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Oklahoma City streets: Needs are great

Half of Oklahoma City's roads need repairs beyond simple resurfacing. While taxpayers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade roads, progress is slow, and unhappiness with road conditions has persisted for years.
by William Crum Published: October 13, 2013

Nearly half of Oklahoma City's roads are in fair to poor condition, in need of repairs beyond simple resurfacing.

Taxpayers invest hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade roads, but progress is slow, and unhappiness with roads has persisted for years.

City leaders can only hope an aggressive maintenance and construction schedule is sufficient to turn public opinion their way.

The Oklahoman analyzed Oklahoma City's Pavement Condition Index (PCI), which grades 13,679 streets or street segments on a scale of 0 to 100.

The analysis shows 3,637 roads are in excellent shape, in no need of repair.

On the other end of the scale, at least 1,746 roads need to be reconstructed. Another 1,158 received scores of 0 or minus 1, meaning they weren't graded, were so bad the rating was 0, or were unrated surfaces, such as gravel or dirt.

The PCI graded 6,652 streets at 60 or less. Under the city's classification system, streets rated 60 or less need some level of repair to the road base before being resurfaced.

No. 1 concern

It's an issue that rankles residents, with 59 percent of those who responded to the city's 2013 community survey saying they were dissatisfied with the condition of city streets.

In 1987, 62.3 percent of those who responded answered “many bad spots” when asked to rate the condition of city streets.

In the 2013 survey, 73 percent listed streets as one of the top three issues that should receive the most emphasis from the city in the next two years, with about 50 percent making it No. 1.

Traffic and ease of getting around town was second with residents; quality of the police force was a distant third.

The average PCI rating for major and residential streets in 2013 is 64, up from 62 in 2010. However, the average rating of major streets has dropped, from 64 in 2010 to 61 in 2013.

“We would like to see that number higher, much higher, probably in the 70s,” said Eric Wenger, director of Oklahoma City's Public Works Department.

Borrowing for roads

Oklahoma City finances major road projects primarily by asking voters to authorize borrowing.

In a 2007 bond election, voters approved $445 million for 31 resurfacing projects, 49 road-widening projects and 57 road reconstruction projects.

Reserves brought the total to nearly $500 million. Voters approved an additional $40 million for bridge projects, traffic signals and other work.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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