Expressing dismay that they had no alternative, Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday approved a plan to limit preservation of smooth paved surfaces to a select list of 150 miles of county roads.
"What else are we gonna do at this point?" Supervisor Mike Kerns said. "Something's got to happen here or all our roads are going to fall apart."
Paul Kelley, who along with Kerns is leaving the board this year, said that setting priorities for pavement preservation was "a foregone conclusion."
The plan presented by Phil Demery, county transportation and public works director, directs $4.5 million a year in pavement preservation work to 31 heavily traveled roads in unincorporated areas of the county.
Those roads represent 11 percent of the county's 1,384-mile network of roads, which Demery said is an asset worth $2.5 billion.
County roads are in poor shape overall, with a pavement condition index of 43 on a scale of 100. It would cost $55 million a year — more than 10 times the county's budget — to maintain that rating throughout the road system, Demery said.
Under the new plan, 150 miles of roads that carry an average of 4,500 vehicles per day will be maintained in good condition. More than 1,200 miles of county roads will be allowed to fail within 10 years, Demery said, and some of those roads will be converted to gravel surfaces.
Routine maintenance, including filling potholes, clearing brush and repairing storm damage, will continue on all county roads.
Roads in unincorporated Sonoma County were rated worst in the Bay Area this year for the sixth year running, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Federal gasoline taxes of 18 cents a gallon are the primary source of funding for pavement preservation, Demery told the supervisors.