Potholes are a problem in Tacoma. It will take years to fix it.

Tacoma's Streets Initiative — a program aimed to maintaining and improving city streets — will have either repaved or had some maintenance treatment on 5,600 block, out of about 8,000 total blocks in Tacoma in 10 years.
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Tacoma's Streets Initiative — a program aimed to maintaining and improving city streets — will have either repaved or had some maintenance treatment on 5,600 block, out of about 8,000 total blocks in Tacoma in 10 years.
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What’s going on with that Tacoma street repaving project we all agreed to pay for?

By Candice Ruud

cruud@thenewstribune.com

September 30, 2017 05:07 PM

Q: What’s going on with the streets repaving project in Tacoma?

A: Here’s a little update on that expensive, but needed, Tacoma Streets Initiative project as we enter the wet season that will inevitably wreak more havoc on our roads in the form of potholes.

As many Tacoma residents who have lived here for more than two years are aware, voters in 2015 passed two ballot initiatives to pay for maintenance and improvements for Tacoma’s streets, which were (and are) sorely in need of it.

Voters approved a 10-year package of taxes designed to raise $175 million to fix the city’s streets. Another $30 million will come from the city, and officials hope to get an additional $120 million in grant money for a total of $325 million.

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Tacoma Public Works division manager Rae Bailey said on Friday that when all is said and done, more than 5,600 blocks of Tacoma streets will be either repaved or have had maintenance treatments, out of a total of about 8,000 blocks in the city.

The project got off to a bit of a slow start because it took some time after the ballot measures were passed to collect the money needed to start the project.

Work has been underway for about a year and a half, Bailey said. Since then, about 195 blocks have been repaved (including more than 100 this year alone, according to Bailey), and about 336 blocks have received surface treatments to repair chips and cracks (including about 240 this year). Another 160 blocks have had preventative work done to keep them from cracking. And so far, about $56 million has been raised to do the work.

If you look on tacomastreetsinitiative.org, you can see maps of where work is currently being done. On that page you can also see a long list of street projects and when each is expected to start.

“It’s really all over the city,” Bailey said, and between 20 to 30 blocks are being repaved at any one time. “The city streets surface system is poor throughout the city, so we’re trying to equitably distribute our maintenance and repair throughout the city.”

The Streets Initiative has also created a lot of employment: 24 full-time city jobs that should last the life of the 10-year project and potentially longer, as well as contracting opportunities for much of the work, Bailey said.

“Our hope is that the work we’re doing right now, the citizens would support another initiative to continue on the great work the guys are doing,” Bailey said. Since it’s a 10-year tax initiative, “We would probably be looking at going back out to the voters in 2024.”

He estimated that by the end of 2017 the city will have completed another 10 to 15 residential street-repaving projects and probably another 30 to 40 blocks of crack sealing.

While the winter rain won’t keep them from working, wet weather inevitably creates more potholes, Bailey said.

Luckily, this year, the Farmer’s Almanac has predicted a “brisk, drier than normal” winter for the Pacific Northwest.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud