WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa spends to maintain good roads


The roads in Fountaingrove and Oakmont, two of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, are in nice shape, with most ranked by the city as either “good” or “very good.”

So why is the city spending nearly $400,000 to resurface them this summer while streets plagued with potholes in other parts of town are crumbling like granola?

It’s a question the city gets a lot, but the answer is pretty simple: It’s easier and cheaper to keep good roads in good shape with a coat of sealant than it is to rebuild roads that are beyond repair.

On Lake Park Drive in Santa Rosa, Pierre Velasquez of Central Valley Engineering and Asphalt smooths out a slurry seal Tuesday as part of a street maintenance project. (Kent Porter / PD)

On Lake Park Drive in Santa Rosa, Pierre Velasquez of Central Valley Engineering and Asphalt smooths out a slurry seal Tuesday as part of a street maintenance project. (Kent Porter / PD)

“What you see is pavement preservation,” said Clay Thistle, an associate civil engineer in the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department. “It’s like the preventative maintenance you would do on your car to avoid that big repair.”

A contractor under the direction of city road crews began covering residential roads in Fountaingrove this week with a coat of black goop known as slurry seal, a mixture of oil, water and small rocks spread to a depth of about 3/16 of an inch.

The mixture dries in a just a few hours, leaving a road surface that looks as good as new, is more skid-resistant and, most importantly, protects the underlying road by sealing out water, Thistle explained.

It’s a cost-effective way to prolong the life of roads and prevent them from becoming prematurely potholed or severely cracked, sometimes described as alligatored, Thistle said.

Once that happens, a road has to be either resurfaced with new asphalt or rebuilt completely, both of which are far more expensive than slurry sealing, he said.

Crews from Central Valley Engineering & Asphalt of Roseville started Monday at Lake Park Drive and will work their way up the parkway over seven days.  Most of those streets are about 15 years old.  Then they’ll switch to Oakmont, where the streets are about 20 years old, for three days starting July 31

The roads are closed to traffic during the work but reopen at the end of each day. The sealant takes up to a week to cure completely, depending on the weather, so drivers are asked to tread lightly on the fresh surface for the first few days.

The city has programs for repairing potholes and rebuilding streets that are too far gone to continue patching. But they’re severely underfunded, according to Rick Moshier, the director of the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department.

It would take an investment of about $15 million per yera just to maintain city streets at their current average condition of “good,” Moshier told the City Council in May. The city is now spending about a third of that amount. It budgeted$5.6 million last year and $5.5 million this year for road repairs.

That has resulted in city streets deteriorating rapidly. Brand new roads have a Pavement Condition Index of 100. Anything down to 70 is considered “very good.” Fifty-one to 70 are considered “good,” 26 to 50 is considered “poor,” and zero to 25 is considered “very poor.”

Last year, the condition of the average city street was a 66. This year, that figure dropped to 62. “We used to always try for 70,” Moshier said.

At current levels of maintenance, the average road condition is expected to drop to 57 by 2018 and 51 by 2023. The longer the city keeps spending less than $6 million a year, the more it will cost the city in street repairs, Moshier told the council.

If the city waits until 2018 to increase funding for roads, it’ll take $22 million per year for a decade just to return to present conditions. If it waits until 2023, that figure increases to $26 millionper year. By 2032, if nothing changes, the streets on average will be considered “poor” and it will take $42 million per year for a decade just to get back to where the roads are today, Moshier said.

“Every year that goes by it gets a little worse,” Moshier told the council. “The later you wait to start, the worse it is.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.

14 Responses to “Santa Rosa spends to maintain good roads”

  1. Reality Check says:


    The confusion was a typo. I meant “over all” grade. Generally, I find Santa Rosa’s streets, especially east-west arterials and connectors, in poor condition. And I would spend more money maintaining them, but I appreciate the city’s dilemma.

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  2. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – not sure what you mean about “over grade” of streets. When you first go to that map, it shows the current (when last inspected, anyway) condition of the pavement maintained by Santa Rosa. The Pavement Condition Index (PCI) is a standard measure of pavement condition used at least in the SF Bay Area, but I believe beyond that as well. It allows you to compare between one jurisdiction and another. The software that is used can evaluate different maintenance scenarios, and will tell you what the PCI will be some years down the road. Public Works uses this program to advocate for more funds, and then once funds are appropriated, they use it to determine how best to use those funds. I don’t know enough to talk about how State funds are allocated, or the politics behind it.

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  3. GAJ says:

    They are repaving Burbank Avenue as I type this; of course I think that’s a County project.

    These are the kinds of roads in high density areas that warrant immediate attention.

    Perhaps it looks good on a chart to fix a lightly traveled road already in good repair but to the actual citizens who pay for the roads it makes no sense whatsoever.

    Fix the roads people use the most first and then work your way down.

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  4. Reality Check says:


    Thanks for the map. Quite interesting. I have no objection to the slurry program. It sounds like a sensible decision given the money available. I do question the over grade of city streets, however. But maybe it’s just the streets I often use.

    Question: Might some of this have to do with how street repairs are funded? As in, the state may kick in money for an arterial street that wouldn’t be available for residential streets. So the city waits for state money to be available before repairing those streets.

    In any case, the formula to distribute gas tax money does not favor local street maintenance. Your thoughts are welcomed.

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  5. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – the City road network is rated on a set standard so that comparisons can be made. There are programs that tell you what various spending scenarios will produce in terms of overall road condition after a period of time. Yes, the City should be spending more, but for the amount they are spending, they are achieving the best overall road condition possible. If you go to the City’s GIS web site, you will see that while this year’s slurry seals are occurring in more well-to-do neighborhoods, past slurry seals have been fairly well spread out throughout incorporated Santa Rosa:


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  6. GAJ says:

    Its like putting a new paint job on a car with a faulty transmission and an engine running on half its cylinders.

    Pretzel logic and shows the level of intelligence of the people making key decisions at the City.

    Fix the worst roads in the densest areas first.

    What terrible governance.

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  7. Beef King says:

    I wish the PD would print a County and/or City Budget when these stories are printed.
    If people (taxpayers that care) see the where the money is going there will be a voting revolution that includes voting in elected officials who will do a better job of looking out for the common interests over the special interests.

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  8. James Bennett says:

    The Plan is to let country roads fall into decline. Period.

    Once the surface has been compromised they deteriorate much faster…

    kinda like government.

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  9. Reality Check says:

    City streets merit a grade of 62, or “good,” in the words of Rick Moshier, the city’s public works director. Rick’s a easy grader, I feel safe in saying.

    The missing story here is why is the city spending so little to maintain roads that are clearly in worse shape that “good.” And everyone seems to know that maintenance postponed drives the eventual cost ever higher.

    The city’s budget increased 7% this year, I believe, yet money to maintain our roads declined about 2%. What’s that about, inquiring minds want to know?

    Slurry’s nice, but there’s more to this story to report.

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  10. Emerson Burkett says:

    To Quote The Talking Heads;”Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.” What’s new? The Shakers and Movers always get preferential treatment around here. I agree with Grapevines; what is needed is real representation on City Council,not just folks from North East quadrant.

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  11. Steveguy says:

    That is where they live. Ohh, and we should be grateful to give Roseville workers some money. Low bidder, highest giver ? Again ?

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  12. Grapevines says:

    Can’t have the Fountaingrovers or Goatmount crowd driving on bumpy roads. They may not contribute as much to the next campaign when someone wants to get reelected.

    Best reason I can think of to have someone from the West (and unspeakable) side of town on the City Council.

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  13. bear says:

    This is exactly what it looks like.

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  14. Steve Humphrey says:

    What’s important is that the city council focus on things like Power agencies and Assualt Weapons bans. No reason to worry about the streets and other infrastructure needs of the citizens…. that is until the bicycle coalition complains about the bike lanes.

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