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COOS BAY — The City of Coos Bay will be using the fair weather this summer as an opportunity to patch its infrastructure, hoping to fill over 600 potholes throughout the city during the months of July and September, but not August.

“The problem is we have a lot of aged infrastructure with the asphalt roads,” Coos Bay Operations Manager  Randy Dixon said.

According to a study conducted by the city, the streets of Coos Bay on average are in a fair condition. Around 23 percent of streets are considered to be poor or failing. Thirty percent of Coos Bay’s poor or failing roads are residential streets.

“We’ve been able to put our limited resources into our infrastructure that services the most vehicles per day. Because of that we’re seeing our residential streets are suffering,” Coos Bay Public Works director Jim Hossley said.

Throughout the month of July the city is purposing it will fill 456 potholes provided funding is available to do so. In September, the city will attempt to fill another 207 potholes. According to Hossley there are 1,004 potholes on Coos Bay city roads. Which means the purposed 663 road patches scheduled this summer would fill more than half of the city’s potholes. Last year the city only filled around 60 potholes

The city isn’t sure how much the project will cost, as they are still out to bid with various contractors.

“Last year we did about 60 and that cost was upward of $40,000. We’re going to eat up most of our maintenance budget really quick just filling these potholes,” Dixon said.

Filling potholes is not a permanent fix. Often a pothole occurs as the result of some sort of failure beneath the asphalt, and filling the hole will seldom fix that failure.

“We only have so many available dollars to do a complete road rehab. Based on that we could do work on all these potholes, but by September have another onslaught of 300 or 400 that could regenerated… Filling potholes is a sling to get you through to a more robust time when you’re waiting for resources,” Dixon said.

The city council is discussing a transportation utility fee that would serve as another resource to fix failing roads. If passed, the fee would likely be collected through monthly water bills. Around 30 other communities in Oregon that have set up transportation utility fees. The municipalities often set up the fees in one of two ways. 

“It can be a flat fee where everybody pays the same amount. Or it can be a graduated one where a business that generates a lot of traffic might pay more than a single family residence would pay,” Hossley said.

Coos Bay’s Urban Renewal Agency also has a special roads levy that it has utilized in recent years to get road work done in the URA district. However, because the money is levied from URA funds it must be spent in a way that supports capitol imrovment. It cannot be used to fix residential roads.  

“It’s expected to generate around $250,000 to $300,000 per year for exclusive use in the downtown Urban Renewal District. It can’t be for pothole patches, because URA dollars can only be used for capital improvements,” Hossley said

This summer’s pothole projects are funded through the city’s maintenance fund that is part of the general fund.

Occasionally when the city works on a road, they find that the certain roads are so old that they still have a wooden structural base.

“Often times what they would do way back is build lumber in an area to match grade with the clay, and then pour asphalt over the top of it,” Dixon said.

When that wood underneath the road deteriorates it can cause potholes. This means that if the city wants to do a proper road rehabilitation it often has to rebuild that base structure.

"You can't go in and say that the surface is the only thing that needs rehab because often times it's not," Dixon said. 

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