East Bay Times: Oakland Buys ‘Street Mode’ to Pave Backlogged Roads

By Ali Tadayon

November 23, 2017

OAKLAND — Oakland’s new “Street Mode” will soon be chewing up and spitting out crumbling asphalt, thanks to funds from Measure KK, a bond measure passed by voters last year that provides $350 million for repairs to streets and sidewalks.

Mayor Libby Schaaf gave the $570,000 milling machine its nickname in a nod to Raiders running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.

The 30-foot-long, 47,000-pound milling machine should speed up paving commitments made under the Paving Prioritization Plan of 2014, city officials said at a news conference Monday. The five-year plan is expected to be finished in only two years, thanks to the new milling machine, the purchase of other equipment and the bolstering of street maintenance crews, said Oakland Department of Transportation director Ryan Russo.

“We are really excited to make this down payment on delivering our payment promises,” Russo said.

The city already had a milling machine, but that one had “reliability issues, to say the least,” Russo said. A milling machine removes the top layer of asphalt from a street, allowing crews to put down a fresh layer of asphalt — actually repaving the street as opposed to just patching cracks and potholes.

“This machine lets us take on the worst roads,” Schaaf said at Monday’s news conference. “Often you see us just resurfacing and maintaining roads that are already in decent shape, preserving them. But this lets us take on those things that are cracked and crumbling, the things that are really giving Oaklanders headaches and broken axles.”

Funds from Alameda County’s Measure BB were also used to purchase the machine.

While the city was dealing with the last machine’s issues, many paving projects were taken on by contracted crews, Russo said. Though the Department of Transportation plans to continue contracting out some paving work, more of it will be done in-house, thanks to the new equipment and the hiring of 20 more workers with money from Senate Bill 1 — the state’s new 12-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline.

“We were doing only minor repairs, middle of the street repairs,” Russo said. “Now that we have machinery like this and another crew, we’ll be able to do full gutter-to-gutter, curb-to-curb paving.”

Oakland workers already are being trained on how to use the equipment, Russo said. “Street Mode” will be fired up in the spring; most asphalt plants shut down during the rainy season, Russo said.

The city has a $443 million backlog of streets that need repaving and repairing, Russo said. The relatively new Department of Transportation is committed to addressing that backlog as quickly and as equitably as possible, he said.

“This is not just about pavement, this is not about asphalt,” Russo said. “We’re in a crisis in this region; we have an affordable housing and homelessness crisis, and breaking your car, getting a flat tire or breaking your axle can be the thing that puts a family over the edge and forces them to lose their home.”

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