Johnstown Independent

Study shows roads need more upgrades than village can afford

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For Johnstown Village Council, the new year brought a review of old roads.

A study shows they need more improvements than the village could afford, short of resorting to grants and loans.

Council on Jan. 7 was shown a presentation of a Transportation Asset Management (TAM) study that began in 2001, when Village Manager Jim Lenner, along with consulting company CH2M Hill, began a process of analyzing and grading each of the village's roads.

The study, presented by Jamie Decker of Columbus-based consulting firm CH2M Hill, showed where improvements need to be made on various roads, which roads require the most urgent work and which need to be maintained to squeeze more years out of existing infrastructure.

"This plan identifies why the roads fail, as well as what can be done to solve the problem in the future," Decker said.

The plan, Decker and Lenner said, is not a short-term solution but rather a long-term plan of action for roads that seem to have been lacking in upkeep for some time.

Lenner declined to speculate on how or why upkeep hasn't been done.

"I don't know if maybe (older administrations) were focusing on a different project or a different issue," he said.

The goal of the assessment was to quantify the "consequences of failure" and "likelihood of the roadway to fail." From that point, the study gave an estimated cost of repair, as well as a priority based on urgency and risk.

One important point of the study was to determine which roads could be saved for the future with less-costly repairs now, rather than full renovations later.

"(In the past), all we did when a road was failing was put on a coal patch," Johnstown service director Jack Liggett said. "That's a very short-term fix."

Options and treatments such as crack seals and slurry seals could be used to maintain roadways when they begin to crack or show signs of wear. The goal for the future will be to get about 30 years out of each road, when maintained correctly.

"The sections that (Village Council) allows us to do will be done correctly, and we will aim for that 30-year life," Liggett said. "Our view right now is that every foot we do, we're going to do right."

The report's findings suggest plenty of work remains to be done and on a tight budget.

Lenner said this is "the first step in a long and hard discussion."

Johnstown could be looking at nearly $5 million in priority roadwork, depending on what council decides.

Lenner said he doesn't know how the village could come up with that much money. The village's capital improvements fund is a likely source, he said, but it is set to a budget of about $400,000 each year.

The village could borrow money but then would have to pay it back with interest.

The likely option, Lenner said, is that the village will continue to apply for grants and other funding "and hope to do our best to put together the best application we can."

Lenner said the village has tried for three years to get funding for Concord Road, which is badly in need of repair, but has been unsuccessful. The bright side, he said, is that the TAM makes it more likely to receive such funding and should help Johnstown leaders to show that their improvement plans are based on sound research and prioritization efforts.

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