CEDAR RAPIDS — B Avenue NW has been one of those streets with so many Band-Aids the original surface can barely be detected.
That’s why motorists aren’t complaining to see the road between Highland Drive NW and Eighth Street NW ripped back to the 1800s as B Avenue undergoes full reconstruction this year. By Tuesday, the street had been stripped down to dirt.
“They gotta do it, so get ‘er done,” said Brian Johns, 51, who lives nearby and volunteers at the Olivet Neighborhood Mission.
Emboldened by a warm start to the year, the road construction season is well underway and crews were able to start early.
Paving for Progress | 2016 projected projects
“They are ahead of schedule,” said Doug Wilson, a Cedar Rapids engineer. “They were able to get started much more in March than we are used to, so they should get done in a more timely manner.”
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The $1.78 million B Avenue project, slated to be complete in the fall, is one of the highlights of this road construction season. Many of Cedar Rapids road projects are completed under the Paving for Progress banner, paid for with the proceeds of a 1 percent sales tax levy voters approved in 2013.
At least 33 road projects covering 8 miles and worth more than $21 million have begun or will begin this year as part of Paving for Progress, which is entering its third season, according to city figures. Most will be complete this year but some will spill over to 2017, such as repairs to the First Avenue Bridge over the Cedar River.
So far, 40 projects have been completed covering 15 miles of roadway through Paving for Progress. The city has spent about $26.2 million under the tax program beginning in summer of 2014 through last February.
The city budgets about $18 million per year for Paving for Progress, but tax proceeds are coming in faster than expected. The tax has generated $32.2 million so far, according to city figures. But the city is holding steady with the budget for now.
“Until we see a trend, we will hold at $18 million,” Wilson said.
The tax has allowed the city to undertake work it would not otherwise have been able to do, he said.
The city borrowed an average of $5.56 million per year through general obligations bonds to pay for road work from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2014. That’s a good measure to show how much more work is being taken on under the local-option sales tax revenue, Wilson said.
“We are seeing work done that wouldn’t have happened without LOST,” said Wilson. “We are more than doubling the investment in streets.”
The city’s road budget also has been boosted by revenue from the statewide 10 cent gas tax increase, which was adopted a year ago. One-way to two-way street conversions is one example of how that money is being used.
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One new aspect of Paving for Progress this year is that it marks the first full-throttle move to tackle major road construction, as opposed to smaller pavement rehabilitation. This year will see full reconstruction of sections of 74th Street NE, 42nd Street NE, West Post Road NW, 14th Avenue SE and Seventh Street SE.
Full reconstruction projects often incorporate utility, water main and stormwater sewer repairs, For example, in addition to concrete reconstruction on B Avenue, water main and storm sewers will be installed.
“This is the first year we are seeing all the reconstruction because it takes longer to plan for utilities,” Wilson said.
The city determines which of the 600 miles of local roads to repair and in what order using Fugro Roadware Automatic Road Analyzer in coordination with a field inspection. The data is updated every two years. The city still is analyzing the latest batch, which arrived earlier this year. The new data will be used to compare with existing plans to see if anything needs to be altered.
“It’s all data-driven,” said Jen Winters, the Cedar Rapids public works director.
The city allocates about 60 percent of the money to residential streets and 40 percent to arterial streets. Then it also allocates based on pavement conditions. Approximately 20 percent goes to maintenance, 40 percent to rehabilitation and 40 percent to reconstruction.
A handful of reconstruction projects will quickly consume the pot of money though the city could take on many more rehabilitation or maintenance projects for the same amount. It’s a balance, officials said.
“It’s better if we can get to the roads with maintenance and rehabilitation before the road totally falls apart and we have to do a full reconstruction,” Winter said. “For every $1 we spend on maintenance, we spend $5 on reconstruction.”