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Richmond Officials Say New Investments In Road Paving Are Paying Off

road crew
FILE PHOTO: A crew from Richmond's Department of Public Works prepares a pothole for filling on Monument Avenue. (Photo: Roberto Roldan/VPM News)

Potholes and bad roads are a common complaint of Richmond residents. So much so that Mayor Levar Stoney proposed doubling the budget for road and sidewalk paving last year.

While that proposal was scrapped after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the city’s investment in road repaving has increased over the last few years. Data presented to Richmond City Council on Monday showed the new investments are paying off. According to the Department of Public Works, 43 percent of Richmond’s roads are now rated “good” or better compared to 35 percent in 2018. 

Bobby Vincent, who heads DPW, drew a direct line from new investments to better streets.

“We’re on par to having a city where the amount of potholes are being reduced, and that reduction is a direct correlation to the amount of investment we are having,” he said.

Vincent also told City Council that the increased funding, along with the new RVA311 maintenance reporting system, has also led to a reduction in citizen reports of potholes. In 2020, the city got 2,203 pothole fix requests, down from 4,246 in 2018.  

The city still remains far behind where it wants to be. 

Vincent told City Council in 2019 that Richmond would need to invest $104 million in order to fix its roads and sidewalks. Despite some new investment since then, more than half of Richmond’s roads are rated below “good.”

Funding for road paving is also likely to dip this year. The budget presented by Stoney in March would provide $16.7 million dollars to pave 230 lane miles and install 600 sidewalk ramps. That’s compared to $20 million spent last fiscal year to pave 302 lane miles. 

Still, Vincent said he expects road conditions to keep improving as long as it remains a priority.

“By the year 2026, we should be at the point where we are approaching 80 percent of our city streets being ‘good’ and/or better,” he said.

The data provided to City Council came as part of the annual paving plan presentation. As part of the presentation, Vincent also gave a conditions update on roads and sidewalks within City Council districts.

Richmond’s 5th District, which includes the Randolph and Oregon Hill neighborhoods, has the worst roads in the city with only 34 percent rated “good” or better. Richmond’s 3rd, 6th and 9th Districts have the best roads, with all three around 52 percent “good” or better.

Richmond’s sidewalk infrastructure is faring much better with 62 percent rated “good” or “very good.”

The Department of Public Works plans to staff six new work crews in the coming year specifically focused on sidewalk repairs. The  backlog of sidewalk maintenance requests would take about five and a half years to finish with current resources, according to the presentation. Bringing on six new crews would bring the backlog down to about a year and a half.