$20M road repair plan to begin; Council will put priorities on upgrades.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - Of the city's 437 miles of public streets, Public Works officials have determined that 300 miles are in need of repair or resurfacing, at a hefty price tag of $130 million.

To address that daunting challenge, the city is about to kick into gear a $20 million street and sidewalk improvement program to be carried out over the next three years.

The City Council Public Works Committee plans to select on Tuesday those streets to be repaved during the first year of the program.

Robert L. Moylan Jr., commissioner of Public Works and Parks, said once the council identifies the streets, his department will review each selection to determine their infrastructure needs, such as water, sewer and drainage lines.

He said those not needing infrastructure replaced will be programmed for resurfacing, while those with infrastructure needs will have to wait until those upgrades are completed.

The commissioner said streets without infrastructure needs could be ready for resurfacing in the 2011 construction season.

"This program is unprecedented in scope and complexity," Mr. Moylan said. "The selection of additional streets will not be made until the first phase of the program is within a year of completion."

The street and sidewalk program was made possible after the City Council agreed to tap into the city's unused tax-levy capacity, raising an additional $2 million in property taxes this fiscal year.

Because of budget constraints, the city has been unable to keep up with infrastructure repairs, and as a result, a $37 million backlog has built up for street and sidewalk repairs over the years. In some instances, streets and sidewalks approved for repair in 1999 and 2000 have yet to be funded.

While money is set aside annually in the municipal budget for street and sidewalk repairs, it barely makes a dent in that backlog.

But at the request of city councilors for a more aggressive street and sidewalk program, City Manager Michael V. O'Brien included as part of his fiscal 2011 budget proposal a $20 million, multi-year program, financed by the $2 million tax increase.

"This is a signature moment for this City Council," said District 5 Councilor William J. Eddy. "It's a proactive, signature moment because this is something we've been pushing for. We are putting our money where our mouth is, to make sure a quality of life is...

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