The streets of Bellevue are deteriorating due to a lack of funding for street maintenance, and city officials are hoping for an economic turnaround to get them back into shape.
The year 2008 marks the sixth year that Bellevue's streets have not been chip-sealed, leading to troublesome potholes and disintegrating roadways. Chip-sealing is the process of applying about one inch of asphalt tar and fine gravel to protect road surfaces. Paving is a more permanent solution to deteriorating roads and lays down at least a 2-inch layer of asphalt, but costs much more than chip sealing.
"Chip-seal provides good protection for a road that is in reasonably good shape," Bellevue Public Works Director George Tanner said in an interview.
A recently completed Transportation Master Plan for the city calls for $30,000 for annual crack-hole, pothole and chip-seal maintenance over the next 20 years, but the city lacks the money to follow that mandate.
City Administrator Tom Blanchard said $30,000 allocated last year for street maintenance was spent last winter when the city's primary snow-removal machine broke down and needed a replacement. He said $12,000 was spent on a rental grader, and another $10,000 on fixing the city's grader.
Blanchard said Bellevue has not budgeted the needed $30,000 for 2009 because the state has told him to expect $27,000 less in revenues for fiscal 2009.
"Add to that the fact that no one is building anything in Bellevue," he said. "We usually get revenues for streets through the building department."
Bellevue officials recently came up with $8,000 from the city's general fund to repair a one-block section of road on Fifth Street between Cedar and Cottonwood streets, near Bellevue Elementary School. That section of road became disintegrated due to heavy equipment traffic during this summer's remodel of the school.
Blanchard said Pine Street, Second Street and portions of Oak, Cedar and Sixth streets need to be re-paved completely.
"If you keep chip-sealing a road that is failing, like Broadford Road, you are just throwing away your money," he said.
Currently there are no funds allocated by the city for these repairs.
County street crews usually share equipment with Bellevue during chip-sealing operations. Blaine County Road and Bridge Superintendent Dale Shappee said the cost of paving and chip-sealing materials has risen 40 percent over the last two years.
"The streets of Bellevue have never been properly paved," said Blanchard, who moved to the city in the 1970s.
"Thirty years ago we had new hard surface on the streets, but that was from layers of chip seal over dirt roads. We can't keep using chip seal to fix failing roads. They need to be paved."
Blanchard said a good example of new streets are those in new subdivisions like Chantrelle, which were paved 10 years ago and now need chip seal to extend their lives.
"You can extend the life of a road up to 40 years with regular chip-seal maintenance," he said.
But right now he doesn't know where that money will come from.
"It's pretty depressing," he said. "There are some opportunities for grants through the federal government we are pursuing. New developments in the city could bring some upgrades here and there, but the revenue for our plans is just not out there."
"At a time when we are bailing out major financial institutions for malfeasance, a government earmark for road repair is impossible to find. Cities like Bellevue are burying themselves in automobile impact. We are subsidizing automobiles by spending more and more on streets."