The latest report card on the Bay Area's local roads from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found that the region as whole suffers from a disappointing record on road quality, chiefly because of lack of funds available for street repair.
Some affluent communities were among those with the poorest roads. Larkspur in Marin County placed last among the Bay Area's 109 cities and counties, and Orinda was ranked 105th.
At the other end of the spectrum, topping the list was the Contra Costa County community of Brentwood – where the median home sales price in September was less than a third of Larkspur's.
Orinda has a 10-year plan, set down by city leaders in July, for improving roads.
"We've been doing the main roads," said Mayor Steve Glazer. But, he added, the fixes typically move the MTC rankings up by 1 point for one road, so don't expect to see big movement next year in a broad average of the city's 92.5 miles of paved streets.
The 10-year plan has four revenue bumps anticipated, the first of which was approved by voters on Nov. 6 — Measure L with a sales tax increase of half a cent. That will add roughly $600,000 a year for the city with the 10-year plan estimating $52 million to bring the city's streets and drainage system to good condition. Measure L passed by 7,415 yes votes (69.43 percent) to 3,265.
"The sales tax is going to help keep us in place," said Glazer. "It won't be the big fix." Bigger fixes are coming several years down the road, with the 10-year plan containing plans for a $19.8 million bond and a parcel tax. The plan was developed purposefully with checkpoints along the way where residents can vote yes or no to revenue generators, the mayor said.
As for the smaller infusion of money from Measure L, the city's Infrastructure Commission will review ideas for which streets to repair in the next fiscal year with city staff. Those choices should be before the City Council in four or five months.
The city of Orinda had a rating of 48. The city of Lafayette with a rating of 73 was in 39th place, in the "good" category, in the MTC rankings. The MTC rankings did not include the town of Moraga.
“One of the Commission’s top priorities is to restore the Bay Area’s transportation system to a state of good repair,” said MTC Chair Adrienne Tissier, a San Mateo County Supervisor. “For local streets and roads, that target has been frustratingly elusive. And the main issue, not surprisingly, is money.”
The ratings assign a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) score between 0 and 100 to each of the 109 jurisdictions. Each PCI score in the report represents a three-year average of the single-year PCI score for most recent three years.
The highest score was 86 in Brentwood, and the lowest was 44 in Larkspur. The localities were grouped into five main categories depending on the score: very good, good, fair, at-risk and poor. A total of 54 jurisdictions were rated good or very good, while 55 fell into the fair, at-risk or poor categories.
The MTC lauded El Cerrito as an example of a local community's willingness to pay extra to repair and upgrade substandard roadways.
"We have seen big improvements in places like El Cerrito, which passed a half-cent sales tax in 2008 to finance a citywide street improvement program," the news release said.
A year ago, El Cerrito was honored with the MTC's "Most Improved Roads" award for the dramatic improvement in its streets between 2006 and 2010. ln 2010, El Cerrito scored 85 for its single-year PCI, tying for second place with Belvedere, behind first-place Brentwood, which scored 88 that year. In 2006, El Cerrito's PCI was a lowly 48, which tied for third from the bottom.
The MTC also extolled new technology as way for local governments to stretch road maintenance dollars.
It cited a $2 million MTC grant in 2010 to Sonoma County and the city of Napa for "cold-in-place recycling" (CIR), where the top 2-8 inches of asphalt is is scraped off, pulverized and mixed with additives, and then put back on the street.
"While not appropriate for all roadways, this technique has been shown to cut asphalt rehabilitation costs by 20 percent to 40 percent, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to produce new paving material or transport it to the worksite," MTC said.
Following the pilot project in Sonoma County and Napa, a number of other Bay Area local governments — including Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara coounties, as well as the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Foster City, Mill Valley, Orinda and South San Francisco — have used CIR, MTC said.
The localities with the most pressing road-repair needs are those with PCI scores in the "at-risk" range of 50-59 and the "poor" range of 49 and below. They "require major rehabilitation or reconstruction," the commission said.
“There are a lot of streets and roads around the Bay Area with PCI scores below 60,” Tissier said. “That’s the point when the deterioration of pavement really accelerates."
"The lowest-ranked pavement in the Bay Area was found in the Marin County city of Larkspur and the Napa County city of St. Helena, each of which recorded a PCI score of 44 for the 2009-11 period," the MTC said.