The Davis City Council received a rude awakening Tuesday when public works staff described the dire situation facing the city and its crumbling and underfunded street and bike path infrastructure.
To simply maintain the quality of the streets in Davis over the next 20 years, the council learned, the city will have to scrounge up an average of about $7 million per year. That total price tag doesn’t even account for bike paths.
For the past five years, the city has allocated only $1 million for street and bike path maintenance work. If Davis continued to fund maintenance of its street infrastructure at that level for the next 20 years, it could build up a backlog of work worth more than $400 million, according the city’s hired consultant, Nichols Consulting Engineers.
Meanwhile, the average pavement condition index in Davis of 62 would plummet to 27, likely resulting in the failure of more than half of the city’s streets and a quarter of the bike paths by 2032.
“California’s streets and roads are on the edge of a cliff and the same thing applies to Davis,” explained Margot Yapp, a Nichols representative. “In fact, you may have already gone over a little bit of that cliff and it’s going to be a straight drop from here.”
The recent lack of funding, along with an inflated cost of paving roads, seems to have dug the city into a deep hole. Council members appeared steamrolled by the news Tuesday.
“This is like a bucket of cold water,” Councilman Brett Lee said. “But it’s the reality that we’re faced with. … I’m troubled with this $15 million front-loaded cost coming out of the gate. Obviously, we’re going to have to find out what we can come up with.”
Added Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk: “It’s very daunting and sobering to realize and to think about where we’re going to find essentially this $150 million.”
Moving forward, the city’s public works staff and the City Council will have to decide how to tackle this looming and expensive problem.
Yapp laid out three different strategies that Davis could implement to begin funding the work.
Under the first scenario, the city would continue to deposit minimal cash into its street maintenance account. Again, this would allow the city’s streets largely to fail and create a backlog of more than $400 million by 2032. Additionally, the backlog for bike paths would climb to $27 million.
The city’s backlog currently sits at $21 million for streets and about $1.3 million for bike paths.
The second scenario would have the city pay an average of $8 million per year over the next 20 years for road work. While this strategy could raise the average street PCI up to 70, deferred funding still would build up a $120 million backlog.
Scenario three would have the city dedicate a larger amount of money up front and set aside an average of $7 million per year thereafter, which would allow Davis to maintain its current backlog into 2032, while pulling up its average PCI for streets to 70 and bike paths to 69.
But it appears that no matter the plan, the city and the City Council will have to sculpt a strategy that includes bulking up street maintenance funding considerably.
The question of where that money will come from still remains, however.
“If we were to take it out of existing revenue, I would like some ideas of how much, but also where from,” Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson said. “Where would you start looking at it to come from? I’m a real fan of adding creativity here.”
Swanson also suggested that the city should consider special taxes, perhaps a sales tax increase or a parcel tax, that could be earmarked for road maintenance.
But with the city already asking its residents to pay three times as much for water than they do now to pay off the $113 million Woodland-Davis surface water project, the councilwoman, along with the rest of her council colleagues, didn’t appear thrilled with the idea of asking for so much so soon.
“We’re taking care a lot of big things and trying to fix them and get caught up in the last couple of years … and now there’s this,” Swanson said.
Public works staff will return to the council in May with an outline of a maintenance and funding strategy for input and approval. Concurrent with that process, City Manager Steve Pinkerton said Tuesday that the city also needs to have a broad discussion about generating new revenue.
— Reach Tom Sakash at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash