Fix my street: How does the city of Houston decide which roads to repair?

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Have you ever wondered how the city of Houston decides which roads to repair, rehabilitate and reconstruct?

Why is it that some of the roads you see are being fixed up, while the lousy road you live on stays the same?

Channel 2 Investigates met with Walter Hambrick, assistant director of Houston Public Works, to get an idea of what criteria, what factors city engineers look at when they decide to rehabilitate or rebuild a city roadway.

Here’s what we learned while visiting a road panel replacement project underway on Richmond Avenue.

Factor No. 1: How many times has the road already been repaired? Because at some point, repairs don’t work anymore

Hambrick: "So Bill, what we have here is extensive patching and repatching that’s occurred on this street panel. We have multiple areas where extreme patching has been performed. This is now beyond patching."

In other words, at some point, overpatching, or covering up the road defect, in itself becomes a problem and the panel on the road need to be replaced.

Factor No. 2: There is severe cracking everywhere and major parts of the road are separating

Hambrick: "What we have here is extensive cracking and joint separation. This joint here shows the panels moving away from each other and this is a big problem patching won’t fix."

Factor No. 3: The curbs are starting to disappear and there is almost no curb left due to repeated patching

Hambrick: "So what we have here is a panel that has settled; we patched so many times that we’ve lost the curb. I mean, you see how much curb we have left. It’s almost nothing."

Curbs are an important factor when it comes to safety. Roads need curbs in place.

Factor No. 4: Ride quality

Hambrick: "You see this car coming down the road here, we are seeing a real ride quality issue here because the car is moving up and down. All the cars are moving up and down because of the imperfections in the roadway surface."

The message on this is clear: At some point, too many patches and too many repairs turn a roadway into one giant, bumpy washboard, which can be dangerous to drive on.

How to report road issues

The city of Houston has more than 16,000 miles of roadway to maintain.

In order to cover an area that big and repair problems, engineers need to know about those problems.

The fastest and easiest way to report a problem a roadway and make sure the city knows about it is to use Houston’s 311 phone app, which can be downloaded for free.

Residents can also log onto the city’s new and improved Build Houston Forward website to see exactly which roads in an area are being improved.

Enter a ZIP code for a look at road projects in a particular neighborhood.

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