Fixing potholes could be added to Sonoma County car tax plan

Sonoma County transportation planners will consider adding money for potholes in discussions of putting a vehicle registration fee increase on the November ballot.

"In every poll we have ever done, potholes and road repair do well; people are interested in having roads repaired and are willing to pay for it," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "Adding local roads into a ballot measure will generally help it."

The authority is meeting Monday to make a decision on whether to put a proposal to increase vehicle registration fees by $10 on the November ballot and how to allocate the money.

The fee increase, which the eight other Bay Area counties have in place or plan to put on the ballot, would raise $105 million in Sonoma County over five years.

Additionally, California voters in November will be asked to increase vehicle registration fees by $18 to fund state parks, which may make it more difficult for local jurisdictions to get their fee proposals passed.

Initially, the authority considered allocating the money to bus transit operations, bicycle and pedestrian paths and the Safe Routes to Schools program.

A poll conducted in May by the Service Employees International Union, however, indicates the chance of getting a measure passed improves if road maintenance is added to the funding formula.

"Sonoma County roads are considered to be the worst in the Bay Area," said Jake Mackenzie, a Rohnert Park councilman and transportation authority chairman. "From that point of view, there is probably a number of people who feel any money we can get our hands on we would like to see some of it go to help fixing the condition of the roads."

Valerie Brown, chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and vice chairwoman of the transportation authority, supports a fee increase for transit and bicycle and pedestrian paths, despite the poll.

"I believe we would get it passed. I think it is heavy lifting. I think we would have to do a lot of information and awareness that would be costly," Brown said.

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