Letter to the Editor, April 18, 2018

Dear Readers:
I know that the opportunity to hear a report on the survey of the condition of Cambridge streets is something that does not excite many of you. It may even make your eyes glaze over; but I wanted to let you know about it, as the poor condition of our streets and the politics of how we fix them are two of the issues that have been at the top of my list of things important to our city since we moved here in 2010.

In recent years the city has spent about $250,000 a year to fix our streets. That amounts to about 1.5 miles per year in a city that has between 62 – 72 miles of city streets depending on past estimates. In addition, tradition has been that the monies spent on the repair of streets was divided among the 5 wards while considering the streets that needed work and the views of the city commissioners based on the concerns of their constituents. It was not based, from my view, on how we might spend these limited resources most effectively and efficiently.

Since the great recession starting around 2007 or so, the state has dramatically reduced funding for city and town streets throughout Maryland by diverting the Highway User Revenues (HUR) away from cities and into other state priorities. With legislation that was recently passed, a significant portion, but not all, of those funds will be restored for a 5 year period starting in FY 2020. An estimate that I saw indicated that Cambridge would receive in the area of $567,000 in HUR funds for our streets starting July of 2019.

Soon after I went on City Council I urged that we look at how we repair and replace our streets and consider different alternatives. I felt that it could be done more economically and based on the needs of the entire city rather than individual wards. In late November of 2016 city staff was directed to determine the cost of a street survey study, and in February of 2017 the above report was provided that included the approximate cost for the study. As the monies needed for the study were not budgeted in the FY 2017 budget, there were not enough votes on City Council (remember there must be 4 commissioners willing to spend unbudgeted funds) to start that project until the FY 2018 budget passed that included the funding.

The report and presentation on Wednesday the 18 at 11 a.m. at City Council Chambers will, hopefully, provide City Council and the public of the results and recommendations.

The local funding for street maintenance for FY 2018 is $250,000 as is the amount in the proposed budget for FY 2019. That gives us $500,000 to start improving our streets more effectively, if we can have the political will. My position is that we not divide the money by ward but rather spend it wherever in the city that will have the greatest impact for the fewest dollars.

Thanks for considering this opportunity to see what your city government is doing on behalf of its citizens as we continue to look at ways to improve the appearance of Cambridge and the quality of life here.

Steve Rideout
1st Ward Commissioner
for the City of Cambridge

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.