Cost of asphalt high, roads neglected

April 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Crude oil futures have been trading at more than $100 dollars a gallon for the past few weeks, which has raised gas prices, but that's not the only effect. Asphalt is a product of crude oil, which means Bay Area cities are re-thinking road repairs.

San Jose has bumpy roads, it was something only locals knew about, but after March's national transportation research group report, that puts San Jose's roads among the country's ten worst, everyone knows.

"They need something better than this," said Lisa Lacovelli, a San Jose resident.

It turns out the city has $275 million dollars worth of back logged road repairs, but it's not just the budget that's stopping the work, it's the price of oil.

"We're just having to maintain less miles than we would have been able to maintain, if the oil prices were stable or less," said Amanda Lei, the pavement manager for the city of San Jose.

According to a Caltrans pricing index, in April 2007, a ton of asphalt oil, which is a derivative of crude oil and is a key ingredient in asphalt, cost $317 dollars. This month, it costs $504 dollars a ton. That's a 59 percent increase in just one year.

"The general effect is that we're going to be doing less miles than we need," said Lei.

To fix this road you would need concrete asphalt, which contains a lot of oil. That's why the price just for the mixture has gone up. Here in San Jose, they're paying $5 dollars more a ton.

The City of Oakland is paying $28.50 more for a ton of the mixture.

"We do lots of things to stretch the dollar further but when the price goes up by 60 percent, we're going to get less ability to deal with the pot holes," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

"It's annoying too, it's not just right here, it's everywhere. It's terrible. I mean there are huge holes, not just little ones," said Maria Reilly, a San Jose resident.

Driving over pot holes is a daily occurrence Maria Reilly can't stand. Even on her own street, in Willow Glen, the road is crumbling. As far as she's concerned, the numbers just don't add up.

"I'm paying taxes. So some of that money should be going to the streets too," said Maria Reilly.

Until the price for oil drops, the city's plan is to save money on energy and fuel when possible, and put those dollars toward road repair.


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