A newly formed citizens' group admits it doesn't know how to fix the county's deteriorating road conditions, but says it aims to bring public attention to finding solutions.
"Our main purpose is to educate people about why the roads are the way they are," said one of the group's founders, Penngrove resident Michael Troy. "We hope to influence the supervisors to make roads a priority."
Calling itself Save Our Sonoma Roads (SOSRoads) the organization focuses on county-maintained roads in unincorporated Sonoma County.
Officials blame lack of money for the inability to maintain the county's 1,382 miles of local roads in good condition. These roads have received the third lowest Pavement Condition Index (PCI) rating in the Bay Area, a score of 45 out of 100 points. They are classified as "poor," just one step above the lowest category, "failed."
Last year Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works Director Phillip Demery said his department could only afford to maintain 155.9 miles of high priority roads and only perform emergency repair for public safety on the rest. In a telephone interview this week he said he plans to go before county supervisors Feb. 7 to add 40 more miles of roadway to the priority list.
"The idea is to continue to expand those miles," he said.
According to Demery, the "bread and butter" for all county transportation funding is state gas tax revenues, and that funding "has lost its purchasing power over the years."
Indeed, state gas tax has remained at 18 cents per gallon since 1994, while the cost of repairing and maintaining roads has increased enormously, according to John Goodwin, public information officer for the regional Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).
Which leaves counties and cities scrambling to find other revenues to supplement the gas taxes.
As a result, Sonoma County has been forced to cut its road repair budget during the current recession. According to a graph prepared by SOSRoads, the county budget for road maintenance, adjusted for inflation, has decreased from $7.8 million in 2008/2009 to $4.3 million in 2011/2012.