Post Falls will gain more than 2,000 pounds next year.
But no one’s talking about going on a diet. The weight will all be in asphalt added to improve the road system.
“We need probably $7 million or $8 million of work to be done, and that’s conservative,” said Bill Madigan, public works director. “That’s looking at the surface of the roads and not knowing what’s underneath.”
This year, the street department repaired about three miles of streets within city limits. It put a mile of cold mix asphalt - which takes two weeks to cure - on Ninth and 11th streets, a mile of hot mix overlay on several city streets and reconstructed a mile of roads on 12th and 15th streets.
“They’re all in bad condition, a lot of them are,” said Dick Frank, streets supervisor. “We’ve done a lot of work in the past couple of years.”
Madigan estimates the city has done more work on its streets in the past year than it did in the previous 10, mostly because of better financial resources.
Next year, the city will rebuild Third Avenue, which Frank said is in the worst condition of all the city’s streets. Within the next two years, the city also will put cold-mix asphalt and a chip seal - a sprayed emulsion to seal the street - on all roads between Spokane and Idaho streets, and Mullan and Interstate 90, he said.
For now, work on the roads is finished until spring because of the weather - the city’s worst enemy in caring for its streets.
“The freeze-thaw cycle kills streets,” Madigan said.
And it’s that cycle that necessitates the chip seal. The seal prevents water from soaking the ground underneath the road. If the ground under the road gets wet, it expands as it freezes and contracts as it thaws. That movement gradually deteriorates the condition of the roads.
“That which destroys the streets is not that black asphalt you see but what’s underneath,” Madigan said.
Other factors hurt the streets as well.
“As you have an increase in population, you have an increase in traffic and it’s beat the devil out of the streets,” Madigan said.
When Post Falls still was relatively small, the city could get away with a lesser quality of roads, Madigan said.
“In the past, we’ve just gone out and thrown asphalt at it,” he said. “We had just gone out and shoveled asphalt out the window and if you do that, you might as well do that with your money.”
Frank said he thinks Post Falls roads are in about as bad a condition as roads in most towns this size.
“It just takes time, manpower and money to get it done,” he said. There are seven people on the street crew.
Madigan will present a proposal to the city later this month, he said, that will give a two-year plan for street improvements.
That way, the city can start taking bids for some of the work in January and save money by getting ahead of other cities that need contractors. The report will include an analysis of all the streets in town and how much it will cost to improve them.
The Public Works Department is working on a 10-year plan as well but has not determined when that will be released.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Anatomy of damage