This is the second part of a two part series. Also see Part 1 which ran on Friday, April 27

Who comes first?

Some could argue that all the poor roads should get repaved before anything else happens, but that would not be in the best overall interest of the road system. Case in point, Oxford St. North was milled and overlaid shortly before the DPW was created. Two summers ago, the road was milled and overlaid again along with sidewalk and drainage upgrades.

There were many other roads that could have been fixed with that money, but keeping a main travel route in good shape for another 10 years was a logical choice for Coyle. “We can’t always to the worst roads first.” The work including sidewalks was about $1 million. To pulverize and pave would have cost over $2 million, and in another few years, that would have been the only option.

Incidentally, and in the same year’s bid process, Coyle added the repaving of the track and tennis courts at Lemansky Park. Getting this needed work done at a “road rate” is clever management.

Local expertise:

Bill Coyle [John Anderson Photo]

Before Coyle became the Town Engineer in Auburn, he worked in the private sector and put in 11 years at Mass Highway. Although many skills came with him, one of the most important is his ability to write bid specifications. This alone saves the community about $80,000 each year in consultant fees. He has also passed this knowledge along to Paquin.

Still, some projects are just too big to handle in-house. The reconstruction of Millbury St. is an example. In this state-funded project, engineering costs were performed on the Commonwealth’s dime for this Scenic Road.

The Plan:

According to Town Manager Julie Jacobson, “Auburn’s Roadway Improvement Plan, developed in 2011, is a detailed plan for addressing each road in Town over the next 20 years. Auburn has contributed funding towards these roadway projects over and above the State’s Chapter 90 funds, for which we are grateful, in order to implement our plan. This twenty-year plan ultimately transitions to a maintenance program rather than having reconstruction as the main focus – once the roads have been reconstructed over the 20-year plan, we can then focus on properly maintaining our roads rather than having to reconstruct roads.”

Coyle said his goal is to be able to mill and overlay every road during a ten-year period, but all roads must be brought up to a higher standard first. Both he and Jacobson have been asked to present to various municipal associations as well as to the State’s Local Government Advisory Commission to discuss the Town of Auburn’s Roadway Reconstruction Program which is a model for other communities.

In the Interim:

As road replacements and resurfacing proceed at a budget-limited pace, the DPW continues to make the necessary repairs to keep roads drivable. The volume of crack sealing is quite noticeable on some surfaces, and the many filled pot holes are also recognizable, possibly because they stay filled.

An updated catch basin and manhole cover await the final coat of asphalt on Linda Dr. [John Anderson Photo]

Coyle says they only use cold patch “in desperation” and prefer traditional hot asphalt year-round. This requires a special truck with a “hot box” which keeps the asphalt hot and pliable. When compacted into a hole, the repair lasts. Unfortunately, the truck can only hold 1 ton of asphalt, and in the winter, it requires travel to Bellingham or Rhode Island where plants are open.

Ken Fairbanks, the Highway, Parks and Cemetery Superintendent, assists with construction oversight and supervising all highway employees and scheduling maintenance activities. His staff will rebuild drainage structures, catch basins and manholes as well as patch roads, crack seal roads, repair potholes, schedule sweeping activities, clean catch basins, perform tree removal and clear brush on the sides of the road.

The town also performs some basic maintenance on private roads so emergency vehicles can reach residents. Often this involves grading a road or filling in ruts with road grindings. This effort also prevents damage to town plows which must keep all roads open in the winter for emergencies.

Jacobson’s Conclusion:
“I am proud of the work that DPW has accomplished since we created the department in 2011. Under the direction of DPW Director William Coyle, we have made significant progress to reconstruct and repair roads that had not been addressed for decades. The long-term, 20-year plan will enable us to continue to address this critical infrastructure.”