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With bigger budget, Palo Alto tackles street repairs

Original post made on Jul 10, 2013

Palo Alto is slated to begin work on many street-improvement projects this month, including sidewalk replacement along school routes, improvements to 40 city blocks and preventive maintenance of 31 miles of public streets.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:19 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2013 at 9:41 am

A few years ago, then City Auditor, Sharon Erikson produced an Audit of Palo Alto streets—at least in theory. At the time, she pointed out that the City was not using a state-of-the-art software package that other Cities used. The package Palo Alto was using was a home-grown program that dated back to 1980 (if memory serves). The City’s response to her suggestions were sort of lame, but did not deny that upgrading was “in their plans”. The Audit went on to point out that unless every City is using the same evaluation software, that there could be no valid comparisons between City street survey data.

The article, and the City’s web-site:, seems to be describing the street surfaces in terms of PCIs (Pavement Condition Indexes), which are explained at the following Wikipage:

Web Link

Presumably the City has upgraded its street condition software, but there isn’t any reference in this article to what software is being used.

The City has made an effort, recently, to offer residents an on-line reporting capability, so that people can alert the City to problems of which the P/W people might be unaware. This new web-site can be accessed via:

The City seems to be responding to Service Requests submitted quickly, but the actual number of repairs, and the time to make repairs, is not provided by the web-site. However, it’s early days for this effort. The more people use on-line notification service, the more the P/W people will be aware of road/sidewalk/gutter conditions that need repair.

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 10, 2013 at 10:30 am

If the assement of the pavement conditions gets done consistently, it doesn't matter what software is used for tracking, does it Wayne? Garbage in, garbage out.

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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 10, 2013 at 10:46 am

Wayne has a valid point. The software used is important. Of course, Palo alto has always had issues with software, websites etc.

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Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:30 am

I hope when they're fixing the sidewalks, they'll move the posts, poles, newspaper boxes etc that turn them into an obstacle course. But I won't hold my breath.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

> If the assement of the pavement conditions gets done consistently,
> it doesn't matter what software is used for tracking, does it

The older software I referenced was explained to me by a P/W Engineer as tracking only three variables (if memory serves). The newer software, developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, seems to track many more street problems--and allows for comparison of street surface conditions across communities.

Somewhere I vaguely remember a comparison of street conditions of many cities in the SF.BayArea. Palo Alto was not included because it was not using the Corps' software. Given how integrated the SF.BayArea is, and is becoming, it makes sense to use the same street condition tracking software. I presume that the City has upgraded, but I don't know.

I would like to point out that the City's web-page for streets is pretty useless. It offers two maps, with colored lines overdrawn the streets were street work has been done. Another map for those streets to be reworked in the future. I think it would be better to list the streets by name--documenting the PCI. the last major surface rework, the next projected street rework. Seeing a "squiggle" on a map--that might be resurfaced by 2019--doesn't do much for me.

However, I would like to encourage folks to check out the new on-line reporting web-site.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:43 am

Here is a link to the Erickson Audit of our streets:

Web Link

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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

The city workman came and marked Ilima Ct. for repair in the summer of 2012 and did a minimal repair on Laguna Avenue. Supposedly they were scheduled to finish job in the fall.
That didn't happen and neither of these streets are scheduled for repair in this latest notice.

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Posted by Anecdote Annie
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 10, 2013 at 2:08 pm

The sidewalks are so bad that people fall and get injured regularly, due to all the cracks and bumps and holes in sidewalks. Very important to fix these things so the city does not get sued.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

It is interesting to see how much federal money goes for local street repairs.

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Posted by Holly Boyd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm

This is Holly Boyd, Senior Engineer for the City of Palo Alto and I would like to explain the progress and efforts to improve the street maintenance program.

The City uses a Pavement Maintenance Management System (PMMS) to calculate the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of streets. A correlation between our system and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) StreetSaver software was approved in 2009 and the City is required to reevaluate the software correlation periodically. Since 2009, Palo Alto’s average PCI score has been reported to MTC and published annually in their street condition report. A bi-annual street survey inspection is done for all City streets. The survey includes physically inspecting the streets and values are assigned for many different types of pavement conditions including raveling (surface wear), area cracking, base repairs, longitudinal cracking, smoothness, rutting, etc. This year’s survey was recently completed and Public Works anticipates making the PCI score by street available on the website soon.

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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Palo Alto should have reinstated the 400K they took from the Palo Alto Animal Services organization. They provide a real service to Palo Alto residents, not make work projects removing and replacing sidewalks. As usual the City Council has its priorities mixed up.

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Posted by Please!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

With this money the City should remove the extra signage and poles adjacent to sidewalks recently installed on Channing Ave from Guinda to Heather, which are a hazard, and replace the multiple yellow-laddered crosswalks with colored crosswalks which are more effective, more attractive and in keeping with the residential area as in done in other communities such as Menlo Park and not give
Channing Ave the look of a cut-through arterial which the City has
done. Thank You!

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2013 at 12:02 am

Who will repair the newly paved Alma St. now that PG&E has torn up parts of it less than a month after it was repaved?

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

Ms. Boyd, thanks for the information. Was wondering if you would answer a few more questions:

1) Why isn’t the City using the same software as the MTC?
2) How many street conditions does the Palo Alto software track?
3) How does the so-called “correlation factor” between these two softwares work?
4) What is the current dollar value of street resurfacing needed in Palo Alto?
5) What is the yearly expenditure planned by P/W for street resurfacing over the next six years?


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