Construction work an investment in future

Brett Berntsen
Crews lay down pavement on Thursday on East Piñon Hills Boulevard.

FARMINGTON – While the numerous highway construction projects around town may create a temporary nuisance for local drivers, city officials are urging residents to view the lines of traffic cones with open minds.

“Orange barrels represent an investment in the future,” City Manager Rob Mayes said. “We are fortunate to live in a city that prioritizes infrastructure.”

Mayes said the city has a short window to complete projects. Concrete can only cure properly at warmer temperatures and specialized crews are in high demand. The combination creates the annual spring-time frenzy of street construction.

"We have to be aggressive," Mayes said.

Major projects underway include work on Piniõn Hills Boulevard and 20th Street. Public Works Director David Sypher said crews are currently replacing water and electrical lines and will repave the streets this fall. People may gripe about traffic delays, but Sypher said there are a lot of misconceptions regarding construction projects, especially when it comes to the "life of pavement."

Sypher said that once a street reaches a certain age it begins to deteriorate exponentially. If work can be done before this downhill spiral, Sypher said, a city can save 500-percent on repair costs.

"That's why people always ask, 'Why are you paving a street that's in good shape?'" Sypher said. "But we've already lost the bad streets. Any property owner knows that you have to keep up on maintenance."

Road work continues on Thursday along East 20th Street in Farmington.

Both Sypher and Mayes give credit to the City Council for funding repairs on a schedule that avoids serious damage to roads and vehicles. Overall, the city has allocated $51.1 million this fiscal year for infrastructure projects, ranging from water treatment plant upgrades to replacing electrical substations. The city plans to spend $69.2 in fiscal year 2017.

The investment comes as infrastructure is beginning to show its age across the nation. In 2013, the the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country a D-plus grade on overall infrastructure. Locally, a recent ditch breach cut of water supplies to the city of Bloomfield, and problems with the rural AV Water system have placed Crouch Mesa residents under a boil advisory for nearly two weeks.

Mayes said it takes political will to fund infrastructure improvements during tough economic times. He noted that in 2014, the City Council approved a water rate increase that provided money to replace failing supply lines.

“That was a difficult decision,” Mayes said.

Road work continues Thursday along East 20th Street in Farmington.

At a recent City Council meeting, Sypher also floated the idea of a sanitation rate increase to create a street pavement fund. He said garbage tucks are the heaviest class of vehicles allowed on local roads, and cause 48 percent of overall wear and tear. The rate increase is still up for discussion, but Sypher said the approach is a growing trend across the country.

As far as this summer goes, Sypher recommended residents visit the Public Works Department website for information on street construction. He said his department is also looking into a creating an online map illustrating the best routes to use to avoid delays.

"We understand it's difficult to get from point A to point B this time of year," Sypher said.

Brett Berntsen covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606. 

A worker directs traffic while crews lay down pavement on Thursday on East Piñon Hills Boulevard.