Infrastructure Asset Management 101: Manage Existing Assets First

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Aug 052014


A water main break near the University of California, Los Angeles, Tuesday caused massive street flooding and damage at the university's campus.

Image courtesy of Danny Moloshok / Reuters. Obtained from

Los Angeles, California is just days removed from a massive water line break at the UCLA campus that spewed over 20 million(!) gallons of potable drinking water.  This unfortunate accident comes at a time when the state of California is in the midst of one the most severe and prolonged droughts in recent memory – a drought so bad that the state and some local agencies have formally authorized the issuance of $500+ fines for private residents who are seen “excessively” watering their lawns, drive ways, or even washing their cars.

The 30″ water main that broke at the UCLA campus was old…really old – 93 years old, in fact.  Aside from the obvious costs of losing 20 million gallons of fresh drinking water in the height of a drought, there are also untold other costs related to sinkhole and road way repair, damage to flooded facilities and other assets, and labor costs and loss of countless man hours spent repairing the damage that will continue for weeks and months from now.  Pauley Pavilion, alone, underwent a $136 million renovation that was completed just 2 years ago and it’s historic basketball court may need to be replaced due to flood damage.

Meanwhile, as existing critical public infrastructure assets like water lines crumble here in California, state lawmakers set their sights on ambitious and controversial multi-billion dollar insfrastructure projects such as high speed rail and wind energy production…rather than placing an emphasis on improving and updating what has already been built.  The goals of such new infrastructure projects are well-intended, but they come at a high price in the form of high upfront costs, unintended endangerment to the environment and/or wildlife, and the unseen costs of a dollar spent here is a dollar not spent on existing crumbling infrastructure.

Here’s an analogy – the water lines to your house are old and they often leak and break, leaving you without water to drink, cook, bathe, etc. and costing you countless dollars in lost water.  Rather than spend $1000 to replace or repair your crumbling water lines, you decide to take out a $1 million dollar loan to purchase an airplane and install a state-of-the-art wind turbine energy system.  The airplane will help you get from point A to B faster than ever and you’ll be cutting down on wasted fuel and time spent in traffic.  Similarly, the wind turbine energy system will help you cut down on your fossil-fuel consumption, but it might accidentally butcher an eagle or condor or more that flies into the fan blades.  Meanwhile, you are still paying the price for wasting a boatload of drinking water due to faulty pipes.

What’s the lesson learned in all of this?  Consider spending existing scarce resources on improving vital infrastructure back to a serviceable level – rather than spending on questionable new infrastructure where the cost/benefit of doing so is unclear at best.

Vancouver can’t afford to tend streets

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Aug 122013


Council receives audit on shortfall for building, maintaining its largest asset

Source: Stephanie Rice
Columbian staff writer

If you’re unhappy with the city’s improvements on Northeast 137th/138th Avenue from Northeast 28th to 49th streets, take heart: The city doesn’t have any money to continue the project from 49th Street north to Fourth Plain Road.

The city also doesn’t have money for four other high-priority capital improvement projects:

• Northeast 18th Street from Four Seasons Lane to Northeast 137th Avenue.

• Southeast First Street from Southeast 164th to 192nd avenues.

• Northeast 18th Street from Northeast 107th to 97th/98th avenues.

• Jefferson Street/Kauffman Avenue between Evergreen and W. Fourth Plain boulevards.

All together, the five projects would cost $46.1 million.

The Vancouver City Council was presented with a grim confirmation Monday of what it knew, that it is millions of dollars short on its goals of reconstructing streets, including ones that were built to a rural standard (such as Southeast First Street) and can’t handle urban traffic.

The councilors didn’t make any policy decisions Monday. They are scheduled to set a policy by mid-to-late November on how to best manage long-term transportation needs, including how those needs should be financed.

Read more…

City of Carlsbad, CA Discussing Pedestrian/Cyclist Bridge at Railroad Xing

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Apr 122013


Source: Phil Diehl, UT San Diego

Downtown Carlsbad residents could get a shortcut to the beach in a few more years. And to school. Even to the Village.

City planners have asked for a $100,000 grant to study the feasibility of installing a railroad crossing for pedestrians and cyclists at Chestnut Avenue.

The proposed crossing would serve primarily residents of the Barrio, one of Carlsbad’s oldest neighborhoods, which is cut off from the nearby beach by the railroad tracks running north and south.

It also would give beach-area residents a shorter hike or bike ride to nearby Jefferson Elementary School or to downtown restaurants and shops. The nearest existing rail crossings are at Carlsbad Village Drive and Tamarack Avenue.

A crossing at Chestnut has been discussed for years, and still remains a distant vision.

“It’s very preliminary,” said Frank Boensch, an analyst for the city. “The community has indicated they would be interested in seeing something that would provide better access for the Barrio.”

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Escondido to triple road repair funding

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Apr 102013

Council directs staff to spend minimum of $4.7 million yearly on maintenance work

Source: David Garrick, UT San Diego

— Faced with some of the region’s shabbiest roads, Escondido City Council members decided this week to nearly triple how much the city spends each year on paving and street maintenance.

“The condition of our streets just befuddles me,” Councilman Ed Gallo told his colleagues during their meeting Wednesday night. “We deserve nicer streets as residents of the city.”

More than 12 percent of Escondido’s roads are either “failing” or in “serious” condition, according to a recently completed evaluation of every city street.

And an additional 15.5 percent were deemed either “very poor” or “poor” by the survey, the first of its kind in city history.

On Wednesday, council members directed city staffers to spend a minimum of $4.7 million per year on road maintenance. The city has been spending about $1.7 million annually, and was slated to continue spending that amount.

“In the past, we have neglected the basic core functions of the city,” said Mayor Sam Abed, vowing to shift Escondido’s priorities.

Abed said he was embarrassed when a recent survey of regional road quality conducted by San Marcos found that Escondido had the worst roads in the region.

Ed Domingue, the city’s public works director, said Escondido’s roads would be even worse without some one-time state and federal grants the city received during the last four years.

Those grants boosted spending on road maintenance to an average of $3.5 million per year, including $5 million during the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Without the sharp increase in road maintenance money that council members approved Wednesday, Escondido would face a steadily increasing percentage of crumbling roads.

Projections created by city staff show that 42 percent of Escondido’s roads would be in failing or serious condition by 2029 if annual maintenance and paving expenditures remained at $1.7 million.

Things would get worse at the same level of expenditure because crumbling roads cost much more to repair and maintain, Julie Procopio, assistant director of public works, told the council Wednesday.

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Some of San Diego’s Worst Sidewalks

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Feb 212013

The Stumblr is a blog devoted to documenting some of the worst sidewalks in San Diego, California.  Some of these sidewalks would make for good X-Games ramps.


See more bad San Diego sidewalks here…