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What's the Best Way to Fund County Roads?

A community group that has spent the past two years lobbying officials to increase funding for Sonoma County roadways is asking for more input from the public.

 

Sonoma County has 1,382 miles of roads, many of them scenic.

But only 200 miles are funded, in part due to the county’s low population (which is used to calculate the region’s gas tax allocation), in part because of ongoing budget problems.

Two years ago several concerned residents formed Save Our Sonoma Roads, a group aimed at lobbying Sonoma County to channel more funds into decrepit county roadways.

They’ve already had some success.

After a series of meetings with the group, the Board of Supervisors agreed to spend an additional $6.5 million on roads, which will improve about 13 miles of county roads. (That includes Chileno Valley Road in West Petaluma and Snyder Lane in Rohnert Park.)

But SOS Roads calculates that another $25 to $50 million is needed to address all the pot-holed, alligator-skinned streets that give Sonoma drivers (and visitors) so many headaches.

They say the money can be raised by a variety of options, including:

  •  reducing all county employees by 5 percent,
  • extending Measure M, the quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2004 and reallocating the percentage spent on road maintenance,
  • charging a $20 a year vehicle tax,
  • increasing the tax on lodging in county hotels from 9 percent to 12 percent.

To collect opinions, SOS Roads has created a survey, the results of which they promise to release to the public. Take the survey by clicking the link above.

What do you think? What’s the best way to increase funding to county roads?

Dan Lyke February 25, 2013 at 06:20 PM
I'm a cyclist, and extensively use the west county roads that my income and property taxes pay for (because gas taxes definitely don't begin to cover the rural roads). I blew out a tire on a pot hole this weekend, and would love to see brand new surfaces on all of those roads, but at some point we have to be fiscally responsible and ask how much we're willing to subsidize the rural lifestyle. I think that if we're going to ask visitors to pay for the roads via a hotel tax, we need to carefully look at which roads those visitors are likely to use. This probably means that roads like Burnside (where I blew out my tire) aren't worth maintaining for the heavy vehicles that residents travel them with. Which brings us to two options: The vehicle registration tax, or the parcel tax on residents of the unincorporated county. I'm all for increasing the costs of owning automobiles to start to cover the costs of those vehicles (and, yes, our household has two), but I'm guessing we're headed towards a parcel tax.
Middle Class February 25, 2013 at 11:46 PM
It is important to look at what is causing the damage to our roads, beyond natural wear and tear. Commercial trucks and buses cause exponentially greater damage to our roads than passenger cars. Our residents family cars and tourists rental cars aren't doing much harm and they are taxed enough. We should focus on vehicles that are 6,000-80,000 pounds and have more than 4 tires. I'm thinking a progressive vehicle tax based on a vehicles weight and number of axles. Additionally, an added sales tax on commercial tires and very large county and city fines for overweight vehicles. We should also look at the damage caused by buses used in our public transportation system. These bus fares are heavily subsidized by our local governments and simultaneously destroy the roads our local governments are responsible for maintaining. We are shooting ourselves in the foot. Maybe smaller, lighter buses or an elimination of services. We could issue a taxi pass instead of a bus pass.

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