Here’s what an infusion of extra funds may mean for Ann Arbor streets

ANN ARBOR, MI — Ann Arbor is ready to accelerate street repairs over the next few years.

City staff showed City Council what that could look like at the city’s annual planning session Monday night, Jan. 30, explaining how an extra $15 million from road bonds is expected to improve pavement conditions.

Brian Steglitz, public services administrator, presented new 2026 goals to have at least 60% of major streets rated 6 or better on a 10-point scale and no more than 20% rated 1-3, with an average score of 5.8 or greater.

Ann Arbor streets

Charts showing how extra investments Ann Arbor plans to make in city streets over the next few years using new road bond funds could improve pavement ratings.City of Ann Arbor

For local neighborhood streets, the new goal is at least 45% rated 6-10 and no more than 39% rated 1-3, with an average score of 5.24 or greater.

The city previously had a goal of 80% of streets rated 7 or better, but city officials decided in 2021 that was unrealistic.

The city plans to develop longer-term goals after the next round of pavement ratings later this year.

Ann Arbor streets

Bar graphs showing the extra investments Ann Arbor plans to make in city streets over the next few years using new road bond funds.City of Ann Arbor

A poor or failing street with a score of 1-3 probably needs structural rehabilitation, which is the most costly solution, but in the 4-6 range pavement life can be extended with less costly measures such as crack sealing, Steglitz said, explaining it’s hard to get caught up on fixing streets by taking a “worst first” approach that exhausts resources.

Part of the city’s strategy is to invest in streets in the middle of their life cycle to extend their life, and some people may wonder why a particular street is getting attention when another street is in worse condition, Steglitz said.

“And the reason is because we’re trying to work on all of them,” he said. “But if we don’t work on those ones that are in the middle in those conditions, they’re going to become the ones that are 1-3 and then it’s going to be really expensive to fix.”

Lutz Avenue

Lutz Avenue, one of Ann Arbor’s many crumbling neighborhood streets, on Jan. 15, 2023.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

Steglitz cautioned against having overly high expectations.

“We’d all like to see our roads all be eights, nines and tens, but really that’s not achievable given the resources that we have,” he said.

The city has a new online dashboard with a map showing street conditions and upcoming projects.

Ann Arbor streets

A screenshot from Ann Arbor’s new online dashboard showing street conditions the last time they were rated in 2021.City of Ann Arbor

Council Member Travis Radina, D-3rd Ward, said while the worst streets are most expensive to fix, they also are most costly for residents driving on them when they cause damage.

Raising the issue of equity, Radina said neighborhoods where there are higher concentrations of Black residents have some of the worst street conditions. For neighborhoods whose streets have been in bad shape for a significant period of time, he asked what the city is doing to prioritize repairs and how to advocate for them when there’s inequity.

Steglitz said he didn’t feel well positioned to answer that Monday night, but said he could get back to council.

Ferdon Road

Ferdon Road in Ann Arbor’s Burns Park neighborhood on Jan. 2, 2023.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

Brett Lenart, the city’s planning manager, said equity has become more centered in prioritizing capital projects.

Council Member Lisa Disch, D-1st Ward, said it would be great if the city could make that more visible by including an equity layer on the map of projects.

Equity was a theme that carried through Monday’s three-hour session.

Lenart discussed the comprehensive land-use plan update the city plans to kick off in April. The city has budgeted $700,000 for it and it’s expected to take 18 to 24 months.

The city is calling it a comprehensive plan instead of a master plan because the term master can evoke slavery or paternalism, Lenart said.

Ann Arbor City Council

Brett Lenart, city planning manager, speaks about the city’s comprehensive land-use planning effort at the Ann Arbor City Council annual planning session Jan. 30, 2023.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

His presentation touched on the history of city zoning, racial segregation, economic disparities and rising housing prices, suggesting equity and affordability are going to be focuses as the city goes through the planning process.

Laura Orta, the city’s new director of organizational equity, also told council about diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and accessibility efforts she’s helping advance at city hall, and plans to hire a new accessibility coordinator by July.

Missy Stults, the city’s sustainability director, discussed the city’s strategy to spend the $7.4 million in new revenue expected to come with the city’s new 20-year climate-action millage starting in July. Spending for the next few years will stick closely to the plan presented to voters last year, she said, noting that will include financial incentives for residents and businesses to transition to renewable energy and electrify appliances.

Ann Arbor City Council

Missy Stults, the city’s sustainability director, speaks about the city’s climate-action strategy at the Ann Arbor City Council annual planning session Jan. 30, 2023.Ryan Stanton | The Ann Arbor News

“We’ve also built out bicycle rebates for people who will commit to doing more commuting on bicycle,” she said.

The city’s incentives will stack with federal incentives, Stults said.

“And this is an area where equity is explicit,” she said. “We want to make sure that low-income households get more support to make these improvements and reap the benefits.”

Steglitz gave an update on the city’s plan to invest over $100 million into replacing a large portion of the city’s water treatment plant over the next decade.

To help pay for that and other investments in the city’s water system, water rates are expected to continue to rise, with the city projecting another 6% increase for the foreseeable future. Stormwater rates also are projected to go up another 4% in July.

Marti Praschan, the city’s chief financial officer, gave a financial outlook for the city’s general fund, showing a $900,000 deficit projected for 2023-24 — on top of a $4.3 million deficit this year. Still, the general fund balance is expected to stay above $20 million, within the city’s preferred range.

Ann Arbor budget

Ann Arbor’s general fund budget outlook as presented at the city’s annual planning session Jan. 30, 2023.City of Ann Arbor

Some revenue sources the city is watching include marijuana sales taxes, opioid legal settlements and sale of the city-owned Y Lot to the Housing Commission. Some new expenses on the horizon include creation of a city election center and launching unarmed crisis response.

City Administrator Milton Dohoney told council he also wants to work to improve customer service at the city.

“We have a great thing going on here in Ann Arbor and in no small part it’s due to the municipal organization,” Mayor Christopher Taylor said.


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