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Frank Gray

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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Recent repaving of Ransom Drive does not include curb cuts. The city has eliminated curb cuts in repaving work.

Hot topic of paving: To cut or not to cut

Pat Hipskind was in Arlington Park a few weeks ago where his crews were busy tearing up the cracked and heaving concrete road and laying new concrete.

It’s called reconstructing streets, and the city has about 50 miles of concrete streets that over the past 50 years have fallen into disrepair.

The city has now embarked on a plan to fix a half century of deterioration, replacing between 6 and 10 miles of road each year for the next several years.

Hipskind, who’s been doing concrete work with the city since the 1970s, is doing part of the work.

It used to be, Hipskind says, when the city reconstructed a street it would take out the drive aprons and the curb and create a gently sloping approach so cars pulling into and out of the drive wouldn’t have to go over that big bump created by what is called a rolling curve.

That was always the first thing neighbors asked, Hipskind said, are you going to get rid of the bump?

A guy owns a house and it’s finally paid for and his kids have moved out and he buys himself a toy, a sports car, and it bottoms out every time he goes over the curb pulling into his driveway, Hipskind says.

Sometimes you have to cut the curbs so you can tinker with the grade of the road and improve drainage, but in the past few years, Hipskind says, the city quit cutting the curb and repaving those aprons. Hipskind doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

“They’re spending way too much money not to do it right,” Hipskind says.

He says he’s tangled with city officials over the issue, “But they blow me off like I don’t know (bleep). I’ve been doing this for 40 years. I’ve forgotten more than they know.”

Hipskind, who is literally counting the days until he retires, says other contractors agree with him, but contractors I talked to said they didn’t want to get into this fight.

From what I was told by city officials, Hipskind isn’t totally off base. City officials said that seven or eight years ago it was determined that repaving driveway aprons, which are in the right of way, and cutting curbs wasn’t a good use of funds. Oh, they do that work when they have to re-profile a street in order to improve drainage and deal with standing water, or if an apron is in such bad shape that you can’t connect the curb.

Bob Kennedy, the city’s public works director, took exception to Hipskind’s comment that “you may as well do it right.”

“We are doing it right,” Kennedy said. “We’ve walked every foot of every street,” and engineers have looked at drainage issues.

No city has that kind of money to install new aprons and curb cuts for every drive, Kennedy said. That would add $200,000 a mile to the cost of the reconstruction. Kennedy said they were working on one cul de sac where there were 22 driveways in an 800-foot stretch. It would be a huge expense to spend an extra $1,400 to $2,000 a drive.

Of course, if you’re sick of having to creep over the rolling curb or bottoming out your Corvette every time you pull in or out, there are solutions. You can hire your own contractor to cut the curb and repour the apron. Hipskind has had some customers pay extra to have that done.

Hipskind acknowledges this is a slippery slope. If you do that for one person, everybody else wants it done, he said.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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