Road disrepair drains drivers

San Francisco motorists pay $706 a year in maintenance costs — the third highest in the nation — to repair wear and tear caused by
The City’s potholed, scarred and uneven thoroughfares, according to a new study.

The major roads making up San Francisco’s metropolitan area are the fifth worst in the nation, where paving conditions are poor on 58 percent of the highways, turnpikes and major arteries in the San Francisco and Oakland metro area.

During the next 15 years, urban roadways need $189 billion just to maintain their current conditions, but states have been forced to slash infrastructure funding in the wake of massive budget deficits, according to Carolyn Bonifas, spokeswoman for TRIP, a national transportation group that conducted the report.

Those budget problems are felt most acutely in California, which accounts for four of the five worst cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose, which ranked dead last among metro areas with at least 500,000 people.

“Roads are deteriorating faster than states can identify funding for their repairs,” said Bonifas. “Unless states like California can find money to plug their budget holes, the roads are only going to get worse.”

The state’s battered streets take their toll on private motorists. Drivers in the San Francisco metro area spend an average of $706 a year to repair various nicks, dents and flats caused by the road disrepair. The average urban motorist spends $402, and only drivers in San Jose and Los Angeles pay more.

TRIP compiled its report through statistics from the Federal Highway Administration.

The data covers highways, turnpikes, and “basically any road that will take you out of your neighborhood,” said Bonifas.

Historically, San Francisco streets have been chronically underfunded, but The City ramped up its investment in recent years, according to Christine Falvey of the Department of Public Works. The agency works with Caltrans, the state transportation department, in repairing highways like Van Ness and 19th avenues, and is the sole maintenance provider for heavily traveled thoroughfares like Fell and Pine streets.

Public Works has set aside $50.6 million in funding, $17 million of which comes from the state, for street repaving projects this year, a total that is almost five times more than what was available in 2004. With that funding injection, San Francisco was able to repave large portions of Bush Street and is scheduled to start similar work on Fell Street.

Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, said sources such as the federal stimulus package have helped maintain the current state of repair for city streets, but the volatility at the state level has hampered long-term improvement plans.

“We’ve been very creative and aggressive in finding funding to hold the line on the current conditions of the road,” said Winnicker. “But not having a significant partnership from the state makes it harder to move ahead.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

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