Study Presents Alarming Findings on the Condition of Yolo County’s Roadways

potholeStreets and Roads Assessment Shows State and Local Transportation Systems at Great Risk –

Much of the attention in the coming days will focus on the 20 million dollars in cuts to the Yolo County General Fund Budget.  These cuts will decimate social services that are the lifeblood to the county and its needy residents.

However, a looming crisis has gone undetected until now.  California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment conducted its first comprehensive review of local system conditions and it found that local transportation systems are at risk without increased state investment.

The condition of streets and roads will rapidly deteriorate, according to a recently released California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Assessment, without significant state investment in the local system. The report is the first in an ongoing study of local pavement conditions and essential infrastructure components. Currently, there is no comprehensive and systematic statewide approach to quantify local streets and roads needs statewide.

According to the report, the goal is to use the findings of this study to educate policymakers at all levels of government about the infrastructure investments needed to provide California with a seamless transportation system. The findings of this study will provide credible and defensible analysis to support a dedicated, stable funding source for maintaining the local system at an optimum level. It will also provide for the most effective and efficient investment of public funds.

The study surveyed all of California’s 58 counties and 478 cities in 2007-08–which might be the worst news since conditions have probably deteriorated since then.  The overall results demonstrate that “California’s local streets and roads are on the edge of a cliff.”  They grade on a scale of zero (“Fail”) to 100 (“Excellent”) and found that the statewide average pavement condition index is 68 which places it in the “at risk” category.

Under current funding conditions the statewide condition will deteriorate to a 58 in ten years and a 48 (“poor”) but 2033.  Even more critical, the unfunded backlog will more than double from $37 billion to $79 billion by 2033.

“Based on the results of this study, approximately $51.7 billion of additional funding is  needed to bring just the pavement condition of the state’s local streets and roads to a level where the taxpayer’s money can be spent cost-effectively.”

Yolo County estimates its funding shortfall for streets and roads at $5-6 million per year. At least $7 billion annually in new money going directly to cities and counties in California is necessary over the next 10 years to stop further deterioration of local roadways. Once pavement conditions reach the “Best Management Practices” level (the most cost-effective with the least impact on mobility and commerce) it will cost much less to maintain in the long term.

Moreover, twenty-four counties, including Yolo County, have an average pavement condition that is below the state average and considered “at risk” or “poor” on the pavement condition index.

Overall, the ten year pavement needs for Yolo County was listed as $180,351,575 with only $86,805,426 in revenue meaning it will fall nearly $100 million short over a ten year period or $9.35 million per year.

Said Yolo County Board of Supervisors Chair Helen Thomson:

“Every trip – whether by car, bus, or bicycle – starts and ends on a local street or road,.  The local system is critical for safety and mobility of the traveling public, farm to market needs, and for trade and commerce. State leaders needs to prioritize this important role in the statewide transportation system in their budgeting decisions.”

Making matters worse is that this assessment comes during the time of the worst fiscal crisis Yolo County has faced in decades, a fact not lost on Yolo County Economic Development manager Wes Ervin.

“Our local street and road system provides two-fold opportunity for economic recovery during the worst fiscal crisis in California in decades.  The maintenance and preservation of the local transportation network provides both public and private sector jobs and thus supports economic recovery in every corner of the state. Furthermore, well maintained infrastructure is critical for economic development by attracting businesses and providing for the safe and efficient movement of both people and goods.”

The problems of declining infrastructure become cumulative as well.  Panos Kokkas, Yolo County Assistant Director of the Planning & Public Works Department, Public Works Division:

“As roadway conditions decline, the cost to repair them increases exponentially.”

While the report claims that they surveyed 496 cities, I was unable to find the city data to find out where the city of Davis stands.  As readers here are well aware, the city faces as much as a $13 million unfunded liability, a portion of that is for basic road and other infrastructure repairs.  Overall the city’s roadways are mostly in good condition but that will change if there is a period of prolonged shortage of repair and infrastructure money available.

We have heard talk for years about California’s crumbling infrastructure but for the first time this report really hits home.  Given the budget cuts to education and now the alarming report on infrastructure and transportation, California is in great peril unless it does something to change its trajectory.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. E Roberts Musser

    In the past, I have watched roads repaired that didn’t really need it, while other that really needed it went unaddressed – just because of an arbitrary maintenance schedule. It would seem to me we need to put an repair assessment system in place, that addresses the most critical needs first and foremost – rather than adhering to an arbitrary maintenance schedule.

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