City Council Work Session, Nov. 17, 2014

This al.com photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with a patched utility cut in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. [Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.]

This recent al.com* photograph shows a deteriorating section of Valley Avenue with patched utility cuts in the near lane. The city is considering an engineering contract to better plan road maintenance and funding. Valley Avenue is set for re-paving and other changes.

 In a special full-council work session on Monday, Volkert Engineering presented a pitch for the company’s “Management System for Paving” as a means to expedite city road projects. *(Link to al.com article http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2014/10/planned_changes_to_valley_ave.html)

Council members present: All- Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Walter Jones, Patrick McClusky, Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright and council president Bruce Limbaugh.

Staff present: Jim Wyatt, Engineering and Inspections Department head, J.J. Bischoff, Mayor’s chief of staff, Linda Cook, City Clerk, Greg Cobb.

Audience attendance: 1

Making the sales presentation were Mike Harbert, asset manager for Volkert Engineering and former ALDOT employee, Kirk Mils from Volkert’s Birmingham office (and a Homewood resident), and Jim Reed from Whitaker Contracting. The purpose was to discuss implementing a system of municipal road maintenance to prolong their usefulness and safety. Presenters said the first step is prioritizing road quality–and therefore future funding needs–through a procedure of testing and grading road pavements.

The procedure involves taking a 100-foot sample of a road section and rating it based on the amount of cracking, rutting, and deterioration of asphalt glue binding. (Roads typically deteriorate the worst within 2-4 years of service life because of sun and moisture, Mr. Harbert said.) Mr. Limbaugh asked whether Homewood roads would benefit from this testing since the roads are mostly much older. There are topical applications that could extend the life of older roads as well.

Several questions were posed about how to determine if a sample was “representative” and Mr. Harbert said it’s usually easy to find enough of a base road to qualify. A discussion followed about using Volkert to coordinate utility company road work. Mr. Mils, the Birmingham manager, said Homewood could follow Mountain Brook’s lead by requiring higher standards for road cuts and increasing permit fees for road work contractors. The council seemed to agree that these actions needed to be taken.

Mr. Reed then gave a slide presentation on the importance of preserving municipal roadways. Infrastructure across the country rates about a D+, he said, including all infrastructure, not just roads. Every government entity complains that there isn’t enough funding to address all the problems, so there is usually no systematic road maintenance plan. However, the new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements must be met if the structure of any road is changed. So, pavement preservation is increasingly considered as an option to decrease future expenditures and extend the life of roads when possible.

He went on to present various coatings and sealants to preserve pavements costing about $2.50 per square yard. He also mentioned methods of mass re-surfacing such as “slurry” “microsurface,” and “chip sealing,” which are more commercial-grade surfaces; the most suitable method for residential street resurfacing involves milling and repaving with asphalt.

Council members discussed the benefits of establishing a maintenance schedule, such as it did with sidewalk prioritization. Volkert said it can do the rankings, by ward, and provide a data base for the city’s engineering department to use. Mr. Hawkins said he and Mr. Wright had discussed road issues last week and agreed something was needed. Mr. Wright asked if the strategy was road preservation or replacement and Mr. Hallman commented that it seemed a two-part approach, with some re-paving worked into a schedule of road preservation.

Before adjourning the work session, the council voted to refer the matter for further discussion to the Public Works Committee, tentatively set for the second week of December.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.

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