San Mateo mulls new tax to fix roads

More than $45 million worth of repairs are needed for neglected residential streets in San Mateo, according to Public Works officials lobbying the City Council for a new tax to pay for the work.

Nearly 24 miles of roads are in “very poor” condition, according to a report issued by Public Works acting Deputy Director Susanna Chan. Approximately 37 percent of the city’s streets require resurfacing or being rebuilt altogether, including sidewalks and curbs. Thirty percent of residential streets are in dire condition, plagued by potholes, cracks and uneven surfaces.

The city has deferred maintenance for local streets, beyond simple pothole-filling, since 2000. City dollars are more often allocated for busier streets because both federal and state grants are available for those more-traveled roads and the city needs to match those dollars.

For example, the city is set to receive $575,000 in federal money next fiscal year to reconstruct J. Hart Clinton Drive, a major road to Foster City. But the city has to match that funding to the tune of $500,000, which leaves less money for bedroom boulevards.

Between 2000 and 2006, the city spent on average of $3.4 million annually on street repairs, with approximately 10 percent of that going to preventive maintenance. The City Council allocated an extra $1 million out of the general fund earlier this year to bring the total budget for repairs up to $5.4 million next year.

According to Chan, it will take a minimum of $6 million a year to repair and maintain roads to prevent deterioration, as the cost is expected to increase in coming years. She recommended that the City Council adopt a special infrastructure tax, local assessment or bond funding that could yield $2.5 million per year.

Residents of some of the affected streets differ in whether they want improvements — and whether they’re willing to pay for the repairs.

Hope Molina, 30, lives in a section of Monte Diablo Boulevard with grass growing in curbside cracks. She said she’d be willing to shoulder a little more tax for better roads.

“These roads are over 50 years old. They’re very old. There are a lot of floods in this area,” she said. “Whatever we can do to improve the neighborhood is fine … as long as they follow through on what they say they’re going to do.”

Dave Woodward, 38, lives on a particularly cracked and gravelly section of Bayshore Boulevard, but said he’s not keen on a new tax.

At a study session Wednesday, the City Council didn’t take an official position on implementing a tax, but several members said the tax might be necessary for both street repairs and other public works. Mayor John Lee rued this winter’s overabundance of potholes.

“It’s a hot topic and you want to budget correctly,” Public Works Commissioner Henry Friedlander said.

kwilliamson@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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