Ravaged roads around West County
Ravaged Roads By Andrea Granahan
A recent series of storms has ravaged the roads of west Sonoma County, at times forcing school closures in the Fort Ross and Shoreline Districts. “We are inundated with problems,” said Rob Silva, Sonoma County Roads Manager. “It’s thrown our spring schedule out the window.”
He was about to head for Coleman Valley Road which links Bodega Bay and Occidental, where a lane has been closed off in one place. “All the roads are so saturated that water has seeped into the base, where we have a base,” Silva said.
He explained that many of the roads in the west part of the county were ranch roads 50 to 80 years ago. “They just threw chip seal over a thin layer of rock, or over no rock at all. It met the needs then, but no one foresaw the amount of traffic those roads carry now.”
In November, 2010 things were further complicated by the Board of Supervisors putting 1232 miles of the county’s 1382 miles of rural roads on a “non-priority” list. According to Silva that means no new paving, only filling potholes, and those only on worst case basis.
“We haven’t had the gas tax raised since 1991, but since then the cost of asphalt has tripled,” Silva explained.
In addition the county has made a 25 percent reduction in manpower. Silva says that means the same number of workers that took care of 180 miles of road a year now take care of 460 miles.
The gas tax, according to Silva, brings in 18 cents per gallon which goes to the state which in turn portions it out. Twelve cents goes to CalTrans, three cents to the cities, and three cents to the counties.
“The problem is they portion it out based on registered drivers, not on miles to be repaired. So Marin county gets about the same that we do, while they have just 460 miles of roads compared to our 1382.”
In the meantime, the county has computerized pothole complaint calls, so any complaints get into the system immediately. The more complaints from the same area, the quicker it gets on the list to be fixed. So that wheel that’s getting damaged better be squeaky.