We take our roads for granted – that is, until we start hitting some teeth-rattling potholes. It’s no secret that the condition of our local streets and roads is getting increasingly dire. In the next 10 years the local system is facing a $78.3 billion funding shortfall. And so Public Works Departments are starting to look at new, innovative approaches to road maintenance and repair.
Los Angeles County is a leader in this field. The Public Works staff has flipped the traditional strategy, now focusing first on roads that are in good shape. Focusing on good roads rather than bad ones sounds counter-intuitive. But Assistant Deputy Director Greg Kelley explains how it’s no different than getting regular dental check-ups, or changing your vehicle’s oil a consistent basis. Prevention pays off. So why not apply that philosophy to our roads? It costs less to maintain a road in good condition rather than waiting until it needs significant repair. That also frees up money that can then be invested on the county roads that need significantly more work. Two projects alone – in Altadena and Willowbrook – saved the County more than $3 million. Kelley estimates that Los Angeles County now invests about 70 percent of its road-repair funds on maintaining good roads.
Los Angeles County combines this strategy with the use of sustainable pavement treatments that have significant positive impacts beyond revenue savings. Greenhouse gas emissions are being drastically reduced and re-using existing materials is keeping thousands of tons of debris out of the local landfill.
The strategy could be catching on as public works officials around the state are noticing its positive impacts. The County recently received a statewide award for its sustainable pavement treatment projects – a well-deserved honor.
I’m no engineer and I have to admit I get a bit lost when the conversation turns to micro-milling or cement-stabilized pulverized bases. But I do know the ride on the recently repaired roads in Los Angeles County is incredibly smooth. As a taxpayer, I like the idea of our local governments saving money. And as someone who deeply cares about the environment, I love a strategy that focuses on GHG reduction and recycling.
Saving money, helping the environment and maintaining our roads – it’s becoming the norm for Los Angeles County.