About 100 people turned out Wednesday evening, March 7, to hear about the future of Sonoma County roads. Sponsored by SOSroads.org, the event featured Phil Demery, Sonoma County’s Director of Transportation and Public Works.
The standing room-only audience of concerned citizens heard Mr. Demery explain how funding for county roads is “woefully inadequate” and that road maintenance levels are projected to worsen.
Although the Board of Supervisors recently added $2.2 million to extend the priority road system to 198 miles, the remaining 1,184 miles of county roads will not be maintained except for pothole filling. These will eventually become dirt roads. Nearly half of the 1,382 miles of county roads are considered to have two years or less of service life remaining. These roads are characterized by abundant potholes and cracks. Demery said that water enters the road bed through cracks and hydraulic action further degrades the support for the pavement.
Michael Troy, co-founder of SOSroads.org along with Craig Harrison, showed a graph of road funding from the County general fund adjusted for inflation. When adjusted for inflation it would take $15 million today to bring county funding back to the effective level we had in 1989.
Demery said that it will take $50 million or more per year to get roads to an acceptable level. However, he indicated that it is unlikely that this level of funding will be found anytime soon.
Supervisors Rabbitt and Zane have been appointed to an ad hoc committee to try to find long term solutions and are interested in working with SOSRoads to develop a practical approach.
One possibility is to form road maintenance districts whereby property owners would agree to assess themselves with a new tax to pay for road repairs.
Craig Harrison stated that before any new taxes are levied the supervisors should first return to the general funding levels of the late 1980s.
One attendee asked how could residents still have access to timely responses from emergency vehicles such as sheriff, fire and ambulance services when the roads become dirt or gravel.
Residents adjacent to the portion of Sonoma Mountain Road which has been pulverized into dirt complained about high levels of dust, dangerous driving and new potholes. They also expressed concern over decreasing property values.
Photo by Chuck Lucas