County road maintenance falls behind as funding disappears
by Joe Shreve
Nov 17, 2011 | 1896 views | 4 4 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
El Rancho Drive in the Pasatiempo area is one of many county roads that has fallen into disrepair. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
El Rancho Drive in the Pasatiempo area is one of many county roads that has fallen into disrepair. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
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Felton Empire Road, on the way up to Bonny Doon has many potholes. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Felton Empire Road, on the way up to Bonny Doon has many potholes. Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
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Santa Cruz County residents may want to buckle up for a bumpy ride, because the county’s cash-strapped Department of Public Works faces the real possibility of having to look closer to home for money to maintain and repair crumbling roadways.

The sour economy, falling gas tax revenues and drying-up federal and state funds have contributed to a situation in which, save for pothole and emergency repair, the county is unable to effectively repave, maintain or upgrade any but a handful of main arteries among the county’s 600 miles of roads, said Public Works Director John Presleigh.

“We need to be doing basic maintenance on our roads, and there’s no money to get it done,” Presleigh said. “We’re looking for anything that can raise money.”

What little federal cash that does arrive, he said, is specifically earmarked for what are known as “federal aid routes” — main arterial roads, such as Empire Grade and Mount Hermon, Bear Creek and Graham Hill roads — and legally cannot be used to repave smaller rural roadways and residential streets.

Santa Cruz County roads are rated at 49 on an average pavement condition index, with a score of 100 being a new road and zero considered a failed road, according to a county-funded report by Nichols Consulting Engineers.

The average of 49 includes the 160 miles of federal aid routes, which separately average a much stronger score of 71.

At this point, Presleigh said, the deferred cost of maintenance to the county’s roads stands at $112 million, meaning it would take about that much money to properly upgrade and resurface all 600 miles of road. In four years’ time, the consulting firm estimates, that cost could be nearly $200 million. The total public works budget this fiscal year is $29.6 million, with only a portion dedicated to road maintenance.

With those bleak estimates, and with daily letters and phone calls to the department about deteriorating roads from communities countywide, Presleigh said more drastic fundraising methods are being considered.

At the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, several ways to find money locally — including sales tax measures and fees — were presented for the board’s consideration. The supervisors have not made any decisions.

The goal behind any of those measures would be to become a “self-help agency,” Presleigh said, which simply means local residents would have to foot some of the bill to keep up the roads they use.

“If folks want their roads fixed, we need to look inwards,” he said. “Because we’re not going to get any help from the state or the (federal government).”

To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at joe@pressbanner.com, call 438-2500 or post a comment at www.pressbanner.com.

Comments
(4)
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Debbie Fontan
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November 21, 2011
There's a way more eloquent way to say that you know.
Close it
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November 21, 2011
Yes there's plenty of money but California is the land of entitlements so a lot of it goes to supporting the poor who are mostly mexicans and their many babies and life flight helicopter rides to the hospital for free medical care after they shoot and stab each other. Enforce the border and we'll have good roads and teachers.
Jana Plante
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November 18, 2011
There is plenty of money. The problem is shady bond measure wording where the money flows into the general fund and ends up getting used in a manner contrary to the issue upon which it was originally voted.

The next batch of elected officials MUST clean up the financial mess that previous electeds have left behind.
John Galt
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November 17, 2011
Solving the money problem for transportation issues is simple.

Dump the train to nowhere plan and do the people's work and fix the roads.


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