HELENA – A one-block section of North Howie Street, between Lawrence and Clarke Streets in the heart of Helena, features uneven, cracked pavement. Now, new data confirms it’s one of the streets most in need of repairs around the city.
Helena public works leaders shared their findings with the city commission Wednesday, in a “State of the Streets” presentation.
David Knoepke, the city’s streets, traffic and fleet services superintendent, said they have never had a clear, objective way to determine which streets require the most work.
“We realized that we had some deficiencies in the roadways, and we wanted to better understand them and give the commission and everyone a metric to understand where those streets fells,” he said.
So, about a year and a half ago, the city contracted with Transmap, an Ohio company. The company brought in vehicles with specialized equipment that could analyze and map cracks, ruts and other damage in the roadway. It then classified about 200 miles of roadway on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the best condition.
Streets in good condition include sections of Benton Avenue, Helena Avenue and Broadway. “Very poor” sections are scattered around the city, mostly in one- to two-block sections. The lowest rating was for Memorial Drive, between Memorial Park and Kindrick Legion Field, which scored 0 or 1. Howie Street scored 3 from Lawrence to Clarke, and 4 from Clarke to Ming Place. Logan Street south of 11th Avenue scored 7.
Knoepke said this more specific data will be an important tool as city leaders decide which projects to propose for upcoming years.
“We could go by complaints and by driving, but to have the crack data and the analysis done by the computers and have it done on an impartial basis helped us create those metrics a lot more effectively,” he said.
The city commission will now have to determine how to weigh this information when deciding their priorities for roadwork. Knoepke said they will take into account other factors, like the traffic each street receives and the value each project can provide.
“If you have streets that are fair, in the 40, 50 or 60-point range, where you can go in and do some maintenance items – a chip seal or a mill and overlay – and then extend those lives by bumping them up into a higher level, you’re actually getting a better bang for your buck,” he said.
In the end, Knoepke said it will be up to the commission to determine how much funding they want to put toward repairing or maintaining streets.
“Obviously, we can’t fix everything in the next year or two, so it’s going to be a phased approach where we look at these streets, prioritize them and then start checking them off,” he said.
You can find information from the State of the Streets presentation, including a color-coded map showing streets’ conditions, in the Helena City Commission’s administrative meeting packet for Nov. 28. A link is available here.