Supervisor Rich Desmond's community meetings about transportation and roadways kicked off on Wednesday morning at Howe Park. About 25 people attended, along with staff from the County's Department of Transportation (SACDOT). Two other meetings were held on June 1st - one in Fair Oaks and the other in Foothill Farms. a final meeting will be held at Gibbons Park on June 12th at 5:30.
Supervisor Desmond started the meeting by saying that unincorporated areas like ours are at a disadvantage for transportation improvements but that his largely-unincorporated District 3 would be getting 43% of the County's planned improvements. And, for a change, the County will be spending some money doing that - with an investment of $70 Million this year in District 3, far exceeding historical investments.
SACDOT head, Ron Vicari gave a very interesting presentation at the Howe Park meeting. He said Sacramento County has a $6.2 Billion road network, most of which has poor pavement - a "Pavement Condition Index" or PCI of 48 out of 100 - with a deferred maintenance backlog of almost $1 Billion. For comparison, he said Tulare County has a PCI of 64, Lake County has a PCI of 36 and San Bernardino County has a PCI of 85. District 3 has a PCI 5 points below the County average. Roads in the cities of Elk Grove and Folsom are in the mid-to-high 70s. The City of Citrus Heights, with a development history a lot like our community's (suburban, post WWII, 1960's, etc.) has a PCI 10 points better than District 3's unincorporated areas. And, as Citrus Heights City Councilmember Brett Daniels pointed out during the meeting, Citrus Heights is almost done with its 25-year alimony payments to Sacramento County of $6.5 Million. Mr. Vicari hastened to add that sustained investments of more than $50 Million/year will only maintain the poor status of our pavement. The County would need to spend more than $70 MIllion/year to get to a PCI of 70.
Supervisor Desmond and Mr. Vicari said County's roads have been suffering for a long time. They pointed out that SACOG, the intergovernmental agency that distributes state and federal transportation funding within our region, has been distributing the money in ways that have deprived Sacramento County. The staed and federal funding is largely derived from taxes on sales of motor vehicle fuel. Within the SACOG region, the vast majority of such gas tax revenues (80%) come from highly-populated Sacramento County. But Sacramento County doesn't get a fair return. The Supervisor urged attendees to get to know SACOG and to start putting oln the pressure to get more of the dollars from Sacramento County returned to Sacramento County. In a dialog with the audience, there was discussion of SACOG's preference for "complete streets" that reduce roadway lanes, add sidewalks and bike lanes and beautify ugly streets with landscaping. As obvious as those improvements would be at making an area better, the cost of such projects is extraordinarily high. Meanwhile, not attending to bad pavement means the costs of fixing pavement go way up if a roadway has to be removed and replaces vs. overlaid.
The meeting touched on other aspects of our transportation infrastructure as well. The audience questioned the potholes-and-speed-bumps approach to managing the roadways and suggested that people will be convice things are getting better when roads like Watt Avenue are finally repaired. Mention was made of our sidewalk gaps, the inadequate nature of the narrow, rolled-curb sidewalks in the few places we have sidewalks, our lack of safe bike routes and our poor transit service. To his credit, Supervisor Desmond said he was re-directing some sidewalk funds to give a higher priority to filling in the sidewalk gaps. But perhaps more significantly, he told the audience that much of the overall problem can be traced to the structure of our local government. The County has 1 Supervisor to speak up for the needs of 350,000 constituents, whereas the City of Citrus Heights has 5 elected officials that tend to the needs of 85,000 constituents.
There were also posters about the planned paving projects and bridge repair projects. Mr. Vicari's presentation was made available as a handout. In concluding remarks, he said though the existing budget of $30 Million remains insufficient, he is pleased that the County Executive and the Board of Supervisors have recently allocated additional funds to deal with the deferred maintenance backlog. He made it clear, though, that SACOG has to shift its priorities so more regional funding will go towards fixing the pavement problems. The overall impression of this meeting was that the County is taking a far different approach than was explained to us in 2017 under the last regime. Supervisor Desmond does seem to want a better deal for unincorporated areas.