Hoping to keep Baltimore's streets from becoming minefields of axle-bending potholes, the city launched a program yesterday designed to better maintain the city's roadways - and avoid having to completely rebuild them.
To underscore the effort, called the "pavement preservation" program, Mayor Martin O'Malley hopped aboard a piece of heavy equipment and paved a stretch of South Clinton Street in Canton.
A crew from the city Department of Transportation will mill and pave about 7 miles of roadway across the city during the next few months under the initiative, which is intended to stop streets from deteriorating so badly that they need more extensive - and more costly - work.
While the city pays private contractors $200 to $250 per square yard to rebuild streets, it will cost Baltimore $8 to $10 per square yard to have city crews resurface them, said Alfred H. Foxx, director of the transportation department.
"We know that we can do it cheaper than the contractors can do it, so the city gets more bang for the buck," Foxx said.
The city, which has 1,900 miles of roadway, will have to spend $81 million this year to rebuild some streets from the roadbed up, officials said. That work will be done by contractors.
The cost of the new program is estimated at about $1 million and will come out of the department's $50 million highway maintenance budget, said Tony Wallnofer, chief of the transportation maintenance division. A crew of about 20 workers, pulled from other jobs within the department, will perform the work, officials said.
Noting the toll that two tough winters have taken on city roads, O'Malley announced the program in the warm morning sun at Clinton and Dillon streets in a neighborhood of rowhouses.
"Today, I'm very happy to say winter is over, and now it's time to get to work on our roads," O'Malley said before pulling an orange work vest over his blue dress shirt and climbing atop a paver, also known as a "box."
The mayor inched the machine north on Clinton Street, dumping asphalt along the way under the supervision of Brian Lubinski, a heavy-equipment operator.
"He did good," Lubinski said afterward. "We're ready to hire him and put him on the box."