A large crack stretches across the northbound lane of North Prince Street at the intersection of Llano Estacado Boulevard. (Staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
Past the housing units, the businesses and the hospital, West 21st Street turns to dirt. Young rancher Fred Davis lives on that dusty road, and he has a complaint.
The road to his home abruptly plunges to make way for a cement drainage cup, and his Ford pickup truck takes a beating, he said.
The 19-year-old spent more than $1,000 realigning his truck, which he alleges was pushed out of whack by the West 21st dip, and the poor condition of Clovis roads in general.
“They suck,” Davis said. “They need to be upgraded.”
The water drainage system in Clovis — a plot of dips in the road that juts through downtown — is useless, Davis said. “The streets flood anyway when we do get rain. They aren’t doing any good,” he said.
Clovis streets, some littered with potholes and fissures, and others chopped up by drainage dips, can damage vehicles, according to local mechanics.
“The rough roads are shortening the life on vehicles,” said Carl McDaniel, owner of a Clovis auto repair shop.
Alignment and tires absorb the brunt of damage from rough roads, McDaniel said. Dust and dirt, prevalent in the region, can coat brake systems and exacerbate wear and tear, mechanics also said.
On a hot day in the middle of the week, signs of a healthy business abound at the A-1 Alignment Center. The parking lot is full, and three sturdy-looking trucks are sheltered underneath the garage, with two suspended in the air. Owner Gary Elliott bustles around the garage, shadowed by the trucks.
“We get plenty of business, and the roads may be the reason for a lot of it,” Elliott said.
“If they were fixed,” he chuckled, “it would probably drive down business.”
Perhaps unfortunately for Elliott, city officials have mapped a 10-year plan to repair local roads.
For the past three years, a fresh layer of asphalt has been laid over roads in good enough condition to be salvaged, according to the street superintendent with the Clovis Public Works department, Clint Bunch.
“I believe the roads in Clovis are getting better. A lot of old roads are getting back up to par,” Bunch said.
In the next seven years, the city will pour $900,000 annually into road overlay projects, wherein an inch of asphalt will be spread over some existing roads, Bunch said. City commissioners have already budgeted the improvements, City Commissioner Robert Sandoval said. And the road revamps should be spread evenly throughout Clovis’ four districts, he said.
A well-traveled portion of Prince Street, dubbed by city officials as one of the neediest areas in Clovis, has also been granted a major facelift. The state allocated roughly $1 million for the re-pavement of Prince Street, from 21st Street to Llano Estacado Boulevard. The bumpy stretch of road is in such disarray it must be shaved down four inches and then re-paved, Bunch said. Two lanes for traffic will be kept open during the construction, slated to begin in July and wrap-up by the end of summer, Bunch said.
But ownership issues often stymie efforts to revamp roads, according to Bunch. Any extension of a state highway is owned by the state, and major repairs must be done on the state’s timetable, Bunch said.
Minor repairs, such as fixing up potholes, cleaning up debris, and painting stripes on the road, can be conducted at the city level, he said.
Still, the condition of roads in Clovis leaves Sandoval yearning to do more.
“We can’t do as much as we want to.
“The problem is, where do we get the money? We don’t want to raise taxes. It is a matter of budget. You do what you can with the money you’ve got,” the commissioner said.