Survey shows almost 30% of Yakima roads in poor, failing shape

YAKIMA -- Five years ago, 20 percent of Yakima's streets were in poor or failing condition. A new survey shows the problem has grown to almost 30 percent.

That's bad news for the city council, which has cut the city's repair budget for several years running even as traffic engineers warn that falling behind on maintenance greatly increases repair costs.

The survey was released last week to the council's transportation committee, which expects next month to receive another report from Streets Manager Joe Rosenlund detailing how much it will cost to get roads in good repair.

One thing is for sure: It won't be cheap. Repairs range anywhere from $1 or $2 a square foot for crack-sealing and up to $10 to $14 a square foot to lay down a new coat of asphalt, according to Rosenlund.

Rebuilding a road can cost more than $60 a square foot.

"Those numbers almost exponentially grow as the pavement gets worse," Rosenlund said.

In just three years, Rosenlund's budget for basic maintenance and minor repairs has dropped 48 percent, from a high of $705,000 in 2008 to $476,000 this year. Asphalt prices, meanwhile, have doubled during the same period. His budget comes from a combination of real estate, gas, sales and property taxes.

The city does not have a set schedule for major road repairs, although a bone-rattling stretch of 16th Avenue from Nob Hill Boulevard to Washington Avenue finally is set to be repaved this spring after several delays.

The cost of that project -- $467,570 -- comes from money saved up from a declining real estate tax that is supposed to underwrite major road repairs. Meanwhile, no major chip-sealing projects are on tap this year. All but crack repairs on residential streets have been suspended.

Councilman Rick Ensey, chairman of the transportation committee, readily agreed Tuesday that a big road bond probably is going to be necessary to work on the city's streets.

Even so, as a fiscal conservative he doubts voters would approve a bond measure until and unless the council -- or a newly elected mayor -- makes a strong case for it.