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County roads still face a bumpy future

After Sonoma County supervisors — led by David Rabbitt and Shirlee Zane — unanimously backed a one-year, $8 million increase in road repair funding last week, advocates say they appreciate the boost, but argue it is not nearly enough to solve the county's most glaring infrastructure problem.

"With its recent plan, the county has addressed 7.5 miles of roads and that's great," said Michael Troy, a Penngrove resident and co-founder of the countywide citizen's group S.O.S. Roads. "But there are still more than 1,300 other miles of roads that are deteriorating."

The funding increase — which roughly doubles the county's annual contribution for road upkeep to $15.5 million — is meant to chip away at an almost $1 billion backlog in road maintenance. After the economic downturn reduced tax revenue, the county decided in 2010 to only perform basic repairs on 84 percent of the county's 1,382-miles of roads.

Rabbitt called last week's vote a short-term solution that, at the very least, will fix 7.5 miles of roads and highlight the problem with the county.

"We know we have a billion dollar problem and even though we don't have a billion dollars to solve it, we need to keep it a priority and keep it moving forward," said Rabbitt, who represents Petaluma and the South County on the board of supervisors.

Rabbitt said the plan approved last week will focus on sections of county roads that serve both a community and economic purpose. While the final decision on which roads will be targeted remains undecided, Rabbitt said that his goal is to use the money in a way that gets the most "bang for the buck."

S.O.S. Roads co-founder Craig Harrison said that though he is happy that the county allocated these funds, he worries about the long-term plans to tackle the growing county road problem.

"I give Supervisor Rabbitt a lot of credit for wanting to jump into this, but we're looking for serious solutions and wondering how viable this one is," he said. "Where are we going in the long run?"

Rabbitt said that the county is currently looking into long-term solutions that include possible state, regional and local tax increases to help supplement funding, but added that they are not ready to implement anything at this time.

"It will be a mix-and-match revenue solution that will require figuring out what would work best to make sure the pavement index doesn't deteriorate," he said. "But it's definitely a long-term plan."


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