NIAGARA FALLS – The city this year plans to repave only about one-third of the amount of roadway it did four years ago.
The culprit, according to city leaders, is the casino cash crunch.
City officials announced plans for this season’s street repaving Monday morning, noting the amount of work is significantly less than what’s been done in previous years.
“For a while we were able to cover the casino revenue’s contribution to paving using other resources,” Mayor Paul A. Dyster said. “But over the course now of the last two years, we simply don’t have the cash available to do that.”
The city has not received a payment of slot machine revenue from the Seneca Nation of Indians since the spring of 2010. The Senecas and the state are in arbitration over a dispute in which the Senecas have withheld about $600 million in payments owed the state. The Senecas believe the state’s racetrack casinos violate their gambling exclusivity deal.
Four years ago, the city repaved about 299,000 square yards of roadway. This year’s plan calls for about 111,000 square yards to be repaved.
While noting that the preferred measure of the amount of repaving of streets is by volume, the number of streets on the repaving list this year is 24, down from 38 in 2010 and 35 in 2011, officials said.
All of the repaving – $1.1 million worth – will be paid for with municipal aid from the state for road work, known as CHIPS funding, or Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funds.
Currently, there are no streets in the DeVeaux neighborhood of Niagara Falls on the list for repaving, but city officials said that’s because they want to complete the Lewiston Road reconstruction project first. That’s expected to be done by midsummer.
The inconvenience and detours caused by the Lewiston Road project would be over when city crews show up to do the paving of side streets. Also, the aprons would be in place on the roadway to connect evenly with the side streets.
If the casino revenue does arrive this year, as Dyster expects, the city will repave more streets into the fall with the additional funding. Adding DeVeaux streets to the repaving list then is likely, Dyster said.
While less roadway will be paved this year, the city will be able to fill as many potholes as it did last year – 13,000, according to Public Works Director David L. Kinney.
The city will again use a machine known as the “pothole killer” to address potholes, a method that is faster and requires less manpower than traditional means. The price tag for the “pothole killer” is $70,000. Four pieces of the equipment are already at work, with one more expected to arrive soon.
In previous years, fewer “pothole killers” have been used at the same time, but in all, the city pays for 320 hours worth of the work.
The city also uses the “pothole zipper,” which it purchased for about $75,000, to mill and resurface small areas of road where pavement has deteriorated beyond a point where patching is effective.
With much of Read and Pasadena avenues already torn up and readied for repaving Monday morning, Andy and Carmen Montoro of Pasadena Avenue said this is the first time in the 50 years they’ve lived there that they remember the street being repaved.
“It really wasn’t bad until the last few years,” Carmen Montoro said.