Fixes to San Mateo roads go in circles

It’s likely to be many years before San Mateo drivers can venture onto the streets without braving some bumps, potholes and cracks, according to city officials.

Thirteen of the city’s roads will be resurfaced in the coming months, a project that was rubber-stamped by the City Council recently. But none of those 13 streets count among the city’s 24 miles of “failed” roads, said Public Works Department director Larry Patterson.

“It took a couple of decades or more for those failed roads to get into that condition, and it’s going to take a long time for us to get them back up to our standards,” he said.

San Mateo struggles more than most Peninsula cities to keep its roadways in good condition, largely because it’s one of the Peninsula’s oldest cities and its infrastructure is aging, according to Mayor Carole Groom.

“We spend $3 million to $4 million a year on paving, but sadly, that doesn’t even begin to touch what we need to do,” she said.

Patterson said the department spends its annual $3.5 million budget on maintaining roads that are still in passable condition, so they won’t deteriorate further to the point where they fail.

This strategy saves the city money in the long run, he said,because preventative maintenance costs somewhere between $44,000 and $250,000 per mile, whereas completely rebuilding a failed road can cost as much as $1.5 million per mile.

Instead, the Public Works Department seeks grant money and other one-time funding to fix the city’s failed roads, Patterson said. He said the city has managed to reduce its failed road count from about 32 miles to 24 miles.

The mayor acknowledged that San Mateo’s worst streets are an aggravation for those who must drive on them every day.

“There is a sense of frustration about the state of the roads, absolutely,” Groom said. “We want to do the work on our streets, but it’s just a balancing act.”

kworth@examiner.com

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