Public Works responds to street questions

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Today I received via GT Bynum some responses from the Tulsa Public Works Department to the questions I asked in my October 15 column on the street sales tax and bond issue vote. It will take me some time to process all this, but in the meantime I wanted you to have the chance to read it. It's long, so you'll have to click below to read the whole thing. Here are the questions that were answered:

1) Question: Will the City aggressively advertise contracting opportunities to out-of-area firms so we can have a more robust competition for road work?

2) Question: Will the City do a better job of coordinating projects with ODOT, so the City doesn't snarl alternate routes while ODOT is working on a freeway?

3) Question: I see money in the package for rebuilding streets, as we've been doing. But where is the money for paving, crack sealing, milling and overlay? Is there adequate money in this package for the preventative maintenance we haven't been doing?

1) Question: Will the City aggressively advertise contracting opportunities to out-of-area firms so we can have a more robust competition for road work?

Answer: The City of Tulsa currently advertises all projects with the "Tulsa Daily Commerce & Legal News" and posts all projects on the City of Tulsa website. In addition to that public advertisement, plans are provided to the Dodge Report, Bid News and Southwest Construction News. The Dodge Report is a national firm owned by McGraw-Hill and has a national database that publishes work being bid throughout the United States. The Southwest Construction News is a group from Oklahoma and provides a plan room for contractors in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. They report that they also provide information to contractors in surrounding states. The Bid News is from Oklahoma and maintains a plan room in Oklahoma City and Tulsa for contractors. The City of Tulsa also provides a list of upcoming projects for bid to the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). ABC and the AGC are national organizations with offices in the state of Oklahoma.

During the council's Street Committee meetings this issue was discussed. There were two main points of view:

1. The Sales Tax and Bond Issues are funds raised and paid by "Tulsans" so therefore keep the work local. To that end, we have a 50% residency affidavit that contractors submit as part of their sealed bids for Tulsa work. The intent is to encourage and ensure "Tulsans" benefit from a locally raised tax even though a contractor may be from out of the area.

2. We need to open up a perceived closed market. Open up our work to OKC, Kansas, Texas, and Arkansas contractors. The intent, as you noted in your question, is to get better bids.

In the past, our construction program has attracted contractors from surrounding states and other Oklahoma communities which have set up operations in our area. As we advertise our projects and the word gets out regarding the size, magnitude, and type of work, interest will be generated. A consistent program is attractive to contractors. The work would not just be a one shot attempt at getting work. Once here they are then in a better position to operate a sustainable effort. The most recent example is the extensive sanitary sewer rehab program we ran from 1990's to 2006. We had specialty and general contractors dealing with manhole and pipe lining type projects come to town. As the work curtailed, they either diversified into other types of work or left the area. We get similar attention from the professional consultants in the surrounding states.

Having contractors come into the community does not occur without some conflict and growing pains. Each contractor must become accustomed to doing business in the Tulsa environment and in some cases in urbanized areas. There are areas that must be worked through, i.e. our technical specifications are fairly standard, but there are unique items we have added because they perform well and there are other portions deleted because they have not worked over the years; the standard drawings vary slightly; techniques of construction to meet our performance specifications; and getting acquainted and develop a working relationship with new superintendent personnel and project managers. There is an initial time investment in those unfamiliar with our work environment. There are successes and failures. We have been and are open to new contractors. It does work best, when they open a local office and there is authority delegated to a local individual to deal with day-to-day issues.

The state statutes and our bidding processes require that we do award to the lowest, responsible bidder. We have a prequalification process to screen the capabilities and financial viability of the contractor that work for the citizens of the City of Tulsa. Our bonding requirements are another level of protection for the taxpayer. So the City's program is set up with certain levels of safeguards that do allow us to open up our work to "out-of-area" contractors.

As far as additional, specific efforts and plans to "reach out" to out-of-area contractors, a process has not been defined. One approach may be to solicit approved or pre-qualified contractors from surrounding state's Department of Transportation agencies. A mailing could be generated that would introduce the funding program and explain our pre-qualification ordinance with information on how to be eligible to work for the City. The pre-qualification process is not something to be completed after a project advertises. It takes time to generate the required information for the application, have the background information verified by the City Clerk's office, and then have the application approved by the contractor pre-qualification committee.

As outlined above, the notification of public bids is currently going to a wide audience, but it is a business decision for the out-of-area contractors to expand their operation to our area. The opportunity to participate in the amount of proposed work may be the needed incentive.

2) Question: Will the City do a better job of coordinating projects with ODOT, so the City doesn't snarl alternate routes while ODOT is working on a freeway?

Answer: The City of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation coordinate all work where an overlap between a city street and a highway exist. Through these coordination meetings both entities try to minimize the disruption to users of the transportation system. With the extensive work planned on I-44 over the next 5 to 10 years, the intermittent road and bridge maintenance on the Broken Arrow Expressway, I-244, US 169 and 75, holding off arterial rehab in the vicinity of these facilities will be a challenge. The projects will be reviewed and adjustments in implementation will be made. ODOT has recently released their approved 8-year plan and we will be coordinating with our ODOT Division 8 representatives to mitigate the disruption of moving people, goods, and services in the vicinity of our highway segments. It should be noted that it is not always conflicting transportation projects, but there are also water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure repairs, maintenance, and improvements that can create local road lane closures as well. The best approach has been generating maps with all "planned" work and compare to the work scheduled by ODOT. There have been occasions that avoiding a conflict was not possible. We must make our detours and lane closures function together the best they can. In the instances of conflict, we must be flexible and reactive in a timely manner to mitigate the disruptions.

3) Question: I see money in the package for rebuilding streets, as we've been doing. But where is the money for paving, crack sealing, milling and overlay? Is there adequate money in this package for the preventative maintenance we haven't been doing?

Answer: In the proposed street package there is $40,776,000 budgeted for arterial and non-arterial routine and preventive maintenance. Arterial streets would receive $15,494,000 and the non-arterial streets would receive $25,282,000. These funds would be used for crack sealing, fog sealing and overlays with some milling or leveling courses. A portion of the 70% to 80% of the funds for rehabilitation will include overlays that have not been adequately funded for many years. Those rehabilitation (not reconstruction) dollar amounts are: Arterial - $109 million, Non-Arterial - $177 million. Our funding over the past 16 years has been right at 50% of the funds needed to maintain a PCI through a funding package term. We have been on a downward trend for many years. The 2006 Sales Tax (6 years) provided the following for Routine and Preventive work citywide:

Arterial- $2 million and Non-Arterial- $3 million. The funding proposed in this package for Arterial R & P is 7.7 times the 2006 Sales Tax and the Non-Arterial R & P will receive 8.4 times that in the 2006 Sales Tax. The R & P work is getting an incredible boost with this proposed package. Due to the lack of funding for Street Operations and the Capital Maintenance program, we have developed a very large backlog of work and it will require a longer horizon than 5 years to correct.

Is this adequate? Street work funding needs could be added to the proverbial list of items never satisfied. Some would like the streets "fixed" overnight. There is not enough funding to do so. This program is a piece of a larger, phased program to move towards a PCI of 70. This funding level is adequate for us to turn the corner and begin seeing a real impact on our street network. We are looking at a 12 to 15 year horizon in achieving our PCI goals.

The pavement management system optimizes the funds invested in the street network such that it maximizes the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) and minimizes the backlog. The way the network responds to the dollar amounts invested are largely impacted by the backlog or the needs of the entire system. We have run sensitivity analyses for a certain dollar invested over time and through various scenarios, we found that our street network system benefits the most when we invest 70% to 80% in rehabilitation, 10% to 20% in reconstruction, and 10% to 20% in routine and preventive strategies. When we set out for the 70 PCI in 10 years, the distribution optimum was 70% rehabilitation, 20% reconstruction, and 10% routine and preventive. Based on the level of work, we have provided a relative comparison of dollar investment compared to the life of the pavement: If a pavement is worked on fairly early in its life-cycle, you invest a $1 to maintain. If you postpone maintenance on a pavement and allow it to deteriorate to the point of rehabilitation (minor to major) prior to working on, you would need to invest $3 to $5. If totally neglected, reconstruction can cost $10 and more, relatively speaking.

With a brand new road, our best maintenance efforts would be to continue routine work on 4- to 7-year increments, perform preventive on 8- to 15-year intervals, major rehabilitation from 12- to 20-year intervals, and reconstruction would be at 20- to 40-year intervals (asphalt) and 30- to 60-year intervals (concrete). Based on literature and life-cycle analyses, pavements can be extended for twice their service life with proper maintenance (all strategies).

The rehabilitation category includes overlays. Depending on the road segment it may include patching from 0% to 30% of the area. Each road segment is different. Some you can move right to an overlay with tacking to the existing pavement; some require leveling courses, milling and/or patching to address subgrade or pavement section failures. The idea is not just overlaying without regard to what you are "covering up". One of the keys to successful overlay program is the preparation work. If not prepared properly, overlays will not survive our freeze-thaw cycles and storm events. We will have pop-offs from concrete and/or base or subgrade failures will show themselves again in a short amount of time through the newly overlaid roadway. There is a balance to consider when looking at traffic loads, original street section, and the adjacent uses as to the type of appropriate repairs. Just as an example: there are 2-lane road segments throughout the City that are old county-type roads that are asphalt constructed on a soil base or soil/rock base. It is not cost feasible to reconstruct the entire road segment, because none of the base is "excellent" and would have to be completely developed, but by milling and/or providing a leveling course, with minor patching (bridges, culverts, driveway locations, etc.) and an overlay you expend hundreds of thousand dollars versus millions and you have a reliable and stable street section. Not all rehabilitation is major, nor should it be. It is a road-by-road, lane-by-lane review and determination. We want to stretch the available funding over as much of the street network as possible. At the same time, we do not want to compromise doing the right treatment on the roads in a program.

When we evaluate the pavements in the design review, we take cores, i.e. borings through the pavement and into the subgrade, along the road segment to see if it is a candidate for just an overlay or a point repair and then overlay. We develop budgets based on a medium to worse condition and have to predict how the pavement will deteriorate through the period of the funding package. The last thing we want to do is underestimate the severity of a pavement distress. However, this does occur through the life of the funding package. Some completed road segments we have savings and then we will do budget transfers (formal process) to other projects in that funding package to cover under estimating the level of work required.

Another source of under estimation is from public input during the design process. This is when the neighbors identify other issues in the neighborhood that are contributing to the pavement's deterioration, i.e. standing water, repeated water line breaks, collapsed sewer (storm or sanitary), gas line crossings, PSO buries conduits, etc. That is why we use contingencies during our project screening process. We do plan on additional funds to address the City utility issues of water, sewer, or storm sewer. I apologize for getting wordy with this response, but there are overlaps in the pavement repair strategy definitions and their applications across all variables encountered in Tulsa.

In an attempt to control the public's expectation of a program, we only map those roads that we know will look new when we are done. In the 1990's, we mapped all areas regardless of the rehabilitation strategy. When we only crack sealed or patched a street, and then overlaid an adjacent street in the neighborhood, we developed some very angry, disappointed citizens. The expectations were set high when they saw a map with their area marked.

To manage citizen expectations is why we only show streets with known work levels that will result in new "looking" streets. There will be additional areas that get just an overlay that have not been "declared". Those areas will be finalized after we do some additional field work. This work will be performed if the vote is affirmative. We drive the streets for confirmation of the PMS data and forecasts. Another purpose of driving is to refine logical termini points in neighborhoods. We don't want to stop work mid block or create an inconsistent work boundary. Even though the streets were constructed at the same time, but due to localized conditions, they perform differently, e.g. one road may drain better, a road may have been built over a fill area, a utility corridor has adversely impacted the foundation support of the road section, etc. In neighborhoods, some streets are fine and don't require major work, while some may require reconstruction. We try to define those very clearly and have done so in the notebooks and mapping.

The dollar amount for overlays is incorporated in a portion of the preventive and rehabilitation strategies. The rehabilitation work will be a minimum of an overlay. Therefore, 70% of the funds for asphalt will include an overlay. Until we get underway in this program, and do some cores and detailed surveys, it is not possible to identify how much will be "just" overlays. I understand from talking with others outside the City, the thought is getting out and just overlaying roads is the best way to get good streets. I agree with that to the point that overlaying the right street is critical. We will do all we can to stretch the funds as far as we can. We inspect these roads to provide the right treatment, not put good money after bad. We do not want to do overkill, but there is a history of covering symptoms and not addressing the localized causes of some street failures. It is not one solution for all streets.

Please note that the funding amounts being discussed in this program is a huge increase over past funding amounts in previous funding packages. This package is providing for all strategies approximately 10 times the amount of funding for non-arterial streets and over 5 times the amount for arterial streets that was allotted in the 2006 Sales Tax, 6 year program. We are anticipating, based on the discussions in the Council Street committee, there is a long term commitment to the streets and that everyone understood that the commitment included historic level funding over the next 12 to 15 years. We are doing all we can to move our overall street network to an average PCI of 70. Regardless of the funding levels, we will be working towards optimizing the pavement condition of our street network and improving as much road area as possible.

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12 Comments

Okay, so how many lane miles of paving is that?

S. Lee Author Profile Page said:

I prefer questions that are less adademic and more straightforward.

1. Back before Susan Savage, navigating Tulsa roads in the summer was a hassle because of the road construction. Every summer. EVERY summer. Then it stopped. Now that taxes are higher than ever, what happened to all the road fixing money?

2. How about we go back to an elected street commissioner?

Just curious, who was the last street commissioner?

Paul said:

I'm leaning toward voting against both propositions.

a) The areas of Tulsa where I drive have relatively good streets. Some of them are rough and in need of major repair, but many others recently have been rebuilt. They are smooth and new.

b) In my opinion, the City has not spent tax dollars wisely on the streets in my neighborhood. Unit pavers are rough and a waste of money. Acorn lights are a waste of money. The wayfinding signs downtown have some of the stupidest abbreviations I've ever seen -- a waste of metal, paint, and money.

c) I'd rather not pay to build or repair roads in Tulsa's sprawling suburbs, in neighborhoods where I never or seldomly drive.

Are you referring to the abbreviations for the Perforated Arts Center?

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Reference Question # 3:
"This program is a piece of a larger, phased program to move towards a PCI of 70. This funding level is adequate for us to turn the corner and begin seeing a real impact on our street network. We are looking at a 12 to 15 year horizon in achieving our PCI goals."

Where are the other phases of the project? If we know where we want to go, and in 5 years, we know where we'll be. We need the rest of the plan.

Let's commit all the money we need to streets now. I'll vote for the big money. I can see someone saying 5 years from now: "we did the streets, now lets to do the river."

Paul Tay said:

Join the following really SMART people and vote NO:
Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo;
Tulsa County Commissioner-elect Sally Bell;
Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton;
Tulsa City Councilor Rick Wescott;
Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson;
Tulsa City Councilor Eric Gomez;
Former Tulsa City Councilor Roscoe Turner;
Former Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock;
Tulsa Beacon Publisher Charlie Biggs;
KFAQ Morning Host Pat Campbell.

Tell Fred Perry, Mr. No Comment, to vote NO.

And, be sure to stop KKK. She's voting YES.

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

And, I should also the benignly irascible Former City Councilor Jim Mautino who says vote NO!

Bates, what say you?

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

If Bates really believes P-Works will actually blow $40 million for preventative, I have some sandbars in the River up for sale.

They like to sneak a whole lotta "change orders" on Council's agenda. And, Council has NO clue. Guess what? We, as in the public, have NO clue either.

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

Road construction and material companies gave heavily to the campaign committee backing the $415.6 million, five-year streets package that will be on the Nov. 4 ballot, records show.

Citizens for Tulsa Streets raised a total of $568,800 from Sept. 19 to Oct. 20, according to the campaign contributions and expenditures report filed by the Monday deadline with the City Clerk’s Office.

The committee was established in September by the Tulsa Metro Chamber, which has traditionally funded public initiatives. There is no formal opposition committee.

Of the total, $475,815.14 had been spent, with over half, $296,468, going toward TV and radio advertising.

The largest contributor was the chamber’s economic development group, Tulsa’s Future, which gave $188,000.

Many companies that routinely secure city street work also were on the list, including Sherwood Construction, Becco Contractors, Crossland Construction, Crossland Heavy Contractors, Horizon and W. N. Couch, among others.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission
Executive Director Marilyn Hughes said that, unlike contributions to political candidates, those giving to such issue campaigns are not limited in their amounts. Citizens for Tulsa Streets donors include:

Tulsa’s Future, $188,000.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation, Paul Vincent Lovoi Trust, John and Mary Ann Bumgarner, The Nordam Group, Cherokee Nation Enterprises and Chesapeake Operating, $25,000 each.

LaFarge Cement, $18,000. Samson, $15,000.

The Tulsa Community Foundation, Crossland Construction and Crossland Heavy Contractors, $12,500 each. APAC-Oklahoma, $12,000.

Sherwood Construction, T.D. Williamson and American Residential Management, $10,000 each.

Mike and Patsy Case, Becco Contractors, Greenhill Properties LLC, Benham, William M. Cameron, Shadow LLC, Paramedics Plus LLC, Associated Builders & Contractors, Ram Utility Construction, W.N. Couch, Pavement Conservation Specialists, McGuire Brothers Construction, TG Excavating, Harrison Gypsum, Flintco and Spirit Aerosystems, $5,000 each.

Cherokee Builders, $4,000.

The Greater Tulsa Association of Realtors, Northeast Oklahoma Real Estate Services, Cobb Engineering and Poe & Associates, $2,500 each.

Yocham Trucking, Howard G. Barnett Jr., B.C. Main Construction and Tetra Tech, $2,000 each. M.J. Lee Construction Company, Rich & Cartmill and Craig & Keithline, $1,500 each.

Lobo Holdings, Downtown Tulsa Unlimited, Kirby-Smith Machinery, Maxwell Supply of Tulsa, GNC Concrete Products, The Horizon Companies, Gable & Gotwals and the Tulsa Hotel/Motel Association, $1,000 each.

Thomas & Stacey McKeon, Guy Engineering Services, D.P. Supply Co., Utility Supply Co. and John A. Gaberino Jr., $500 each. Ellsworth Paving, $400.

Patterson Realtors and Summit Bank, $250 each.

One contribution of $200, which did not have to be itemized, also was listed in the report.

Paul said:

Michael Bates said:
Are you referring to the abbreviations for the Perforated Arts Center?

Yes, and:
Chamber of Com
Tulsa Comm Coll
Rte 66 Hist Site

Some of the signs are tucked behind other signs, or trees, or posts, making them difficult or impossible to read while driving. It seems silly to me to spend big bucks on a sign and then locate it where it's difficult to see.

Also, I think the maps for pedestrians are goofy, especially when the top of the map is rotated from the direction someone is facing when looking at the map. Alignment of the map with the direction the viewer is facing is a fundamental of "You Are Here" wayfinding map design. A good signage company should know that.

Other reasons I most likely will vote against both propositions:

d) I'd like to see more details of Ken Yazel's idea.

e) I don't trust the City to choose the right priorities and to make sure the street work is done properly. Recently, many streets in my neighborhood were rebuilt while the City ignored other nearby streets in worse condition. Also, I've seen the new concrete at 2nd and Boulder torn up at least twice during the past few months. I don't understand why the underground utilities aren't completed first, before the concrete paving is poured.

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

The ONLY way the Yazel Plan will get ANY traction and see the light of day is if Prop 1 & 2 TANKS.

Vote NO.

Paul Tay Author Profile Page said:

A total of $135.2 million in unspent sales-tax and bond-package funds dating as far back as 1991 drew harsh criticism from some city councilors Tuesday.

"We're getting ready to ask (voters) for about $500 million to fix the roads, and we're sitting on $136 million for capital projects?" Councilor John Eagleton asked.

During a council committee meeting, Eagleton said he was shocked to hear that money is in an account waiting to be spent on voter-approved projects.

Councilor Bill Martinson said, "We have funds that date back 17 years that haven't been expended, and we have streets that are falling apart before our very eyes."

Martinson added that he doesn't understand why $470,000 from the 1991 sales-tax fund has gone unspent "for one reason or another."

That total includes $410,877 appropriated for voter-approved projects and an additional $59,137 in unappropriated funds.

In addition to the 1991 sales tax, unspent cash sits in the funds for the 1996 sales tax, the 2001 sales tax, the 2006 special extended sales tax, the 1985 economic development sales tax and general-obligation
bond packages for 1994, 1999 and 2005.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 24, 2008 5:30 PM.

Where are Obama's conservative friends and mentors? was the previous entry in this blog.

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