Mayor Jay Gillian's administration is proposing to more than double its investment in road and drainage improvements over the next five years — from an estimated $11.3 million to about $24 million.
Senior staff members outlined a plan in a presentation to City Council at a budget workshop on Thursday. Council is in the early stages of drafting next year's municipal budget, which would include funding for any capital projects.
The recommended five-year plan would fix every road in the city rated 60 or lower on the city's pavement rating system (see an explanation of the ratings and a ratings map).
"The timing is right to really get at the roads and drainage," Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said.
He said the administration is responding to both the public and City Council that the issue should get much more attention, and he said now is an opportune time to seek financing on capital projects.
City Engineer Arthur Chew outlined the scope of the problem on an island where 75 percent of the streets would flood in a two-year storm.
Strategies for improving drainage include:
- Increasing pipe diameters (a solution complicated by a competing grid of other underground utilities)
- Decreasing building and impervious coverage
- Installing check valves that keep tidal water from flowing backwards through the storm drain system (the valves can cost as much as $30,000 apiece and in some tides hinder rainwater drainage). The city has 248 outfall pipes, including 47 on ocean beaches (these do not require check valves).
- Increasing bulkhead heights
- Increasing road elevations
- A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant could pay for a pumping system that could bring relief to an area around Haven Avenue between Second and Eighth streets. Equipment could be located on city property at Third Street and Haven Avenue.
Dattilo said each individual road project would address all drainage, design and pavement issues at the same time.
"We're doing the projects the right way," he said.
But he acknowledged no amount of road improvements can fully eliminate flooding on a barrier island.
"Let's not kid ourselves," he said.