The most frequent contact Sonoma County residents have with their government is with our county roads. And the relationship gets rougher every day.
Our county roads are a vital component of the county infrastructure that supports commerce and the livelihood of its residents. But our roads are crumbling. Sonoma County roads have been rated the worst in the 9-county Bay Area for the last six years by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).
The county is responsible for maintaining 1,382 miles of roads. Current county policy is to properly maintain only about 200 miles of roads and to only fill potholes on the remaining 1,164 miles of roads. The supervisors have no plans to rebuild, repave or do anything but fill potholes on 84 percent of our county roads.
Roads to Gravel Policy
Without a pavement preservation program, the orphaned 1,224 miles of roads will deteriorate to a point where they can only be ground up into gravel or be completely rebuilt. At a cost of about $1 million per mile, this would cost over $1.2 billion, which is about same amount for the total annual County of Sonoma budget covering all county government expenditures.
This means that if you drive or ride a bike over county roads that are not part of the about 200 mile Priority Road network (i.e., major connecting roads like Petaluma Hill, Stony Point, Guerneville, Old Redwood Hwy) you can expect those roads to continue to worsen at an increasingly rapid rate. Because the deterioration compromises the road base (think of it like a foundation for a house) the pavement fails more rapidly with every rainfall. Filling potholes with asphalt patch becomes a losing battle.
At a certain point roads cannot be patched effectively and they must be rebuilt. Pavement preservation programs can extend the life of a road by years, saving millions of dollars compared to costly road reconstruction.
County Funding Cutbacks for Roads
Making the situation even worse, the Supervisors have cut back on county funding of road maintenance by 46 percent over the last twenty years and 26 percent in just the last few years. For fiscal year 2011-2012, the supervisors have cut another 25 percent be cut from the road budget.
What can be done? The road problem is the result of decades of deferred maintenance and neglect by the Supervisors who have chosen to devote taxpayer dollars to other priorities. The problem will not be easily solved and it will take years, if ever, to improve the condition of our roads.
Now is the time to begin shifting priorities to slow down the deterioration of our roads by telling the supervisors of your concerns for our roads.
Join SOS Roads, write your supervisors, and talk to your friends and neighbors. Our elected officials need to know that a future of gravel for 84 percent of our county roads is not acceptable.