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O’Fallon street maintenance faces significant challenges for future funding

O’Fallon street maintenance funding shortfalls beginning in 2022 currently are estimated to be between $7.2 million and $12.4 million per year, and increasing each year thereafter due to inflation.

Similar to other cities in metro St. Louis and St. Charles County, O’Fallon faces a significant challenge in future funding to properly maintain city streets.  The city’s pavement continues to age, requiring more maintenance and more replacement every year. At the same time, Missouri voters historically have been reluctant to increase taxes to create the revenue needed to pay for that increasing maintenance and replacement.

At the City Council’s Sept. 12 workshop, Tony Friedman, senior project manager with the city’s engineering department,  again briefed the council about street maintenance and future funding.  He had done an in-depth briefing at the council workshop March 28, 2019, as reported in Mid Rivers Newsmagazine story on April 11.

Friedman explained that current street maintenance funding comes from a city half-cent sales tax, plus a Missouri State Motor Fuel Tax, county road/bridge funds from a property tax collected by St. Charles County along with funds provided by the East/West Gateway Council of Governments and the St. Charles County Road Board.  Those sources and amounts are not sufficient for the city to maintain streets as needed for the future, officials have said.

If the Capital Improvement Plan [CIP] for streets remains at current funding levels, the average Pavement Condition Index [PCI] for streets will continue to decline to levels that will result in poor pavement and resident complaints. Seventy-five is considered the minimum desirable PCI. Friedman provided several scenarios and graphs, including those shown below, depicting what the average PCI would do if only current levels of funding are available.

Public Works and the city council have in the past discussed potential ways to increase revenue for streets, including: an additional 1/8 to half-cent sales tax, resulting in an estimated $1.5 million to $6 million; Traffic Generation Assessment [TGA] fees; Property Tax Adjustment; Street Light Assessment Fee, resulting in an estimated $1 million; and a use tax, resulting in an estimated $3 million.

The city council voted 5-4 against implementing the TGA fee on March 28, as reported March 29 in Mid Rivers Newsmagazine.  None of the other ideas have been pursued yet.

The 2019 approved budget forecasts a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan for streets, including:

Concrete               Asphalt                 Total

2019 -$1.5M      2019 -$500K      2019 -$2.0M

2020 -$500K    2020 -$500K     2020 -$1.0M

2021 -$500K      2021 -$500K     2021 -$1.0M

2022 -$1.5M       2022 -$500K    2022 -$2.0M

2023 -$1.0M       2022 -$500K    2023 -$1.5M

Those numbers are for residential streets only and do not include arterial roads such as Bryan Road.

City staff have considered several scenarios for how often concrete and asphalt pavement could be replaced and at what point on the PCI scale should pavement be replaced. The current view is that beginning in 2022, the minimum funding needed for streets is $7.2 million per year, increasing each year onward. To maintain the current level of PCI, $12.4 million per year is needed, increasing each year annually.

That means for 2022, funding for minimum level maintenance appears to be $5.2 million short, and funding for the proper level of maintenance appears to be $12.4 million short. 2023 would be even worse.

Those shortfalls in revenue must be addressed in some way in the near future, before the condition of city streets deteriorates at a pace the city cannot tolerate. This will require creative thinking, collaboration and cooperation of the O’Fallon city council, residents, businesses and voters.

Turtle Creek Drive between White Magnolia Drive and Royal Melbourne Court. Minimum PCI for reasonably good pavement is 75. This photo shows what a PCI of 70 looks like. [John Tremmel photo]

Recapping key background information, Friedman pointed out that streets are O’Fallon’s most valuable resource, valued at over $400 million.  Those include 110 lane miles in asphalt and 590 lane miles in concrete, comprising 3,400 street sections, 221 arterial road sections, 226 collector road sections and 2,952 residential road sections.

City streets are inspected and rated every two to five years, using a third-party firm to assess the pavement and assign a PCI score, based on distress type and severity.  O’Fallon residents and businesses can view the PCI ratings for their street and all city streets in the Pavement Manual, located online in ofallon.mo.us, in the “streets” link within the “Public Works Department” link.

The city’s Street Division in the Public Works Department has an overall philosophy of keeping good pavement in good condition, by doing crack sealing and similar preventative actions. Officials say that is easier and less expensive than replacing pavement. According to the city, the Streets Department prioritizes major maintenance by fixing the worst streets first, using the PCI scale. Then, they cluster street maintenance to leverage times and resources, taking advantage of when they are in an area.

The division also strives to extend concrete pavement life by using partial depth asphalt to fill in slab joints and sealing cracks to delay additional deterioration. For asphalt, the division is pursuing less expensive repair technologies such as chip/slurry seal and micro-surfacing to extend pavement life.

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