for Mayor of Benicia
Issues - ROADS AND STREETS (2/5/20)
The City has nearly 200 miles of roads to maintain. Cities and counties use a standard known as the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) to rate road conditions. Our PCI rating (on a scale of 100) over the last ten years has declined from 63 to 54. Solano County roads have an overall rating of 66. The preferred rating for streets is 85.
Our roads are classified as arterial (eg.Military), collector (eg Southampton, Rose) or residential. While we are keeping the arterial and collectors in good condition (67 and 71 PCI respectively), our residential streets are at a poor PCI rating of 47.
The dilemma we face is how to divvy up the approximately $1-2 million annually we have to spend on roads. We need to spend heavily on maintaining the roads that are in decent repair so they don’t get worse -- to the point they must be rebuilt -- while the worst roads that do need to be completely rebuilt (which is much, much more expensive) sometimes wait while we keep other streets from falling into the same level of disrepair. Where should the limited money go? Staff uses data to determine the right mix of microsurfacing and reconstruction. Individual requests for repairs are reviewed by Public Works staff in the field before the recommended set of streets is presented to the Council to approve.
The estimated cost to bring all of our roads up to an acceptable PCI rating of 70 runs about $50 million. If we were to spend $25 million, we could increase our PCI to 61 (still less than it should be). Under any scenario, we would still need to spend around $2-3 million/year just to maintain what we have, and not fall further behind.
How to pay for it?
Last April, the Council considered a proposal to borrow $20 million through a lease financing that would have forced the City to mortgage its remaining unsecured assets like City Hall and Fire stations, and require annual principal and interest payments from the General Fund for a 20 year period. I argued that a borrowing of that size should not be decided by a five person Council, but should only be considered after voter approval.
Accordingly, I proposed an alternative sales tax proposal (which was approved by the Council) which will be on the November ballot. If approved by 50% plus one of voters, it will add 0.75% to the sales tax, taking it from 8.375% to 9.175%, and add significantly to our ability to repair roads in a better and more consistent manner. Even with this increase, our sales tax rate would still be lower than Martinez, Richmond, Oakland, Berkeley and many other Bay Area cities.
Nikki Basch Davis
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Steve Young for Mayor
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