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Petaluma council mulls tax for street repair

  • City crews repaired Madison Street in June 2013. (By Jamie Hansen/ Argus-Courier Staff)

If the streets of heaven are paved with gold, then Petaluma must be hell. Between the potholes, cracks, dips and deferred structural maintenance, most Petaluma streets are rated “poor” or “failed” by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that oversees transit in the Bay Area. And according to city staff, the problems will only get worse without significant additional funding.

“The council must decide if they are willing to let the city's streets deteriorate or if they want to put a tax measure on the ballot,” said City Manager John Brown at a special City Council meeting held Monday. “Basically, I'm here to ask you if you're willing to ask the public for a sales tax increase.”

According to an in-house report, it will take $2.4 million per year just to keep Petaluma's streets in the state they are already in.

To bring streets up to a satisfactory rating by the MTC, the city would need to spend about $6.2 million annually for the next 10 years — more than three times as much as the approximate $2 million the city currently spends on road repair each year. In 2010, city staff estimated that bringing Petaluma's road up to an “excellent” MTC rating — the highest possible rating — would cost about $117 million. The city has since decreased that amount to about $62 million, though they admit that amount of spending will only bring streets to a “satisfactory”, not “excellent” MTC rating. “Satisfactory” roads are fully functional but don't have the lifespan of a road rated “excellent.”

“But it's still far better than what we are at now,” explained City Engineer Larry Zimmer.

At Monday's meeting — held specifically to address this longstanding issue — council members considered several proposals from staff, including increasing taxes and creating tax assessment districts.

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