gmhTODAY 13 gmhToday March April 2017 - Page 12

E This year infrastructure is on everyone’s radar, from Washington D.C. to Sacramento. In January, President Trump said infrastructure was a national priority worthy of a $1 trillion investment, and Vice President Pence echoed this assertion to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Governor Brown renewed his commitment to California’s infrastructure in his State of the State address. We heard the speeches, but how will they impact us? Infrastructure is a massive, complex and interdependent system that provides mobility, clean water, electricity and other essentials of modern society. The better we understand the needs, the more effective we are in creating the solutions. Please join gmh TODAY as we look at infrastructure in our region through a four-part series, starting with our Streets and Roads. 12 very day, more than 100,000 Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Martin residents drive cars, board buses, take kids out in strollers, walk dogs, and jog or bike along local streets and roads. We want our roads smooth and clearly marked, with level and well-lit sidewalks and street signs that are easy to see. As taxpayers, we rely on our local officials to manage the care and funding of our streets and roads, and they make an effort to inform and engage us in that process with meetings, reports and surveys. In 2017, our cities each face a backlog of deferred maintenance and gaps between needs and funding to meet those needs. They also have to balance maintenance needs with large-scale, “one time” capital improvement projects, but that’s a subject for another time. We pay taxes, why can’t we fix the roads? We are shifting to more fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, which is good for the environment. . .not so good for gas tax revenues. On top of this, the State Board of Equalization has reduced the gas tax by more than ten cents per gallon over the past several years. South County roads are aging while our single-largest funding source for maintenance is shrinking. This has contributed to a formidable backlog of deferred maintenance. While we enjoy certain quality of life advantages, Gilroy and Morgan Hill currently generate among the lowest per capita tax revenues of Santa Clara County’s 15 cities. We’re making solid progress to change this through economic development, but it takes time. We pay hefty property taxes, but for every $10,000 property tax bill, less than $1,000 goes to the city of residence. We pay 8.5 percent state sales tax, but our cities only collect one of every 8.5 pennies on the dollar. It takes one heck of a lot of spending to generate real dollars to patch and pave our roads in addition to paying for police and fire and other services. Rules of the Road Historically, the state’s transportation funding decisions were based on population and total miles of roadways. Impacts such as climate, traffic loads and volumes, construction materials and age weren’t factored in. It wasn’t until 2008 that the condition and needs of California’s local street and road systems were studied in comprehensive detail. Today, local and state agencies use a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) and Pavement Management software programs to analyze large volumes of PCI data and make informed decisions about funding, construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of our roads. Every two years, the cities of Morgan Hill and Gilroy each conduct an engineering survey of the condition of their roads, interpret the data in software, and prepare a Pavement Management Report to share with local residents as well as county and state transportation agencies. The bottom line? The rate at which roads deteriorate accelerates over time, and it costs far less to maintain roads in good condition than bad. If we want our city leaders to be wise stewards of our local infrastructure, we need to support their call to invest early to maintain local roads more cost-effectively at a higher average PCI.