Waukegan ranks streets in need of repair; funding remains elusive

Damaged generally by time and specifically by the winter of 2013-14, streets in the city of Waukegan are undergoing a prioritization process to identify roadways in most need of repair — though officials stress that the rankings can turn on a dime.

And, even if the roster held steady for any period of time, there is still the matter of identifying and securing the dollars needed to kick-start repairs.

“It’s a real fluid document,” Public Works Director Tom Hagerty said of the rankings. “It’s something that sometimes changes daily, sometimes monthly. It certainly changes a couple of times a year, because I drive the roads at least once a year, sometimes twice a year, and it gets re-prioritized. So it’s definitely a moving document. Some of the streets get moved up and down, they get moved down or they get moved off, some get rated higher than others.”

Earlier this month, Hagerty shared the process with City Council members, telling aldermen that streets making the list would be “in immediate need of resurfacing as well as surface patching, [while] some are in need of base patching.”

“Depending on the funds that are made available, we can repair what we have money for and do our best to continue filling potholes on the rest,” Hagerty added. “But, prior to any resurfacing, we have started to [inspect municipal lines] and will need to make any needed repairs to the sanitary, storm and water systems.”

In his report, Hagerty noted that Waukegan is responsible for maintenance on 175 miles of residential streets and 23 miles of alleys. The city also features 70 miles of main streets, 60 of which are maintained by the city and the rest by the county or state.

On top of that, public works crews maintain 340 miles of sanitary sewers, 330 miles of water mains and 300 miles of storm sewers. With video inspections revealing problems within those lines, officials say dollars beyond annual Motor Fuel Tax allocations are hard to identify.

City spokesman David Motley said officials are also reluctant to start releasing their roadway rankings without funding in hand to repair the candidates.

“I think it’s important to understand that first we have to talk about the allocation of resources, so this is the assessment phase,” Motley said. “The names of the streets aren’t as necessary right now as the prioritizing of the resources.”

If and when the city puts together a larger road-improvement program, 9th Ward Ald. Rafael Rivera said at this week’s council meeting that he would like streets on the far west side to get some attention.

“I looked at [the list], and I didn’t see anything [in] regards to River Road,” Rivera said. “This is an area where they’re paying the highest taxes in the city of Waukegan, and what do they have to show for it?

“I want to make sure that roads that need to be done — I know everyone has their areas — but I want to make sure that the 9th Ward, and especially on River Road, are taken care of. I’m sure they will appreciate that.”

Hagerty reiterated that the rankings are part of “an ongoing process to try to evaluate everything that we have to make sure that the council is aware of everything we have.

“It’s something that the aldermen ask me a lot, but it’s an ongoing thing,” Hagerty added. “What we can do about it depends on how much money we have.”

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