Sonoma County road paving program hits a rough patch
Sonoma County officials say winter storm damage is forcing them to redraw plans for this summer’s road improvement program, a move that will likely delay some of the paving work and drive up costs.
County supervisors are expected to award construction contracts today worth $14 million to resurface 54 miles of roads.
While that’s great news for motorists, it’s roughly 43 miles less than what supervisors planned for in 2016 when they budgeted $21.9 million for this summer’s pavement program.
Officials say winter storms in January and February delayed preparations for some of the road improvements. In other cases, damage to roads was so severe that different - and costlier - pavement treatments are now being explored.
“Anytime you change the type of treatment, it’s going to be more,” Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt said.
Most of the hardest-hit roads are in western regions of the county, including Bohemian Highway from Graton Road to Main Street in Occidental, Ferguson Road from Bodega Highway to Mill Station Road and River Road from Crocker Road to Washington School Road.
“We were hammered,” Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said of storm damage in her district.
Hopkins acknowledged “frustration” many of her constituents will feel over the county having to go back out to bid for work that was slated to be completed this year. But she also noted that pothole repairs were less of a priority than emergency repairs to make roads passable again.
“I still have constituents who are closed off from their homes, so they are going to be the priority,” Hopkins said.
Pavement repair that was already planned prior to winter storms is not eligible for federal emergency relief funds, even if the road worsened under those conditions, according to county officials.
The county still has approximately $8 million set aside for this year’s pavement program, but officials say that’s not enough to cover the increased expense of smoothing out hardest-hit roads. The full amount of the shortfall is not yet known, and is dependent largely upon the scope of the work.
County engineers are redrawing the plans, with estimates now the work won’t be completed until sometime in 2018.
A massive transportation funding package signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April could help by delivering some $3.8 million in new revenue to the county next fiscal year.
The money, derived from an increase in fuel taxes and vehicle licensing fees, is projected to deliver $12.3 million to the county over the coming decade. That’s the county’s share for unincorporated areas, and is aside from what cities will receive under the state funding package.
Hopkins said she will advocate the county also use revenue derived from hotel bed taxes, which voters overwhelmingly agreed to increase in November with the passage of Measure L, toward repaving roads.
“We do have some additional funding measures we can consider investing in roads to hopefully make up some of the shortfall from intensive storms,” the supervisor said.
Since 2013, Sonoma County has repaved 206 miles of roads. The 54 miles of roadway reflected in construction contracts coming before supervisors today would increase that to 260 miles since the program’s inception.
Rabbitt expressed hopes the county can overcome funding challenges to continue advancing the pavement program.
“I want to keep our foot down, to drive forward and keep going,” Rabbitt said.
You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 707-521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @deadlinederek.