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L.A. controller details deficiencies in city's street pavement program

 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Saying Los Angeles's street repair program has  fallen short of its goals, City Controller Ron Galperin today released a series  of recommendations that include buying asphalt at a lower price, re- prioritizing its paving schedule according to a ``common sense criteria'' and  doing a better job of documenting the number of potholes it fills.

The findings and recommendations are the result of a six-month audit the  City Controller's Office conducted of the Bureau of Street Service's Pavement  Preservation Plan, looking at the three years from 2010 to 2013.

The audit found that the city is unable to provide proof for about 60  percent of the 953,339 potholes it claims city crews filled over the past three  years.

The city has also ``missed opportunities'' for obtaining funds to pay  for repair projects, under-collecting fees by an estimated $190 million,  according to the audit. To remedy this, the controller recommends that the  street services bureau's fees need to be increased.

The audit also found that the bureau has been overpaying for its asphalt  material.

Galperin, speaking amid piles of dirt and gravel at one of the city's  two asphalt plants, said the city produces its own asphalt using outdated  technology from 1947, when the city's plants were first built.

The city would need to spend about $17 million to upgrade one of its  asphalt plants in order for it to produce asphalt at a lower cost. He  recommended that the city purchase asphalt from outside vendors with newer  technology, and find other uses for the city's own plants.

While the city has been able to reach 93 percent of its goal for fixing  moderately damaged streets, it has ``totally forsaken'' it worst streets, which  make up about 38 percent of the city's 6,500 center-lane miles of roads,  Galperin said.

With limited funding and staff cuts, the Bureau of Street Services has  been asked to focus only on streets with grades B and C, and to defer repairs  for D and F streets that are more expensive to fix, according to Galperin.

As a result, Los Angeles streets average a C minus grade, short of the  city's goal of a B grade average, based on the city's own rating system,  Galperin said.

He said city officials will need to change how it prioritizes which  streets to fix by implementing a ``common sense criteria'' that factors in  ``traffic volume, heavy vehicle loads and mass transit loads.''

Some of Los Angeles' ``larger streets'' earn grades of D and F, their  deteriorated conditions ``impeding the flow of traffic and commerce, and making  the bus ride a very bumpy journey,'' Galperin said.

The condition of our streets is an ``important issue for every single  resident in the city of Los Angeles,'' he said.

The poor condition of city streets means that Los Angeles drivers yearly  pay 71 percent, or $832, more on auto maintenance costs than the ``average  American,'' according to a study by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit TRIP,  Galperin said.

``This has been a week where we have been seeing a lot of outdated  infrastructure in the city of Los Angeles,'' with the water main break in  Westwood and additional ruptures in other areas, including one reported in  Eagle Rock this morning, he said.

``We have to get our infrastructure fixed and modernized,'' he said.  ``But instead of throwing money at the problem, I believe we have to be more  creative in terms of our approach to it.''

Bureau of Street Services Director Nazario Sauceda, who joined Galperin  at the asphalt plant for the release of the audit findings, said he would work  closely with city leaders to improve the operation of the pavement preservation  plan.

``We take this audit very seriously, hence we will review the findings  and recommendations in detail, and we will take the necessary actions working  directly with the controller, with the mayor himself,'' he said.

Many of the controller's recommendations would need to be taken up by  other city leaders, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, before they can be  implemented.

The city budgeted funds this year to pave 2,400 lane miles of streets,  200 more miles than the previous year. Garcetti also launched a ``neighborhood  blitz'' program that rotates repair crews from one neighborhood to another.

The city's 6,500 center-lane miles of roads is equivalent to a total of  28,000 lane miles.

Garcetti released a statement saying he appreciates the controller's  audit of the Bureau of Street Services's ``past performance.''

He and his staff ``will work with his office to review the  recommendations,'' he said.

 

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