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Apportionment of the Cost - Pavement Economics

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APPORTIONMENT OF THE COST - PAVEMENT ECONOMICS. There is much discus sion as to who in equity should bear the cost of the pavement. There are three distinct views. 1. A few claim that as they own neither a horse nor a vehicle and do not use the pavement, they should not be required to pay for it. Although a resident may not travel upon the pavement, it is used by those who serve him; and a pavement confers other benefits besides those relating to transportation. It is entirely impracticable to distribute the ex pense according to the use made of the pavement. 2. Others claim that the pavement is for the benefit of the general public of the city at large, and hence the abutting property should pay no more than that in other parts of the city. This claim ignores the fact that the abutting property secures a distinct benefit for which it should be required to pay. Laying at least part of the cost upon the property tends to discourage a demand for lavish expendi tures for unnecessary improvements, that possibly might he in sisted upon if the city contributed the entire cost. 3. Many hold that the benefits accrue only to the abutting property, and that therefore the over of the abutting property should bear the entire cost. This, claim disregards the fact that the pavement is for the use of the general public, and benefits all the people and all those having busine:ss interests in the city. An improvement in any part of the city is an indirect benefit to the city as a whole. In excuse of this method of payment, it is sometimes claimed that, although the pavement confers a general benefit, the inequality will be compensated when all the streets are paved. The answer is that all the streets may never be paved, and besides traffic natu rally concentrates on certain lines and nearly ignores certain others, and therefore some pavements will require much more care and ex pense than others. Further, there should be no objection to letting every property holder pay a part of his ultimate share as the work progresses, instead of paying it in a lump sum when the street in front of his own property is paved. The second or third view or a combination of them usually obtains. Table 33, page 298, shows the method of apportioning the expense in fifty American cities.* The practice is slightly different for the grading, the original paving, and the re-paving. The cost of grading in 54 per cent of these cities is all paid by the abutting property, in 32 per cent all by the city, and in 14 per cent part by each in varying proportions. The cost of the original paving in 62 per cent of the cities is charged entirely to the private owner, in 22 per cent entirely to the city, and in 16 per cent it is divided between the two. The cost of re-paving in 42 per cent of the cities is paid wholly by the property, in 40 per cent wholly from the general tax, and in 18 per cent it is di vided between the two. In some cities a street in an addition or

subdivision is not accepted by the municipal authorities until it has been graded, and hence it is done at the expense of the abut ting property; but on the other hand, some cities are willing to bear a part of the cost of the street improvement, and therefore pay for the grading. Only one quarter of the above cities pay the major part of the cost of the original paving, while 40 per cent pay the major part of the cost of re-paving. It is the custom, where there is a car track on the street, to require the railroad to pave an 8-foot strip for each track, the remainder being divided be tween the abutting property and the city at large in the same pro portion as on the streets where there is no track. In some cities intersecting streets are regarded as municipal property, and the cost of paving the intersection is assessed against the street, i. e., against the city; but in others the cost of paving the street inter sections is included in the charge against the abutting property. In most cities lots owned by the municipality pay the same propor tion of the cost of the street improvements as private property, although usually special authority is required thus to assess mu nicipal property.

Table 33 also shows that as a rule the eastern and southern cities pay a larger proportion of the cost of pavements than do the western. This difference in practice is probably due chiefly to the limited revenues of new cities and to the many demands upon the general tax for the numerous and varied necessities of rapid growing municipalities; consequently the cost of pavements, im provements having a definite local benefit, have been charged to the abutting property. It is equitable and just that the cost should be borne jointly by the private property and the city at large, since then the cost falls upon both interests which directly profit by the improvement, and neither receive a substantial benefit without sharing in its cost.

Ordinarily the proportion of the expense to be borne by the municipality and by the private property is determined wholly by financial considerations or usage, and is made uniform over the entire city; while equity and justice demand that a distinction should be made depending upon the character of the traffic. The interests of the general public in a street vary greatly between a residence street, a business street, and a general thoroughfare. To pave the first the public should pay only a small share, say, 20 or 30 per cent; for the second, say, 40 or 50 per cent; and for the third 60 or 75 per cent. Some such variation in the proportion to be borne by the two interests finds further justification in the fact that if the street becomes a general thoroughfare, some of the benefits enumerated in § 442 as accruing to the abutting prop erty may be nullified by the noise and dirt.