Report: Gas tax revenue no excuse for bad roads

Despite receiving more gasoline tax revenue than 40 of California’s 58 counties, Sonoma County has arguably the worst roads in the state, according to the watchdog group Save Our Sonoma Roads.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, Sonoma County received $12.86 million in gas tax revenue, about $9,300 per mile for its road system.

Sonoma County’s road network is the largest in the Bay Area, but statewide 13 counties have larger road systems. Several have over twice as many miles as Sonoma County’s 1,383 miles.

Road conditions are rated by the state using a Pavement Condition Index (PCI), and the state average is 66. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission reports a PCI of 44 for Sonoma County roads, not including city streets, which is among the lowest county figures in California.

About 70 percent of California counties (40 counties) get less tax revenue per mile and almost all have roads in much better condition, according to SOSroads.org. For example, Fresno County receives about $6,000/mile and has a PCI rating of 67 for a 3,500 mile county road system. Tulare County achieved a PCI of 70.5 in 2012 with $4,100/mile for a 3,000 mile county road system. Butte County achieved a PCI of 65 in 2010 with $5,400/mile.

The Sonoma Board of Supervisors itself concluded in June 2012 that 751 of Sonoma County’s 1,383 road miles are failed or in poor condition. Only 200 miles are funded long-term to maintain the pavement in good condition, although an additional $8 million has been
budgeted in the past and current fiscal years to improve non-primary roads.

Many roads are falling apart and will eventually deteriorate to gravel or dirt, according to the report.

“We will continue to investigate why Sonoma County has such poor road conditions while ranking in the top third for road funding,” said Craig Harrison of the volunteer citizens group.

The group disputes the rationale that the county is disadvantaged by the state gas tax allocation formula and that it has a large road network compared to others in the San Francisco Bay Area. High rainfall, sometimes cited as a contributor, is also “implausible.”

Other possible factors, such as the county’s hilly terrain poses road maintenance challenges compared to flatter counties, its roads experience exceptionally high use because of visitors, and higher labor costs for repairs are worth investigating, Harrison said.

“Understanding how and why our county road system became so dilapidated is key to
accountability to ensure that we get the best results for our future investments,” said Harrison.


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