Monday Morning Thoughts: A Start on Roads But When Do We Get Serious About Funding?


On Tuesday the Davis City Council will have before them a very important consent agenda item – they will be asked to approve the plans, specifications and estimate for the 2015 Pavement Rehabilitation Project.

The council, unless the item is pulled and voted down, will award the project to Teichert Construction in the amount of $3,980,743.32 with a construction contingency of $400,000. Funding for this project comes from funds allocated to street maintenance which has been primarily funded by the General Fund with additional monies from Roadway Impact Fees and Construction Tax. Total project cost is estimated at $4,490,743.32.

Staff writes, “There is approximately $3,500,000 of funds remaining in FY 2014/15 in this program. Due to the project award coming at the end of the fiscal year and the fact that the total project cost exceeds the remaining available funds, these funds will be carried over into fiscal year 2015/16. The combined available funding in FY 2015/16 will be $6,723,000.00, which will be sufficient to cover the construction costs.”

The project covers about six streets: East Covell Blvd: from Birch Lane to Alhambra Drive; L Street: Second Street to Fifth Street; West Eighth Street: Anderson Road to A Street; East Eighth Street: J Street to L Street; Lillard Drive: Farragut Circle to 2761 Lillard Drive; and Lake Blvd: Arlington Blvd to West Covell Blvd.


While this is a good start, the map shows just how little of the city is actually being covered in the pavement work. It is a reminder of, as our roadways continue to crumble, increasing costs exponentially, just how far behind we have gotten.

Staff reminds us that back in 2013, the council approved an agreement with Nichols Consulting Engineers to fund up to $25 million in street improvements.

The original plan was to have two large projects designed, but due to funding limitations, council has modified the plan with two smaller projects designed by the firm.

Staff writes, “The first project was completed this winter and consisted of base repairs on several streets. The subject project is the second project in this series and includes: street maintenance (i.e., paving), bike path reconstruction, curb ramp replacement to meet current ADA requirements, sidewalk, curb, and gutter repairs and re-striping of the corridors.”

Back in May of 2013, the council approved what was already a compromise plan – B-Modified, which still called for the frontloading of payments at $15 million in year 1 and $10 million in year 2. That plan came with a concession that the city would have to reduce its Pavement Condition Index (PCI) goal, normally set at about 70, to 63 on average with higher scores and better pavement on arterials and main thoroughfares, and lower scores on lesser used residential streets.

The B-Modified plan would have allowed the city to set aside the money via a parcel tax needing to generate about $2 million per year in debt services over a 30-year period. However, the plan came at a substantial cost, not just financially but principally, and no longer would the council endeavor to reach a PCI of 70.

The ultimate outcome was to be closer to PCI 63 on average, where key streets of community value are prioritized at a higher level than local streets. We are looking at values of PCI 68 for arterials, 65 for collectors, and the remainder of local streets at 60.

The bad news is that even that has been scaled down. In June of 2014, the city released polling that showed that the public was not behind the kind of $150 a year parcel tax that was needed to bond for road repairs.

When they polled at $149 per year for 15 years, they got about 47 percent support and 44 percent opposition. Support for the measure increased to 58 percent at the lowest rate tested ($99) and opposition decreased to 34 percent.

The council, based on these numbers, put off plans for a November 2014 vote on a parcel tax. Spring 2015 has come and gone as well.

Council is scheduled to look at the potential for a revenue measure as soon as next week’s city council meeting, but council will need to evaluate more than just roads, sidewalks and bike path costs.

Last week the council approved a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute the Building and Parks Assessment Agreement with Kitchell CEM.

The assessment will allow the city to be able to understand the condition of building and park assets and to develop a plan to fund the maintenance and replacement of the major critical infrastructure elements. That project, however, is not expected to be completed until the end of October, 2015. And while it would inform the 2016-17 budgeting cycle, it is not ready to inform the council on needs for the proposed parcel tax.

The question that the council must answer are what are our most critical needs and what the cost will be to fill those needs.

Complicating this question are political agendas. Mayor Dan Wolk last spring, backed by members from the aquatic and swimming community, strongly pushed to include a $10 million 50-meter pool complex in the potential fall parcel tax.

“I do believe that the funding of a pool is critical,” Dan Wolk argued. “I think it’s clear that, just as with our roads, the longer we wait on that the greater our cost becomes in terms of our band aid measures that we’ll have to put on the pools.”

“It’s clear that we’re going to have to invest $7 million on these to refurbish civic and community (pool),” he added. “There’s a strong argument to make… that we really need to re-invest in our parks facilities and specifically our community pool. I think that’s really critical to the heart of this community as much as anything. I think this is a community that is willing to support that – even at a two-thirds level.”

Councilmember Brett Lee suggested that, while the city is looking at a November revenue measure, he might be interested in addressing the pool in the spring. He suggested that would give them time to make the case to the broader community about the benefits of the pool.

He argued, “It’s nice to split the need to have versus nice to have. Road and sidewalk – need to have. Swimming pool upgraded facility – that’s a nice to have.”

This spring, the mayor caught many, including his own colleagues, off guard by pushing for a sports park complex. According to one report, “Improvements to the Road 102 site, adjacent to the PVUSA photovoltaic farm and the Blue Max go-kart track, were estimated to cost $25 million in 2010. Wolk says the city will have to refigure current-day costs, money that, he says, could come from four sources.”

The key was money from a parcel tax. He told the Enterprise that the sports complex “would be part of an infrastructure (ballot measure) that would finance roads, a rebuilding of the Community Park Pool and, possibly, the sports park… That would help fund a good chunk of the sports park.”

At this point, Mayor Wolk does not appear to have any support from his colleagues – but there are concerns that even discussion of funding optional projects like swimming pools and a sports park will divert the discussion away from the crisis of critical needs.

The map above makes it clear that even the sizable chunk of money we are spending right now is just a drop in the bucket compared to the enormity of the task ahead. Every month we delay, roads conditions worsen and the cost for repair goes up.

—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. Frankly

    Good start, but a day late and several tens of millions of dollars short.  And don’t even start talking about a sports park.  Are you kidding?  Any new amenity like that is out of the question.  And if you want to know why, just research all the fat pay and benefits we have been giving and committing to city employees.   Instead of a new sports park, we have a growing population of 50-year old retired city employees making 80-95% of their wages, inflation adjusted, for the rest of their life… and all their healthcare costs covered too.

    It is your right to feel good about giving those employees that rich set of retirement benefits after paying them well while they worked.  But one consequence is no money for a sports park.

    1. Topcat

      Instead of a new sports park, we have a growing population of 50-year old retired city employees making 80-95% of their wages, inflation adjusted, for the rest of their life… and all their healthcare costs covered too.

      Darn it all…I wish I’d gone to work for the City when I was just a young Topcat.  If I had, I’d be in high catnip now 🙂

  2. Barack Palin

    I’m curious as to how a 5% utility tax works.  Will we be charged an extra 5% on our water, PGE, phone, trash and yard clippings bills?  The plan is to hit us up with this after we’ve already agreed to a huge spike in our water bill?  It’s getting mighty expensive to reside in Davis.

    1. Davis Progressive

      does it change anything – an extra 5% on utilities or an extra $150 on your property taxes?  the problem is that we gave away the store to the fireifghters and to a lesser extent other employee bargaining groups and now we have to pay the piper.  but no one wants to call out saylor and company.

  3. darelldd

    There are people who think that our transportation problems will be solved by:

    Increasing automobile parking downtown
    Raising speed limits
    Heavier enforcement of cycling scofflaws

    I’m about ready for some nice decomposed granite paths through town. I’m pretty much done with this “pavement.”

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