Monday, September 28, 2009

Road Work Symposium: Fixing Roads or Buying Votes?

Tuesday, Sep. 29, 2009, 10:30 a.m to 3:00 p.m.
Neal S. Blaisdel Center

"The Symposium will outline the City and County of Honolulu’s Road Work project schedules and opportunities totaling over $100M of work." Another colorful flier from the City touting a forthcoming infrastructure achievement. How about a reality check?

Oahu has 1628 miles of roads and only 88 centerline miles of it are its freeways. Then there are other major highways and a few arterials that are state's jurisdiction (e.g., Pali, Likelike, Kal and Kam Highways.) It leaves the city with about 1,400 miles of roadways.

Good paving jobs average about $250,000 per lane mile in Hawaii. Reconstruction could cost twice as much, and several road segments on Oahu do need reconstruction.

Let's make some basic assumptions to get a handle on Oahu's road repair liability. Let's assume that only half of the roads need fixing, and that the average road is 4 lanes wide. We have long avenues that are 5, 6 or more lanes wide and those are the ones that are in critical need for repair. The majority of the county roads are two lanes mostly comprised of neighborhood access and collector streets.

So here is a rough total for road repair costs (not for bridges, just for pavements):

1400 x 0.5 x 4 x $250,000 = $700 Million

Given that some city arteries need reconstruction, we come up with a rough total of one billion dollar budget for pavement repairs. This estimate means that about $100 million per year in today's worth is needed for the next 10 years to fix half of Oahu roads and by then the other half of the roads would fixing.

Indeed road maintenance is a perpetual job. This is the reason why cities and states which have their act together have firmly established Pavement Management Systems. We don't.

After five years in office mayor Mufi Hannemann comes up with a one time $100M announcement. Way too late and too little to improve Honolulu roads from being third worst in the nation, but a well timed expenditure of taxpayer money for political gain.