Sonoma County spent $40 million on road repairs in 2022

The county is responsible for 1,368 miles of road outside cities and has repaved about 30% of that network over the past 10 years.|

How Sonoma County funds road paving projects

The county funded road paving through two main initiatives that totaled about $40 million in spending in 2022:

— $20 million through the Pavement Preservation Program, out of the county’s $2.14 billion budget for 2022-23. Sources for those funds include the county's General Fund and state Senate Bill 1, a 2017 bill which designated $57 billion to be spent over 10 years on freeways, bridges and roads throughout California.

— About $20 million to repair affected roads in 2017 burn zones, funded through PG&E wildfire settlement funds.

With an eye on other infrastructure needs, the Board of Supervisors also allocated $10 million in its 22-23 budget to be divided among the county’s five districts for infrastructure projects. The county has yet to finalize which projects will be funded with that money.

Sonoma County continues to chip away at a long line of paving projects across its vast rural road network, with roughly $40 million spent on road projects this year.

The county is responsible for 1,368 miles of roads outside cities — one of the largest systems across the Bay Area — and has repaved about 30% over the past 10 years, said Janice Thompson, the county’s deputy director of transportation and public works.

Local roads, typically residential roads that see less traffic compared to main or arterial roads, make up the bulk of the network, according to the county road division website. In 2020, the average condition of those local roads on a 0-100 pavement condition index was 37, which is categorized as “poor.”

“The paving needs in the county far outweigh the financial resources we have but we’re making a difference little by little,” Thompson said. “In the last 10 years we feel very lucky that we have paved almost 30% of the county roads.”

Professional pavement inspectors score roads by studying features including cracking and potholes, according to the county’s website. Overall, the county’s latest road condition score of 49, or “poor,” was down from 50 in 2020 but up from 44 in 2012.

That was the same year when an alarmed Board of Supervisors agreed to begin pumping more discretionary dollars into pavement upkeep to prevent parts of the rural network from sliding into even deeper and more costly disrepair.

Still, of the nine Bay Area counties, Sonoma County tied Napa County for the lowest pavement condition score of 55 out of 100, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s 2021 report on pavement conditions of Bay Area jurisdictions.

“If you kick the can down the road on paving it falls into a pothole,” said Supervisor James Gore, the board chair.

Pavement preservation projects

In 2022, the county completed paving for 23.71 total miles across 25 projects, according to a county map of completed paving projects. The work accounted for about half of the $40 million paving expenditures.

2022 PPP Location Map.pdf

Those projects included paving a series of local roads in downtown Guerneville.

County leaders timed the paving project to precede a Caltrans project scheduled for spring 2023 in downtown Guerneville, which will include upgrading sidewalks, installing ADA-compliant curb ramps, replacing traffic signals and adding pedestrian walk beacons across Highway 116.

“We really wanted to take the lead on the county side with paving all of the other roads,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes Guerneville. “So after Caltrans goes through we are looking at a new downtown infrastructure for the first time in many decades.”

The county’s paving work in the west county town wrapped in November after about three to four months of construction, Thompson said. Thompson was unable to confirm the project’s total cost because it was grouped with other projects.

Hopkins credited public advocacy with the county’s push to invest more in paving and road infrastructure.

“A couple of years before I was in this position, the quality of the roads was really being called out by constituents, and so the board has kept pace on our investments,” Hopkins said.

Roads in southern Sonoma County are set to be completed through the Pavement Preservation Program under the Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget, according to Andrea Krout, district director for Supervisor David Rabbitt. Those projects include Blank Road between Canfield and Turner roads; Blank Road from Petersen Road to Highway 116; and Lohrman Lane between Bodega and Magnolia avenues.

Road repairs in wildfire zones

Paving on Cavedale Road in east Sonoma County near Glen Ellen and the Mayacamas Mountains is a welcome sight for David Gleba, who has lived on the narrow, winding road for 15 years.

The road, which has long held the lowest possible score for pavement quality on the county’s pavement index, was severely damaged during the 2017 wildfires.

“It’s a little surreal because I don’t think people appreciate what it’s like to go from a road that’s rated 0 in pavement quality to 100 overnight,” said Gleba, a member of the Mayacamas Volunteer Fire Foundation Board and Mayacamas Fire Safe Council.

The project is covered by PG&E settlement funds from the 2017 firestorm. The Board of Supervisors divided the $56 million allocated for roads into four phases across four years.

The first two phases mainly cover paving needs, and projects designated for the final two phases will cover other infrastructure projects like retaining wall repairs and intersection improvements.

In 2022, the county has undertaken projects on roughly 33 roads throughout the county using PG&E settlement funds, according to a county map. The map did not list mileage.

“We’ve spent approximately $20 million this year paving roads that were in the fire footprint and those span districts 1, 2 and 4,” said Thompson.

Fire Damaged Roads map.pdf

The bulk of work through the program has fallen in the 4th District, which spans northern Sonoma County, and the 1st District, which takes in much of the southeast. Both districts took direct hits in the fires five years ago.

Many of the affected roads, like Cavedale, bring an added challenge because they are winding and narrow, and so require more time to complete the work.

“They take us longer,” Thompson said. “Sometimes our equipment doesn’t fit very well and so it requires a detour. We make it work.”

Gleba said he began advocating for roadwork on Cavedale in 2020. It took a year for the board to dedicate funding and another year for the work to begin, he said.

“This was an example of county officials listening to their constituents,” said Gleba.

Other projects in the 1st District covered by the PG&E settlement spending include Trinity Road, Lawndale Road, Kenilworth Avenue and Dunbar Road.

In the 4th District, the bulk of road repairs have taken place in the Mark West, Larkfield and Wikiup communities — all areas devastated by the wildfires.

“District 4 continues to put priority funding for roads into the areas hit hardest by the 2017 fires,” Gore said. “We’ve paved Larkfield Estates, Mark West Estates and now we’re going into Wikiup neighborhoods.”

Gleba stressed the change residents can create by being vocal about neighborhood needs.

“It’s important that communities are mobilized and advocate when they have a good case to be made,” Gleba said.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

How Sonoma County funds road paving projects

The county funded road paving through two main initiatives that totaled about $40 million in spending in 2022:

— $20 million through the Pavement Preservation Program, out of the county’s $2.14 billion budget for 2022-23. Sources for those funds include the county's General Fund and state Senate Bill 1, a 2017 bill which designated $57 billion to be spent over 10 years on freeways, bridges and roads throughout California.

— About $20 million to repair affected roads in 2017 burn zones, funded through PG&E wildfire settlement funds.

With an eye on other infrastructure needs, the Board of Supervisors also allocated $10 million in its 22-23 budget to be divided among the county’s five districts for infrastructure projects. The county has yet to finalize which projects will be funded with that money.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
As The Press Democrat’s county government and politics reporter, my job is to spotlight their work and track the outcomes.

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