Work to resurface hundreds of streets in Pensacola’s downtown area as well as the central and western portions of the city has been completed, officials announced Tuesday.
Ongoing since March of last year, the resurfacing work is part of a larger $30 million citywide infrastructure effort which includes resurfacing about 1,800 blocks of city streets and replacing some 46 miles of aging cast-iron natural gas pipes. Around 680 blocks were repaved in the downtown area, officials said. Resurfacing work will continue in the north and northeast sections of the city, with completion expected late this year.
The resurfacing program came under fire in recent months as contractors and city officials repeatedly violated city policy in relation to historic brick streets. In August, contractors were ordered to halt work on Hayne Street near the Pensacola Police Department headquarters after crews removing asphalt uncovered a historic brick street surface. The contractor didn’t notify the city of the discovery as required by city policy, and continued to mill the street, damaging the brick surface. City officials only became aware of the discovery after being asked about it by The Pulse.
While nearby residents of the Old East Hill neighborhood pushed for the brick street to be restored, the city ultimately chose to recover it with asphalt on a federal holiday last month.
The same contractor uncovered and again damaged a section of historic brick on Guillemard Street, but quickly moved to resurface the street with asphalt despite a city policy that requires notification of neighborhoods and an eight-week waiting period when brick streets are uncovered.
City spokesman Vernon Stewart said at the time that the city’s public works department took care not to include “any streets that were known or suspected to have historic paving elements” in the resurfacing program, but confirmed 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 that “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.”