Our roads need to be repaired! Diana Diamond's Blog, posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Oct 20, 2006 at 2:52 pm Diana Diamond is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Back in March 2006, Palo Alto City Auditor Sharon Erickson told the community that we had a $28.7 million backlog in road repairs.
Just driving through town daily, I know our roads are bad and in need of much repair, but I had not realized how far behind we were in paying for repairs. The $28.7 million figure is a huge amount of money, especially since the city talks about budgeting a mere $2 million a year for road repairs. At that rate of spending, we will never catch up.
For the past 10 years, residents have been complaining about the condition of our roads. In fact, a city survey reported that more than half the residents think their roads are in “poor” (18 percent) to “fair” (34 percent) condition. Given that residents rated other items in the city much higher, Erickson decided to conduct a study to see why the public perceived the roads were so bad.
Her conclusion: The roads have been neglected for years. Either the money slated for repairs was spent on other things, and/or the Public Works Department’s request for more money was not addressed.
It’s now seven months since Erickson’s report, and there’s no plan in sight yet as to what the city can do to come up with the money. City Manager Frank Benest and Director of Administrative Services Carl Yeats presented a report to the City Council’s Finance Committee Tuesday night, saying not only does the city need money for street repairs, but it also now needs about $3 to $5 million in new long-term spending for retiree health costs, as well as a lot for building repairs. And the city is also facing a potential loss in utilities tax revenues.
City Manager Frank Benest suggested the city find new ways to get more money in, such as asking residents to partly finance sidewalk repairs, or charging a development impact fee for roads, boosting hotel taxes, or charging more for city classes, but none of these will bring in a lot of money.
The Finance Committee instead told Benest to go back and start looking for some real cuts in this city, including possible cuts in city services. A big hooray for the committee!
We don’t have much choice left.
I don't know what the solution is, but I know some of us have been waiting for repairs for years. In the meantime our roads are getting progressively worse, particularly in old Palo Alto. We already are paying for these bad roads through the daily wear and tear on our cars. How much does an alignment cost?
Posted by long-time PA resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2006 at 11:33 am
It's about time to look at replacing the Public Works Director. Just observe a Public Works operation. Most of the people are standing around, and it takes several days to do a project that should be done in hours. A good portion of the workers time each day is spent going back and forth to the Service center on East Bayshore. The street repairs are not coordinated with the utilities repairs so we have several instances where a street is resurfaced and then shortly thereafter torn up for utility repairs. We wasted the street repair money for several years by not doing the work that should be routinely done. If we don't change the management, the roads will continue to get worse. Additional money given to the present management will be continued to be used inefficiently.
Posted by curious, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2006 at 3:04 pm
The council a few weeks ago voted the city employees an increase in benefits & salary; that was money that could have been used to fund more infrastructure needs - road repairs, new police station, library overhaul. I'm disapointed that the most recently elected council members like Klein, who campaigned on the issue of city management didn't make a stand on this.
Posted by J.L., a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2006 at 2:34 pm
The streets are not in poor repair - they're mostly sufficient, and do the job - same with sidewalks. This is an issue that is "made" into an issue by bringing it up. Most people don't notice. Fixing potholes should be the way forward, and making sure that bike lanes are especaially free of debris and cracks.
About sidewalks, why do we keep putting on concrete segments that consistently get pushed up with tree roots? Isn't there another way to do this that would cause less cost, and subsequent repair?
Posted by Bob Fuller, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2006 at 11:00 am
I agree with J.L., the roads aren't that bad. In a city this size, there are always some things that need repair and not everything can always be perfect. Everything costs money, and if money is spent on roads, it can't be spent on other items. Sure, we could cut city workers salary and benefits, but then some would surely quit and work elsewhere and then we would have no workers to do these jobs! People should look at what city workers bring home and really think about trying to live in this area on that amount of money. It's easy to say we need to do this or that, but it's a lot more difficult to look at the entire city budget and try to allocate money for the greater good without cutting items important to all.
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 23, 2006 at 11:07 am
Alternatively, we could get ourselves some good sources of sales tax e.g. stores we want to shop in, auto dealerships, etc. and get the money that Palo Altans already spend in sales tax funding Palo Alto's coffers so that we are able to repair our own streets and not those of our neighboring cities.
Posted by anon, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2006 at 2:02 pm
I think many of the streets in P.A. are quite rough and they take a toll on our cars. It should be a priority to fix the roads before considering other projects like spending huge sums to take a portion of the city golf course to make new playing fields. As J.L. writes, The city street trees sometimes do have terrible roots that require repeated work on sidewalks and residents who happen to have the "wrong" varieties in front of their homes are stuck with this situation. Those poor varieties of magnolias should be removed and replaced with appropriate street trees (I have seen this done in selected cases).
Posted by J.L., a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 27, 2006 at 10:53 am
Not related at all, but it needs to be said. We should hang pictures - in infamy - of the persons who decided many years ago that liquid amber and magnolia trees should be planted in our urban environment, where people are traversing sidewalks on foot.
This has to be one of the most absurd decisions ever made by anyone(s) responsible for urban landscape planning.
Magnloias spew their large seed pods all over sidewalks, creating very real walkign hazards - especially in the evening. Liquid ambers fo the same thing, with the added negative bonus ofo being able to puncture a bicycle tire that has even been reinforced with a special sleeve (called a "Tuffy") to prevent punctures.
The cost to citizens in terms of real physical inconvenience, physical harm, and real cost has never been (and never will be) tallied.
Rant over - - Now we can return to our regularly scheduled debate...:)