Salt exacts high cost in road damage

March 07, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Salt trucks have brought relief to motorists slipping on ice and snow in Baltimore this winter. But the price of safety isn't cheap.

It will cost $9 million in the next fiscal year -- three times more than in the current spending cycle -- to resurface city-maintained streets damaged by salt.

The Baltimore Planning Commission gave its approval Thursday to a $232.3 million capital budget for fiscal 1995 to pay for improvements and repairs to streets and other properties such as museums, police and fire facilities, libraries and water treatment plants.

Despite the increase in road-resurfacing expenditures from $3 million in fiscal 1994, which ends June 30, the overall capital budget proposal is only slightly higher than the current $232 million capital budget. The proposal is $57 million less than the amount requested by city departments and agencies.

Commissioners expressed concern about deteriorating buildings and infrastructure in Baltimore before voting unanimously for the capital budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The commission also approved a $1.22 billion capital plan for the next six years.

The fiscal 1995 capital budget and the six-year plan will go before the Board of Estimates and then to the director of finance and Board of Finance for review. The fiscal 1995 plan will finally be sent to the City Council, which authorizes expenditures.

The city soon will begin to identify pothole-ridden streets to be resurfaced in fiscal 1995, an official said.

Vanessa Pyatt, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Public Works, said crews have used a record 34,500 tons of salt to clear thoroughfares during 10 winter storms.

Israel Patoka, manager of the Baltimore Planning Department's capital improvement division, said the damage done by salt is the worst he's seen in his 12 years on the job. He said the state maintains some major arteries in the city, but Baltimore is responsible for most of its roads.

Mr. Patoka said it is important to resurface roads before worse damage is done that could require more costly repairs.

"The severe winter and the salt being put on the roads have deteriorated the streets, and we really needed to do something," he said.

Among the recommendations in the 1995 capital budget are:

* $26.4 million for improvements to the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants.

* $21.4 million for six bridge improvement projects.

* $11.6 million for repairs to the police headquarters, and an additional $480 million for work at the district police stations.

* $8.4 million for 15 community development improvement projects.

* $8.3 million to upgrade the police and fire communications systems.

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