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How do officials decide which problem areas need immediate attention?

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A pothole in the parking lot of the Walmart store in Greenwood. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
A pothole in the parking lot of the Walmart store in Greenwood. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Potholes on her subdivision’s streets likely won’t immediately damage her car, but they are just big enough to provide an unwanted jolt and annoyance on her morning drive to work.

Suzy Faulkner drives to Indianapolis for work and pays close attention on her way out of the Carefree subdivision in the Center Grove area. If she’s not careful, she may drive over a pothole that is about a foot or two wide. That hole probably won’t cause immediate damage to her car, but an unexpected bump in the road on a Monday morning commute isn’t much fun, either.

She said she feels fortunate because the roads she sees in Marion County are in much worse condition, but she still wouldn’t mind her roads being fixed.

Whether her roads will be fixed this year isn’t known yet, and more goes into that decision than you might think.

The county, Franklin, and Greenwood all use the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating Standard developed by the University of Wisconsin. Because of the harsh winter, Greenwood rated its roads again this year, while the county and Franklin rank them each year already. City and county officials look at every inch of road and give them a rating from 1 to 10, based on how many cracks, potholes and other problems exist. The rating system was created by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and is designed to take some of the subjectivity out of picking which roads to fix each year. Roads with the worst rating are recommended to be fixed.

If you want to know if your road is the worst, here’s what to look for: If the road has alligator cracking — which goes in just about every direction possible — then a poor, or very poor/failed, rating will be given. A road with alligator cracking on more than 25 percent of the surface gets the worst rating.

If your subdivision road has minor cracking but no potholes, then don’t expect the worst rating. A road doesn’t fall into the poor category until numerous potholes line the street.

A bad rating doesn’t necessarily mean your road will be repaved this year. After all, cities, towns and the county only have so much money for road repairs, and officials have to consider other aspects, such as future construction projects and traffic flow.

And the harsh winter has led to more roads needing repairs, and thus, more roads falling into the bottom half of the rankings, county highway director Luke Mastin said.

The county will have about

$1.8 million to spend on road repairs, while the city of Greenwood will have about $1.1 million to improve their roads. Franklin has yet to figure out the details of this year’s projects, but spent about $850,000 last year on road repairs, city engineer Travis Underhill said.

That money doesn’t go as far as you would think. Greenwood will fix 10 streets which total about

4 miles, community development services director Mark Richards said. That’s not even 2 percent of the roughly 220 miles of roads for which the city is responsible.

Just because your road scored a low number, such as a 4 or 5, doesn’t mean it will be fixed.

For example, Pearl Street in Greenwood would be a likely candidate to get repaved this year with cracks that cover several portions of the road, which could lead to bigger problems such as potholes. But any such repair won’t happen this year because it would be a waste of money. The city will be installing new sanitary sewers next year on that road, meaning they would spend money this year to repave something that they will just tear apart next year, Richards said.

The residents in Brentridge Estates in the Center Grove area hope to make the short list of repairs. Bob Lohr had dodged potholes in his subdivision long enough, so he took time out of his workday to voice his concerns to Mastin and the county commissioners recently. The roads in his subdivision have too many potholes and portions of asphalt crumbling apart, he said.

Motorists that approach one stop sign in the neighborhood have to dodge a pothole that is a few feet wide and puddles up after a decent rain. The area around the pothole is fraught with small holes and pavement that is crumbling and worn away.

Another road in the subdivision has multiple potholes in an area where dodging them isn’t easy because of the curves cutting down on the line of sight.

“There are one or two potholes that might do some damage,” Lohr said.

The roads in Brentridge Estates are bad, and many will likely be rated very poor or poor, but the official rating had not been completed yet, Mastin said. The county is still evaluating all of the roads and has not completed a final list of repairs for the year, Mastin said.

The rating will need to be bad for the county to repair a subdivision road because few such roads are repaired each year. The county repaired about 3 miles of subdivision roads last year, and that’s because the county can repair many of its rural roads for a lower cost than neighborhood streets, Mastin said.

Roads in residential subdivisions cost the most to repair because construction crews will have to dig up the old pavement and work around curbs and drainage. Sometimes, construction crews have to dig up multiple levels of asphalt in order to save a curb. In comparison, some rural county roads can get by with having another layer of asphalt laid over the top, Mastin said.

Another issue is traffic. Two roads may have the same rating, but one could be a road traveled heavily in the morning and afternoon by commuters. Meanwhile, the other road could be a rural road with just a few hundred vehicles on it daily.

City and county officials have to make the determination on which road to repair, taking not just the rating into consideration, but which repair will affect the most people, Mastin said.

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