The People's Reporter: Takin' it to the Streets - Voice of San Diego

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The People's Reporter: Takin' it to the Streets

A crumbling road in Sherman Heights / Photo by Dustin Michelson

This story is a part of The People’s Reporter, a feature where the public can submit questions, readers vote on which questions they want answered and VOSD investigates.

To submit your question or vote on our next topic, click here.

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San Diegans care a lot about their crumbling streets – and when they can expect repairs.

Last week, I answered a reader’s question about how street fixes get prioritized and learned the city weighs multiple factors in its street repair decisions.

After that, we heard from readers with more questions.

Unsurprisingly, many of those questions were about whether and when the city plans to repair roads that Voice of San Diego readers drive and bicycle on regularly.

A sampling:

“I live in Pacific Beach and I would like to know why the roads in Crown Point are always being torn up and never fixed,” Dennis Dickson wrote.

And Dan McCready in the College Area wanted to know: “Why hasn’t 54th Street between Montezuma Road and Collwood Boulevard not been paved in over 20 years yet Yerba Santa Drive to Collwood Estates has been four times?”

“I have to say that 28th Street south of the 94 is just horrible,” Susanna Starcevic  wrote in an email to VOSD.

Shorter version: What’s up with this street I care about? Why isn’t it getting fixed?

As I explained, there’s a different story behind each street repair delay.

Many street repairs get held up due to other projects already under way or set to begin soon.

You can check on whether there’s a utility or sewer project that could be postponing work in your area on the city’s capital improvement site. The city’s Streets SD site also allows you to look up past and scheduled work on city roads.

Not seeing a scheduled project? You can also use the city’s Get It Done app to request repairs.

If you’re not able to track down the details you’re looking for, city spokesman Anthony Santacroce recommends contacting your City Council district office for answers.

Todd Maddison of Oceanside had another good question: “How much does the city spend annually on road repair (including pension costs), and how many repairs are done/potholes filled?”

Last year, the city reports it repaired 330 miles of streets and patched up 30,041 potholes.

The past couple years, the city has budgeted more than $70 million annually for these street repairs – not including pension costs.

Here’s a look at that spending, with a breakdown of more invasive resurfacing work versus the slurry seal maintenance the city has stepped up in more recent years. Slurry seal mixture is used to preserve asphalt that’s not yet in crumbling condition while the city uses concrete or overlay for roads that need more drastic help.

Santacroce reports the city typically spends another $3 million a year on pothole repairs plus another $3 million on so-called mill and pave fixes. These are repairs where the city opts to remove some asphalt to smooth a street surface.

As for that pension question, Santacroce told me most workers who handle road repairs are contractors, so they don’t receive city pensions.

One more question from reader Mike Carr: “Regarding gas tax, I would like to see how much the state is taking in on this tax and where and how it is allocated. Need complete transparency.”

The state reports it collected about $2.7 billion in new gas tax funds between November 2017, when SB 1 went into effect, and last June. It projects to pull in another $4.3 billion this year.

This new cash comes from a 12-cent gas tax increase plus an uptick in vehicle registration fees and diesel taxes approved by state lawmakers a couple years ago.

The state Constitution mandates that nearly all this new money be spent on transportation needs, with about two-thirds going to highway and road repairs and the rest to other projects including transit.

San Diego officials have estimated the gas tax will pull in about $400 million annually for transportation projects in San Diego County alone.

To access this money, cities and counties must submit project lists to the state Transportation Commission for approval and later, a follow-up status report on projects partly funded with gas tax money. Regional agencies can also apply for grants for regional planning and projects that support the state’s climate goals.

Caltrans has been marking up a digital map showing all the projects statewide that have received gas tax money.

I put together a spreadsheet of San Diego County projects at least partly funded by gas tax dollars here. These projects are typically funded by a mixing of funding sources rather than a single source like the gas tax or Transnet, a half-cent county transportation tax first approved 30 years ago, despite project signs hailing those funding sources.

Santacroce said gas tax money has helped bankroll more city road projects the last couple years.

Last year, the city received about $8.2 million in SB 1 dollars. It expects to receive another $23 million this year.

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