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Our roads need to be repaired!

Original post made by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Oct 20, 2006

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?


Comments (12)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by bicyclist
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 20, 2006 at 10:05 pm

"Bryant the Bicycle Boulevard" is quite a challenge
for us people on narrow two wheels! That stretch
between Embarcadero and Oregon really needs attention.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by long-time PA resident
a resident of Crescent Park
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.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
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.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ja
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 21, 2006 at 11:54 pm

There is one huge advantage to keeping Palo Alto's streets in a state of disrepair, they slow the traffic down. This is not lost on staff. It is a form of "Traffic Calming".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Feeling disenfranchised
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2006 at 12:01 am

Maybe the solution is when next time our city council asks us about priorities, we also tell them what we DON'T ALLOW them to deal with until
- our roads are in good shape
- our sidewalks are in good shape
- SF creek flooding risks are addressed
- electricity distribution is brought underground

Until then,
- We don't want the council to deal with Sudan
- We don't want the council to deal with Iraq
- We don't want the council to deal with Global Warming
- We don't want the council to deal with Three Strikes
- We don't want the council to deal with Federal Issues
- We don't want the council to deal with International Issues

And that we commit to recall any council member that brings up those issue until OUR priorities are addressed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J.L.
a resident of Ventura
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?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob Fuller
a resident of South of Midtown
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.


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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.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
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).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by J.L.
a resident of Ventura
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...:)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Laura
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 31, 2006 at 1:51 pm


How much has the city waste on the repeatedly ripping and paving the
same streets, see below again?

does the city have any capability of planning?



There are always digging & paving along the same roads in the area south of Univ. and
between Alma and Middlefield. Addison Elementary school is in this area.
Addison Avenue, Channing, Homer, and Waverly are constantly ripped off and paved.
How much do we waste out city money! If the planning department is so incapable
of making planning ahead, the city should review the situation. And this has to first
to bring to the city's attention. We have far more places need funding citywide.

I deliver my son to Addison Elementary school every morning for over a year and half.
There is non-stop such actitivity going on and on and on the
SAME section on of the SAME streets, like Addison Avenue, Channing, Homer.

Each time they are paved nicely, a month later it was dug out again. Not soon after
I can enjoy driving on the nice, smooth surface, I need to de-tour seeing those big construction paving equipment.

Dear Editor, could you go to the city to find out how efficient and effective the city money have spent? How do they plan these activities?
How much have we spent these costly construction as a waste due to no consideration of a plan at all? And how much inconvenience and noise these unnecessary work have brought in the neighborhood?

This time since we are upgrading utililities, we dig them out again. But those streets
have been dug and paved more than 3, 4 times this year and some was just done in early months. You probably could also find out there
are lots of patches on every street. In the half of year, I have to detour many times
from Ramona st. to get to Addision Elementary School.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric Lin
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 6, 2006 at 11:19 am

Palo Alto Roads provide:

. Enough shaking for the driver to prevent sleeping at the wheel
. Test evironment for the shocker absorbers of Lexus cars
. Proof that shock absorbers of volkswagon cars is the worst.
. A good excuse to fire Frank Benest




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