RICHARD EVANS uses a yardstick to show how the water access has sunken down in the street. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene


Street has that sinking feeling

By From page A1 | May 10, 2013

There’s a definite slump to Deena Court in the Deer Crossing subdivision of Placerville. The center of the street where the water mains are has sunk 8 inches. Of the five houses on the cul-de-sac, four of them have had to replace water regulators due to water pressure in excess of 100 pounds per square inch. One home also sustained damage due to flooding of water lines into the house. There are lumps and ruts in the asphalt, alligator cracks everywhere, loose gravel and failed pavement.

Placerville has many substandard streets, but Deena Court is in a subdivision that is only 23 years old. Deena Court resident Richard Evans has lived on the street since 2002 and he has been trying for a year to get the city to repair it. In researching the history of the subdivision, Evans found that the engineer’s estimate in 1990 that called for 8 inches of aggregate base with an overlay of 3 inches of asphalt cement was later changed on the grading plan to 4 inches of aggregate base with an overlay of 2.5 inches of asphalt cement. Sidewalks that were supposed to be constructed on the street were not and Evans’ elderly neighbors must traverse the broken and rutted pavement to get their mail or put out their garbage cans. Evans contacted the city to ask for help.

City Engineer Nate Stong responded in a letter dated April 5, 2012 , stating that groundwater was a contributing factor to the early failure of the pavements in the subdivision. The letter stated, “We will continue to monitor the condition of your street and as funding is available in accordance with our street prioritization process, we will make repairs at the appropriate time.”

Evans sent a letter to City Attorney John Driscoll on June 20 detailing the issues on Deena Court, but has not yet received a reply.

An October letter from Placerville City Engineer Nate Stong commends Evans for his research of the history of the subdivision and admits that the 2.5 inches of asphalt cement over 4 inches of aggregate base is not city standard. “To repair however, would mean reconstructing the entire street and we do not have the funds to do so at this time.”

Street repairs in the city of Placerville are prioritized on pavement condition and average daily traffic, according to the letter. “Regarding pavement condition, your street is actually faring better than most in the city and isn’t a candidate for immediate repair based on our available funding.” “Your neighborhood is on the priority list and will be repaired as funding becomes available.”

“These streets were not designed to carry the full weight of a full-size garbage truck that has to make a six-point turn on Deena Court, not to mention increasing the pickups to twice a week with a pounding pickup mechanism,” said  Evans.

The weight of large El Dorado Disposal garbage trucks may be too much for the street that city engineers have found substandard and a new, lighter truck is now being used. But the damage has not been repaired.
Groundwater, excessive weight on substandard streets and excessive water pressure have contributed to premature road failure, blown out water regulators, alligator cracking, broken asphalt, loose gravel and a sunken manhole in the middle of the cul-de-sac, said Evans.
Representatives from the Engineering Division and four city council members have looked at the site and responded to Evans. Evans said he doesn’t want the city to incur a lot of expense and is willing to work with city staff  to find funding such as Local Parks and Recreation grants or mitigation measures.
“I discussed sealing the big cracks to prevent further damage with a City Council member,” he said. “We wouldn’t need to reconstruct the entire street. I also want my questions answered. Why can’t they lift up the manhole and inspect what is happening? If water is undercutting the street, do we have to wait for a sinkhole to cause it all to fall in?

“The city said it doesn’t have the money to do repairs that could save them millions in the long run,” said Evans. “As a planning commissioner in the Bay Area I worked with cities that were broke before, so I understand, but what about doing things to mitigate the problem, things that wouldn’t cost much and would keep the problems from getting worse?”

The city has complied with Evans’ requests for soil compaction reports and maps. Stong said the water pressure was checked at the city’s end and found not to be excessive. “We get our water from EID and there are several interties over the city. One intertie station is at the intersection of Combellack Road and Highway 49. The water pressure is lower there and increases going down in elevation. In downtown Placerville the psi is 160; 80 psi is typical, so 100 psi is not excessive.”

Stong said if there was leakage from the water system, there would be much more pavement damage than is evident on Deena Court.

“The groundwater from irrigation of lawns on Debera Court in the same subdivision caused extensive pavement failure, so that street was repaired,” said Stong.

On April 9, city staff, including Stong and Community Development Director Mike Webb. met at Deena Court to look at the street. They measured the water pressure at Evans’ home and found it to be 65 psi.

“That means the regulator is doing its job,” said Webb at Tuesday’s Placerville City Council meeting, “but we also want to do a pressure test on the main line.”

Webb said he and City Manager Cleve Morris, Community Services Director Steve Youel and Stong will meet to research and discuss the street conditions and prepare a response to Evans’ concerns.

Councilwoman Carol Patton asked if there was a prioritized list for street repairs.

“We have a list, but it’s not a priority list; it’s more a grading of the streets according to conditions,” said Morris. “Some of the most damaged streets may not have the highest priority — that involves other factors like the amount of use and funding that might be available.”

Mayor Wendy Mattson requested a report about the street and the steps for resolution to come to Placerville City Council before May 9.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Wendy Schultz

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