Better streets than almost any other city in Texas? That is what one official predicts will happen in Corpus Christi as the City builds its transportation strategy.
Streets have been a hot topic for the last several years as City officials struggle with a plan to not only fix our streets, but also to pay for them. Drive down any street in the city, and you will likely find out what most of us already know -- our streets are in rough shape.
Corpus Christi's streets have been neglected for the past three decades, after city leaders voted to slash taxes during tough economic times and never reinstated monies that would have taken care of and improved the 1,200 miles of streets within its boundaries; but the current leadership is tackling the problem head on with a plan to repair and reconstruct every street over time.
"If we're able to sustain our level, our maintenance effort, and play catch up with the maintenance fee, and be aggressive on our reconstruction, we're probably looking at a city that has streets in better condition than almost any city that you've seen in Texas," Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez said. "Because every city is struggling with these issues."
Martinez said there are currently many streets across the city that cannot be repaired, and he said those streets will be rebuilt.
"Reconstruction is where a street gets so bad that you have to essentially tear it up to rebuild it. Go down to the base and rebuild the whole street," Martinez said. "That's a major cost effort, and we typically bond those projects."
The City is currently working on rebuilding streets targeted in the 2012 bond project. Those streets include sections of South Staples, Navigation Boulevard, McArdle Road, Greenwood Drive, South Alameda, Holly Road, Leopard, Williams and many others.
So streets like these in your neighborhood, over the next several years, will go from patched and potholed to new and smooth; some with new lights, bike paths and sidewalks to match.
So where is the money coming from to pay for future repair and reconstruction?
Currently, the city's tax rate is 57 cents. Of that 57 cents, 20 cents is used to pay off 20-year bond projects. Many of those former bond projects are being paid off, and that's good news in more than one way.
"We have old debt that falls off and it gives us new capacity under the existing rate," Martinez said. "So it's possible a lot of our future reconstruction costs could be funded without any increase in the tax rate."
Those reconstruction costs are substantial at today's estimates. To rebuild all the streets that need reconstruction, it would cost almost $1 billion, and that doesn't include maintenance.
"If the street maintenance fee is approved, we now have a 10-year plan to continuously maintain our streets so that we don't get into the state of disrepair that we're in now," Martinez said.
That fee will provide the City with $150 million over 10 years, to resurface and seal all streets that are in decent shape today. The fee could add $7 to your water bills, and would be calculated on a sliding scale for businesses based on square feet and traffic generated.
Martinez said that city leaders hope that the city's growth will add to the street maintenance fund to help improve our streets.
"One of the things this council has done has said that going forward, we're always going to maintain the level of effort that we have now. In other words, it will not decrease like it has in the past," Martinez said. "We're at least going to maintain, if not increase, the level of funding for streets out of the general fund."
While the City continues to struggle with the formula for a street user fee, council hopes to approve that fee structure in the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, the City staff is working on a new list of streets to be targeted for reconstruction. They may include sections of Gollihar, Morgan, Rodd Field, Ayers, Carroll Lane, Brawner Parkway, Glenoak and Yorktown. City Council members are expected to get their first look at that list in July.