KETCHIKAN - Significant state road maintenance in Ketchikan will have to wait until at least July because the regional maintenance budget is "essentially exhausted," according to the Department of Transportation.
Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon wrote to the state requesting sidewalk and tunnel repair, the resurfacing of pothole-ridden streets, adjustments for sinking manhole covers and storm drains, and new paint for faded crosswalks.
In a written reply, DOT regional director Malcolm Menzies said agency officials were aware of the city's maintenance concerns, but "our maintenance budget is essentially exhausted until July 1."
He suggested that if the city wanted certain repairs more quickly, the city could foot the bill.
Menzies told the Ketchikan Daily News last week that DOT crews will continue to perform normal road maintenance, such as filling potholes. Maintenance work beyond that would have to wait for the next budget cycle.
He expressed concern over the state's tendency to fund new capital projects without adding money to DOT's maintenance budget. It's a "near-normal procedure" for DOT to end up short of cash in the spring, he said.
"It seems like it's very painful for lots of areas, including the city (of Ketchikan), to budget adequate maintenance," Menzies said. "Maintenance is the stepchild" of capital projects.
Amylon had asked DOT to evaluate its sidewalks in Ketchikan and to develop a schedule to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Crosswalks were faded and needed to be repainted, he said.
Regarding the tunnel, Amylon wrote that the city hoped DOT would be willing to discuss improving its appearance, perhaps with a mural by local artists.
"White calcium-like deposits have formed from the numerous cracks in the lining, causing a very unattractive appearance," he wrote.
Menzies responded to each concern.
To improve sidewalks to ADA standards on state streets would cost at least $6 million because it would involve removing utility poles and eliminating a parking lane, he said.
Menzies wrote that his office would try to stripe the crosswalks soon, but suggested the city look into doing the work itself, as it has in the past, with no reimbursement.
Menzies rejected a mural in the downtown tunnel because it could create a driver distraction. However, he wrote, he had instructed staff to paint the interior light gray and add lighting. If the city was willing to pay for it, he wrote, city crews could paint the interior white. He later clarified that painting the tunnel gray was not a priority for DOT, and it was on the schedule for 2010 or 2011.
Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein said DOT should have made a request for supplemental funding.
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