Arnoux Estime, a retired hospital worker, has lived on 14th Avenue South for more than 30 years.
For many of those years, the road outside Estime’s four-bedroom home, has been awful.
“It was rough,” said Estime, 74. “Whenever it rained, we’d get flooded. My car would get messed up.”
Wesline Desinat, who lives next door to Estime, had the same issues.
“There were so many cracks and potholes,” she said. “It wasn’t safe.”
That changed earlier this month when the city finished resurfacing 14th Avenue South between Tropical Drive and Burton Road.
The street was scheduled to be resurfaced in year 2 or 3 as part of the 4-year, $40 million neighborhood road project, according to Jamie Brown, the city’s public services director.
But since crews were already on site performing underground utilities work on Tropical Drive and Burton Road, the city decided to fix 14th Avenue South early.
“It made sense because we already had the contractor out there to knock that out, so we did that road, too,” Brown said. “It was a lot cheaper because we wouldn’t have to have someone go back out there again.”
The total project took about six months to complete.
The city budgeted about $140,000 for the 14th Avenue South work, Brown said.
It wound up spending $40,000 by doing the job ahead of schedule.
Estime said the work made a big difference.
“Everybody likes something nice,” he said. “Now the road is the way it should be.”
But that’s only one road in a city that, at times, appears to have more potholes than residents. The city still has a long way to go in the project, made possible in November when a whopping 69 percent of residents approved the city spending $40 million to help fix a problem that has dogged Lake Worth for decades.
The road work is the largest capital improvement project in the city’s history. Through a property tax increase, the city said Lake Worth residents will be paying back the money for 30 years. With finance charges, the total price tag will be $69 million, according to the city.
Three years ago, a $63 million bond referendum failed by only 25 votes out of more than 3,000 votes cast.
On average, City Manager Michael Bornstein has said homeowners can expect to pay an additional $78 annually in property taxes — an extra $6.50 a month. That’s for a home valued at $100,000 and that has a $50,000 homestead exemption. Bornstein said close to 70 percent of the homes in the city are valued at $100,000 or less.
A.D.A. Engineering, a West Palm Beach firm, compiled data on Lake Worth roads on behalf of the city. In 2014, A.D.A. gave the roads a “fair” 74.7 rating overall, while reporting that 10 percent of the roads were in poor condition.
The overall score fell to 68.1 this year, with 22 percent of the roads now considered poor.
Construction on year one projects is scheduled to start in the fall, Brown said.
“We’re excited that it’s finally happening,” Brown said. “No one has seen much because it’s been all design work, but once we start all the construction, people will be shocked how much it’s happening and how quickly it’s happening.”
According to city officials, some of the roads that will be repaired in the first year include 12th Avenue South, Cochran Drive, North J Street, South J Street, 13th Avenue North to 20th Avenue North and Terrace Drive West.
A 1,091-foot stretch on Cochran Drive from Major Drive to Moor Drive will be the most expensive project at $437,045, the city has said.
The city said the worst roads are first in line to fix.
Besides fixing potholes, the city said the project will improve transportation through traffic-calming devices and by adding such features as curbs, sidewalks, and signs.
Construction for year two is expected to start in February, Brian Shields, the city’s water utilities director, told city commissioners in March.
Although the work is much-needed, it will cause some disruptions as crews tear up roads to make them look like new. The city has held many meetings with residents to inform them when the work will be done and to get their input.
Gerry Choisy, a 13-year-old Lantana Middle School student who lives on 14th Avenue South, said his street was a mess for a long time.
“It was a real journey to get to school and I had to keep my clothes from getting dirty,” he said. “But at least our road looks good now.”