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Durham looks to smooth over potholes

Posted June 14, 2010

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— Drivers in Durham say they are hitting far too many potholes, and city leaders agree that a fresh campaign to smooth over roads is needed.

Resident Tina Brown said she can't count the number of times she has hit potholes on Durham roads.

"They could use a whole lot of work done, a whole lot," Brown said.

Driver Jasmine Pearce said that a pothole caused a wreck she was in.

"Somebody had to slam on the brakes because of a pot hole, and I ran into the back of them," she said.

City Manager Tom Bonfield said he has no doubt that a major effort to repair roads is needed. More than half of city roads are rated in poor condition, he said.

"There are some significant problems with streets," Bonfield said.

The City Council has approved a referendum for the November ballot that would raise property taxes by three-quarters of a cent. The tax increase would raise about $20 million that would be used strictly to fast-track repairs on the city's worst roads, the city manager said.

"Not to criticize people who have made decisions in the past, but for many, many years, the city just ignored the conditions of the streets," said Bonfield, who began working for the city less than two years ago.

Bonfield said if the property tax increase is approved, the city would quickly tackle 325 miles of its worst roads. The remaining money would be set aside to manage the rest of the city's roads, keeping repairs from falling behind again.

Durham is also working with the state Department of Transportation to improve state-owned roads. Federal stimulus funds have been designated to pay for re-surfacing some of those roads.

Durham makes plans to fix potholes Durham makes plans to fix potholes

Durham is responsible for maintaining 703 miles, or two-thirds of the roads, within city limits. The DOT is responsible for the remaining third.

Bonfield said the city could take advantage of deals with contractors to be had right now and the lower-than-normal price of asphalt.

"In this case, we are going to set up a plan to fast-track (to) take advantage of good construction pricing," he said.

The city manager said he believes the plan suits what city residents want. Surveys have repeatedly shown that roads are among residents' top priorities, he said.

The state must approve the referendum on property taxes before it goes on the ballot.

Brown said she will think about the issue before deciding which way she would vote on the referendum.

"If it's going to get fixed, then good, but at the same time, why should we have to pay?" she said.


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  • TMatrix Jun 15, 2010

    Tax Man, I agree with your thoughts that the budget should be re prioritized. If there is a tax increase dedicated to roads (or anything else) one can be sure that, as with the "Education" lottery, the politicians will just take money that had previously been in the budget and shift it to something else.

  • hardwork919 Jun 15, 2010

    Does Bill Bell EVER do anything? Any time something happens in Durham, I see city manager, city council, etc. but never the daggum mayor... does he have any responsibilities at all?

  • tgentry1005 Jun 15, 2010

    Durham leaders have found money to do other things, most of which we don't need, but we now have to pay more taxes to have our roads fixed. Looks like very poor management to me for the highest taxed city in NC.

  • mpheels Jun 15, 2010

    "Driver Jasmine Pearce said that a pothole caused a wreck she was in."

    Um, no. The pothole did not cause the wreck. Driver inattention and failure to maintain a safe following distance caused the wreck. The pothole was a contributing factor, but it could have just as easily been a child, dog, deer, piece of debris, disabled vehicle, or dozens of other things. Sometimes the driver of the car in front of you will need to slam on the brakes. If you are paying attention and keeping a safe distance in relation to your speed, you will have time to stop.

  • meh2 Jun 15, 2010

    Taxes are only raised in Durham, especially property taxes. Thank goodness they put the money to good use and there is no more crime here. Oh, right, the police chief was in the middle of a shootout recently. Never mind...

  • Tax Man Jun 15, 2010

    Well, I applaud Durham for addressing this situation, but they want to raise taxes to do it????? Now where have all my taxes gone over the last 20 years? Road maintenance is a normal daily part of local government - this should be in the budget and not an extraordinary expense. No raising taxes - take it out of some other non-necessary part of the city budget - we have way too much waste in Durham and need our roads fixed. We already paid for it and we have the highest city/county taxes in the region! Man up Durham and fix the roads - and reduce the taxes! Maybe we could use the illegal aliens captured in the county as day laborers on the road crews - imagine that would save a lot of the labor costs! Just fix the roads and use the money you already have taken from us.