Sonoma County nears $112 million mark in road repairs since 2014

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Sonoma County road repair (2020-21)

Select projects

Adobe Road

Arnold Drive

Bloomfield Road

Bosch Street

Gold Ridge Road

Hessel Road

Labath Avenue

Moorland Avenue

North Fitch Mountain Road

South Fitch Mountain Road

Tomales Road

The Transportation and Public Works Department will post a complete list of the road segments slated for repair on its website in the coming days. In the meantime, click here for the approved list.

Sonoma County has approved its list of local roads slated for major repairs in the next two years — part of a $36 million effort to improve dozens of unincorporated byways that suffer from potholes and other wear.

The 51 miles of roads were selected from a 1,370-mile road network that stretches across the region outside of cities and remains perennially among the worst in the Bay Area despite a now-five year $112 million surge in spending.

Each year during that period, the board has settled on its next batch of road segments to repair. Factors have included traffic volume, importance for the regional economy and condition of the road.

Inclusion on the list is likened by some die-hard road advocates to winning an Oscar.

“We kind of feel like this is the Academy Awards nominations coming up,” Santa Rosa resident Craig Harrison, founder of the nonprofit Save Our Sonoma Roads, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “Every year, people are at the edge of their seats, ‘Is my road going to be on this?’ I think they’ve come up with a good list of roads.”

Officials are frank about the poor shape of the county’s road network, ranked among the worst in the nine-county Bay Area for more than a decade. The network is also among the largest, second only to San Jose.

“Yes, our roads are bad,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents eastern Santa Rosa and the greater Sonoma Valley. “There are a couple roads that probably needed to get on there, but have faith, community; we will hit the roads that desperately need it.”

Since 2014, the county has applied its state gas-tax funds and tapped discretionary dollars from the general fund to chip away at a massive maintenance backlog, estimated in 2017 at more than $1.4 billion by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

To date in its stepped-up effort, the county has acted to repair or repave 380 miles using $112 million, including $93 million from the general fund — the largest discretionary outlay among the state’s 58 counties over that time, according to Supervisor James Gore.

“I’m very proud to be on that board,” said Gore, who oversees much of north county. “But I also want to thank everybody for your patience, because I’m in the same situation — I live on a crap road. I’m kind of scared to pave it, because I’d be accused of playing favorites to myself and my family.”

A handful of residents who spoke at the meeting vented frustration that their road or those they frequently travel have been neglected for years and left off the list. For such roads that don’t merit inclusion on the main list, the county sets aside $1 million every two years to address repairs.

The county’s money doesn’t stretch far enough to get to them all, said Johannes Hoevertsz, the public works director. It takes a continued push to chip away at the problem, he said. In the past two weeks, the Board of Supervisors has approved road contracts totaling $14.7 million for work to be completed this year. Another $650,000 in federal grant funding will go to make upgrades with striping and rumble strips on the 7-mile Lakeville Highway outside of Petaluma.

Sonoma County road repair (2020-21)

Select projects

Adobe Road

Arnold Drive

Bloomfield Road

Bosch Street

Gold Ridge Road

Hessel Road

Labath Avenue

Moorland Avenue

North Fitch Mountain Road

South Fitch Mountain Road

Tomales Road

The Transportation and Public Works Department will post a complete list of the road segments slated for repair on its website in the coming days. In the meantime, click here for the approved list.

Still, the county faces another $65 million in road repair costs stemming from recent natural disasters, including from the fires and floods of 2017 and 2019. The county has applied for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and expects disbursements for more than $40 million to fix roads and remove dangerous trees along roads.

FEMA denied a $21 million funding request to cover damage to roads from heavy trucks hauling fire debris. The county has appealed that decision.

For the more routine road improvements, the county is hopeful that more help from taxpayers is on the way — in the form of early renewal of the 20-year countywide tax that supports transportation upgrades. Tentative plans call for renewal of the quarter-cent sales tax to go before voters in November 2020.

Measure M, originally passed in 2004, has generated $256 million through spring 2018, with 20% designated for local road repaving. The largest share, 40%, has gone toward finishing the Highway 101 expansion through the Marin-Sonoma Narrows. Should voters extend the measure, even more dollars could be put into local roads, officials said.

“I think what you’ll see is, if not a doubling, perhaps a tripling of the dollars available for local roads, which will be a good thing,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt, the board chairman. “We’ll be able to get our roads to the place where I think our citizens expect them to be, and all of the roads that were mentioned that are further down on the list will have a better chance of actually getting paved moving forward.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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