Sonoma County is home to approximately 500,000 people and 1,384 miles of paved road. The First District serves 100,000 people and 266 miles of roads. Our population here swells by several thousand during the tourist season, which stretches further into the winter months than ever before. People love to see where we live, drink the wine, eat amazing food, and yes, travel between destinations. Between the residents, commercial use and our visitors, our roads are worn and our tires are weary.
Our community has spoken. We hear from District 1 constituents every day about the deplorable conditions of the roads in their neighborhoods and commute routes. Fixing and maintaining roads must be a top priority, and we must do it in a way that better serves the residents while supporting our economy.
We all drive on the same roads. You are on them every day -- bringing children to school, commuting to work, or exploring the County. I am on them, traveling to meetings and events, commuting between my Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa offices, and riding bikes on weekends with my husband, Joe. Just like you, I agree that we need to maintain and enhance our roads by investing in this critical infrastructure.
The question people often ask me is, “Why are our roads under-funded, and what has the county done recently to improve the conditions of our roads?” And my favorite: “What’s the plan?”
Where we’ve been: road funding
In a former time that could be measured as a “generation ago,” we received enough money from state and federal gas taxes to maintain and build roads. This money funded maintenance, such as pothole repair, signals and lighting, and pavement preservation, including treatments to maintain good roads, as well as new roads to replace pavement at the end of its life cycle.
Now, gas taxes are not enough to even fund road maintenance. The last increases to state and federal gas taxes were over 20 years ago, while the price of asphalt has risen over 500 percent in the last 15 years alone. Additionally, gas taxes are distributed in a way that penalizes rural counties like Sonoma - we receive about $9,000 per road mile while Orange County receives $145,000 per road mile. Local general fund money dedicated by the Board of Supervisors has helped maintain our road network for years, but it isn’t enough. Over the past few years, we have worked hard to address this funding need and fix our roads.
What we’ve accomplished: funding for better roads
We have taken action to further fund needed improvements to our roads, committing historic levels of local funding. In 2013 and 2014, we committed $10.2 million each year of local funding for pavement preservation. With this funding, we were able to rehabilitate almost 100 miles of our 1,383 road miles. And we have committed $22.4 million of local funds that will re-pave an additional 89 miles this summer and the summer of 2016.
We have adopted the Long-Term Road Plan, laying a framework to maintain our roads. We have also adopted the Worst First Plan, which allocates $1 million of our annual investment to address the worst local roads in the county that would not be identified as a priority in the Long-Term Road Plan’s framework.
The Long-Term Road Plan identifies a goal and a strategy to improve 650 miles of County roads beyond the 198 miles already improved or scheduled for improvement – over half the total network. Our ultimate goal is to fix every road in the County, which would require an investment of about $47.7 million per year for pavement preservation over the next 20 years.
Where we’re going: the road ahead
We have committed to ongoing actions to secure more funding for our roads. We continue to advocate for increased state and federal funding and apply for competitive grant funding to help us complete much-needed repairs. We continue to work thoughtfully, diligently and efficiently to stretch our dollars further.
We have placed Measure A, a one-quarter percent general sales tax for five years on the June 2015 ballot, with a requirement for annual audits to identify to the public how this revenue is spent. Over 56 percent of the revenue will be shared with our cities, each with its own mix of needed road maintenance. The Board of Supervisors is making a commitment to spend the additional revenue on roads and transit. You will have an opportunity to vote on this measure on the ballots you receive in the mail in the next week.
Our roads connect our communities and are vital to our quality of life. We are working hard to maintain and enhance our roads, and want to share this important road information with you. For details on roads, the Long-Term Road Plan, community meetings and upcoming pavement projects, please visit Sonoma-county.org/TPW. You can also find the First District’s Two Year Pavement Preservation Work Plan on the bottom of the front page.
I am so pleased to announce the appointments of Margaret Spaulding to the Sonoma Valley Citizen’s Advisory Commission (SVCAC) and Dr. Richard Kirk to the Mental Health Board. We thank Rochelle Campagna for her years of valuable service on the SVCAC. Congratulations and thank you for serving!