The single most frequent complaint I hear from Randolph residents is about our crumbling streets. Some common refrains are something like, "I've lived here for more than 20 years and they've never repaved my street!" Or "I risk breaking an axle every time I drive home!" So what can we do about it?
I'd like to increase the town's budget for filling potholes -- we should hire a new DPW staffperson for this purpose, and dedicate a larger budget line for equipment and materials. I raised this issue in the Town Council's June 2021 budget discussions and met resistance. The Town Council will need to hear support from the people of Randolph to get that passed -- it's your tax money, but I think it'll be tax money well-spent.
Street repaving is a different process and a different budget item than filling potholes. Street repaving means the whole street gets redone -- including curbs and sidewalks, if any -- as opposed to just filling in potholes. Obviously all of the potholes get filled in, whenever a street gets repaved. That process is separately described below.
Randolph's process for filling potholes:
- Someone has to report that each pothole exists. (I've taken on that task for over 100 potholes -- that's the "Pothole Challenge"!)
- The recommended reporting method is "See/Click/Fix" which is on the Town of Randolph homepage. (This is what I used to report all 100+ below).
- The DPW receives all the pothole requests, and puts them into a queue to get fixed, after checking for duplication, or postponing repairs if the street is about to be repaved anyway.
- The theory is: potholes then get quickly fixed. The practice is: The "Pothole Challenge" will test the capacity of the DPW.
- The Town Manager said at the June 2021 budget discussions that the necessary budget for labor, materials, and equipment would automatically increase if lots of potholes were reported and the allocated budget ran out. The "Pothole Challenge" will test that too!
Randolph's process for street repaving:
- There's a big thick book at Town Hall that lists the repaving status for every street in Randolph. This section describes how to read the big thick book (it's 114 pages of numbers and charts).
- I used the "People's Subpoena" (the Freedom of Information Act, or "FOIA") to obtain an electronic copy of that big thick book; that's what's posted above.
- The contents of that big thick book changes every year, as streets get repaved they are removed, and as streets deteriorate, they get re-evaluated and might move up in priority the next year. So it's always an estimate -- but here's how to estimate when YOUR street will get repaved:
- Go to page 93 through page 101 -- that's a 9-page prioritization of street repaving, called the "Cost Benefit Value Analysis: Roadways Sorted By CBV With Cumulative Total".
- The "CBV" (Cost Benefit Value) means the report balances the need (how bad is the street, and how much is it used) versus how much repaving costs, accounting for what sort of repair is needed (preventative, minor, or major).
- The "Cumulative Total" column shows how much money would be spent if all of the repaving projects were done for each street up to the prioritization of your street. You can use that column to indicate what year to expect your street to get repaved.
- Randolph currently allocates $955,888 per year for street repaving (this is the best figure I have from the June 2021 budget discussion -- I hope for an update). So you divide the "Cumulative Total" for your street by that figure, to estimate the number of years until your street is repaved.
- You may find that your street won't be repaved until 2030 or later (if your street is on the later pages of the report, the lowest priority). That's what I'd like to fix -- we should increase the budget allocated for street repaving so that no one has to wait that long!
- You may find that your street isn't listed at all. That means one of two things: 1) Your street doesn't need repaving -- that would be mentioned elsewhere in the document. Or 2) Your street was missed -- yes that happens! -- it likely means that the street is ineligible for Chapter 90 funds, the state program.
- In the "Pothole Challenge" below, I did find several streets missing -- for example, East Englewood Ave (in South Randolph) is missing -- my pothole report shows that the whole street is bad -- but only West Englewood Ave is listed on the report (that's across Center Street).
How to estimate when your street will get repaved:
For this example, I use Silver Street, which is near my home, and is also in great need of repaving:
- Silver Street is a "Major Rehabilitation" of 0.25 miles with a 100% repair, costing an estimated $156,449.
- Its CBV score is 7.35 which puts it on page 96, ranked at just about 100th.
- The cumulative spending for the top-ranked 100 streets is $7,940,650, so Silver Street gets repaved when the town allocates enough to get to that cumulative total.
- Since we allocate about $1 million per year, that would mean Silver Street gets repaved, as an estimate, in the 8th year, or 2029.
- I think my $1 million annual estimate is low, but Silver Street could expect to be repaved in FY22 only if the FY22 budget allocates over $7.9 million -- I'm awaiting word on the actual annual allocation.
- See my snapshots of 5 potholes along Silver Street -- it's pretty bad!
The Pothole Challenge for Summer-Autumn 2021
- I am challenging the DPW to fill as many potholes as they can manage by October 2021 -- we'll see what their capacity is, so we can justify hiring new DPW staff and increasing the "pothole budget".
- I reported 100+ potholes during the summer, between Independence Day and Labor Day -- you can see each of the 100+ potholes in the list below.
- Sometimes the DPW removes "duplicates" and sometimes other things go wrong -- so I reported a total of 113 as of Sept. 8, 2021 -- even with problem items removed, the final total should exceed 100.
- I'll check back in October to see how many of the 100+ potholes got fixed. The DPW tells me they have fixed some already (in August).
- I asked DPW to NOT prioritize my pothole reports (yes, they noticed what I was doing, in July!) -- just treat them as normal pothole repair requests -- so that we can all get a fair measurement of DPW's capacity.
- Since I used the recommended reporting method of "See/Click/Fix," this will test the capacity of the DPW -- with existing labor and equipment, can they fix 100 potholes per month? Maybe the result will indicate that DPW can fix 50 per month -- then if we double the budget, we could increase that capacity to 100.
- You can join in the "Pothole Challenge" by reporting your own potholes on See/Click/Fix -- a dozen people told me where to go take photos, so they're all under my name "Town Councilor Jesse Gordon" in the system. But I'll list yours, too, if you send 'em to me.
- I estimate that there are about 500 potholes around Randolph, just like the set of 100+ potholes that I reported. I stopped photographing a street after a few potholes on that one street -- and I missed a lot of streets too! Also, I didn't tag any crumbling sidewalks -- just a couple curbs where they impinged into the street -- and I'd estimate are another 500 of those. Hence even if the DPW capacity is 100 per month, this is a full-time gig forever (since they can't work in winter, and new potholes form every year!). And actually I think DPW capacity is below 100 per month!
- The See/Click/Fix system uses "geotagging" on your photos to identify the nearest house address. All of my photos are reported at their geotagged address -- there is no connection to the residents of those addresses!
The Street Repaving Challenge for 2022
- Have you heard all the talk in the news about the "federal infrastructure bill"? It'll end up as something like $1 trillion to $3.5 trillion for infrastructure improvements -- and I'd like to get our fair share for Randolph!
- Street repaving is one of the most basic infrastructure challenges. Randolph's streets are crumbling, and this gigantic trillion-dollar package is our opportunity to fix 'em all.
- Our street repaving process is explained above. The Randolph DPW doesn't do full street repaving themselves -- it's contracted out. That means we make a deal with a street-repaving company to repave, say, a dozen streets for two million dollars (yes, that's what it costs -- see specific figure for Silver Street above!).
- Well, if we make just one contract in a year, we get only those dozen streets repaved -- but we could make 2 or 3 or 20 contracts in one year. Of course, repaving 20 dozen strets would cost something like $24 million -- a quarter of the town's annual budget -- that's where the "federal infrastructure bill" comes in.
- The feds WANT to spend trillions on infrastructure -- it's how we're recovering from the COVID Recession. The trick is, to get the feds to spend some of those trillions in Randolph! I call that "getting our fair share." Our fair share of a trillion dollars is about $100 million -- of which I think $24 million dedicated to street repaving is an appropriate usage!
- So how do we get our fair share from the feds? I don't know yet -- because the money isn't allocated yet, and it'll be distributed to states and counties and municipalities sometime in 2021 or 2022 or maybe even later. But we need to prepare now! By setting up town agencies to get our fair share when the time comes.
- I've suggested that we set up a "Master Plan Implementation Steering Committee" -- citizen volunteers plus town staff -- to keep an eye on the federal and state infrastructure grant-writing process. The Town Manager concurred at the August 2021 Town Council meeting that "having more eyes on the process" would increase our chances of getting more federal infrastructure funding.
- The town needs to hear from residents on this issue, because without a real push, we'll get just a few million instead of $100 million. Please come to Town Council meetings, or write emails or letters, saying that the town should focus more on maximizing Randolph's share of state and federal grants. This isn't a "tax and spend" issue -- our federal tax money is already being spent, and this is all about WHO gets it! President Biden calls this a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" -- I agree -- but if we don't push for Randolph to get our fair share, our neighbors certainly will, and we'll miss this opportunity.
Pavement Management Report and Jesse's 100+ Potholes