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Cincinnati forced to cut street repairs in half due to rising costs

It costs 50 percent more to rehab a street now than it did last year.
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - More than half the roads set to be repaired through Cincinnati’s street rehabilitation program will now remain as they are due to rising costs across the board.

Department of Transportation and Engineering Director John Brazina notified Mayor Aftab Pureval and City Council members of the slashed forecast in a memo dated Friday.

City Council sets an average number of “lane miles” the program should be funded to repair. Previously it set the number at 100, and each year the administration allocates enough money in the capital budget to meet that goal.

The approved fiscal year 2022-2023 biennial capital budget allocates $17.1 million to the program for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. DOTE believes it will receive an additional $9.2 million in outside grants for street rehab projects.

But that 100-mile goal is now “impossible to reach,” according to Brazina.

Just 49 lane miles will be rehabilitated, according to Brazina. Another 24 lane miles will receive preventative maintenance.

The issue is higher-than-expected material and labor costs, rising due to inflation, labor shortages and other external factors, Brazina explains.

The cost of rehabilitating one lane mile, comprising staff time and construction costs, was forecasted at $330,000. Right now, construction costs alone have ballooned to $500,000 per lane mile. The final cost per lane mile will be higher accounting for staff.

The preventative maintenance cost per lane mile has also increased from $47,741 to $70,466, again only accounting for construction costs.

As previously reported, the situation is expected to be the same in Cincinnati’s surrounding municipalities, including Butler County.

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Elsewhere, the City has taken measures to hedge against rising fuel costs. It purchases diesel fuel and gasoline futures contracts to lock in fuel costs for several years in advance.

According to a March memo from then-interim City Manager John Curp, the Cty is currently hedged out into the 2024 fiscal year, effectively muting price volatility for 75 percent of the City’s fuel supplies. The City will only experience price increases on that 25 percent of the diesel and gasoline left unhedged over the next 18 months.

But inflationary pressures aren’t the only risk. In November 2021, a slow-down in the supply chain that provides the City with diesel put its emergency diesel reserve at 25 percent below normal levels. Consequently, the City reduced essential services and asked departments to ration their supplies.

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