It was the municipal version of show and tell Tuesday evening as members of the Kennewick City Council toured some of the city’s worst potholes and degraded pavement aboard one of Ben Franklin Transit’s new trolley-style buses.
Repairing extensive damage due to age and the harsh winter will be a thorny challenge for the council, but Tuesday’s tour was a light-hearted opportunity to visit the city’s worst stretches of road.
Pressed to name their “favorite” pothole, two of the city officials most familiar with its streets named a now-filled crater at West 10th Avenue and Olympia Street.
Josh Soggle, streets crew leader, and Cary Roe, public works director, both called it one of the city’s most problematic potholes, followed in short order by another on West 27th, near Fire Station No. 4.
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Councilman John Trumbo even expressed disappointment that the monster at 10th and Olympia was filled by the time the city sightseers cruised by aboard the trolley Ben Franklin calls “The Snake.”
“They filled my favorite one,” he complained mockingly. “That would take a bowling ball.”
Soggle and his crews have patched more than 1,000 potholes since winter finally released its grip on the region. As snow melted, the city’s 61 miles of arterial, 33 miles of collector roads and 242 miles of residential streets emerged with fresh potholes, in addition to normal wear and tear.
Crews tackled the problem first with an asphalt mixture designed to serve as a temporary patch. Roe said there were many spots where the temporary patches popped out and crews had to return.
He pointed out an egregious case as The Snake worked its way down West 27th near South Ely Street.
“We had to patch that one four or five times,” he said.
Tuesday’s tour was an opportunity for the city council to begin confronting widespread deterioration of streets, some due to winter but much of it to age.
The city funds street work from its general fund. Roe hopes the council will identify a revenue stream to boost the repair and maintenance budget.
A similar conversation is taking place in Richland, where the City Council voted to create a transportation benefit district last month. It aims to fund it with a $20 fee on vehicle licenses.
Kennewick officials have shown no appetite for following Richland’s lead on the car tab fee idea.
Kennewick’s budget for 2017 includes $1.6 million for pavement work. Before winter hit, it intended to spend the summer construction season working on new asphalt overlays. Instead, it pivoted to repair as the winter damage surfaced.
It expects to spend about $800,000 to dig out 330 thorny spots, rebuild the roadbed and repave with new asphalt.
Those sections are marked by white spray paint. Some of the dig-out zones contain multiple potholes that formed in clusters in some places.
For 2017, work will concentrate on the most heavily traveled roads, with one residential exception. A stretch of West 33rd Avenue east of South Cascade is a primarily residential street but it has completely failed. The area was annexed and the roads were never built to municipal standards in the first place.
It’s so bad the city put up warning signs and is making plans for emergency repairs. The bus slowed during the tour so passengers could admire a pile of crushed gravel that will be used in the project.
One residential street near Park Middle School won’t be seeing much love either. It’s the one Mayor Steve Young lives on.
“I can’t put pavement on his road or I’ll get accused of favoritism,” Roe joked. “There’s always more need than we can meet.”