Report: Many St. Paul roads suck, and will get worse without cash boost

There's a need for increased funding to prevent deterioration of the city's roads over the next 20 years.
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A recent City of St. Paul report found what its residents already know to be true: many of the city’s roads are poor condition.

The report, which will be presented to the city council on Wednesday, examines the city’s streets using something called the "pavement condition index" – rating streets based on a 0 to 100 scale.

The average score for the city’s streets falls in the “fair” category at 62, but this will only get worse in the next 20 years if funding levels don’t increase, according to the report.

Arterial roads, or high-traffic urban roads, are in even worse shape, with an average score of 55 on the PCI.

The city currently budgets around $11 million for arterial roads. According to the report, if current funding trends continue, the city’s arterial streets will have a PCI rating of 50 in the next 20 years. At the same time, if funding doesn’t increase, 35 percent of arterial roads will fall into the “failed” PCI range of less than 10, a seven-fold increase from current conditions.

The city would need to spend an additional $5 million on arterial roads to increase the average PCI score to 70 in the next 20 years. By doing this, the city would also ensure more than 80 percent of all roads have a PCI rating better than “poor,” or at least 55.

Residential roads are in the same kind of trouble. While they have a slightly higher average PCI score of 64, current funding levels would mean the PCI average score would drop to a 22 in 20 years. The city currently spends $11 million on these roads, but an increase of $20.5 is needed just to keep that score steady.

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According to the report, these needs aren’t surprising given that the current upkeep of the roads is severely lacking. While arterial roads are meant to be reconstructed every 60 years, current funding levels would mean they can only be reconstructed every 124 years.

And while residential roads are meant to have the same 60 year lifecycle, current funding means they would only be reconstructed every 289 years.

So how will the city fund these needs? While nothing has been decided yet, the report suggests a possible statewide gas tax increase, a sales tax increase, user fees for roads or a property tax increase. 

The most recent winter left the city's streets littered with potholes, with frustration growing among road users that one even took to filling dozens of holes on his street himself after failing to get a quick enough response from city construction crews.

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