The City of Hays has announced a planned street maintenance program for next year, with highlights including complete reconstruction of Allen Street from Eighth to Vine and a proposal to repair and reduce the number of lanes on Canterbury north of 13th Street.
The total cost is estimated at approximately $5.2 million with the bulk of that cost — approximately $4 million — for the Allen Street reconstruction. The remaining $1.2 million will cover a variety of maintenance projects throughout town.
City staff has been working for more than a year to determine the cause of premature street warping on roads including portions of 27th Street and Canterbury, said John Braun, city project manager, at a city commission work session earlier this month.
Core samples from affected roads were sent for laboratory testing with the American Concrete Paving Association, but those tests did not reveal a specific deficiency. Rather, several possible factors were cited, including the use of salt brine to prevent and treat ice build-up on city roads.
“The use of salt brine for deicing is something of a necessary evil,” Braun said. “As alternatives to salt become more cost-effective and readily available, staff will consider using alternate means to treat the ice.”
Possible alternatives could include beet juice or calcium chloride, which are more expensive than salt and not considered as effective, he said.
Hays City Commissioners expressed concern at the long-term effects of salt on curbs and vegetation as well as city streets.
“It’s killing the grass, it’s destroying the fence, it’s destroying the concrete,” Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV said, referencing property near Mount Allen Cemetery. “On my street, that’s why the street fell apart. The curbs and guttering are shot.”
The commission asked for a more detailed discussion of alternative deicing solutions at a later meeting.
Braun noted more salt is used now than in recent years, as the city also has adopted the practice of pre-emptively treating streets if significant ice and snow events are forecast.
“Before we didn’t really pre-treat, we reacted,” he said. “So if we even think it’s going to get icy, we’re putting brine down. And so in reality, those streets have salt residue brine on them almost continuously through the winter.”
Other factors possible in recent concrete street warping included poor sub-grade treatment after pavement, a concrete mix design prone to warping and insufficient cure protection. City staff has taken measures to change protocols to ensure those factors no longer will be present, Braun said.
Next year’s maintenance program will include diamond grinding on portions of Canterbury and 27th streets in efforts to smooth the warping concrete. The project was attempted on a different stretch of Canterbury and the same area of 27th Street in 2016; the city suspended the contract due to that company’s inability to achieve the desired outcome. Next year’s proposal will have tighter specifications to make sure the hired contractor is able to complete the task, Braun said.
As part of the project on Canterbury from 13th to 27th, city staff is recommending restructuring the road from four lanes to three, similar to past changes on Hall and 13th streets.
The street would maintain a dedicated lane for right and left turns, Braun said, noting the change would be expected to improve traffic flow at the intersection of 22nd and Canterbury.
Mayor Shaun Musil expressed concern with the proposal, noting the large volume of traffic due to the close proximity of Hays High School.
“The thing that makes me nervous is we have very inexperienced drivers driving that intersection at 13th, and they’re kids,” Musil said. “They’re young people driving, and (I think) we’d have a nightmare when we do that.”
Other commissioners disagreed, saying they believe reducing the number of lanes has served the city well on other streets and expressing a desire to improve traffic flow at the 22nd and Canterbury traffic light.
Vice Mayor James Meier noted he was opposed to the practice of reducing lanes before becoming a city commissioner and observing how the changes have affected traffic on 13th Street.
“Honestly, I was disappointed when this wasn’t included in last year’s proposed work because I’d been waiting for this to happen to Canterbury,” he said. “Because I do have to drive through 22nd and Canterbury multiple times during the day, and that stoplight does not operate like it’s supposed to operate.”
Meier also noted the street changes never have been made just to accommodate bicycle lanes, even if changing roads to three lanes allows adequate space. The request to change the number of lanes on Canterbury will be brought back to the commission for approval at a later date.
Each year staff examines the condition of city streets and brings forth a maintenance plan based on available budget and pressing needs. Other highlights of next year’s proposal include chip-seal projects in areas near several city parks, which will be done with assistance from Ellis County, and minor repair projects in several residential neighborhoods.
Work typically begins in the spring when temperatures begin to rise. Bids likely will be brought to the city commission for consideration after the first of next year.