We believe a pavement study, approved by the Madison city commissioners Monday and to be conducted by South Dakota State University, is a great idea. Probably.
The study's intent is to help city personnel evaluate more fully the condition of Madison streets, outline cost-effective maintenance methods and help determine a long-term plan to effectively maintain or improve the city's streets.
We really like the idea of an in-depth study. Maintaining asphalt streets in our climate is very expensive, and we're certain that there are new materials, designs and methods that will extend the lives of our streets.
Not surprisingly, the underlying substrate beneath the streets is a big factor in how long the surface lasts. The study will include borings which will analyze the whole roadbed.
If the study results can help the city improve its paving and maintenance program, it will be a big win for all residents and businesses.
In the back of our mind, however, is the thought that some cities use a study like this for a different purpose: to justify raising taxes to spend more on streets. In that case, the consultant delivers predetermined results that say "more money is needed", and the city officials can say "look, a professional consultant says more money is needed."
We don't believe that is the case in Madison, but we'll find out when the results come back. Will it suggest new methods that improve construction and maintenance, or will it merely say more money is needed?