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The Road Ahead? County Supes Approve 10-Year, $20 Million Plan for Improvements

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning unanimously approved a plan to spend $20 million over 10 years to improve 700 miles of its roads.

In a presentation to the board, Department of Transportation and Public Works Director Susan Klassen said nearly 75 percent of the county's 1,380 miles of roads are in poor condition because of years of inadequate state funding, declining gas tax revenue, an unfavorable state gas tax distribution formula and the recent Great Recession.

Some of the supervisors called the backlog of road improvements a "legacy issue" similar to the county's pension obligations.

Supervisor Mike McGuire said the lack of investment in road improvements by the county over the years was "a great mistake."

"We've paved more in the last three years than in the previous 15 years," McGuire said.

The Board of Supervisors has allocated a total of $24 million from the general fund over the three most recent annual budgets for improvements to 150 miles of roads, Klassen said.

She said the current backlog of road improvement investment is $268 million, but at one point it was $900 million.

The Harris and Associates consulting firm, Klassen said, arrived at a more reliable figure after a study. Improving half of the county's roads in 10 years is a "lofty but achievable goal," she said.

The long-term plan categorizes the county's roads in four tiers and does not indicate or assign any priority for improvement, said Board Chair David Rabbit who served on an ad hoc road committee with McGuire to develop a road improvement plan.

The categories include 350 miles of federally funded arterials and major collector roads; 220 miles of minor collector and strategic local roads that provide access to agriculture, tourism and recreational opportunities; 250 miles of local roads in denser areas of unincorporated Sonoma County; and 560 miles of local roads that generally serve relatively few residents.

Neither the roads that will be improved in the next 10 years nor the funding source for the work has been identified.

The board will discuss the financing within the next few weeks.

Some funding options include continuing to allocate some general fund revenue, a sales or excise tax, using some of a quarter-cent, Measure M transportation tax approved by voters, and lobbying to increase state and federal revenue for county roads.

Michael Troy, co-founder of SOSRoads.org, Save Our Sonoma Roads, told the board the long-term road plan is a good start.

He told the Board they control one option - using general fund revenue for road improvements.

--Bay City News

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