A Jarring Fact: Our Local Streets and Roads are Quickly Deteroriating
There’s a county road I often take home from Sacramento to Placer County; the scenery is idyllic – farm houses, horses, geese heading south, the Sierra Nevada on the horizon. And then I begin hitting teeth-jarring potholes, one after another. It’s not a well-traveled road and I know it’s not a priority. But I also know that I am not alone – not when you take a look at the backlog on road maintenance our counties and cities are facing.
The 2012 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment Study was released today and the figures are startling. The majority of California counties now have an average pavement condition rating that is considered “at risk.” Projections indicate that in a decade, 25 percent of California’s streets and roads will be in the “failed” category.
When we think of California’s roadways, many people think about our freeway system. But cities and counties own and maintain 81 percent of California’s roads. From the moment we pull our vehicle out of our driveway, take off on a bicycle or on foot, or even to use mass transit, we are dependent on these local streets and roads – to get to work or school, to buy groceries or work out at the gym. In fact, practically every trip we take starts – and ends — on a local street or road. And yet we put off the maintenance that is needed, resulting in a fiscal backlog that just keeps climbing higher.
California is currently facing a funding shortfall of more than $82 billion over the next 10 years to bring our local roadway system up to date. That isn’t a typo: $82 billion. The current funding level is $2.5 billion per year. Just maintaining the status quo for pavements will require an investment of an additional $1.9 billion annually. And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue that while California is growing, its road system is aging and deteriorating rapidly.
Yes, our state is facing myriad of investment needs – education, health and human service programs, public safety, flood control and water storage… the list goes on and on. In fact, you really don’t hear much about the dire straits of our local transportation system. And you may not even think about it – until you hit that next pothole.
The bottom line is, we need to work together to secure sustainable revenues to prevent our local streets and roads system from collapse. This will require an investment; there’s no way around it. It’s an investment we can’t afford to not make.
David Liebler is the Deputy Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. He can be reached at dliebler.at.counties.org.
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