BROOKSVILLE — While it may not take an expert to determine that many of Brooksville's streets are in pretty rough shape, city officials decided a little more than a year ago to hire one so they could determine just how badly the city's transportation infrastructure has deteriorated through the years.
At a workshop earlier this week, the findings of the $91,000 pavement management study by Civil Tech Engineering painted a bleak picture: Most of Brooksville's residential roads and sidewalks have fallen below acceptable standards. And without major intervention, many more will continue to fail in coming years.
That's not good news for a municipality that, due to bare-bones budgets, has spent almost nothing on capital improvements the last four years and that earmarked just $300,000 for street and sidewalk maintenance this year.
In the Civil Tech study, the city's 39 miles of streets were broken into segments and analyzed using a computerized Pavement Condition Index that measures surface deterioration from traffic and weather factors. Of the 215 segments measured, just seven rated above the national standard of 60 — on a scale of 0 to 100 — indicating good to excellent condition. The average condition of the city's street ranked just below 20 on the index, with 128 segments measuring 10 or below.
While most of the main thoroughfares, such as Broad Street, Jefferson Street and Howell Avenue, are maintained regularly by the state or county, many of the city's other connector roads are suffering from severe neglect, said Bob Titterington of Civil Tech.
"Once a street reaches a critical stage, it takes a lot of money to bring it back," Titterington told council members. "It's a problem that only gets worse over time."
The average lifespan of an asphalt road is between 15 and 20 years. However, ignoring cracks, fissures and potholes can lead to bigger problems that ultimately require complete reconstruction. An alarming number of Brooksville's roads are at the point, according to Titterington.
"You can't put a Band-Aid on an injury that needs surgery," he said. "It would be throwing money away."
The city's current $300,000 street maintenance budget won't do much to slow road deterioration over the next 10 years, Titterington said. By 2023, the city's average PCI index number would only rise to 26.35, leaving the majority of the worst roads pretty much as they currently are.
But if the city were to embark on a complete repaving of major connecting roads — a move that would cost more than $8 million and likely require a bond issue — it would be even more beneficial in the future because newer asphalt is easier to maintain, he said.
Mayor Lara Bradburn said the city's problem of deteriorating roads can be traced back decades. She believes the current council needs to think seriously about all of its options and consider a course of action that will assure that transportation needs are adequately met in the future.
"We're very close to a breaking point," Bradburn said. "Continuing to do nothing substantial about our streets and sidewalks hurts our citizens. I don't want to see it pushed off onto some other council down the road."
A majority of council members have said that they favor putting more money into the city's annual road maintenance budget, and some have suggested using a portion of the proceeds from the city's red-light camera program to pay for repairs.
Council members also expressed the need for Civil Tech to provide them with a list of the worst streets in the city so they will be able to direct where to spend future maintenance funds.
"We need to have recommendations that will take the politics out of those decisions," Bradburn said. "If a well-used road needs to be repaired, it should get done."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.