A big year for paving in the First District
Posted on November 14, 2022 by Susan Gorin
In my ten years as First District Supervisor I have never, until this year, received so much positive feedback and appreciation from the community on our Sonoma County roads. I’ve received notes from folks driving on Lawndale, Kenilworth, Dunbar, and many more, reaching out with excitement over the paving of their roads. Even as I hesitate to say this – I’m certain I will hear plenty of feedback on many of our other District 1 roads that still need attention – I do want to take this opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of our Department of Transportation and Public Works, now renamed “Public Infrastructure” as we have merged General Services and Transportation and Public Works departments.
Of course, there is a reason why 2022 has been such an exceptional paving year. More roads paved means we had more funds to spend, and in this case, the funds in question were allocated from the PG&E settlement funds the county received as a result of the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fires. I advocated strongly that a portion of those funds be dedicated to repairing roads damaged as a result of those fires and the subsequent rebuilding process, which included the heavy traffic (and therefore damage) of debris removal and construction vehicles.
Additionally, when the county surveyed residents as to how they would like to see the PG&E settlement funding allocated, roads received overwhelming support from the community at large as a priority. The result, in December 2020, was that the Board allocated over $30 million in PG&E funds for the worst roads impacted by the 2017 fires, and an additional $20 million was added in May 2021. It is devastating that our county had to endure catastrophic fires in order to fund investments in road repairs that were above and beyond years past, but I am proud that made this paving a priority for our fire-impacted communities. We paved Cavedale Road – I never thought we would be able to pave Cavedale Road!
However, even with all this progress, I am sure I will receive numerous responses to this newsletter asking, “what about this road?” and I can assure you, I understand! Coincidentally, at this time of year my office is currently coordinating with our Public Infrastructure Department on prioritizing roads for the 2024/2025 Pavement Preservation Program (PPP) cycle.
For those who aren’t familiar, a little background on our regular paving program: as I’ve already stated, the county paves roads through our formerly named Transportation and Public Works (TPW) department. State and federal gas taxes are the primary funding sources for roads, and the amount of funding the county receives is based on the number of road miles it maintains, as well as the number of vehicles registered. Sonoma County has a high number of road miles in proportion to a relatively low number of registered vehicles.
While Sonoma County receives less funding for maintenance per road mile than most counties in the State, and the least funding in the Bay Area, your Board of Supervisors dedicates more discretionary General Fund money towards roads than nearly every other county in the state to help close the gap. In the 2022/2023 paving cycle, of which some is already complete, our PPP paved roads include Verano, Petaluma, Cherry, and Craig in the Springs area, as well as portions of Bennett Valley Rd and Petrified Forest Rd.
As part of the process of planning for the 2024/2025 PPP paving cycle, I solicited the feedback from the two First District Municipal Advisory Councils (MACs) – the Springs MAC and the North Sonoma Valley MAC. I asked both MACs to engage with their communities to identify roads within their boundaries in need of attention. I wanted to include the MACs to utilize their on-the-ground knowledge of the roads in their specific communities, to cross reference with the recommendations from our great TPW team. The First District is large, and the feedback we get from community members, whether they write to my office or express their needs through our MACs, is vitally important to how we prioritize limited funding that can’t cover all our paving needs every cycle. Both MACs presented their recommendations at their October 2022 meetings, and I will be working to incorporate their feedback for the 2024/2025 and the 2025/2026 paving cycles.
Improving and maintaining the many miles of roads in Sonoma County is a slow, expensive process, and I know the community is frequently frustrated with our progress. Needless to say, even while we celebrate the success of the past year in particular, we can’t get to every road every year. We know that so many of our local roads desperately need to be repaved, and I continue to advocate for more funding every budget year.
To close on a slightly different topic, I also want to briefly highlight some projects the Board of Supervisors recently approved from our Climate Resiliency Fund. In 2021, the Board created this fund through $10 million of the PG&E settlement funds, directed towards climate action and resiliency projects. We distributed just over $5 million of these funds in February of this year, and allocated an additional $4.38 million on October 25th.
I am particularly excited about $500,000 for the addition of Class II bike lanes in Sonoma Valley, which will support my long-term goal of widening Arnold Drive, especially north and south of the traffic circle at Agua Caliente Road for bike lanes. Former Supervisor Valerie Brown worked to widen much of Arnold Drive during her terms in office. This will complete the work. There will be community outreach meetings in January for this widening project.
Additionally, I’m very interested in the $1,447,266 we dedicated toward Fare Free Transit for Youth plus Express Lines (one from Sonoma Valley to the SR transit hub) for a two-year period beginning July 1, 2023 on Santa Rosa CityBus, Petaluma Transit and Sonoma County Transit. Fare Free Transit is something I hear a lot about from the community, and I’m very curious to see how this program is utilized, particularly from residents of the Sonoma Valley.
I’m very happy with what the Board has accomplished thus far with the Climate Resilience Fund, and I look forward to seeing the result of our Board’s commitment to climate action as these programs continue to be implemented.
PLEASE have a safe Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. And remember that many are hungry. Consider donating to organizations providing food and shelter for those in need in our community.