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Tired Of Metal Plates And Potholes? Kansas City Now Requires Utilities To Fix Streets They Tear Up

Traffic moves past a crumbling part of Troost Avenue where the pavement is crumbling around a series of sewer maintenance holes Friday afternoon.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Traffic moves past a crumbling section of Troost Avenue where a series of sewer maintenance holes expose metal plates. The new ordinance will require utilities to embed the plates below ground.

A plan passed Thursday by the Kansas City Council requires utilities to do a better job fixing streets after underground work and mandates better coordination between the city and utilities.

On the tidy blocks of the Blue Hills Association in south Kansas City, a family neighborhood where residents walk their dogs and meet on the street to visit with one another, Valerie Watson, 68, says her entire block has been torn up since October 2020, when workers installed new pipes.

“We called the city, they said it was the water department,” she said. “We have a neighbor who actually works for the city and even he couldn’t get anything done. We don’t know what the hold up is!”

Watson said gravel and holes now run the entire block on one side of the street. There are puddles every time it rains. Cars are forced onto the wrong side of the street to avoid the mess, endangering walkers and children riding their bikes.

“It just shouldn’t be affected so badly for a whole year,” she sighed.

Working together

The new ordinance requires utilities to work more closely with the city and provide a timeline along with maps and annual updates of capital improvements.

The transportation director of the city's Public Works department, Jason Waldron, told a committee meeting earlier this week that the new policy updates criteria for infrastructure repairs, but focuses, in particular, on the city's approach to utility repairs. He said the complaints about work in midtown were the catalysts for the change.

"We had just repaved 39th St., and we had a few holes cut into that," he said. "(The conversation) caused us to reflect on how we communicate with our utilities, how they repair our pavement and a reexamination of the costs associated with those cuts and repairs."

Under the new rule, utilities will embed metal plates underneath the pavement, use compacted fill material to avoid sinking and potholes and repave entire lanes where cuts are made on surfaces at least five years old. Utilities will also be required to combine a series of patches less than 10 feet apart into one large patch.

Dozens of utilities contract with the city to provide cable, energy and water. Evergy, Inc. provides energy to 1.6 million people across Kansas and Missouri. In an email to KCUR, the company said it is still reviewing the requirements set out in the new ordinance.

"Today, we work with community leaders to closely coordinate necessary maintenance and repairs to our system to maintain and improve reliability," the statement read.

Following the council vote, Mayor Quinton Lucas said, "(Thursday’s) action means we will no longer see our streets torn up, often after resurfacing, without full lane replacements — avoiding potholes and road decay in the future. Terribly patched streets become terrible Kansas City roads.”

Lucas said the lack of coordination has wasted city resources and manpower “for generations.”

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