CINCINNATI -- Halfway through a multimillion-dollar plan to rehabilitate the city's deteriorating streets, the majority of paved roads throughout Cincinnati remain in OK -- but not great -- shape.
That's according to a recent infrastructure report released by the city administration that details bridge conditions, retaining wall structures, traffic signal engineering and city streets' pavement conditions.
Neighborhoods like Madisonville have seen some work done over the last couple of years but are still looking forward to more rehab in the future, according to Kate Botos, the neighborhood's community council president.
"Our street conditions -- I wouldn't say they're any worse than any other neighborhood, but they're not better than any other neighborhood," she told WCPO. "We understand that with the city and budget cuts there are certain projects that get put on hold."
During this year's cycle of street rehabilitation, Madisonville has seen work completed on major roads such as Whetsel and Bramble avenues, as well as on Watterson Avenue, Erie Avenue and Kingsley Drive.
Madisonville is just one of 24 neighborhoods that saw street rehab this year, and it represents just a small portion of the rehabilitation program as a whole -- part of the Capital Acceleration Plan, which launched in 2016. It's a $69 million, five-year plan to fix the city's deteriorating roads and replenish its fleet of utility, service and emergency vehicles.
In a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday, Department of Transportation and Engineering Interim Director Don Gindling outlined the CAP program's first two years of progress. He told council members that, on average, the city's streets are rated in "good" condition.
"Starting in 2015, we went to an automated system where we rate every street every year," Gindling told council members. "The average rating in (2016) was 69 out of 100, which is good, and then in '17 that actually went up one point. So we're at 70 (out of 100) right now. A lot of this is thanks to the CAP money that we received."
A deeper dive into the DOTE's pavement survey, though, shows the condition of Cincinnati's streets is a bit more complicated. Of the city's 2,900 lane miles of pavement, 44 percent are in "good" condition or better, but 56 percent remain at "fair" condition or worse.
The CAP program's first two years saw mixed progress. The number of streets in "failed" or "very poor" condition dropped some, but so did the number of streets in "good," "very good" and "excellent" condition. The sharpest increase between 2016 and 2017 was in the "fair" category. The percentage of streets rated in "poor" condition did not improve or get worse over the CAP program's first two years.
Gindling's report also ranked the city's neighborhoods according to the average condition of their streets. East Westwood was the only neighborhood to get a "very good" average ranking of 86, with a bit more than half of the remaining neighborhoods squeaking into the "good" category.
Millvale, Mount Adams, Pendleton, Fay Apartments and Mount Airy were the five with the worst average pavement condition rating.
See Gindling's full pavement condition report in the viewer below.
Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney attributes the challenges in keeping up with street pavement maintenance to rising costs and shrinking resources -- an overarching challenge for the DOTE that has led the department to face a more-than-$1 billion financial hurdle if it wants to bring the city's infrastructure up to "good" condition.
It's worth noting that $1 billion price tag does not include the $330 million Western Hills Viaduct replacement.
In a memo accompanying DOTE's infrastructure reports, Duhaney explained that the cost to repave a city street has risen by nearly 450 percent over the last three decades.
City Council member Greg Landsman heads the council's Major Projects and Smart Government Committee, which oversees most transportation and infrastructure-related matters for the city. When asked for an explanation for the reduction in traffic and engineering resources, he points to lawmakers in Columbus and Washington.
"The Legislature, the governor, they have cut tens of millions of dollars from our budget that we desperately need for these services," Landsman said. "The alarm bells are ringing. Whether it's a crumbling bridge or a deteriorating transit system or an understaffed, major city department, the system is saying, 'Time's up.'"
Local attention to growing infrastructure needs -- specifically street conditions -- was also lacking before the CAP plan was proposed and approved in 2015. Before that, the most recent infrastructure-related funding increases came in the late 1980s with the Smale Infrastructure report, but most of those increases didn't get implemented, Duhaney said.