To the Editor:

For more than 15 years (1987-2003) in my capacity as a city official, I oversaw the operation and maintenance of your city’s 1,400 miles of streets.

During those years, our citizens, taxpayers and voters funded our street resurfacing and preventative maintenance programs through a variety of methods. Back then, the results spoke for themselves and I believe we faithfully completed those repairs, thanks to the hard work of many city employees ,as well as our partners in the private sector.

Now, with so much inaccurate — and even misinformation — circulating in some of the local media, I feel compelled to help set the record straight on the merits of the ballot item known as 2C.

Although we enjoy one of the most favorable climates in the nation for tourism and outdoor activities, the truth is we have one of the worst climates in the country in terms of the number of freeze-thaw cycles. Without adequate preventative maintenance, our warm days and cool nights can be devastating to asphalt pavements and our system is now deteriorating at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Worse yet, unless the current funding levels increase, we soon will be facing a catastrophic situation from which it will take decades and hundreds of millions of our precious and limited tax dollars to recover.

From a technical perspective, I’m convinced our streets are rapidly approaching a “point of no return.” Without a comprehensive maintenance and repair program, our street conditions will continue to deteriorate, but what’s not well understood is the rate at which the asphalt distress is occurring is rapidly accelerating. Sadly, the inevitable consequence is that it will cost us far more to repair our streets in the future than it would be to maintain them today.

To better illustrate the urgency of the situation, a good analogy might be to consider one place where literally the “rubber meets the road” — your car. Failing to do basic maintenance (think: $20 oil changes) on your new car would be considered irresponsible and could cost you thousands in mechanical repair bills over the long run. No one would ignore maintenance on a new car; yet for a variety of reasons, our community has failed to address the maintenance needs of our street system in the last several years.

Pay me now — or pay me far, far more later. It’s that simple.

It’s worth noting that cities who have failed to adequately fund one of the most basic functions of government — street maintenance — can attest to repair bills that often approach hundreds of thousands and in some cases, even $1 million, yes – a million dollars per mile of street. Again, keep in mind that we have more than 1,000 “centerline miles” of streets in our community. Simply put, our future, our economy and even the very fabric of our community will enter a downward spiral unless we turn this situation around and demonstrate we, as citizens, can solve our own problems.

No funding scheme is perfect — and in many respects, this one doesn’t go quite far enough. A permanent financial solution will still be needed to properly maintain our existing transportation network. And, I believe our local officials need to devise a system to address how to meet the needs of the new infrastructure which our developers will continue to build and dedicate to our city in the years to come, further compounding the problem.

In short, the ballot item won’t fix every problem forever, but I believe it’s a good start. I’m sure our Mayor, City Council and our city’s dedicated public works professionals will continue to work on these important and complex issues. They are worthy of our trust.

More importantly, I believe this solution does merit your support. Period.

I urge you to vote YES on Item 2C —  the very fabric of our community depends on it.


Dave Zelenok

Former Street Superintendent and Director of Public Works/Transportation, City of Colorado Springs