Street improvements are expected to get underway this week after weather delayed the repaving about 3.5 miles of residential streets in Muskogee's southwest neighborhoods.

Public Works Director Greg Riley said the $583,500 project was expected to begin by June 1, but the contractor selected in March "claimed delays due to the flooding and weather." Riley said his staff is "working to get them out there and going" on the mill and overlay portion of the project. 

The contractor hired for a separate microsurfacing project in the same zone was expected to begin work Monday. Microsurfacing is a process that involves the application of thin layer of polymers that seal and extend the life of asphalt. 

"On the microsurfacing, our crews have gone in and got the surface ready, sealing the cracks," Riley said. "That (microsurfacing) is a quicker process. It goes down pretty quick."

Contractors will notify residents affected by work in the neighborhoods in advance by placing door hangers at houses days in advance, Riley said. That will be particularly important for residents who live along streets where microsurfacing will be done, "because they will have to have cars off the streets when they go through there" with the machines that apply the polymers to the street surface. 

Riley said the streets selected in the southwest quadrant for this phase of the city's street improvements program were chosen based upon pavement conditions, visual inspections and citizen complaints. Staff recommendations were presented and approved by a citizens committee formed after voters in 2009 approved a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to street maintenance and improvement.

Earlier this year voters approved a capital improvements package that extended for six years a 0.33 percent sales tax that will fund a much more ambitious streets program. Revenue from that sales tax is expected to generate an additional $2 million annually for streets, which will be matched by a City of Muskogee Foundation grant. 

Street committee members and city staffers are working out details of how that multi-year plan will be carried out. But Riley said there "are a lot more streets to look at" and it "is a lot more impressive when the projects pop up on a map."

Ward IV Councilor Wayne Johnson quizzed Riley about the mill and overlay specifications to ensure there had been some refinement to address past problems where the asphalt was "buttoned up against the curb." He also wanted to ensure the presence of a city inspector on the scene while work was being completed — Riley said both those issues had been addressed.

Ward I Councilor Patrick Cale said he understands there may be cost limitations with the existing street program. But he encouraged the street department "to spend the money to fix the curb and gutter" on mill and overlay projects when it is practical "so that street is as brand new as it gets." 

City Manager Mike Miller emphasized the distinction between the present project, which is being carried out with revenue generated by the existing quarter-cent sales tax. He said the new streets program will not "go into effect until later this year, "but we are still plugging along" and "following our existing program."

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