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How Phoenix Is Planning For Smoother Rides, Longer Lasting Streets

(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Phoenix's Street Transportation Department wants companies that cut into new and recently maintained city streets to cover resurfacing costs.

Over the next 35 years, Phoenix's Street Transportation Department plans to spend more than $2 billion, with the majority used for new and resurfaced roads. As work gets underway, the private sector may have to play by some new rules.

It started with complaints from residents asking why streets were being torn up after they’d just been resurfaced. In many cases, gas, electric, cable and internet providers were tearing up roads to repair or install lines.

In 2015, Phoenix streets were cut more than 7,400 times. The city collected around $147,000 from companies based on a 30-year-old fee structure. Council members directed staff to find better ways to work with businesses while protecting taxpayers. 

At a recent meeting, engineer Kini Knudson shared the street transportation department’s new philosophy. 

“We are more interested, less in the fees, and more in being able to ensure our streets are in good condition and when they’re cut, they’re put back in the way they need to be able to have a good street that’s gonna last many, many years,” Knudson said.

Once a pavement is cut, engineers say it can never be fully restored to its original condition, even with high-quality repair. A city report says that the result is more frequent maintenance and additional rehabilitation costs.

Staff is recommending companies that cut into new or recently maintained streets cover resurfacing costs. They also plan to meet regularly with utility companies and other stakeholders to coordinate schedules so public and private crews can work at the same time and reduce the number of cuts. 

The full council must still approve the proposed changes,which cannot legally take effect before July 1, 2017.

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.