Solutions sought for dealing with pothole issues

June 22, 2011 7:09:04 PM PDT
Every time we hit one, we're reminded that Bay Area roads are a mess with potholes. The roads are in bad shape and they're getting worse, according to an annual report that came out recently.

The view from inside a Rockridge pothole shows why it might be more aptly called a "sinkhole." Just up the street, a swath of loose rock prompted one resident to post a note letting neighbors know public works had been asked to fix it.

Across the Bay Area, poor pavement quality is a hazard to cars, cyclists and transit riders.

"It's pretty bad," said Rockridge resident Kara Speltz. "There are some days when we're driving in those buses and it's really shaky, so it's something that obviously we've fallen behind on."

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's annual pothole report rates local roads on a scale of one to 100. For the second year in a row, the Bay Area average is stalled at a lackluster 66. The MTC says the regional target is 75 and the rate of deterioration accelerates dramatically at 60.

"A dollar spent at 75, for instance, is going to cost $5 for more extensive repair once it falls below 60," said MTC spokesman John Goodwin, "so we're at a very critical stage in pavement quality."

Residents of Oakland, whose pavement quality is among the Bay Area's worst, will envy the neighboring town of El Cerrito, where a dreamy new blacktop road was paid for, in large part, by voters who approved a half-cent sales tax increase in 2008.

Right across the border from El Cerrito, Richmond is replacing a stretch of Carlson Boulevard. Richmond rated among the worst on MTC's pothole report.

"Carlson's as bad as it gets," said Richmond resident Jason LeCount. "I haven't noticed it elsewhere in Richmond -- Carlson's really a standout."

Pothole repair has traditionally been paid for with the state gas tax, but that hasn't gone up in 17 years. El Cerrito has found one solution with its half-cent sales tax, something residents in other towns seem willing to accept.

"I would certainly," LeCount said when asked if he'd pay the tax.

"Something I can specifically see being done as opposed to wastefulness, I would be more than happy to pay," said Speltz.

The MTC says the cost of bringing the entire Bay Area up to speed with good quality payvement would require tripling their spending from $350 million to $1 billion annually.

The MTC report shows the words roads can be found in Rio Vista, followed by Sonoma County, Larkspur, St. Helena and Orinda.

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