Pothole on Comstock Street in Linda Vista. Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen
Pothole on Comstock Street in Linda Vista. Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to take steps to improve 2,000 miles of deteriorating streets in the unincorporated areas, including lobbying the state and federal governments for help in funding the effort.

In a report presented to the board, Department of Public Works officials said it would take $56 million per year for the next five years to improve the so-called Pavement Condition Index to the level being sought by the supervisors.

The latest PCI index released in September gave the county a score of 60 or “fair” — the lowest score ever. The board’s goal is to reach a score of 70 or “very good” within five years.

Surveyors check the roads for smoothness of ride and any cracks, rutting and pot holes in pavement before issuing the PCI score.

“This is a hard pill to swallow, particularly to admit that there is a problem, but we have a problem,” Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said. “Keeping these streets up to speed, keeping them safe, is one of our most important jobs.”

Jacob and fellow Supervisor Bill Horn brought the matter before the board in an effort to identify ways to pay for the improvements in light of a steady reduction in state reimbursements from gas taxes, which traditionally fund street maintenance.

“If the state Legislature hadn’t been stealing our money all these years, we’d have more money to fix the roads as far as I’m concerned,” Horn said. “They come up with other ideas to spend our money which we’re, by law, supposed to be receiving, then we don’t get it.”

Gas taxes have dropped from an average of 39.5 cents per gallon three years ago to 27.8 cents currently because fuel prices fell during that period. And with more fuel-efficient cars on the road, less gas is being purchased, also cutting into county revenues.

“I’m concerned about the condition of the roads,” Horn said. “I would like to see the County of San Diego hold our legislators accountable for this and bring it to the forefront for them so that every day when they wake up, they can hear from a squeaky wheel that we would like our money back so we can fix our roads.”

The county previously turned over $5 million that had been allocated for the general fund to the Department of Public Works to spend on road maintenance, and redirected a portion of TransNet sales tax revenue to street repairs. The TransNet revenue had generally been used for bigger road improvement projects.

“Reliable roads are not only the lifeblood of our communities and economy, they are the lifelines during a wildfire or other emergency,” Jacob said. “We cannot continue to count on the state to maintain our roads.”

Last year, the county dipped into reserves to launch a multi-year resurfacing program.

“Our problem is not unlike the problem throughout the state of California or throughout the country with our roads,” Jacob said. “Pay now or pay a lot more later.”

The supervisors said those new funding methods still couldn’t make up for the reduction in state payments.

The board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Ron Roberts absent, to direct county staff to report back in 90 days with a plan to identify new sources of road repair funding that would earn the county a PCI score of at least 70 within five years.

Jacob plans to send a letter to the governor and the Legislature, urging them to “prioritize and approve a transportation funding solution that will address the deteriorating road conditions throughout the state.”

Jacob also asked county staff to work with President Donald Trump’s administration and San Diego’s congressional delegation in “doing all that we can to get federal funding.”

—City News Service