OUR COUNTY ROADS

Released May 11, 2000

 

INTRODUCTION

The Grand Jury received complaints from residents of New Cuyama and Goleta, regarding the poor condition of their roads and sidewalks.  Pictorial evidence was provided to justify the complaints.  Subsequent interviews with the Director of the Public Works Department and several county supervisors showed that the situation is widely recognized and understood as resulting from a lack of funds to repair all county roads.  The Grand Jury made an investigation into this situation to verify that the lack of funds is the problem and, if so, to prepare a report that clarifies the situation so that it may be understood by county residents.

CONCLUSION

The County has built more roads than they can afford to maintain. The County cannot afford to maintain the roads that they already have. Practically speaking, the County has abandoned many roads in rural areas.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Grand Jury Finding 1:  County non-rural roads appear to be properly maintained, but many rural roads are essentially being abandoned for lack of funds.  Presently, more than 30 percent of rural roads are in failed condition and would require reconstruction to be made whole.

Public Works Response to Finding 1:  Public Works agrees that 30 percent of the rural roads require costly reconstruction.  Although the Public Works Department does not provide surface treatments to these failed roads, the Department continues to monitor the road safety.

BOS Response to Finding 1:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as the Board of Supervisors’ response (partially disagrees).

Grand Jury Recommendation 1:  The Board of Supervisors (BOS) and PWD should reexamine the allocation of transportation funds between capital projects and road maintenance with the goal of increasing the funds for road maintenance.

Public Works Response to Recommendation 1:  Public Works has analyzed and will continue to monitor all Transportation funding opportunities for road maintenance.  Although local governments receive a portion of State Gas Tax funding for road maintenance activities, the vast majority of Transportation funds are provided by State and Federal Gas Tax collections for capital projects that relieve traffic congestion, improve air quality, replace/modify substandard bridges or road safety improvements.  These competitive funds are administered either by Caltrans or by Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs) throughout the State.  The RTPA in our area is the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.  Road maintenance activities are either ineligble for the competitive, categorical funding or such activities do not compete well with the more visible capital projects.  Measure “D” funding is a local sales tax revenue that is used for both road maintenance and capital improvement funding.  The Board of Supervisors annually approves the Measure “D” programming of projects which includes maintenance activities.  Increasing the Measure “D” funding for road maintenance activities and the corresponding reduction in capital improvement funding would be a policy decision of the Board of Supervisors.  The Board of Supervisors have allocated County General Fund dollars towards road maintenance activities in the past and have most recently designated $1.0 million in fiscal year 2000/2001 for additional road maintenance activities.

BOS Response to Recommendation 1:   This recommendation has been implemented.  Each year, the Board examines and approves Public Works’ “Measure “D” Program of Projects” and the “Road Maintenance Annual Plan” which details all the planned road maintenance projects and funding and seeks to ensure that highest priority needs are being met.  As can be seen by Public Works’ comments in their response to the Grand Jury (copy attached), the vast majority of Transportation funds received are from State and Federal Gas Tax collections specifically for capital projects.  Measure “D” funding is the primary source of local discretionary dollars that the Board of Supervisors can use to make strategic decisions on Road Maintenance.

Some portion of Measure “D” money is allocated to Bridge Maintenance, which is, by definition, both a  “capital project” and Road Repair and Maintenance (see response to Finding 2).  By using Measure “D” money for this purpose, the County is able to substantially leverage Measure “D” funding.  The Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Funding (HBRR) provides a match equivalent to 80% of the cost of the project, meaning that the County pays only 20% of the cost of Bridge Maintenance Capital Projects.  This provides additional flow of dollars into the County for our Transportation Infrastructure System. 

Finally, to increase the goal of increased funds for Road Maintenance, the Board of Supervisors allocated $1 million from FY00-01 General Funds to help address this need.

Grand Jury Finding 2:  The Board of Supervisors is not adhering to the priorities established in their Resolution 89-465.  The resolution states:  “. . . PRIORITIES:  I.  It is the intent of the County to use sales tax proceeds to fund fully the road repair and maintenance program  . . .

BOS Response to Finding 2:  The Board of Supervisors disagrees with this finding.  With the exception of a small amount of money that, by ordinance, is required to be spent on paratransit services, all of Measure “D” sales tax proceeds is used on road repair and maintenance.  The confusion lies in the definition of “Road Repair and Maintenance.” By definition, it encompasses four fully integrated components of a complex Transportation Infrastructure System:

·        Pavement Repair and Restoration

·        Concrete Hardscape Damage Repair

·        Storm Drainage Facility Repairs and Reconstruction

·        Bridge Maintenance

The Grand Jury Report focused on “Pavement Repair and Restoration,” noting that we currently have a $59 million backlog.  The Board of Supervisors agrees with this, but notes that this backlog has been reduced from $78 million over the last five years.  The total backlog of all Road Repair and Maintenance is $118 million.  Being sensitive to the critical need for adequate maintenance of the transportation infrastructure system, the Board of Supervisors supplemented Measure “D” funds by $1 million from General Funds in FY00-01. 

Grand Jury Recommendation 2:  The Board of Supervisors should reexamine their priorities for use of Measure “D” funds.

BOS Response to Recommendation 2:  This recommendation has been implemented.  Each year, the Board examines and approves Public Works’ “Measure “D” Program of Projects” and the “Road Maintenance Annual Plan” which details all the planned maintenance projects in the above listed four categories and seeks to ensure that highest priority needs are being met. 

It is important to understand that funding must be allocated in all four areas to maintain a stable infrastructure.  It is unreasonable to expect that all of Measure “D” Sales Tax funds should be allocated to Pavement Repairs, because to do so, would in effect further degrade our Transportation Infrastructure system by not repairing concrete hardscape, storm drains, and bridges.  Resolution 89-465 provides the proper guidance for allocation of funds.  The real problem is not in use of funds, but in lack of sufficient funding to adequately maintain our transportation infrastructure system.

Grand Jury Finding 3:  PWD needs more than $3.5 million per year beyond their current budget to arrest the deterioration of roads and to begin reducing the backlog of roads needing repair.  Measure “D” language and Board of Supervisors Resolution 89-465 permits more of Measure “D” funds to go for road repair and maintenance. 

Public Works Response to Finding 3:  Public Works agrees with the finding.

BOS Response to Finding 3:  The Board adopts Public Works’ response as Board of Supervisors’ response.

Grand Jury Recommendation 3:  To correct an imbalance of Measure “D” funding allocated among the County Districts, the Board of Supervisors and PWD should consider allocating funds by road lane-miles and population on an alternating year basis.

Public Works Response to Recommendation 3:  The recommendation is being analyzed along with other formula options. The Board of Supervisors recently agreed to modify the County’s Measure “D” allocation based upon unincorporated population within each of the Supervisorial Districts to a formula allocation based upon 75% unincorporated population and 25% road lane-miles (3 years population distribution and 1 year road lane-mile distribution).  This formula allocation will be reviewed by the Board of Supervisors and the Public Works Department at the end of the fiscal year to determine whether further adjustments need to be made.

BOS Response to Recommendation 3:  This recommendation has been implemented.  At its regularly scheduled June 6, 2000 meeting, the Board of Supervisors considered various options for distribution of Measure “D” funding:  Population by district (current allocation), lane mile allocation, 75% population/25% lane mile formula allocation, 50% population/50% lane mile formula allocation, 25% population/75% lane mile formula allocation, and an unfunded pavement backlog allocation. The Board of Supervisors adopted a formula allocation based upon 75% unincorporated population and 25% road lane-miles (3 years population distribution and 1 year road lane-mile distribution).  In addition, the Board agreed to allocate the $1 million from General Funds using this same formula at its regularly scheduled July 18, 2000 meeting.  The Board will review the results of this formula change at the end of FY00-01 to determine if further formula adjustments, such as the 50-50% allocation recommended by the Grand Jury, should be made.

2000-2001 Grand Jury Comments

The Board of Supervisors has allocated $1 Million from the General Fund to supplement Measure “D” sales tax proceeds.  This will partially address the Grand Jury identified need for increased road maintenance.  As recommended, the Public Works Department is analyzing re-allocating Measure “D” funding.   The Grand Jury acknowledges the complexity of the transportation infrastructure system and the lack of sufficient funding to maintain it.  The Grand Jury’s recommendation to allocate funds by road lane-miles and population on an alternating year basis has been implemented.