The condition of the system that makes up more than 80 percent of California’s roadways is on the path to failure. The biennial survey confirms pavement conditions are declining and finds that existing funding levels are insufficient to properly fix and/or maintain streets, roads, bridges, sidewalks, storm drains and traffic signs. Deferring this crucial work, the report predicts, will likely double the cost of repairs in the future, and impedes efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.
The report is a collaboration between the California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities and the state’s regional transportation planning agencies. Produced every other year since 2008, the 2014 report surveyed California’s 58 counties and 482 cities and captured data from more than 99 percent of the state’s local streets and roads. It is being released on the heels of the TRIP Report in September, which found that a mere 25 percent of California’s major urban roads and highways are in good condition.
California’s local street and road conditions continue to decline. The Needs Assessment uses a scale of zero (failed) to 100 (excellent) to rate pavement condition. Conditions have deteriorated since the first survey six years ago when the statewide average was 68. Today it’s dropped to 66, which falls into the at risk category. Of California’s 58 counties, an alarming 54 have streets and roads that are either at risk or ranked in poor condition. In 10 years, it is projected that 25 percent of local streets and roads will be ranked poor.
The financial numbers behind this report are startling. In the next 10 years it is estimated that the local system will have a $78.3 billion funding shortfall. Existing funding for California’s local streets and roads is just $1.7 billion annually but $3.3 billion is needed just to maintain the current statewide average rating of 66. However it would take $7.3 billion annually to bring the state’s local streets and roads into a safe and reliable condition. These figures do not take into account the $31 billion needed in the next decade for curb ramps, sidewalks, storm drains, street lights and signals. Further, there is a funding shortfall of $1.3 billion to maintain the safety and integrity of California’s 11,863 local bridges.
Matt Cate, California State Association of Counties’ Executive Director, said reduced funding has led to a backlog of deferred maintenance. “The state gas tax is only worth half of its value compared to when it was last increased in 1994. While revenues are decreasing, cities and counties are doing more with less, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building sustainable communities, both of which rely on a functioning local transportation network. It is no wonder that funding is woefully inadequate. It’s time to get serious about a more stable funding source for local streets, roads and bridges so we can begin to catch up on a backlog of work that should have been completed long ago.”
League of California Cities Executive Director Chris McKenzie called the report a reminder of how every trip begins on a local street or road. “Our local streets and roads serve as the backbone of California’s entire transportation system. The continual deterioration of this system not only threatens the safety of all Californians but also our economy. We need to invest in our streets and roads and ensure California’s high quality of living, spark new innovation and promote sustainability for the future.”
Visitors to www.SaveCaliforniastreets.org
will find an interactive map showing the street and road condition for every California county and city.