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Inflation, pandemic and 'insufficient' funding cause Cincinnati to fall short on 2021 road paving goals

A new report shows, on a scale of 0-100, overall road quality remained 'fair' dipping slightly to 67, down from 70 in 2020.
Road pavement in East Price Hill
Posted at 4:48 PM, Sep 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-17 16:48:44-04

CINCINNATI — Road conditions worsened in the Queen City as the Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) revealed it missed the mark in meeting several infrastructure goals in 2021.

DOTE released its new Infrastructure Condition Report, which revealed pavement is the area in need of the most improvement for the city.

The department maintains roughly 2,900 lane miles throughout the city. Last year, DOTE set a goal of repaving 100 lane miles, but the report shows it fell well short, only having been able to rehabilitate 42 lane miles.

DOTE Director John Brazina said a combination of lack of city sufficient city funding, the pandemic and rising construction costs created some roadblocks.

"We were not able to get our preventative maintenance contract because of the pandemic so that impacted the number of lane miles significantly," Brazina said.

The report shows DOTE also performed no preventive maintenance surface treatments anywhere in the city. Those extend the life of the pavement.

Since 2015, all city streets have been tracked by a pavement condition index (PCI) rating ranging from 0 to 100. DOTE uses PCI ratings to make decisions regarding planning for street rehabilitation and roadway priorities.

A pavement condition inspection and rating were performed in 2021. The weighted city average PCI is 67.

That's down from 70 in 2020 — keeping the city's overall pavement condition in the "fair" category.

Brazina said DOTE is responsible for more than $5 billion dollars in infrastructure, meaning there are more assets than there is money to maintain them, given the department's limited city funding.

“We’re grateful for the money that we get from city council in our capital budget and we know that they alone cannot fund everything that we need,” Brazina said.

He said that's why DOTE relies heavily on outside funding. From 2019 to 2021, the department applied for more than 70 grants, and 60% of those were awarded.

That money has helped to further some big ticket items in the city.

“Pedestrian safety, we’ve made great strides in pedestrian safety," Brazina said. "The Western Hills Viaduct is moving forward and last year we completed the Columbia Parkway project.”

The report also outlines the conditions of other city infrastructure.

DOTE engineers inspect and report on the condition of 238 bridges. Seventy-one of them are city-owned and are the direct responsibility of the City Bridge Rehabilitation Program.

Bridges in the City Bridge Rehabilitation Program are inspected, evaluated and rated on an annual basis.

The bridges receive a rating on a 0 to 9 scale, with six being “satisfactory” and seven being “good.” DOTE's goal is to meet a "satisfactory" average and the report shows that goal was met in 2021 with an average of 6.85.

However, the report shows the current level of city funding is not enough to adequately address the maintenance and replacement needs of all existing bridges.

The Traffic Engineering Division operates and maintains the Computerized Traffic Control System (CTCS), a network that interconnects traffic signals and pedestrian walk lights across Cincinnati.

The CTCS system is divided into 16 geographical zones, but only three have been updated. The other zones have obsolete communications equipment that is more than 30 years old.

You can find the full executive summary, as well as the individual infrastructure reports here.