After two years of extra funding, the condition of Sonoma County’s major roads — generally those serving as thoroughfares between cities — is improving, officials reported Tuesday. But that has come at a price — the continued deterioration of the larger network of small country lanes and backroads.
Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday approved a small addition to the list of county roads targeted for long-term maintenance while signaling support for study of a possible property tax increase to boost road upkeep. Board members cited county budget pressure and flat state road funding as two of the reasons for the makeshift moves and revenue search.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday endorsed a plan to increase the network of county roads designated for long-term maintenance by 63 miles, about 5 percent of the 1,382-mile network. Most of the segments are in good shape now, and the aim is to focus long-term maintenance efforts on them to keep them that way.
After six years with the worst road-quality rating in the Bay Area, unincorporated Sonoma County has moved up one step — to second worst out of nine counties and 100 cities in the region. The bump is scant consolation to county officials. “This is a club we really don’t want to be a member of,” Supervisor Mike McGuire says.
UPDATE 7:40 PM: In their third day of budget hearings, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Wednesday tentatively agreed to save a number of high-profile programs and jobs that amount to about $8.4 million in extra spending. Among those county services were the Sheriff’s Office helicopter Henry 1 and the Sierra Youth Center, the probation center for girls.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors gave a chilly reception Tuesday to a proposal to cease all maintenance on 100 miles of rural roads. They want to see alternatives when they reconvene budget hearings on Wednesday. Check out the proposed hit list.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will consider stopping maintenance on some rural roads to save an estimated $843,000 a year in manpower and material, though at the risk of significant inconvenience to some.
There have been plenty of potholes of late on Sonoma County roads. Through April, county crews have poured asphalt patches into an estimated 81,175 potholes, 12 percent more than the same period last year. Prolonged periods of wintery weather haven’t helped.
Failing roads are a concern for rural residents, ranchers and grape growers in Sonoma County, which has the largest network of rural roads in the Bay Area. They are dismayed by the county’s plan to allow more than 1,200 miles of roads to deteriorate. “This is ridiculous. We are not a third-world country,” said Chris Hanlin, who lives on Sonoma Mountain. Part of the county’s predicament stems from the formula used to distribute gas tax revenues.
Measure W would increase the vehicle license fee by $10 in Sonoma County. Supporters say it would provide much-needed money to fill pot holes, build bicycle and pedestrian safety projects and support local bus service. Opponents say it would impose a permanent tax to deal with a temporary revenue problem. Check out the arguments on both sides. What do you think?