City, county and state all out of money to repair roads
June 13, 2007
South Lake Tahoe area road maintenance budgets have taken as much of a beating as the streets and highways over the years – with millions of dollars in deferred repairs facing government officials as they gear up for the summer construction season.
Coming on the heels of developing a pavement management system, the city has estimated it’s about $90 million behind on getting the streets up to par. Alligator cracks, potholes and bulges mar the streets in the city’s eight subdivisions, proof of a troubled maintenance budget that fell to zero at one point.
This summer, the $900,000 overlay budget will be consumed by a major project due to start in July along Keller Avenue, a steep grade that gets much traffic, icy conditions and a heavy load factor from vehicles braking. Welcome to ski country. Crews will pulverize the street and lay new asphalt over 2,000 square yards, a material that has doubled in price over the last five years. Fixing the roads now costs about $4.10 per square foot.
“A million dollars doesn’t buy you much. Unfortunately, people think we’re going to repave the whole city,” said Jim Marino, who’s handling the Keller job for the engineering department.
Both Marino and Street Superintendent Scott Rogers usually sigh when they talk about what they want to do and are able to do to the road system, which resembles more of a quilt than a thoroughfare.
“We seem to have redevelopment money. If we don’t pay attention, it’s going to get worse,” said Ron Kepp, a Tahoe Keys resident who lives on Monterey Avenue. “Our tax base is one of the highest in the area, but the streets need a lot of work.”
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He singled out Venice Drive, where some of the cracks have expanded to six-inch crevasses that could easily knock a vehicle out of alignment or give a cyclist a flat.
Work crews are combing the city to do patchwork repairs as part of its overall $1.5 million street maintenance budget, a department allocation split between the work, staffers, striping, materials, sweeping and signs.
The city isn’t alone in dealing with the issue.
El Dorado County has no money set aside for chip-sealing any of its roads. The reason? Not enough transportation sales tax proceeds administered by the state.
“Things are extremely tight,” transportation chief Tom Celio said, figuring the local government is behind about $200 million in deferred maintenance.
Meanwhile, some county roads in Tahoe look like a war zone with giant potholes full of dirt and weeds.
“This is the state of our county finances right now,” District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago said.
She said some county areas are exploring special districts where residents could vote to tax themselves in order to pay for road maintenance. Santiago mentioned Fallen Leaf Lake as one community exploring the possibility.
“These roads have been unfunded for years. The challenging aspects are that even though government talks about building roads in those (state) transportation bonds, there’s no money for maintenance. And if they do have it, it’s a laughable amount,” she said.
It’s the state of things
The state isn’t doing much better in some areas. Caltrans District 10 crews out of Stockton are out repaving Highway 89 on the other side of Luther Pass from the summit to Pickett’s Junction. The new asphalt extends about a foot from the motoring lane ,but still represents a harrowing experience for cyclists in some cases.
One crew member said it’s a money issue.
District 3 crews repaved on the north side and tried to stretch the asphalt out for the bikers, but most would say it doesn’t go far enough.
“They should increase it. It seems like a no-brainer when they go past (that line),” said Wally Schweitzer, a builder from Meyers who was out training for the Death Ride on Wednesday. He’s been riding a bicycle for 22 years.
— City: Keller Avenue reconstruction, patchwork in Ski Run area on Wildwood, Alder, Aspen and Stateline area on Park and Lakeshore
— Douglas County: no work planned
— Nevada Department of Transportation: no work planned
— Caltrans: Highway 89 overlay on Luther Pass with one-lane controls with 10-minute delays and work on a rock retaining wall at Emerald Bay with short delays; Highway 50 replacement of drainage system from Incline road to Airport Road with short delays.