Killeen, has America waited too long to fix the roads? | Local news

With a $ 1.9 million purchase authorization to design a reconstruction project that will encompass Watercrest and Willow Springs Road on the horizon, the Town of Killeen is working to make up for decades of wasted time to do in the face of what has swelled to over $ 160 million in much-needed reconstruction efforts.

Across the country, Red and Blue towns are discovering that the savage and hasty expansion efforts of the 1980s are not sustainable, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, a co-op focused on civil engineers established in 1852.

The uncompromising truth is that America is failing.

Since the inception of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ ASCE “Annual Bulletin” in 1998, the United States has consistently received an average grade of D or less.

This year, the United States narrowly raised the bar, dropping their infrastructure score from D to C-. His roads, however, scratched with a depressing D score.

Unfortunately, Killeen is doing little better.

A 2019 survey by Transmap, a Columbus, Ohio-based company, assigned a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) to each of Killeen’s streets, delivering an overall score upon completion of the assessment. The ICP is scaled from zero to 100; the higher the number, the better the condition of the road.

The assessment showed that the average PCI for all roads in the town of Killeen is 76, down from a 2012 survey that gave Killeen an 81. And while Transmap describes a score of 76 as ” satisfactory ”, such a descriptor betrays how quickly lower scores can start to spiral out of control.

It also betrays the condition of some of Killeen’s worst roads – some of which received ratings as low as 20 – as well as the exponential nature of the road degradation.

According to the Transmap 2013 survey, a pavement loses 40% of its quality in 12 years. Over the next three years it will lose 60% of its quality and progress to complete failure.

In 2017, then city manager Ron Olsen said none of Killeen’s roads reached this mark, but it’s hard to find another way to describe roads like Bunny Trail and Stagecoach Road. , both of which were hit hard by winter storm Uri.

In 1930, Killeen had little more to enjoy than the clicking of the BNSF railway line.

It wasn’t until the establishment of Camp Hood 12 years later – later renamed Fort Hood – that Killeen had a tangible path to expansion.

Fueled largely by soldiers, the town took advantage of the military installation and boomed from 1,300 in 1949 to over 35,000 in 1970. By 1990, Killeen’s population had grown to over 63 000 inhabitants. Today, 30 years later, the city has a bustling population of 155,000 people.

In order to accommodate and harness this growth, Killeen did what almost every growing city did in the 1980s: pushing outward, pushing and pushing each other in the name of affordable housing and lower utility tariffs.

And in just 30 years, Killeen’s population density has grown from over six people per square mile to just over three. For comparison, the Center for Sustainable Systems reported in 2021 that the average population density was 94 people per square mile.

This ‘fill in the blanks’ approach has so far led to unrealized gains, high infrastructure costs, miles of unused roads that remain incomplete in undeveloped housing estates – ‘stretches’ as they are called. often – and to a city that struggles to make ends meet.

A shortfall of nearly $ 8 million sparked widespread panic in 2016 – most often attributed to interim city manager Ann Farris who overbudgeted the city’s revenue.

In 2018, the problem escalated when Olson forecasted a shortfall of $ 50 million over the next three decades, mostly due to a since revamped employee retirement program.

Exacerbating the problem, and perhaps because of Killeen’s unwavering thirst for expansion, is what Kevin Shepherd, CEO of the Dallas-based consulting firm Verdunity, called “relaxed” development standards.

In addition, current city manager Kent Cagle has repeatedly lambasted the town for having “lower standards than a country road” in some areas.

It all comes down to a nonchalant response to a local problem that threatens to get out of hand – low standards of development have resulted in shoddy roads, which in turn forces the city to spend millions each year on resurfacing and resurfacing. reconstruction.

Last year, Killeen, along with the rest of the country, took a standstill following the COVID-19 pandemic. While Killeen’s executive director of communications Janell Ford said that “there has been no evidence that city roads or other infrastructure are being pushed back due to the pandemic,” the high demand has dispersed construction crews.

The straw that appeared to break the camel’s back was the double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and winter storm Uri, which caused Killeen’s roads to repeatedly freeze and thaw, allowing water to s ‘seep into the asphalt and extend outward several times.

This process has ravaged many streets in Killeen, costing up to $ 40 million in repairs, according to City Manager Kent Cagle, in addition to the $ 120 million in reconstruction efforts that Cagle said should be addressed before winter storms do add to the load.

The town of Killeen has 539 central miles (2,191 miles of track) of paved roads with a total replacement value of $ 840.4 million, according to the 2017 Transmap survey, and the total replacement cost, $ 160 million. dollars, equivalent to about 20% of the city’s pavements.

Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra has repeatedly stated that the current state of Killeen’s roads is a direct result of previous city councils “kicking the streets”.

At the city council meeting with Verdunity at the end of June, Segarra said previous city councils lacked the political will to bear the higher taxes or maintenance costs that the city considers necessary to pay nearly $ 160 million. of reconstruction dollars.

So far, city council has responded to the challenge in the form of a high street maintenance fee of $ 10 and a bond of $ 24 million, as well as an injection of $ 5.8 million for perform milling and coating services for nine roads.

Street maintenance costs are expected to generate around $ 7.9 million and can be broken down as follows:

In the first year, $ 4 of the $ 10 generated from the fees will be used for pure maintenance, generating approximately $ 4 million in repair revenue and maintaining the city’s current CPI.

Another $ 2 is earmarked for debt service or repayment of the $ 24 million loan that city council approved to speed up street repairs, while the remaining $ 4 is earmarked for street reconstruction and is expected to be in progress. theory to lower the projected total of the city. $ 160 million in reconstruction.

Assuming the city receives just $ 4 million a year in revenue to rebuild its roads, it will take over 33 years to receive the funding needed to process each item without additional stimuli.

However, the passage of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure legislation, while controversial, will result in an injection of $ 1.2 trillion across the country.

Texas, California and New York will each receive $ 25 billion, according to a White House backgrounder on the bill, representing a per capita investment of $ 856 per resident of Texas.

As one of the most populous cities in the state, Killeen is expected to receive a significant portion of these funds, although the exact amount is still unknown.

It remains to be seen how the city will use the funds and whether it will invest the majority of its funding in its streets or water infrastructure.

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