How We Fix Our Roads

Several months ago, I shared that our roads are in worse condition than all but 6 other counties in California (out of 58 counties). As I’ve knocked on thousands of doors around District 4, improving our roads is one of the top requests I receive. 

The way to do this is to understand which roads require improvements most urgently because if we wait to maintain roads, we then have to pay much more to fix them. In 2017, our public works department worked with an outside group to conduct a Pavement Condition Index analysis of all county roads, scoring them on a scale from 0 to 100. (The county is redoing this analysis right now.)

Of the 900 county roads, our average score is 50.1, which puts our average road on the line between poor and at risk. The state average, according to this report, was 64 in 2020.

Almost half of our roads fall into the poor or failed categories, accounting for 30% of the miles of roads in Shasta County.

On average, it costs $325,000 to overlay one mile of road. To overlay all of our poor or failed roads, it would cost us ~$94M.

To put this in context, the Public Works Department spends $6-8M per year on road maintenance.

A Plan for Fixing Our Roads

If elected, I would like to see us fix the 28 failed roads in the first 1-2 years I would be in office - without raising any taxes or taking money away from the maintenance we are already doing. 

Almost all of these are small, residential roads. They generally get skipped over when the Public Works Department decides which roads to resurface because the traffic on those roads is so limited. While it makes sense to prioritize improving roads with the most traffic, at some point, we need to fix these small roads. 

From there, I’d like us to resurface all of the poorly ranked roads over the next 12 years. 

To do this, we’d need to secure ~$8M per year in new grant dollars. Right now, our limited supply of engineers is trying to squeeze grant writing (something they haven’t been trained to do) into already full schedules of engineering work, making it difficult for us to win grants. The City of Shasta Lake was able to access $4M in grants to resurface 60% of its roads over a 20-year period. I believe the County could access more funds to dramatically improve our roads.

There may also be opportunities to reduce the cost of fixing our roads. If our Public Works Department is not doing it already, I’d like to have them review CalTrans Annual Efficiencies Reports to see if there are ways we can save money in road maintenance, stretching our dollars further.

What ideas do you have for how we can fix our roads? Which roads do you think need fixing?