Next Road Repair Project Gets Council Nod

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

December 14, 2023

Though its streets repair project from past fiscal years aren’t yet done, the City of Morro Bay is starting already on its list of road repairs for next year and it may have more money than normal to spend.

The City Council approved the project list for the City’s Fiscal Year 2023/24 Pavement Management Plan job, that’s the annual road repairs the City does to try and keep up with the maintenance of its over 33 miles of paved streets in town. 

The budget for FY 23/24 will likely include over $260,000 from the State’s SB-1 monies, the “Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017,” that increased gas and diesel fuel sales taxes hiked vehicle registration fees and enacted a special registration fee on electric vehicles, which don’t pay gas taxes but do use the public roads.

SB-1 monies are doled out on a per capita basis and Morro Bay, being such a small city, always gets the minimum, which this year at $260,000 is more than it has gotten in the past.

“No local matching funds are required to receive this year’s SB-1 funding allocation,” reads a staff report from Public Works, “however, the City must keep in good standing with its commitment on ‘Maintenance of Effort’ over time to qualify for the continued receipt of SB-1 funds.”

The City is also fortunate that voters approved two local sales tax measures — Measure Q (approved in 2006) and E-20 (2020), which tack on 1.5-percent sales taxes on all taxable goods and services sold in the City. 

The two tax measures are unlike the State sales tax, i.e. Sacramento can’t take them away to fix its own budget messes. 

For FY 23/24 the City has budgeted $1.84 million in M-Q & M-E-20 monies. So there’s a total of $2.1 million to spend.

Though neither M-Q or E-20 are designated to be spent in any particular way, the City put them forth to voters with the promise they would be used for police and fire department needs (both), and road infrastructure repairs and storm drain repairs (M-Q). 

Statewide there’s a tremendous amount of money generated by SB-1. “SB-1,” the report said, “generates over $5 billion annually at full implementation for the State; $1.5 billion of which will be distributed to local agencies and counties through the Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account [RMRA].”

SB-1 had a graduated implementation of the gas taxes and in 2020, the full amount came due. The City’s share, which was about $100,000 the first few years, have remained pretty steady for the past 2-3 years, according to the City’s report, with the City getting between $250,000-$300,000 each year “dedicated to roadway projects. SB-1 includes accountability and transparency provisions to enable local residents to remain aware of the projects proposed to be funded by SB-1 in their local area. As part of these provisions, it is a requirement for local agencies to adopt project lists before the start of every fiscal year. The project list must include all projects proposed to receive funding from the RMRA.”

These project lists have to be approved annually by the City Council via Resolution, which the Council approved and the list was sent off to the California Transportation Commission for approval. 

If all goes right, the City expects to get started on the next roadway repairs sometime next spring.

Picking which streets to repair is done scientifically, and not entirely based on which streets garner the most citizen complaints.

“Project selection,” the report said, “is developed by the Public Works Department utilizing the City’s pavement management system, StreetSaver, in coordination with recommendations from Public Works staff and engineering/pavement consultants.”

Busier streets get priority. “Streets that are heavily traveled generally will be prioritized because of the high volume of usage by the public. Critical point management, which targets treating roads that are at the bottom of one category of maintenance before they fall into another more costly treatment category, is widely used by many jurisdictions and is what also contributes heavily to street selection.”

So while readers might believe their street needs to be completely torn out and rebuilt, the City is more likely to consider different fixes to improve it to a point it can wait for that total overhaul.

“These strategies,” the report said, “are standard best practices for pavement management and are incorporated to utilize the limited funds on streets that will have the best possible impact on the pavement condition index (PCI) of the City’s collective road network. Additionally, when possible, the City will make efforts to distribute projects equitably geographically in the community.”

But as anyone in construction could probably tell you, construction schedules are not set in stone and any number of things could cause delays, especially the weather. 

The City is behind in its two previous repair projects. 

“The FY 22/23 project has yet to be completed and is slated to be a surface seal project totaling between $1.5-1.7 million,” the report said. “The FY 21/22 project was delayed and is near completion with the recent repairs on South Bay Boulevard, Main Street, Harbor Street, and other high-volume roadways.”

They anticipate the FY 23/24 project to get started sometime next spring but it’s dependent on the weather. Forecasters are predicting another El Niño weather pattern for this winter, so we could see big storms like we did at the start of 2023. Such storms seem to tear up the roads faster than they can be repaired. The City plans to target some of the town’s worst roads.

“The target project for this fiscal year,” the report said, “is rehabilitating some of the lowest pavement condition index [PCI] residential roads that are in poor and very poor condition in order to slow down the rapidly declining PCI citywide.”

Among the streets slated to be repaired next year are: Panay Street, Panorama Drive, Surf Street, Oahu Street, Dunbar Street, Dogwood Avenue, Java Street, Paula Street, and Orcas Way. 

The repairs that are being planned should extend the life of these streets by 15-20 years, according to the City report.

The City has already gotten to work on the design of the repair project and according to the report, they expect the work to be completed in August 2024. But first they will have to put together a bid package and solicit bids. After a set time — usually 45 days — the bids will be opened and the lowest, qualified, responsive bid should be awarded the contract.

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