Philadelphia Streets Department Chief Highway Engineer Steve Lorenz testified to City Council earlier this morning to explain how the city plans on filling in potholes, and resurfacing streets, which will make our streets safer for all road users.
He went over the numerous pieces of equipment the Streets Department uses. But he also noted that more is needed, and the equipment the city has is largely out of date. This is something the Bicycle Coalition has been saying for several years, and that we made a large part of our Safer Streets 2014 report.
“The drawback to the equipment is that it is 20 years old so it is challenging to keep it operational, also it requires more labor to operate,” he said.
During questioning, Lorenz noted there is a 10-year plan to replace the vehicle fleet, and to hire another paving crew (the city currently has just one paving crew). Right now, they’re paving about 30-35 miles of streets per year, and bike lanes get restriped when those streets are repaved.
Within the next three years, though, Lorenz said he hoped the Department would become more adequately funded to pave 125 miles per year.
Bicycle Coalition policy coordinator Bob Previdi also testified, noting that while filling pot holes are important, the city needs to look at the big picture and cut into its backlog of streets that need repaving.
One of the reasons why Philadelphia’s streets are in such bad shape is that the department in charge of taking care of them—the Streets Department!—is not adequately funded and doesn’t have the proper equipment or labor force necessary to take care of the streets.
Last year, the Bicycle Coalition advocated for a bill, which was passed after sponsorship from Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Councilman Mark Squilla, that added a $5 fee onto vehicle registrations and put that money (about $3.4 million per year) into the city’s pocket to pay for better streets. But $3.4 million is but a drop in the bucket compared to the work that needs to be done.