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Argus-Courier Editorial
Tax fix needed for roads

At long last, there may be some hope for fixing Petaluma’s badly dilapidated streets. At least that’s what Petaluma City Council members are aiming for after unanimously approving a sensible recommendation by City Manager John Brown Monday to conduct polling to determine the public’s appetite for some type of tax increase aimed at restoring city services to a more acceptable level.

With the exception of the city’s amply-staffed fire department, budgets for city services have been slashed over the last several years, severely reducing the quantity and quality of public services citywide. Public parks and playing fields are a disgrace, and police staffing levels remain woefully inadequate at a time when local property crimes are skyrocketing.

But nowhere is the need for increased tax revenues more apparent than the city’s badly potholed streets. Anyone driving on city streets these days can attest to their appalling condition. In 2011, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s report classified Petaluma’s streets as “at-risk,” and gave them a pavement condition index (pci) rating of 55 on a 100-point scale.

After 15 years of political debate on the issue and despite the city’s recent efforts to patch and seal many streets, the problem is only getting worse primarily because there is not enough money in the city’s strained budget to make significant repairs.

According to a recent city report, it would take $2.4 million per year just to maintain Petaluma’s streets in the sorry state of disrepair they are in today. To bring streets up to a mere “satisfactory” rating by the MTC, the city would need to spend about $6.2 million annually over the next 10 years — more than three times as much as the approximate $2 million the city currently spends on road repair. “Satisfactory” roads are fully functional but don’t have the lifespan of a road rated “excellent.” To bring streets to an “excellent” rating would require nearly $12 million annually for ten years.

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