Fairfield officials hear report on town roadways

Photo of Josh LaBella
Very little traffic is on Post Road in downtown Fairfield, Conn., on Saturday Apr. 25, 2020.

Very little traffic is on Post Road in downtown Fairfield, Conn., on Saturday Apr. 25, 2020.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — It will cost $36 million to bring all of Fairfield’s roadways into ideal condition, but luckily perfection is not the goal and the work does not have to happen all at once, according to a recent presentation to town boards.

In a recent meeting, the Board of Selectman, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting joined together to hear the results of a study for a town-wide paving plan conducted by Beta Engineering.

The presentation showed that Fairfield’s roads are in an overall good condition, but some need to get repairs sooner rather than later — and preliminary plans based off the study look like they will cost approximately $3 million a year if followed.

First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said the presentation was the result of officials’ desire to have a more comprehensive plan for paving roads, allowing a better sense of the town’s needs over the next five to 10 years.

“The goal in authorizing this work was to provide DPW with an independent and data driven priority list, and allow for the Town bodies to plan for the associated costs,” Kupchick later said in a newsletter. “This plan and other capital projects will be discussed at next month's Capital Plan Workshop where I will present to the Board of Finance the list of Town projects, and the Board of Education will present their school projects.”

John Marsilio, interim director of public works, said the presentation was the end of a six-month long process, and noted the plan included an evaluation of the town’s roads and sidewalks. He said the presentation was a preliminary report of recommendations based on what Beta found during data collection.

Marsilio said Fairfield has 272 miles of roadways, calling them the town’s second greatest asset after the public school system.

Anthony Garro, the Beta Engineering consultant who managed the project, said the study took a five step approach, with the first three steps revolving around gathering and analyzing information about the roadways. He said the fourth step, essentially where the town is now, involves planning and prioritizing improvements.

“You need to maintain the program,” Garro said of the fifth step. “You’ve made an investment in hiring Beta to come in and do this study. So, ultimately, you need to maintain the data on an annual basis.”

Garro said the company used artificial intelligence to assess the roadways in town, which allowed them to give a road a score from 0 to 100. Those scores, he said, dictates the company’s recommendation for maintenance.

“The overall network score is an 82.35, which is a very good score,” he said, speaking to the town as a whole. “The estimate cost of improvements for the roadways, essentially to bring your roadways up to a 100 in theory, would be a little over $36 million.”

Garro said a typical New England town gets a score somewhere between 70 and 80. The bulk, approximately 50 percent, of the town’s roadways fall under score categories which call for minor rehabilitation or preventative maintenance, he said.

To essentially maintain the current score, Garro said, the town would have to spend $4.25 million a year. Reaching 85 or 90 would take more money, he said, later noting a very fluid draft five-year plan saw the town spending between $3 and $4 million every year.

“You do a five-year plan, but you’re really focused on one year at a time,” he said.

Garro said the town will use an internet based program, which will allow Fairfield officials to view and update information concerning the condition and maintenance of roadways, as well as projected costs of repairs. He said ideally the town would do some sort of maintenance over 20 years to every road in town.

“The main thing is being consistent,” he said. “When you’re adopting a pavement management approach, you need to be consistent or else it’s really not going to work.”

In response to a question by BOF Vice Chairman Chris DeWitt, Marsilio said the plan by Beta would not be the only factor taken into account when determining road maintenance.

“Beta would be the basis of it, but as you just heard, there has to be adjustments from utility company programs and the like,” he said. “We also have other issues that come up in an engineering review of roads that talk about the geometry of the road and how they drain and things like that.”

Marsilio said the report would be finalized for next year, adding Beta would come in every three years to do an assessment of all roads in town. He said that information would help the town direct its plans.

RTM member Jeff Galdenzi, D-3, asked how the maintenance plan would coincide with utility companies doing their own work.

Garro said the five-year plan can be shared with utilities, so each party can coordinate service.

RTM member John Kuhn, D-7, asked Garro what the benefit of a road with a score of a 90 is.

“There’s not going to be any maintenance required for that road,” he said. “However, that 90 is ultimately going to get lower over time... three years from now it could be an 84. What that could mean is you have some type of routine maintenance activity (done to it), crack sealing for instance.”

Garro said spending more to bring roadways up to that level would result in Fairfield entering a period of time where they could focus on lower cost repairs. He said he would caution that Fairfield does not get too wrapped up in just doing preservation activities.

“You want to have a well-balanced program each year,” he said. “The optimization of your network will have the best result.”

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com