Fort Worth can’t seem to find a way to keep the lights on in the Historic Southside, Neighborhood Association, leaders said.
Months ago, seven members of the neighborhood association piled into a car to document every single streetlight that’s burned out in their neighborhood. Still, every night, corners of the neighborhood are dark, James Walker, president of the neighborhood association, said.
“We are trying to fight to keep the lights on,” Walker said.
Fort Worth has heard the complaints from residents like Walker, said Lauren Prieur, Fort Worth’s interim director of transportation and public works. The city is asking council members to approve using an additional $3 million for streetlights — more than doubling its current budget.
“One of the most significant complaints we get from the community is streetlights and we definitely want to be responsive to those calls,” Prieur said.
The added funding will finance three additional crews replacing streetlights. Through public outreach efforts, the city heard overwhelming feedback from residents asking for more regular streetlight replacements, William Johnson, assistant city manager, said.
“We really needed more resources in order to keep up with the demand as the city continues to grow,” Johnson said. “That became a target area, primarily because of the overwhelming feedback of citizens.”
Pavement marking would also receive an additional $8.7 million through the proposed budget. The city will hire additional crews to re-mark roads. The new hires will make response times substantially faster, Prieur said.
“Our crews and our staff are really looking forward to being able to address this problem with the appropriate amount of resources,” Prieur said.
What can residents expect
The city maintains 64,944 streetlights and allows 60 days for crews to inspect burned-out streetlights when they’re reported by residents, Prieur said. With the added funding, the city expects to shorten its response time to 30 days.
The extra $3 million brings the overall program funding to $5.86 million.
“We’re looking at high pedestrian activity areas, schools, transit, recreation centers, hospitals,” Prieur said. “Let’s light them so that they’re brighter and that’s one more thing to help reduce that High Injury Network.”
What is the High Injury Network:
The High Injury Network identifies the most common areas for fatal traffic accidents, which are heavily concentrated in minority-majority areas.
Pavement markings will also be addressed faster with the additional funding, Prieur said.
The city re-marks roads on an eight year cycle. With the additional $8.7 million, the city will shorten its schedule to a recommended three-year cycle.
“Each asset has a useful life,” Prieur said. “Pavement marking is really only supposed to last about three years.”
Lots of sun and heavy use means that road markings degrade at a faster rate in some areas of Fort Worth, Prieur said. The city plans to hire more contractors to carry out the new schedule.
Additional funding is paid for by property taxes
The added funding will be paid for through property taxes. The city’s streetlight and pavement marking budget are allocated through a pot of money set aside as PAYGO.
What is PAYGO:
Pay As You Go, or PAYGO, is the city of Fort Worth’s General Fund cash pool used for some operations and capital programs.
The PAYGO budget is split into two categories, maintenance and capital projects. The city managers propose moving a half cent from the maintenance fund to the capital projects fund — increasing the overall budget.
Despite the city’s proposed budget pulling a half cent from the operating budget, it will be higher this year compared to last.
“This just was excess revenue that we have because of our growth,” Johnson said. “So it allowed us to do this without reducing any of the other operating requirements for the city.”
The PAYGO budget fits within one of the city’s main priorities for this year’s budget — creating a safe and clean community.
“They both have a very strong tie to the public sector,” Johnson said. “Street lighting is a public safety issue and so is our lane markings.”
The increased funding for capital projects is a strategic investment, Johnson said. By maintaining its infrastructure now through PAYGO, the city can avoid taking on debt through a bond program later, Johnson said.
“Major maintenance activity is to try to catch issues before they deteriorate to the point which can’t be taken care of with maintenance,” Johnson said.
Replacement is typically four times more costly than maintenance, Johnson said, and it can extend the life of a road up to 15 years.
“We try to maintain what we’ve already built in the state of repair for a longer period of time,” Johnson said. “It gives us more time to use our debt service to catch up on areas that … have kind of fallen into that state of disrepair.”
Overall, the PAYGO budget increased 3.5%. He’s hopeful that residents will start to see a marked difference in streetlights and pavement markings.
“They may start to see more roadblocks,” Johnson said. “Because people are restriping or working on streetlights. We’re just asking them to be patient with it. Hopefully that won’t be a big problem. But it’s a good problem.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.