On April 22, Pueblo West Metropolitan District held the first of many community meetings aimed at engaging residents on Pueblo West roads in response to the 2016 community survey results. The survey identified roads as the community’s most highly prioritized service, and the service with the lowest level of satisfaction. This level of satisfaction is directly related to funding and resources that fall well short of industry standards.
All roadways deteriorate with time and use, and as Pueblo West residents know, our roads are no exception. The Asphalt Paving Institute states that proper paved road maintenance requires a two inch overlay every 15 to 30 years, as well as patching, crack sealing, and chip sealing in the interim. Proper maintenance for gravel roads is to lay four inches of new gravel every five to seven years, in addition to regular grading to reduce wash boarding and washout. For the past five years, the Construction Cost Index in Colorado has increased by 19%, significantly reducing the amount of road maintenance Pueblo West can do within its current budget.
With over 400 miles of roads in Pueblo West, it is a formidable and expensive task to keep them up to industry standards. Asphalt roads account for 208 miles, and to overlay all 208 miles it would require overlaying 8.32 miles a year for 25 years, then starting again and continuing into perpetuity. With current construction material costs, it could cost $2.5 million each year to accomplish. But to properly maintain a paved road, it should be chip sealed at some point between each new asphalt overlay. It would cost $200,000 per year to chip seal every mile of paved road in the District in perpetuity. The balance of road surface in Pueblo West is gravel, and to maintain the industry standard maintenance of these roads it requires a 4 inch overlay of 19.5 miles of roadway every year in perpetuity, at an annual cost of $600,000. This means, to maintain industry standards, it would cost residents $3.3 million strictly for resurfacing maintenance of gravel roads.
The $3.3 million does not cover labor costs, snow removal, sweeping, pot hole filling, road striping, or storm repair, nor does it include new capital projects, expansions, or new paved roads. Labor costs and these tasks account for virtually all of the current $2.7 million Public Works budget. Therefore, to maintain roads at industry standards at the current market rate, it would cost Pueblo West residents $6.0 million. Since 2001, the Public Works budget has remained relatively constant at an average of $2.7 million. All significant increases in the Public Works budget were due to periodic capital improvements.
What options do residents have? Residents have options that range from improving roads, to returning all Pueblo West roads to gravel. If residents want to improve the roads in Pueblo West there is value in reconsidering a 1% sales tax that would produce $1.6 million in new revenue solely dedicated to street and road maintenance, significantly increasing the Public Works budget allowing for more miles maintained annually, and accomplishing road projects that are long overdue. A 1% sales tax for roads would allow for approximately three miles of roadway to be paved each year, 15 miles chip sealed each year, and all completely funded through sales tax.
If residents want to remove road maintenance from the Pueblo West Metro District’s service plan, they can petition the Board of Directors to move towards abolishing the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Pueblo County, effectively giving the roads back to Pueblo County. This would save the District millions in the long run, but at the same time, sole responsibility and local control for Pueblo West roads would be reallocated from the Board of Directors to the Board of County Commissioners. Fifty-nine miles of Pueblo West roads are currently below the county’s road standard and therefore unacceptable to the county. This means Pueblo West would still be responsible for maintaining and improving those 59 miles until they reach the acceptable standard and can be taken over by the county. At a cost of $1.2 million per year, for 10 years. Therefore Pueblo West would not see a budget improvement from giving the roads back to the county for about 10 years once all Pueblo West roads are accepted by the county for maintenance and improvement.
We plan to continue this conversation with at least three more community meetings this summer and fall. Please watch for notices in the Pueblo West View, at http://www.pueblowestmetro.com, and on social media.