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Plan to repair roads could save money in the long run

LITTLE VALLEY – Some of the roads in Cattaraugus County have seen major reconstruction in recent years, and all of those machines ripping up and replacing pavement cost money.

Is it making any progress in improving the condition of the roads in the county?

No, according to one professional.

Mark Burr, director of engineering for the county, said that over the last four years of working in the E-Score system, which fixes roads based on scores, enough data has been collected to show that the money going into road repairs has kept the overall condition about the same.

“We are at a status quo situation,” he told the County Legislature’s Public Works Committee. “I want to come in here and say that things are getting better, but I can’t do that.”

The E-Score system that has been adopted ranks the condition of the roads from one to 10, one being very bad and 10 being a new road. The roads in the county range from mostly six to 10, according to Burr, and this merits a possible shift in repair philosophy that would save the county money in the long run.

It will cost a bit more in the short term, though – about $2 million a year more over the next five years.

The basic procedure for road repair in public works has been to repair roads that were in the worst shape, Burr said. “That’s where the funding went, into fixing bad roads.”

That process leads to more and more roads falling into disrepair, waiting their turn to be rebuilt. In terms of the E-Score system, to bring a road from a 7 to a 10 costs $100,000 to $150,000 per mile.

A road scoring 6 on the scale would cost $250,000 to $500,000 per mile, and to go from a 5 to a 10 would cost from $1 million to $2 million per mile.

With those numbers, the system of repairing and rebuilding the worst roads depletes budgetary coffers quicker and leaves less money available to perform preventive maintenance on the better roads.

To shift that, and allow for roads that are in need of some repair to remain viable, preventive maintenance on newer roads should be budgeted in with other road projects, Burr said.

Using the current method of maintenance, letting the condition of the road drop to a 6 or a 5 after 15 to 20 years would cost $1 million to $2 million to bring the surface back to a rating of 10.

“It’s less expensive to keep good roads good,” Burr said.

To implement his plan, however, will cost more than the current budget for roads. Over the last five years, the county has repaired 105 miles of road a year at a cost of $5.103 million a year. To bring the average E-Score of county roads from the current 7.06 to a 7.77 over a five-year period, Burr said, the budget would have to include an additional 45 miles of roadwork a year for an additional $2 million per year.

“I believe the score will go up 10 percent under this plan,” he said. “To continue the plan for an additional five years would get us pretty close to a score of 8.”

The plan will be reviewed by the Public Works Committee.