Martinez News-Gazette: Supervisors approve $5 million in road projects

November 1, 2017 
By: Donna Beth Weilenman 

Repair of the storm-related washout of Alhambra Valley Road is one of several projects totaling $5 million approved by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to be completed using new state revenues.

The money will come from the Road Repair and Accountability Act (Senate Bill 1) of 2017, signed April 28 by Gov. Jerry Brown. Advocates have called the act the first significant, stable and ongoing increase in state transportation funding in more than 20 years.

The act is expected to raise $5 billion annually through raised taxes and fees to address deferred projects, safety improvements and other repairs and rehabilitation of the state’s roads, bridges, highways and streets.

The Alhambra Valley Road project will repair a 70-foot gap that occurred during the Jan. 11 storm and forced the artery’s closure. That road normally links Alhambra Avenue in Martinez to Pinole Valley Road. It’s been closed since the washout, and until SB1 was passed and signed, the county Public Works reports indicated the damage was so severe that the stretch of road would be closed indefinitely.

Not all of the projects were the result of the heavy winter storms, however. Others made the list to meet a variety of needs, said Carrie Ricci, deputy director in the Contra Costa County Public Works Department, who issued the county’s statement announcing the list of projects the Board of Supervisors want done first.

The Board also selected projects to improve 14 miles of county roadway, to help others who share the road with motorists have safer travels, to control traffic through curb extensions, also called bulb-outs, flashing beacons and other methods, and to encourage alternatives to vehicle traffic in order to address the growing congestion in Contra Costa County.

Also on the Supervisors’ list of projects for which it would use the SB1 money are the repair of Morgan Territory Road, which suffered from a slide during the winter storms; preventative maintenance and asphalt rubber cape sealing of some road surfaces at Bay Point; improvements for pedestrian safety on Pomona Street and completion and addition of pedestrian safety components in Tara Hills; pedestrian crossing enhancements in the central and eastern portions of Contra Costa County and completing of Blackhawk Road bicycle lanes.

These projects are expected to be finished by the end of 2018, Ricci said in the announcement.

County employees have started developing a project list for consideration next year, and that list is expected to focus on safety, road maintenance and rehabilitation as well as multi-modal improvements.

“Funding from SB1 is critical and will allow the county, other local agencies and Caltrans to work on improving the condition of our deteriorating road network in California,” said Steve Kowalewski, deputy director of the county’s Public Works Department.

“The storms of 2017 exposed the extent of the deteriorating pavement condition causing many new potholes and sinkholes to appear,” he said.

“The funds will also help improve safety and expand our multi-modal network,” he said.

A state report on the Road Repair and Accountability Act said the additional taxes and fees are expected to raise $54 billion in the next decade, and that money will be used to fix roads, highways and bridges. The money will be split between state, for its highway system, and local agencies – cities and counties, for their projects.

The new fees and taxes are being phased in, starting with a fuel tax increase that starts Wednesday. A value-based transportation improvement fee begins Jan. 1, 2018; a price-based excise tax will be reset July 1, 2019; and a new zero-emissions vehicle fee starts July 1, 2020.

Once all are in place, $1.5 billion in new revenue would be earmarked annually for local street and road maintenance and rehabilitation and other qualifying projects, such as traffic signals and drainage improvements. Of the total, half will be earmarked for county projects and the rest will be used by cities.

Caltrans expects that by 2027, 17,000 miles of pavement will be repaired or replaced under SB1, as will 55,000 culverts and drains, 500 bridges and 7,700 signals, lights and sensors.

The California Transportation Commission is overseeing how money is spent on most of these projects, especially at the local level. The California State Transportation Agency is administering transit and rail expenditures.