|As I enter my second year as your County Supervisor, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned about the communities that I represent. I have learned that we have a community of people in Rio Linda/Elverta who love where they live and constantly want to help pitch-in to improve things. I have learned that people are passionate about keeping Rio Linda/Elverta more rural than surrounding communities. And I have learned that people here are generally happy if the roads are in good condition. Unfortunately, the roads are in a horrible condition and Rio Linda/Elverta residents are rightfully upset.
I get it because I am upset myself. I see the deterioration of the streets that have needed repaving for years, and just last month I had to pay $500 for new tires that my mechanic directly attributed to poor road conditions (tires I bought only 2 years ago). Because of this frustration, the question I get more than any other lately from residents in Rio Linda/Elverta is, “why can’t you prioritize road repairs in our community?” I wish it were that simple, because if it were I would have done it many months ago. So I wanted to take this opportunity in my monthly article to explain to you why it’s not so simple, and what we can do to change things.
What many people do not understand is that the vast majority of funds that are spent on local roads are from the state and federal government. Not only that, but many of these funds are competitive dollars, meaning we are only going to win those funds for major projects that have nothing to do with resurfacing, like the road widening happening right now on Hazel Avenue. So even if I wanted to prioritize local road resurfacings, the money Sacramento County could divert towards roads would be insignificantly small compared to what the state and federal government have the ability to do. And this completely ignores the fact that Sacramento County has virtually zero reserves in our budget (if we had to rely solely on reserves, we would only have enough money to last us eight days).
The problem Sacramento County is experiencing with our roads is not localized to just our county or even region. This is a problem afflicting the entire State of California, as of last count our state had over $57 billion in road maintenance that has been postponed due to not having enough money for our roads, highways, and bridges (also called deferred maintenance). This enormous deferred maintenance bill would feel more understandable if California was broke, but at the same time we have this bill we are spending outrageous amounts of money on California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR), which in my opinion is only a fraction as important as having reliable roads. CAHSR has the potential to benefit a small fraction of the population, specifically those that would use it to commute. Meanwhile, roads are used by everyone, including passengers, freight, fire service, police service, etc. To top it off, the train doesn’t even come close to Rio Linda/Elverta, as the furthest north it goes is San Francisco.
When voters approved CAHSR, it was supposed to cost $40 billion. As of today, the current estimate has risen to $79 billion, and experts are now expecting that by the time the project is completed it will cost nearly $100 billion. The first segment of CAHSR is currently being constructed – it is 118 miles through the Central Valley from Merced to Shafter and is supposed to be the easiest part of the construction. Just how easy is the “easy” part? It was expected to be done this year and cost $6.4 billion, but is now expected to be finished in 2024 and will cost $10 billion.
Even if we let CAHSR continue to build the central valley line and we abandoned CAHSR after that, we would save enough money to pay for every cent of deferred maintenance for all roads, highways, and bridges in California. Not only that, but we would also save enough to pay for all deferred maintenance in every department across the State, including things like water systems, courts, parks, colleges, fairs, etc. The California Legislature and the Governor have the capacity to fix our roads, they just need to change their priorities and focus on what California needs the most.