Cost of asphalt hinders paving of Federal Way's streets

Federal Way's top-rated streets will suffer moderately over the next six years as some funds for the annual Asphalt Overlay Project were cut.

The city council and interim city manager Brian Wilson chose to decrease the yearly capital project's budget by approximately $500,000 in an effort to close a $4.9 million gap. Instead of the usual $2 million dedicated to the work, only $1.4 million will be available.

The project, which has taken place yearly since 1995, has kept the city's streets safer and mostly free of potholes. Curbs, sidewalks and wheelchair ramps are also repaired and upgraded as part of the overlay project. Since 1997, the city has used utility tax revenues to fund the project. Some of that money is now being transfered to the city's operating budget to ensure public services continue.

City management, staff and the city council are committed to keeping the project alive. But the streets will suffer due to the steadily increasing price of asphalt, paired with funding cuts. In 2000, the material was $30 per ton, public works director Marwan Salloum said. Now, it costs $67 per ton, he said.

"You're paving less streets because of the cost of the asphalt," he said at a Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs city council sub-committee meeting in May.

Stretches of roadway in the areas of 1st Way South, West Campus Business/Office Park, 21st Avenue Southwest, Village Park, Southwest 340th Street, Brooklake Heights and Alderbrook will see new asphalt as part of this year's project.

Rating the streets

Each street that is part of the annual project receives a one-and-a-half-inch asphalt overlay. In 2000, 23.97 lane miles were treated, Salloum said. Last year, the project's budget allowed for only 13 paved lane miles, he said. The city uses lane miles to measure how far the work stretches because some of the streets have more than one lane.

Federal Way's street system is rated by an outside consultant. Arterial and collector streets are looked at annually, Salloum said. Residential streets are reviewed every two years, he said. The rating is affected by traffic, truck volume and harsh weather.

The city's street system currently rates at 85 percent, Salloum said. The council, since it began the project, has dedicated itself to ensuring motorists will have access to roads with a rating higher than 75 percent, he said. For the past eight years, the rating has remained in the 80th percentile, Salloum said. An aggressive capital program, which usually brings new streets to areas where economic development and capital projects are taking place, can also be thanked for the city's manageable streets, he said.

The council said it wishes to revisit its six-year long-range budget plan, possibly as soon as January. If funding is restored to the overlay program within the next two years, Federal Way's streets are likely to hover in the 80th percentile, Salloum said.

If the economy does not improve and the city council and manager are not able to use more utility tax revenues to fund the Asphalt Overlay Project, the city's roads will suffer noticeably, Salloum said. The city's street system is in danger of falling below the 75 percentile mark, he said. Once roads begin to deteriorate beyond this point, they become susceptible to more damage, Salloum said. Streets rated in the 60th percentile will degrade to the 50th percentile faster than those rated in the 80th percentile will degrade to the 70th percentile, he said.

"When you get below a certain score, the roads are going to fail more rapidly," Salloum said.

The rating system and damage to the existing asphalt is considered when determining which pathways will be covered in new asphalt each year. The city's arterial streets usually need an overlay every 10 years, Salloum said. Annually, construction begins in May and proceeds through October.

Check it out

To see a variety of maps depicting current and past Asphalt Overlay Project efforts, visit the city's Web site at

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