Bridge work

A bridge — part of the future location of South Bonnie Brae Street — is under construction over a dry fork of Hickory Creek on Tuesday in Denton. The Bonnie Brae widening and realignment is one city street project being funded by bonds.

Three years ago a consultant told city leaders that Denton’s asphalt streets needed a lot of love.

They’ve gotten some, although most Denton motorists would say they need more — and city crews agree.

Daniel Kremer, deputy director of operations, and Todd Estes, city engineer, outlined Tuesday how to make the best use of next year’s streets budget, which will likely be just a little over $15 million.

The City Council reviewed the proposed plans during an afternoon work session. Kremer told council members that about 25 percent of the 1,300-plus miles of city streets have failed and must be rebuilt.

At current spending levels, Estes said he thought the city could improve the overall condition index (OCI) about three points in the next five years.

The Denton City Council has been wrestling with the condition of city streets for nearly a decade. Decades of deferred maintenance and neglect led to an average OCI score of 63 in 2009.

Several years later, a consultant drove a special truck over the streets to measure them, assigning them grades from 0 to 100. The scores help the city better plan and provide for maintenance. By 2015, city crews had stopped the downward decline and managed to keep the overall score at 63.

Estes said the city now estimates the OCI is 65 and could be 68 at current spending levels.

The spending doesn’t include some street projects funded by bonds. For example, work will begin soon on a $2.7 million widening of West Hickory Creek Road. Another $12 million has been allocated to Bonnie Brae Street, which is being widened from the city’s southern boundary up to West University Drive. Currently, crews are working on the southern section, erecting a new bridge over Hickory Creek.

But current spending levels won’t reduce the backlog of failed streets, Estes said.

According to Kremer, about 2 percent of the city’s busiest 224 miles in arterial streets and another 4 percent of the 252 miles in collector roads have failed. More than 11 percent of the city’s residential streets have failed.

Estes and Kremer said the street department plans changes in how one city street crew works. Even though the crew is assigned to big reconstruction jobs, it is often pulled off to respond to other, more urgent jobs around the city. For example, a crew working to rebuild West Hickory Street had to stop and help when a water main broke in another part of Denton.

If the crew works smaller, high-impact jobs, it can be more flexible when an emergency arises, Estes said.

However, he recommended the city gradually increase the streets budget to about $20 million annually. With that budget, Denton’s OCI could increase to the 70s and reduce the backlog of work to about 10 percent of city streets.

“That’s where most cities want to go,” Estes said.

Several months ago, Kremer shared the OCI scores of nearby cities for comparison. Denton’s OCI was far worse than Flower Mound (81), Frisco (95) and Keller (76).

City Manager Todd Hileman told council members he didn’t think Denton could budget much more this year without either cutting services in another department or raising the tax rate.

But he thought the city would be able to complete the street repairs promised in the 2012 and 2014 bond packages and get ready for another bond package that would help.

Mayor Chris Watts called it a good plan.

“This is a tremendous amount of progress compared to where we were,” Watts said. “It looked a lot worse years ago.”

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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