City repairs historic brick street for first time in 30 years
Richard Stone, the engineering manager for Public Works, said the city does not have the funding to repair historic brick streets or roads in general.
“Because it is labor intensive and fairly costly and we don't have enough money to do the entire street,” Stone said. “We had to select certain areas that are beyond what needs to be functional for the time being.”
Bricks deteriorate over time but are more costly to fix than other paving material. The city is putting a layer of concrete under the bricks to smooth the street and make them last longer. They are currently sitting on a layer of dirt and rocks.
“The underlining structure of the road is the most important thing,” Stone said. “This is what will keep the bricks in the shape we want them to be in.”
The underlying structure is what also will make it an easier ride for the cars that constantly go over the street. Residents have know University Avenue to be a harsh ride.
John Kiley has lived on University Avenue for the last two years and said he was thrilled to find out city would be making his everyday commute a little easier.
“I usually avoid it, I take a way around it if I can,” Kiley said.
He has never had a serious incident on the street but said he has neighbors who have had issues driving on the brick.
“If there are other people in the car it bounces everyone around,” Kiley said. “I know people who have scrapped the bottom of their cars because of the bumps.”
Kiley said he's not sure the city is approaching the repairs in the best way.
“If they are going to put new bricks in they might as well pave the road, it’s the only brick road around here,” he said.
But the city has a brick street policy to make sure the brick street feel is maintained.
The policy says, “The city of Columbia protects and encourages the expression of its historic and natural character, uniting the community with sustainable, healthy planning and design, beautifying the streets and lives of its citizens.”
Columbia’s brick streets were recognized by the Historic Preservation Commission as the most notable property in 2009.
Brent Gardner used to work with the commission and wrote the policy himself. He said the city used to just throw the bricks away, not realizing their value.
Gardner doesn't work with the commission but still gets called when the city is not taking proper care of a brick street.
"I get contacted all the time from people saying 'hey the city dug this up and just tossed the bricks aside,'" Gardner said. "I will then contact public works who will tell me we are going to do this right."
Gardner has a message for people like Kiley, who would prefer something other than brick.
"I would tell him that that they "'tell a story and besides that economic impact of being cheaper for the city, they are just fun.'"
The city will continue fixing the brick streets when the proper funding is available.