This week Dallas leaders heard a report about the lack of progress on projects approved by voters in a bond referendum three years ago.
Only 39% of the projects in the $1 billion 2017 public improvement plan have been completed.
One example of the completed work is the $7.4 million Vickery Park Library about to open in northeast Dallas.
One example of the unfinished work is Ridgecrest Road right beside the library. The narrow pothole-filled road also serves schools and a community of apartments.
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“I know in front of our building there’s a big pothole that we always try to go around. It’s very busy for how poorly kept these streets are,” said resident Max Denton.
Many other Dallas projects from referendums as long ago as 2006 have not been finished.
“Voters are expecting to see a project completed. They shouldn't have to wait eight, 10, 15 years to get it done,” City Council Member Chad West said.
This week City Council Members were also told that street problems are getting worse each year because too little money is being spent on maintenance.
Current street maintenance spending of $137 million a year is not enough to stop the decline in street conditions.
A City Council briefing said about three times that much would be needed to provide a modest improvement in conditions.
“It's sort of like the national debt. We're punting it down the road, to be somebody else’s problem,” West said.
The COVID-19 pandemic further complicated city finances this year with a drastic decline in sales tax revenue.
But public safety and all the other city responsibilities leave too little money for proper maintenance, according to City Manager T.C. Broadnax.
“I think the numbers are staggering,” Broadnax said. “We've just got to get at it, take off small bites as much as we can, and stay focused on not defunding or going backwards when it comes to it.”
The city is considering a new approach to the problem, including new materials to help make streets last longer.
“We're not going to be looking just for funding. We're going to be looking to do something different,” said Assistant City Manager Majed Al Ghafry.
He also said the city hopes to complete nearly all the 2017 bond projects in the next two years.
Councilman West is concerned the goal is too optimistic.
“Is this realistic or are we painting a picture that’s not realistic for the public,” West said.
Max Denton said the street problem in his neighborhood is urgent.
“Especially with all the kids running around here, it's not safe,” he said.
The current plan for completing the Ridgecrest Road reconstruction is November 2024.
The City of Dallas is also considering another public improvement bond referendum of between $700 million and $1 billion in borrowed money for projects in 2024.
Officials are working on a new maintenance plan to put in place before then.