Available dollars haven't grown with paving costs, the county engineer says.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- High oil prices and Mahoning County's budget crunch are limiting the county's road resurfacing program, but the county was still able to repave an array of roads this year.
In the paving program completed last week, the county engineer's office resurfaced 15 miles of pavement on 16 roads. A 17th road will be paved in cooperation with the city of Alliance.
"During my 10 years, I have had quite an aggressive paving program, and this year, it's less paving than, I think, any of the other 10 years," county Engineer Richard A. Marsico said. "Ideally, we'd like to be able to pave everything every 10 years. However, that's not a realistic goal."
The county engineer's office has repaved about 300 of the 483 miles of roads for which it is responsible during his tenure, Marsico said. Repaving frequency is determined by the condition of a road, the cost of patching it, the traffic volume it carries, and the weight of trucks using it, he said.
"We analyze the entire road system each year to determine which ones are in the worst condition and try to pick those throughout the county to get them done," he added.
"Our dollars do not grow with the costs related to the asphalt prices and the transportation. All the oil prices have gone up 50 percent," he said. The binder that holds together the stone that forms the asphalt is an oil byproduct, Marsico noted.
Higher fuel prices increase the cost of operating paving equipment, added Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy county engineer. "The trucking costs have been inflated. The material costs are inflated, and that's why we're getting less roads paved for our dollars spent," Kenner explained.
The cost for an application of asphalt is $44 a ton, compared with $23 to $35 a ton in recent years, she observed.
This year's paving program was reduced because, when one of the county's half-percent sales taxes was renewed two years ago, ballot language designating one-quarter of the tax for capital improvements, including repaving, was eliminated.
"When we had the sales tax [revenue for paving], we had as much as 45 miles paved in one year" and averaged about 30 miles a year, Marsico said.
In those days, the county spent almost $2 million annually on repaving, Kenner said.
Sources of funding
Seventy-eight percent of the money for this year's $1.4 million paving program came from an Ohio Public Works Commission grant and the rest from landfill dumping fees and motor vehicle and gasoline tax revenues. "We're still committed to spending approximately $1.5 million a year on resurfacing," Kenner said.
If sufficient funds are available, Kenner said the county engineer's office hopes to resurface parts of Pine Lake Road in Beaver and Goshen townships, the southern end of Glenwood Avenue in Boardman, and Tippecanoe Road between Canfield Road and Lockwood Boulevard. It also hopes resurfacing can occur on Duck Creek, Middletown, Ellet, Baird and Blott roads, she said.
Beyond its regular paving effort, the county will seek $500,000 in federal highway money to resurface Bailey Road from Mahoning Avenue to Silica Road and $1.3 million to $1.4 million in federal highway funds to resurface Mahoning Avenue from Meridian Road to Meander Reservoir.
Longer-range plans call for widening Western Reserve Road between Tippecanoe and Knauf roads in 2010 in a $7 million to $8 million safety improvement project, Kenner said. That road has already been widened between Hitchcock and Tippecanoe roads.