By MARTINEZ MAYOR ROB SCHRODER
The single biggest complaint I receive from residents is the poor condition of the streets and roads in Martinez. In fact, I would guess that every mayor in every city in the state would rank the crumbling infrastructure as the number one concern of the majority. Much has been posted on social media sites and most of that information is misinformation.
On Aug. 17, by order of Governor Jerry Brown, the State Legislature convened a special session to discuss this problem and develop solutions. Ideas that have been floated include a 10 cent increase in the Gas Tax (which has not been increased in over 20 years), a $100 registration surcharge on zero emission vehicles, a $35 increase in the vehicle registration fee for all vehicles, and a return on Truck Weight Fees to the Transportation Fund. All of these items are in a bill currently being considered.
Because there is so much confusion about paving and infrastructure repair in Martinez, City Manager Rob Braulik and his staff has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that I think will be very helpful in separating fact from fiction:
Q. What is the primary source of funds for roadway pavement repair and maintenance?
A. Fuel excise taxes or “gas taxes.”
Q. Is there a relationship between the price I pay at the pump and local gasoline taxes?
A. No, there is no immediate direct correlation between the price paid and the revenues obtained by local cities and counties to maintain roads. There is a correlation from people adjusting their behavior (i.e., driving less when prices are high).
Q. What are the taxes per gallon on gasoline in California?
A. The State “Swap” Excise tax is 21.5 cents, the State Base Excise tax is 18 cents and the Federal Excise tax is 18.4 cents. These taxes, when added to the base market price, is the price you pay per gallon.
Q. Have these gas taxes kept up with inflation?
A. No. The taxes on gasoline have not increased since 1994, and yet the cost of maintaining and repairing roads has gone up considerably since 1994.
Q. Have higher vehicle fuel economy cars impacted gas tax revenues?
A. Yes, they have reduced consumer gasoline consumption, resulting in lower gas tax revenues and thus less revenue to repair roads.
Q. What has been the impact of electric and hybrid vehicles on gas tax revenues?
A. Clean air vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars use no, or much less gasoline than regular combustion engine cars thus resulting in less gas tax revenue.
Q. How can more revenues be generated to pay for road maintenance and repairs?
A. the State would need to move to a different method of revenue generation, which is a long-term change. To address the immediate system needs, existing excise taxes could be indexed to inflation.
Q. How much has the City budgeted for road maintenance and repairs in the FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget just adopted in July 2015?
A. The City budgeted $500,000 in each of the next two years.
Q. How does this amount compare to the prior two-year budget, FY2014 to FY 2015?
A. $600,000 and $500,000 respectively.
Q. What is the City road deferred maintenance and repair backlog?
A. The current pavement maintenance backlog is $24 million (as of April 30, 2015, CIP report)
Q. What is the current annual maintenance and deferred rehabilitation dollars backlog?
A. According to the PCI 14 report published March 16, 2015, this total backlog is $69.5 million
Q. Do most California cities have a deferred maintenance backlog of road projects?
A. Yes, nearly every California City has such a backlog and for reference the State of California backlog is $59 billion.
Q. What streets are planned for rehabilitation over the next two years?
A. The FY 2016 and FY 2017 list of streets are found here:
Center Avenue/Pine Street at Highway 4 – resurfacing: $350,000
Morello Avenue at Highway 4 – resurfacing: $400,000
Morello Avenue – patch paving Arnold to Pacheco: $75,000
Arnold Drive, Milano to Howe – patch paving / seal coat: $500,000
Howe Road – patch paving: $75,000
Haag Road – reconstruction: $25,000
C Street/Allen Street/Geneva Street – resurfacing: $250,000
Arreba Street – patch paving: $25,000
Kingston Avenue/Jordan Court/Mountain View Drive area
– patch paving / seal coat: $175,000
Woodglen Lane/Glenview Drive/Hale Court/Vista Glen Place/Valley Glen Lane – patch paving / seal coat: $100,000
Virginia Hills Drive/Waverly Drive/Donegal Drive – patch paving in preparation for seal coat: $250,000
Water repair pavement patches, various locations: $50,000
Castro Street – D Street to F Street / F Street / E Street: $125,000
North Court Street / Joe DiMaggio Drive: $175,000
Pine Street – Howe to Brown: $100,000
Virginia Hills Drive/Waverly Drive/Donegal Drive: $100,000
Q. It appears there are more funds available for FY2016 than $500,000?
A. Yes. The funds were accumulated from previous year project allocations. It is anticipated there will be a fund balance carryover of $675,000 (approximately) for FY2017 for a total expenditure in FY2017 of $1.175 million.
Q. When will the contract be awarded for FY 2016 pavement repairs?
A. It is anticipated to be awarded Sept. 16, 2015 (except for the seal coat projects). These later projects will be awarded by June 30, 2016.
Q. Has the Council allocated any additional funds for infrastructure investment?
A. The Council allocated $1 million of General Fund dollars in FY 2015 for infrastructure. This $1 million could be used for road repair; as of this date, funds have not been programmed.
Q. Is there legislation that would provide cities with more funding for local road maintenance and repairs?
A. Yes. Senator Jim Beall has introduced SB 16. This bill is still pending legislative action. The City of Martinez wrote a letter supporting passage of SB 16. If passed, it is estimated to provide approximately $1.6M in new annual funding for road maintenance projects.
Q. Is there any other State action on addressing this infrastructure issue?
A. Yes on June 16, the Governor called for a Special Legislative Session on Transportation and Infrastructure to address the issue of fixing roads in California.
Q. Are there other ways to pay for fixing roads other than gasoline taxes?
A. Yes. Some cities have passed parcel taxes and or local over ride sales taxes dedicated to roads. These tax measures require 2/3rd’s voter approval, a high threshold.
Q. If I wanted to read more about the City’s road network and various budget costs what can I read?
A. Read the Pavement Management Program (P-TAP14 Budget Options Report) dated March 16, 2015, located under the Engineering Departments Paving page on the City’s website, www.cityofmartinez.org.