Sean Powers and Trisha Tillotson: Long-term transportation funding reform needed for California infrastructure
Sean Powers and Trisha Tillotson
In response to the “Let’s take another look at our roads” opinion published by The Union on Jan. 28, by The Union Editorial Board, the Nevada County Public Works Department would like to share current actions the County is taking to improve our road maintenance and infrastructure despite fiscal challenges affecting jurisdictions across State.
We would also like to provide the community an update on the work being done to quickly address the recent damage from January storms.
On Jan. 3, a storm system resulting from an atmospheric river swept across California, bringing high winds, precipitation and flooding throughout the State. Impacts of the extreme weather in Nevada County ranged from potholes, a section of Maybert Road washing out in the town of Washington, and over 25 inches of rain impacting culverts and roads. Nevada County Public Works crews worked diligently throughout the storm and continue to clean up the residual damage. Maybert Road was reopened in late January and all other reported storm issues in Nevada County are anticipated to be resolved in six to eight weeks. Our road crews have greatly appreciated the emails and calls from the residents recognizing their responsiveness and hard work.
After the extreme weather event, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency and Governor Brown issued two emergency proclamations to secure funding for the response and recovery of several California counties, including Nevada County. Nevada County staff has prepared an initial damage estimate of $1.2 million for County roads and Staff is working diligently to recover up to ninety-five percent of those costs from State disaster relief and FEMA funds.
Roads and infrastructure improvement remain a foremost priority of the County of Nevada. Revenues for 2016 and 2017 routine road maintenance consisted of $3 million in gas tax funds and $1.65 million in Measure F funds. These funds allow the County to continue to provide routine maintenance such as shoulder and drainage maintenance, roadside clearing and brushing, striping and general maintenance such as filling potholes.
Nevada County residents enjoy some of the best pavement conditions in the State (within the top 10 counties in California) and road maintenance projects continue to be completed using current funding sources. The Public Works Department has been extremely successful in applying and receiving competitive grants to help supplement funding for infrastructure projects. This year, grants will help fund bridge repairs/replacements, construction of sidewalk on Nevada City Highway and safety improvements including thermoplastic striping, high friction surface treatments and installation of traffic signal emergency vehicle preemption equipment.
Unfortunately, annual revenues have decreased by about $1 million over the past eight years in Nevada County. Declining revenues are part of a statewide trend, driven by low fuel prices and the shift towards fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. Public Works feels that it is prudent to budget based on the current reality and not pin our hopes on the State solving this problem. For this reason, pavement preservation is not budgeted for future years. There are several State proposals to address California’s long term infrastructure needs ranging from $4.3 billion to $5.5 billion statewide. Additional funding will significantly help, and will allow us to evaluate restoration of road preservation in future budgets.
Staff continues to adjust project priorities to address our community’s current needs and continue to aggressively apply for grants to supplement regular revenue sources. Public Works crews will continue to constantly monitor and maintain Nevada County’s roads with the help of the public. The public is encouraged to report a road maintenance issue. Please call the Nevada County Public Works Department at (530) 265-1411 or submit a request for service online.
We agree that Nevada County’s 560 miles of roads are critical to our quality of life and economy. We encourage the community to contact their State representative to support long-term transportation funding reform to address the State’s infrastructure needs. Please contact Assemblyman Brian Dahle at 916-319-2001/ email@example.com and Senator Ted Gaines at 916-651-4001/ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sean Powers is the Nevada County Community Development Director and Trisha Tillotson is Nevada County Director of Public Works.
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