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Road bonds can wait until better economy

Road bonds can wait until better economy

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With the economy slipping into deep recession, now isn’t a good time to sell the $134 million in city transportation bonds approved decisively by voters earlier this month.

Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson’s cautious approach is appropriate: “We’re going to wait until the economy is better and we can get a good deal.”

However, that doesn’t preclude at least moving ahead with preliminary planning and being ready, just in case a tight market sends contractors looking for new business at bargain prices.

That may not happen soon. Unless there’s a major turnaround, road-building costs likely will continue rising, at least modestly, despite the economy. Earlier this year, before the outlook worsened, city officials predicted transportation construction costs would increase by 20 percent annually.

The unexpected pause while the city waits for a seller-friendly bond market will allow time for setting priorities. Among them should be finally getting around to a half-dozen sidetracked road projects approved by voters eight years ago.

Unfortunately, money from that $74 million bond issue ran out long before work could begin on improvements to portions of Battleground Avenue, North Church Street, and Vandalia and Stanley roads.

Fair or not, those projects now must compete against ones on the new list. Yet, they shouldn’t be cast aside as yesterday’s news.

If they had merit eight years ago, they still do.

When it comes to road work, time does not stand still. City streets deteriorate in good times as well as bad and must be repaired.

Back in June, the city decided to suspend paving as a budget-cutting measure despite a report from engineers that 20 percent of city streets needed to be redone immediately.

But even without paving, the city could face substantial costs should cold weather raise havoc. Recent mild, snow- and ice-free winters have lessened the need for seasonal maintenance and road repairs, but you never know.

There’s always the danger of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. As Raleigh city officials can attest, suspending routine maintenance can lead to major problems that cost more to fix.

The same proactive approach applies to letting bonds. While now isn’t the time to proceed, the City Council should stay abreast of economic trends and be prepared to act on short notice.

Delaying overdue improvements won’t be popular with fuming motorists stuck on traffic-choked streets. Although voters sent a clear message to move on, the time just isn’t right.

Hopefully, this will be just another, albeit familiar, bump in the road.


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