Roads, streetlights, bridges, broadband internet, buildings, transportation centers and water/sewer utilities are all critical components of a city’s infrastructure. While older cities like Gary maintain the benefits of historic value and traditional urban planning not always found in younger cities, they often find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to the upkeep of municipal infrastructure.
The Melton Infrastructure Modernization Plan lays out my short and long-term goals to tackle Gary’s most troubling infrastructure challenges over the next 10 years. These goals are both ambitious and feasible, and achieving them will greatly improve both residents’ quality of life and the ways in which our city government is able to sustain and promote our city.
As Mayor, in accordance with this plan, I will:
Address all “failed” streets in Gary over the next year. As these streets and segments typically require full reconstruction at a high cost, it has been an historical tendency to use the limited funds available to invest in streets that can be maintained as opposed to those needing complete reconstruction. Under my plan, we will tackle these chronic, failed streets first and prevent others from dipping into these conditions in the future.
Improve Gary’s average PASER rating over the next 10 years. The Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) is a 1-10 scale rating system to compare street segments. Using PASER, we will both monitor the quality of Gary’s streets and make decisions concerning where to invest, repair and reconstruct roads in our city.
Melton’s Six Step Plan for Street Repair for 2023 – 2033:
- Fix failed streets. We will address all streets with a PASER of 1 or 2 (failed rating) over the next 3 years. A failed street is one that has deteriorated so much that it can no longer be maintained by the standard mill and overlay paving. The street may still be drivable, but the pavement has lost its integrity and has severe cracking. The only solution for a failed street is complete removal and rebuilding of the pavement layers from the ground up.
- Raise the bar. We will increase the average PASER rating of Gary’s roads to achieve and maintain a citywide average above a rating of 7 over the next 10 years. The city will track the average PASER of other cities in Indiana and benchmark against them.
- Strive for equity. In collaboration with the members of the Gary Common Council, we will monitor street conditions by council district. We will strive for equitable street quality, particularly in residential areas.
- Be data-driven. We will invest in new tools and processes to monitor progress on street conditions. This will include development of a public dashboard showing PASER ratings and implementing innovative technologies to better analyze and track street conditions annually.
- Be transparent. We will be more transparent with residents, sharing plans for street repair proactively. This includes the methodology behind decisions to prioritize certain streets, street repair lists and the streets conditions dashboard for residents to monitor the city’s data on street quality over time.
- Increase efficiency. We will find new ways to extend the lifespan of our roads and invest more in upfront maintenance to reduce costs over time.
Sidewalk Improvement Plan
Sidewalks allow all residents, regardless of economic status or physical ability, to travel safely throughout the city. As Mayor, my sidewalk improvement plan will provide safe pathways to pedestrians and give our city’s most vulnerable groups multi-modal travel options that are essential to completing and fulfilling their daily activities.
My sidewalk program has 7 phases that address issues throughout the city based on a priority system. The phases are:
- Phase 1: K-12 Schools Safe Routes to School (SRTS) and Senior Living Facilities
- Phase 2: Hospitals and Medical Centers
- Phase 3: Transit Facilities
- Phase 4: Grocery Stores
- Phase 5: City Facilities and Parks
- Phase 6: Arterial Streets
- Phase 7: Residential Streets
Phases 1 and 2 were chosen to promote equity by prioritizing sidewalks used by vulnerable populations. This includes children, senior citizens and those using medical facilities.
Phases 3, 4 and 5 are prioritized to improve the city’s pedestrian transportation networks and promote safe and efficient non-vehicular travel. These phases were identified based on demand by pedestrian travelers, public transportation stations, places to access fresh food and public facilities such as libraries and parks.
The final phases will address the remainder of the city’s sidewalks. Because the final phases will require the largest amount of labor, they will be broken out into sub-stages. These sub-stages will provide a rotation in which to move through the city until all locations have been addressed.
Funding sources may include Community Development Block Grant funds that must be used in defined low/moderate income areas, Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funding that is restricted to TIF district boundaries and other location-specific funding sources.
Street Light Repair and Modernization
Gary’s street lighting system has been in serious disrepair for some time, with minimal infrastructure investment made in decades. As Mayor, it will be a top priority of mine to address the street lights that are not working, for reasons that include copper theft, bulb outages, vandalism, obsolete technology, lack of repair staff and a lack of funds to pay for repairs.
As Mayor, I will explore the following combination of strategies to help illuminate the city with cost-effective and energy-efficient LED street lights:
- Utility Financing – Municipally Owned: A number of municipalities across the U.S. are taking advantage of publicly-owned utilities to provide funding assistance with LED streetlight retrofits. In most cases, the funding comes in the form of a low-cost or market-rate loan that is repaid with project savings.
- Grants and/or Rebates: Many utilities offer energy conservation grants and rebates to their industrial, commercial and residential customers. An increasing number of utilities are now also offering similar incentives to their street lighting customers.
- Third-Party Financing: Financing options from third-party services, such as energy services companies or product vendors, are starting to gain attention for LED street lighting purchases.
- Energy savings performance contracts often include arrangements for third-party financing that are facilitated by the energy services company (ESCO) contractor. Funds are repaid to the financier either through guaranteed savings achieved by the contractor, or through shared savings where the ESCO provides the financing (and the owner does not have to acquire additional capital).
- Another model that’s recently become available relies on the shared savings contract approach and does not require additional capital from the owner: the Global Management Performance Contract (GMPC). In a GMPC, the contractor takes on management of the entire lighting system and agrees to meet a number of performance targets, which include replacement of some portion of the incumbent lights with more efficient products. There are a number of attractive features of this approach from a lighting owner’s standpoint, including guaranteed savings and performance and outsourced risk.