Rue Furch essay on Maintaining Sonoma County Roads
During the Primary and now in preparation for the November election of our new District Supervisors, I have invited candidates to express their views on topics they feel are important to voters. This is one of Rue Furch's essays, this one published in the September 18th edition of WCG. Please read Shirlee Zane's and Efren Carillo's essays as well. Links to their web sites are included in these web essays. - V
Routes to Recovery or Roads to Ruin?
Western Sonoma County has more than its share of older roads that have been neglected. Winter potholes create craters big enough to cause car damage or accidents. For years, maintenance has fallen farther and farther behind. The situation is so bad that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says Sonoma County roads have the worst “pavement condition index” of all the over 100 Bay Area cities and counties.
As your West County Supervisor, a top priority will be getting our fair share of tax dollars for West County roads, improving rural public transit and ensuring safe student and pedestrian walkways and bike trails.
Sonoma County spends $18.8 million annually on county roads, including growth areas like the County Airport and Industrial Park. Yet when residents of rural Joy Road objected to the rapid collapse of their public road, the County tossed it back saying they may need to create their own tax assessment district to fix their road! That is not an option for residents who rely on public streets to be useable and safe. The County can’t just walk away from street maintenance obligations, particularly if they keep approving development on those same roads.
Where is our Fair Share?
Passage of Measure M approved an increase in sales tax to pay for road improvements. But west Sonoma County is being shortchanged. Forty-five percent of Measure M taxes go to rail and Highway 101 projects, which does little for West County. Measure M allocates 34 percent of the money it collects for local road, transit, bike, and pedestrian uses. But the bulk of that goes into the cities, with rural West County competing for its share.
The biggest road project in the 5th District is improving the Highway 12/Fulton Road intersection, but it does a lot more for Santa Rosa than West County. Bottom line, only 4% of Measure M road project funds dribble their way west of the Laguna de Santa Rosa to projects on River Road, Bodega Highway and the Forestville Bypass. Only 6% of the bike/pedestrian money reaches rural West County.
There are ways to bring more funds into the West County.
As Supervisor, I’ll work to allocate road repair funds to target public safety and substandard roads. The present system distributes repair money based only upon population and miles of road. It doesn’t consider how old or safe the roads actually are - and that stacks the deck against the West County.
As Supervisor, I won’t let developers off the hook for traffic impacts and long-term road repair. With Alice in Wonderland logic, the County says that if the traffic in an area is already bad, then projects that only add 5% more traffic won’t have a cumulative impact that has to be mitigated. As your Supervisor, I will make new development participate directly in fixing road problems, instead of just tossing the money into the County road fund.
And as your Supervisor, I will work to get especially bad sections of rural County roads declared substandard for safety or structural failure, and restrict any new projects that will add significant truck traffic to those roads until a correction plan is in place and funded.
I will go after special funding that fits the needs of our area. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has public transportation funds for areas like the Russian River with a high proportion of low-income households. Local agencies and non-profits can partner to qualify for those funds. As your Supervisor, I will work to build partnerships to bring in resources that are tailored for our circumstances.
I will work for a bigger percentage of Measure M funds for West County. When the Measure M package was assembled, it allocated 5% for rail as a stopgap until the SMART train had other funding. If a SMART tax measure is approved, that Measure M money can go to expand transit services to give the rural West County residents better access to the SMART train and a more useful transportation system.
Safe roads, sidewalks, paths and bikeways, and adequate transit must be a top priority for West County. It will be a top priority for me as your West County Supervisor.
Candidate for 5th District Supervisor
Labels: News and Politics: SONOMA COUNTY