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Close to Home: Santa Rosa’s deteriorating streets need help

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

Residential streets in Santa Rosa are at the bottom of the “fair” Pavement Condition Index and getting worse — just one point away from being “at risk.”

The city’s Transportation and Public Works Department has programs for repairing potholes, but beyond that the City Council needs to increase spending for street maintenance to keep residential streets from crumbling into a nonrecoverable infrastructure.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a pavement index of 80 to 89 is “very good,” 70 to 79 is “good,” 60 to 69 is “fair,” and 50 to 59 is considered “at risk.” Santa Rosa streets overall have a cumulative rating of 61. However, residential streets have a rating of 60 — one point away from being “at risk.”

Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer

Approximately $11 million of the public works department’s capital improvement project budget is related to pavement rehabilitation. Though that amount keeps city streets overall at a rating of barely “fair,” it is insufficient to keep them from degrading to “at risk” conditions in the near future.

Rob Sprinkle, the department’s deputy director of engineering, told me, “We haven’t had a significant budget increase in 20 years, excluding grants, that would allow us to improve PCI street ratings. Conditions overall are going down.”

Andrew Kozel, the department’s engineering manager, told me that “getting our streets back to a PCI of 70 would take an investment of $31 million per year for the next 10 years, followed by $19.2 million per year thereafter. The city is spending about $11 million this year for road repairs. Due to inflation, materials have steadily gone up, forcing us to do less for the same money.”

According to Kozel, only $1.8 million of the $11 million in capital project funding is designated for residential street pavement preservation. The allocation would have to increase to $14.7 million per year for 10 years to bring residential streets back into the “good” zone, followed by $8.8 million per year thereafter to maintain a “good” rating.

“In 1999, city streets in Santa Rosa had a rating of 69 overall. Over the past 20 years, that figure has declined due to lack of funding,” Kozel said.

Streets not only affect the few, they affect the many. Currently, the city has $134 million in deferred street maintenance. Those projects form the basis of the city and are not getting done. Let the city manager and City Council know you want a significant street maintenance budget increase and, if needed, ask the city to repair your street.

Tom Sawyer, a retired engineering project manager, has lived in Santa Rosa for 34 years.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect The Press Democrat editorial board’s perspective. The opinion and news sections operate separately and independently of one another.

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