infrastructure, the Greensboro firm that handled the study. Fersner said that right now, 68 percent of the town’s streets, from sleepy subdivision cul-de-sacs to highly traveled downtown streets, don’t need any kind of work. But when it comes to roads, even pretty good is expensive to maintain, and meeting all of the town’s streets needs would cost $1.7 million.
“It’s a big number, I know it’s a big number, but basically if you were to fix everything, that’s what it would cost you,” Fersner said. “The system is in good condition.”
The town owns and maintains 81 miles of streets, but maintenance for some of its most highly traveled, including Main Street and O’Neil, is left to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Fersner said roads are valued at $31 per square yard, and with a little more than 1 million square yards in Clayton, he valued the town’s street system at $34 million.
“This is an asset; it may be one of the largest assets, if not the largest, that you own,” Fersner said.
Fersner said his firm recommends keeping municipal streets on a 15-year cycle, where, after every 15 years, the entire system has been resurfaced. With 81 miles of streets, Clayton would need to redo five miles a year to accomplish goal. The cost would be about $1 million annually at today’s prices.
For context, Fersner said Greensboro, where US Infrastructure has an office, is on a 100-year cycle. “That’s why our streets are falling apart,” he said.
The town spent $11,000 on the study by US Infrastructure. Clayton last did road studies in 2012 and 2007. Since those years, Clayton streets have grown healthier, according to the pavement-condition rating. In 2007, the town earned an 83.6. That number was 84.6 in 2012 and 86.1 last year. The number of very poor streets has decreased since 2007, from 11.1 percent to 8.1, and its number of very good streets has gone from 61.3 percent of all streets to 64 percent.
“This is a much easier talk than I had last week at Chapel Hill,” Fersner said. “You’re heading in the right direction, doing great things in Clayton as far as your road maintenance is concerned.”
In a small town like Clayton, 88 percent of the streets are considered low volume, and even though they’re in pretty good shape, those low-volume streets still represent 77 percent of Clayton’s eventual maintenance or replacement bill. Fersner said 23.69 miles in Clayton are considered high priority and would cost $1.3 million to repair. The worst streets show signs of “alligator cracking,” where the crumbling street resembles the skin of an alligator. That cracking means the foundation of the street is giving way.
Most of Clayton’s $1.7 million street budget this year will go to resurfacing about five miles of roadway, to the tune of $1.08 million. The rest, covering about 20 miles worth, is mostly patching segments of street.
Town Manager Adam Lindsay said his staff would use the study in the coming weeks to plan next year’s budget and consider town spending in the future.
“This important process it is what informs us come budget time,” Lindsay said. “We don’t make decisions on a street based on who lives on that street. We base decisions on science.”
Mayor Jody McLeod said the study showed the town is on the right track and believes in spending a little now to avoid spending a lot later.
“This council has been extremely dedicated to infrastructure maintenance,” McLeod said. “We learned early on there is a return on investment on infrastructure.”