City defends road paving practices

City defends road paving practices
Published: Mar. 25, 2013 at 4:30 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 25, 2013 at 11:07 PM HST
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Ross Sasamura
Ross Sasamura

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City of Honolulu has been criticized for its failing road conditions. Some accuse the city of cutting corners on materials and cost. City administrators say that's not the case.

There is a list of city streets that are failing, serious, or very poor condition. The city is in the process of repaving them and crossing streets off the list.

"People are consistently calling us, and telling us, and stopping us on the street and pointing out to us the condition of our roads," said Ikaika Anderson, Honolulu City Councilmember.

Politicians have been hearing from people frustrated about the poor roads. The Caldwell administration has revved up road repair planning to repave 1,500 miles of city roads within five years.

Once a street is repaved drivers are happy. But if the road is ignored it eventually ends up failing again. The city already started a pilot project spending a $1 million on a slurry seal which protects roads from cracks.

"Slurry seal is used to extend the useful life of a road," said Ross Sasamura, Honolulu Facility Maintenance Director.

Crews coat the street with the slurry seal to help shed water away and prevent the base from getting wet. This process is typically done five to seven years after a road has been newly paved.

"As far as we know it's worked well," said Sasamura.

The city put in another $3 million for next year to continue the prevention. However the slurry seal can't be used on roads with a bunch of potholes or cracks.

The Facebook page WAPNFFS Activists, which stands for "We Already Paid Now Friggin' Fix Stuff", has been critical of government bureaucracy. It accuses the government of taxing citizens, yet failing to fix the problems. Amy Brown, an Associate Professor with the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, has an essay posted on the page complaining the city is using substandard materials and is only installing a two inch layer of asphalt.

The city denies using that little asphalt, even on residential streets.

"It wouldn't be that depth for any city street we would construct," said Sasamura. "Depth can vary. Typically you would expect to see anywhere from six inches plus or minus of asphalt."

He adds the base below the asphalt is usually 8 to 10 inches in depth.

Amy Brown has her doubts. She measures potholes around town and says just by looking at a pothole you can tell the asphalt is often less than two inches.

"I'm using a measuring stick to see how thick the asphalt is because every pothole is an indication of how well the road was covered," said Amy Brown, Ph.D., while standing near a pothole on Kapahulu Avenue. "You can look at any pothole and that particular one shows asphalt covering of an inch and a half. That's totally against regulations. That's nothing but covering up the road to make it look good until the next election."

"There may be two inches of asphalt that have been eroded away or broken away, but if there is asphalt below that that is telling you the road has been overlaid or resurfaced several times and that's why there are two inches of asphalt over an older asphalt road below it," said Sasamura.

Engineering and pavement expert Adrian Ricardo Archilla, Ph.D., Associate Professor with the University of Hawaii Civil and Environmental Engineering Department says Honolulu uses quality materials.

"So we're using good stuff, it's not the cheapest stuff?" we ask.

"That is correct," replied Sasamura. "It is reflective of the best products our local providers can supply us."

For as much as people complain about roads it wasn't enough to push the city council to increase the fuel tax to pay for more repaving. Still the Caldwell administration plans to keep the foot on the road repair gas pedal.

"I'm marching forward. I'm not stepping backward and I'll continue to engage and work with the council to find funds from other sources to make sure we meet this demand," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor.

We'll see what the road ahead will bring.

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