Winter & Construction
May 22, 2009 9:11 AM
Now that winter is over (I never count it over until Memorial Day) and summer is just about here, it's time for street reconstruction season. You are probably going to notice even more of that activity this year than you have in the past.
For example, one big project that few of us can avoid noticing is the long-needed reconstruction of University Avenue from State Street to University Bay Drive, which is now fully underway. For those of us who commute from the near West Side, it's causing some headaches. Some have said that the difficulty getting downtown for my fellow West Siders is even taking its toll on isthmus restaurants, with sales of quiche and white wine plummeting.
But for the most part, people have been understanding and good-natured about all the disruption. I think that's because anyone who has driven University in the last few years knows all too well how badly it needs the work.
And it's not just the big streets like University that we're working on. Last year we reconstructed or resurfaced 19 miles of streets all over the city. That compares to the average of about 14 miles.
It's all part of a bigger plan. This is the second year of a five-year effort to significantly improve the condition of our streets. The City of Madison uses a pavement rating system where every mile of street gets a one through ten rating. Ten is a perfectly smooth surface, and one is a cow path. When we started this process in 2007, 25.5% of our arterial lane miles had a rating of five or below. To be accurate, our streets aren't in all that bad a shape. While 25% of our arterials were below five, only 4% were below four. Still, that was too many miles of streets in bad shape for me. So I asked City Engineering to come up with a plan to get the miles of arterial streets below a five rating to10% in five-years.
Well, this year's ratings are in and our first year of efforts in 2008 are already yielding some results. We're down from 25.5% of arterial streets in substandard condition to 22.4%, and that number will fall further by this time next year when the improvement on University and other streets are tallied up. And when Northport Drive is improved (hopefully next year - that's a state project) we should see the percentage improve substantially again.
So, thanks for your patience in those construction zones. For me, that Southwest Bike Path might be my best commuting option this summer.