Santa Cruz County has some real tooth-rattlers. A 2011 report found its rural roads were “failed.”
Santa Cruz County voters might have to decide this November if local roads are worth $10.
The per-vehicle registration fee, which will face a vote at the Regional Transportation Commission next month before going on the ballot, would produce an estimated $2.2 million annually and need a two-thirds majority to pass. A preliminary poll showed 69 percent of respondents in favor of it—right there in the margin of error.
Just how bad are the county’s roads? A report from Richmond-based Nichols Consulting Engineers last year rated Santa Cruz County’s roads the third worst in the state, ahead only of Monterey and Sonoma counties. Especially bad were Santa Cruz County’s rural roads, which collectively scored just 23 out of a possible 100, putting them solidly in the “failed” category for pavement condition. (The county’s roads scored a 49 overall—a point shy of “at risk,” but alas, in the end just “failed.”)
Some roads scored lower than others. Thompson Avenue, a residential road in Live Oak, scored a 14 out of 100. San Andreas Road in Aptos scored a 27. Soquel Drive, an important mid-county artery running parallel to the Highway 1, scored 56.
Steve Wiesner, assistant director of the county public works department, says the measure would provide enough dollars to resurface the roads and “maintain” their current state, which is the measure’s goal—not a total transformation of local roads that would put us on the top of the state’s list.
“It’s to get us closer to where we need to be,” Wiesner says. “Every little bit counts.”
The measure would come at a time when Californians are keeping a closer eye on their bank accounts and when several ballot measures aim to offer solutions to financial woes at the government level. November’s ballot will also include three statewide tax measures, including a plan from Gov. Jerry Brown to hike sales tax and income taxes for those making more than $250,000 a year.
Napa County announced a ballot measure for a half-cent sales tax last week to help fund local roads. Monterey and Sonoma, the only two counties worse than Santa Cruz, according to last year’s report, have yet to announce similar tax proposals, but watchful eyes may be on Santa Cruz from the other side of the bay.
Debbie Hale, executive director for the Transportation Agency of Monterey County, doesn’t think voters in her county would approve a tax or fee increase this year. But she is curious to see how it goes here.
“Let’s see what happens in Santa Cruz, and if they’re able to move forward maybe we’ll look at it next time,” Hale says.