The Smith County Commissioners Court on June 30, 2015, approved a Citizens Review Committee to review the county’s road plan and to make recommendations on its implementation and a list of roadways to consider for repairs, improvements and maintenance.
Charlie Varnell, senior engineer with Atkins North America, presented a report to the Commissioners Court on its Road and Bridge Inventory Analysis and Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan. The Commissioners Court hired Atkins last year to conduct the study.
“It provides us with a list of roads from the worst to satisfactory and recommend what we need to do to them, what the cost will be and which ones to do first,” County Engineer Frank Davis said.
County Judge Joel Baker and each of the four commissioners recommended someone to serve on the Citizens Review Committee. They include Gene Shull and Frances Kay, owners of construction businesses; James Gregory, retired from Delek Refining; Jimmy Hawley, Lindale business owner; and Steve Patterson, a road and bridge worker from Longview.
The committee will also be made up of Commissioner Jeff Warr, Frank Davis, Road Administrator Doug Nicholson, County Administrator Leonardo Brown, as well as yet to be named representatives from the City of Tyler and the Texas Department of Transportation.
There are 1,904 roads in the Smith County database, 1,182 miles of roadway and 2,357 lane miles (the 10th highest county in Texas).
“For your size and your population, you have a lot of county roads to maintain,” Varnell told the Commissioners Court.
Atkins representatives met with the Smith County Road and Bridge Department to establish the project scope and schedule and developed a Pavement Distress Inspection Manual for the county.
Road and Bridge employees conducted field evaluations of county roads earlier this year. That data was submitted to the Atkins consulting firm, which ranked all of the roads on their conditions, what materials they are made of and their traffic volume. The result is a blueprint for the county on how to improve the roads.
County Road and Bridge staff conducted more than 7,046 distress inspections of roadways and filled out more than 4,000 inspection forms. Data from each inspection was entered by Atkins into the PAVER Pavement Management Program.
There were six types of roads designated, based on surface, right of way width and pavement width. Road surfaces are hot mix asphalt concrete, oil dirt, oil sand, pug mill, seal coat, slurry seal, concrete and dirt.
Out of the 49 arterial roads evaluated, five (10 percent) were found in excellent condition, 30 (61 percent) in poor condition and 14 (29 percent) in poor condition. Arterial roads are major roads that connect to state roads.
Out of 117 collector roads: 12 (10 percent) were found in excellent condition; 71 (61 percent) in good condition; and 34 (29 percent) in poor condition. Collector roads tie smaller, rural roads together.
Out of 1,738 local roads: 210 (12 percent) were in excellent condition; 870 (50 percent) in good condition; and 658 (38 percent) in poor condition. Local roads include residential and rural county roads.
Atkins came up with estimates of what it would cost to repair the roads, coming up with a total of $97,995,434. That cost includes $12,807,864 million for arterial roads; $30,727,153 million for collector roads; and $54,460,417 for local roads. The cost estimates are based on the roads’ existing configuration.
“$97 million is the bottom line,” Varnell said. “This would bring the roads up to very good, right at the edge of excellent” condition.
He said there are several financial scenarios to discuss once the committee is formed.
Davis said there are some arterial roads, such as Jim Hogg, Lake Placid and Greenbriar roads, which need to be widened due to their traffic volumes and cost for those projects are not included in the report.
Davis said the committee’s job will be to review the plan submitted by Atkins, figure out which roads will need additional enhancements and prepare an initial list of roads that need to be addressed first. Davis said he would like to see the committee reevaluate the list of roads and their priority on an annual basis, much like the city of Tyler’s Half-Cent Sales Tax Committee does.
Davis hopes the committee will meet for the first time in July and present to the Commissioners Court a final report of what is needed for county roads within the next two months.
Smith County budgeted $2.9 million this year for “Special Road Projects,” to immediately start work on reconstructing and rebuilding roads after approval of the Capital Improvement Plan.
The Road and Bridge budget for road maintenance includes $593,000 for road oil for oil dirt road reconstruction; $1 million for asphalt for patching and overlays; and $600,000 for seal coating of roads.
Davis said the challenge his department has is many of Smith County’s roads were constructed when those areas were rural and the roads saw about 30 cars per day. Built to those standards, some of those roads now see 300 cars per day, including heavier loads because of construction. Part of what the Capital Improvement Project will do is help them improve those roads and meet those challenges.