For 10-12 years (or more depending on who you ask) – the city struggled to manage their road repair program. Between not enough money being allocated or the wrong streets being done (for the wrong reasons), our roads took a beating and had the marks to show for it. The last couple years, Mayor Mapp has pushed for greater investment in road work, and I applaud him for those efforts.
There are many types of road repairs, from simple milling and paving to very intense road reconstruction with curbs and driveway aprons etc. Typically this is done based on the condition of the road – and many of our roads can be updated with a simple mill and pave and 3-5 days of inconvenience. Overall, I think the choices made have been very good.
However, I do think we need to think through how we manage these projects because the quality of some of the mill and pave work leaves a little to be desired. Mill and Pave is generally considered a 5 year road – meaning it will hold up well for about 5 years before it requires repairs. That doesn’t mean that all mill and pave is the same and that we shouldn’t make sure that the vendors we hire (usually through state vendor contracts) aren’t held to the same standard they would be held to in Scotch Plains, Fanwood or Westfield.
Last fall three roads were done in the Netherwood area – according to residents, it was the first time roads had been touched in the area for 15-20 years. When Belvidere and Ravine were completed I noticed that the center joints were not particularly tight or smooth. When asphalt is laid in strips, the joint is the portion where the two strips meet – in this case that happened to be roughly the center of the road. I also noticed that manholes were not lifted to be closer to the new level of the roadway – so when you drive down the road you drop into them rather suddenly – much the same as a deep pothole. At the intersection of Park Terrace and Belvidere there were 3 such manholes, all quite noticeably lower than the street level and because of placement, very difficult to avoid.
Now, I am not an expert on road construction – but I do know when something isn’t quite right and I do have friends who are experts at this sort of thing, so I asked. Turns out, manholes are supposed to be raised when roads are paved (there is actually a process for that – learned something new) and there is a whole technique to dealing with the joints so that they are as smooth and integrated as possible – to avoid water getting in, freezing, cracking and damage to the road etc. So I geeked out on learning some new things and sent an e-mail to DPW to ask that they have the vendor revisit the roads and make adjustments before winter came. My main reason was that if we are spending hard earned taxpayer money, we should get quality work – and if the work is not sufficient, we should catch that on inspection before we release any bond that is held against the work. DPW replied to my e-mail that they would look into this and address any issues that needed to be fixed. The roads in question included Belvidere, Ravine and Hillside (i got three calls about that one from friends).
It didn’t appear that anything has been done – and the manholes were certainly not adjusted. While walking my dogs I check out the neighborhood like most people do, mostly wondering why others have an easier time getting green grass than I do – but my eye always ends up going to the center of the roads and the now very noticeable problem with the joints.
Below you can see the joints in three spots on Belvidere – keep in mind that this road is not even a year old – by next winter these joints will have more ice and snow that will get inside and cause the road to crack – which will make a 1.5 year road ready for patching – at taxpayer expense. (all pictures below taken 7/23/18 – color difference is due to sun)
On Ravine Road (a section is in front of Councilman Storch’s home) it is even worse – with one section in the lower left that already had to be patched this year because the asphalt was poorly put down – I sent a picture of this to DPW last year but apparently they didn’t make the vendor come and repair it. So now we have expense for a road that should have lasted 5 years (ok its the northeast and winters are rough – but we couldn’t get 4 years out of our 5 year road?). (all picture below taken 7/23/18)
My point is this – WHO IN THE HELL IS INSPECTING THESE PROJECTS BEFORE THE VENDOR IS PAID? Seriously – do other towns just let contractors get off the hook for shoddy product? Look at South Avenue in Fanwood next time you drive in that direction – from Terrill Road to Park Avenue – its really well done (and that was a mill and pave). Why doesn’t Plainfield deserve the same level of quality as other cities? This is a waste of taxpayer money and next spring we will waste more of it when we have to repair the 1.5 year old roads and our oncen smooth roads are pock marked with asphalt patches – yet again.
The City Council just approved the Capital Improvement budget – which includes $4 Million for more road work this year – we should aspire to having vendors that respect us enough to give us quality work – and we should respect ourselves enough (and our hard earned tax dollars) to ask that our city officials make sure the work is the best quality before the invoice is paid. Lets start treating this money like it is our own – BECAUSE IT IS!