Though San Benito County has recently invested in road maintenance and begun using federal funds to address bridge projects, it lacks the money to keep up with its ongoing maintenance needs.
County Resource Management Agency director Benny Young estimates the county needs an additional $12.2 million per year just to maintain current road conditions for the next 10 years. Young said that figure is double what the county has available now. To raise the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) by five points to 42 for the next 10 years, the county would need an additional $14.5 million per year for roads.
The county has historically struggled to maintain its roads. The county has an average PCI rating of 37, Young said. PCI is a rating system that grades road conditions on a scale of 0-100, where a rating between 31-50 is considered poor.
According to Young’s Feb. 16 presentation at the Board of Supervisors retreat, 84% of the county’s road system has a rating between 0 and 50.
Young, who was hired in October after the death of former director Harry Mavrogenes, has continued the work on the $11 million Quick Start Road Improvement Project Program, as well as the bridge program.
The Quick Start program is funded through Measure G and the enterprise fund, which comes from John Smith Landfill revenue, while the bridge projects are mostly federally funded.
As of the end of 2020, the county completed 12 road projects in the first year of the Quick Start program. The agency is also making progress on 11 bridges which are either under construction or in the design phase.
Young said the current funding for roads is enough for two maintenance crews. He estimates an additional $1.5 million per year will be needed to add two crews for routine, preventative and remedial maintenance.
“On a good day we have two crews [working],” Young said, adding that he is looking to fill several vacant positions. He also said it’s been challenging hiring and retaining workers because the county offers a lower wage than surrounding jurisdictions.
San Benito County recently completed a compensation study in an effort to offer competitive wages to county employees.
Young told supervisors he needed an additional $77 million in the next 10 years just to maintain the status quo. $60 million would be for major road maintenance, $2 million for bridges and $15 million for in-house maintenance.
“That could easily be $300 million as you see the note below that,” Young said showing a chart. “I’m not saying any of this is feasible in the near term necessarily, but I wanted you to have a feel of what the magnitude of the issue is and the challenge that we face with regard to protecting the existing taxpayer investment.”
As for the bridge program, Young said 10 bridges are mostly federally funded through the Federal Highway Administration’s Highway Bridge Program and two bridges—Carr Avenue and Cienega Road—are funded through SB1 and Measure G.
San Benito County Public Information Officer David Westrick told BenitoLink the bridge program includes about $85 million in planned improvements over the next five years with several of the projects requiring local matching funds totalling about $5 million. In 2019, county budget officer Stewart Patri estimated the project costs at $60.5 million and the county facing a $5.1 million shortfall.
The Shore Road and San Felipe Road bridges are complete; Hospital Road bridge is under construction; and the others are in the design phase. Those bridges include:
- Union Road—replace two-lane bridge
- Anzar Road—replace two-lane bridge
- Limekiln Road—replace one-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge
- Rosa Morada Road—replace one-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge
- Rocks Road—replace one-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge
- Panoche Road (15 miles east of Highway 25)—replace one-lane bridge with a two-lane bridge
- Panoche Road (six miles east of Highway 25)—scour countermeasure
Young said the next big bridge project is the Union Road bridge, which is scheduled for construction in 2022. The scour countermeasure on Panoche Road is the last project on the county’s timeline. It’s scheduled for construction in 2024.
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