City considering closing several unpaved streets

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

With limited money available for paving unpaved streets in Washington, the City Council is considering closing some of those streets (or sections of those streets) that don’t have residences or businesses abutting them.

Do so, according to city officials, would mean the city could focus on paving streets that serve residences and businesses. The council’s decision to explore the street-closing option came during the council’s meeting Monday, when it continued an ongoing review of unpaved streets in the city.

The issue of unpaved streets in the city surfaced again late last year when residents along Sarah Keyes Way began appearing before the City Council to complain about their street not being paved, resulting in damage to their vehicles. The City Council asked for city staff to develop a list of unpaved streets in the city and how much it would cost to pave those streets.

City staff developed a chronological list showing when unpaved streets became part of the city. Overall, according to the list, there are 1.39 miles of unpaved streets in the city. Sarah Keyes Way (.12 of a mile) became part of the city in 2010, according to the list. There are 17 streets — sections of or entire streets — on the list.

By closing unpaved streets that do not serve businesses and residences and removing them from the list, that would result in the limited funds for street paving being used to improve just the streets that do service residences and businesses, according to Councilman Doug Mercer, who supports closing such streets. Councilman Richard Brooks proposes keeping those streets open, saying closing them could come back to haunt the city.

The cost to pave a street and install curbs and gutters is about $120 per running foot, according to Frankie Buck, the city’s director of public works. The cost to “ribbon” pave a street — no curbs and gutters — is about $80 a running foot, he said.

The city uses Powell Bill money — generated by the state’s gasoline tax — to pay for paving city streets. Powell Bill funds cannot be spent to pave some of the city’s unpaved streets because they are not wide enough, Buck said.

“If you went through (the list) and pulled out the ones that ought to be closed, we’d be rid of about half of them. Then we would prioritize them (remaining streets) because some of them … are not much of a problem,” Mayor Mac Hodges said.

Before the city could close a street, property owners along that street would have to be notified about the proposed closure and agree to it, according to Buck.

Mercer suggested the city begin the process of closing unpaved streets not serving residences and businesses. Once that is done, he said, the city could prioritize the remaining unpaved streets for paving.

If a street is closed, ownership of the land where the street is located is split among property owners along the close street.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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