For at least the second time in a week, a City of Pensacola repaving project has damaged historic brick streets, running afoul of the city’s own brick street policy adopted last year.
City council members in 2016 adopted a resolution which made it city policy to restore brick streets when possible. The policy requires city officials to notify neighborhood residents when historic brick streets are uncovered.
A contractor’s milling machine uncovered and heavily damaged a section of historic brick on Guillemard Street Monday, between Brainerd and Gonzalez streets. Despite the fact that the brick runs the length of the block, all but a small section were resurfaced with asphalt, contrary to the policy.
The city is currently in the middle of a massive $30 million resurfacing project around the city’s downtown core, spanning from Bayou Chico to Old East Hill and the Seville historic district and involving 119 miles of city streets. Crew last week similarly uncovered and damaged a section of historic brick paving along North Hayne Street, causing city officials to order a halt to resurfacing work in that area.
City officials did not immediately return a request for comment, but said last week that efforts were made ahead of the project to exclude areas with known brick streets. “Before the current program started care was taken by the public works department to not include any streets that were known or suspected to have historic paving elements,” said city spokesman Vernon Stewart.
Stewart confirmed Friday that the city does not have any formal inventory of where brick streets are known or suspected to exist.
While asphalt resurfacing is less expensive than restoring a historic brick street, studies have shown that brick streets last much longer with substantially less maintenance. The average asphalt street in Pensacola lasts just 15 years, city officials said, while some of Pensacola’s brick streets have been in use for more than 100 years.
A 2006 study advocating for brick paving said, “While the initial cost to repair a brick street today can be high in comparison to asphalt or concrete streets, they require very little maintenance, they never get potholes, and they can be expected to last 50 to 100 years.”
The 2016 policy wasn’t the first time that city officials recognized the value of brick streets. In 2002, the city restored brick streets along two blocks of both Barcelona and West Gadsden streets at a cost of $2,000 per block, which was actually $1,000 less than resurfacing the same block with asphalt. To lower the costs of reconstructing the street, the city advocated for the use of road prison crews to perform the labor.