Faced with a cash-strapped Public Works budget, an endless supply of potholes, property tax unrest and a non-profit laden tax base, the City of Saint Paul is looking to a new policy approach to maintaining its streets. Using municipal technology grant from the Bloomberg Foundation, the city is set to debut a new road funding approach called Pavement in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), in the hopes of replacing road maintenance funding that was lost in a recent lawsuit
“The people have been speaking, loud and clear, and we have heard them,” said Geli Tripping, Mayor Carter’s Resiliency Director. “We received a lot of feedback from folks upset about wasteful spending on things like trash collection or stop signs. This program will offer a fresh approach, and fresh pavement.”
The city’s PILOT program allows individual drivers to use self-assessed fees to fund their own individual patches of pavement for personal and collective driving needs. Drivers interested in improving road quality in Saint Paul simply vote using a city-sponsored app in order to direct individual funds to fund specific stretches of road, selecting pavement as specific as individual lanes they choose to use. With just the click of a button, even drivers from surrounding suburbs who are just passing through Saint Paul will be able to donate to fill individual potholes, or offer to fund a percentage of the roads on the route they drive every day.
“It’s like crowdsourcing,” said Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Director of Innovation, “if enough people want to pay to drive on a road or urban freeway, then it’ll be in great shape. It’s a bottom-up approach to road construction.”
The hope is that, after a few months of a coordinated public relations campaign, the new PILOT program will help roads pay for themselves, saving the city a lot of pavement expenses from the General Fund that can be used for other things like affordable housing or basic services.
First on the docket will be a major push to kickstart the long-troubled city-owned Ayd Mill Road, which has experienced so many potholes that it is close to undriveable. In the first stage of the new PILOT program, the 60s era freeway will be renamed “Ayn Rand Mill Road” in honor of the conservative writer Ayd Rand, who lived in Saint Paul for a few years growing up. A ceremony to rededicate the road is set to take place this summer.