City ‘shortchanging’ road fixes

Drivers, bikers, walkers beware — the decrepit conditions of San Francisco’s roads are not deserving of good grades. In a report issued Wednesday by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional transportation planning and funding agency, San Francisco’s 2,060 miles of roadway were determined to be only “fair.”

This is not the first year that The City’s roads received little more than a passing grade. San Francisco’s roads were rated 65 out of 100 between 2003 and 2005 and 64 in 2006. The Bay Area’s roadwaysfared about the same overall. Roads are judged on such things as cracks and potholes.

“Sixty-four is OK, but it’s not outstanding,” MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.

The Department of Public Works, which does the roadwork, has increased repaving efforts. Last fiscal year, DPW paved 243 city blocks and this fiscal year it is about halfway toward its goal of repaving 350 city blocks, DPW spokeswoman Gloria Chan said. DPW finished repaving 16 blocks of Stockton Street last month and is now working on Van Ness Avenue between Lombard and Beach streets. Additionally, DPW launched a proactive pothole-filling program this year and during the last three months filled 4,500 potholes, Chan said.

The department estimates that The City needs to spend $50.4 million annually to get to a rating of 70, or “good.” This year, The City has budgeted $36 million in state, federal and city dollars.

“There is no question our roads need a significant amount of work. There is no denying that,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who in recent years has worked to increase funding for capital needs, including street repairs. “Over the last three years, for the first time in literally decades, The City is fully funding the annual need for street repair. We went well over 20 years shortchanging street repair.”

Elsbernd said it will be his priority to ensure street repaving remains a funded priority despite the looming $230 million projected shortfall for the next fiscal year. “We have recognized finally that there is a problem and you are going to see a number of big projects done over the next few years,” he said.

Road conditions are considered an important quality-of-life issue as well as a safety issue. Accidents caused by roads in disrepair puts The City at risk for lawsuits.

Mayor Gavin Newsom who has made frequent public pledges to get potholes repaired and streets repaves, said in April that TheCity has contributed $18 million additional taxpayer dollars this fiscal year to repave 315 city street blocks that have deteriorated. He estimated that about half of The City’s 12,458 blocks needed to be completely repaved.

jsabatini@examiner.com  

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