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Published: 2/8/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Bell outlines $28M plan for road repairs

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledoans can expect to see an army of orange construction barrels on the roads this year.

Mayor Mike Bell's administration Tuesday released its list of major thoroughfares and residential streets slated for repair and reconstruction in 2012, and it's long.

ATTACHMENT: 2012 road construction projects 

Altogether, the $28-million plan includes funding for work on 43 residential streets and more than a dozen major roadways. That's more than double the $13.3 million spent on street repairs in 2011, officials said, and a significant boost for residential road work, which has lagged in recent years. The city also wants to extend the repair and reconstruction boom into 2013 with an additional $31 million in funds.

"This is extremely important," deputy mayor Steve Herwat said Tuesday, explaining the reconstruction efforts will boost the local economy and improve the city's roads. "The condition of our streets is the priority of the mayor and council."

Much of the money will be financed through debt. Mayor Bell and his officials maintain the city can afford to borrow the money because other outstanding debt payments are drawing to a close -- helped by the sale of city assets such as three downtown parking garages.

Borrowing the money now also allows the city to take advantage of historically low interest rates, he added.

Residential street repairs had been largely placed on the back burner because of Toledo's budgetary woes. Projects on larger roads are usually bolstered by federal and state grants, but residential roadwork is paid through local dollars. The pot of money used for residential projects has come under strain, however, because the city has used it to cover day-to-day operating expenses. That resulted in complaints from city residents that their streets had been neglected.

Mayor Bell said his administration is responding to those concerns.

"We have heard our citizens loud and clear," he said.

The city plans to leverage the construction frenzy to also help young Toledoans find jobs. Mayor Bell said he plans to put language in construction contracts that requires companies working for the city to hire a portion of workers between the ages 18 and 25. He said he is meeting with contractors to come up with a final plan. "We want to get our young people to be part of the process," he said. "It's actually about being able to put young Toledoans back to work. Young people are our future."

In all, council districts are set to receive $6.6 million-worth of road repair and reconstruction this year. This includes nine streets in District 1; 10 streets in District 2; seven streets in District 3; two streets in District 4; four streets in District 5; eight streets in District 6, and three streets downtown.

Some of the most expensive projects include Ketcham Avenue in District 4; Mont Royal Drive in 6; Brookford Drive in 2; and Auburn Avenue in 1.

For major roadway projects the city's plans include: resurfacing Woodville Road from the High Level Bridge to the city limit; reconstructing Collingwood Boulevard from Monroe Street to Central Avenue; resurfacing Douglas Road from Central Avenue to Sylvania Avenue; and resurfacing Benore Road and Hagman Road from Alexis Road to Matzinger Road.

Robin Whitney, the city's commissioner of engineering services, said many of the road projects have been put out to bid and construction on some could begin in March. She said the city will do its best to spread the work out and contain disruption to motorists.

However, some disruption is inevitable, Mr. Herwat said. "There will be inconvenience," the deputy mayor said. "That's the price that people have to pay temporarily to get these roads fixed."

Several city councilmen praised the Bell administration's efforts to put more money into road repairs.

Councilman D. Michael Collins said, while he would normally be hesitant to support the borrowing, the condition of city roads makes it necessary to act. By resurfacing some roads this year, the city will stop them from deteriorating further and save on more expensive repairs in the future, he said.

"We've no choice in this matter. We either do the debt service ... or five years from now we may be in no position to do anything but reconstruct [the roads entirely]," he said. "I think the administration deserves a great deal of credit for being visionary and realizing that we need to move on this."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.


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