The latest report card on the Bay Area's local roads from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission found that the region as whole suffers from a disappointing record on road quality, chiefly because of lack of funds available for street repair.
Some affluent communities were among those with the poorest roads. Larkspur in Marin County placed last among the Bay Area's 109 cities and counties, and and the relatively wealthy East Bay community of Orinda was ranked 105th.
At the other end of the spectrum, topping the list was the Contra Costa County community of Brentwood – where the median home sales price in September was less than a third of Larkspur's. In third place was Dublin in Alameda County, another moderate-income community.
“One of the Commission’s top priorities is to restore the Bay Area’s transportation system to a state of good repair,” said MTC Chair Adrienne Tissier, a San Mateo County Supervisor. “For local streets and roads, that target has been frustratingly elusive. And the main issue, not surprisingly, is money.”
The ratings assign a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) score between 0 and 100 to each of the 109 jurisdictions. Each PCI score in the report represents a three-year average of the single-year PCI score for most recent three years.
The highest score was 86 in Brentwood, and the lowest was 44 in Larkspur. The localities were grouped into five main categories depending on the score: very good, good, fair, at-risk and poor. A total of 54 jurisdictions were rated good or very good, while 55 fell into the fair, at-risk or poor categories.
The MTC lauded El Cerrito as an example of a local community's willingness to pay extra to repair and upgrade substandard roadways.
"We have seen big improvements in places like El Cerrito, which passed a half-cent sales tax in 2008 to finance a citywide street improvement program," the news release said.
A year ago, El Cerrito was honored with the MTC's "Most Improved Roads" award for the dramatic improvement in its streets between 2006 and 2010. ln 2010, El Cerrito scored 85 for its single-year PCI, tying for second place with Belvedere, behind first-place Brentwood, which scored 88 that year. In 2006, El Cerrito's PCI was a lowly 48, which tied for third from the bottom.
El Cerrito's improvement was brought about in part through the 2008 voter approval of Measure A, a half-cent sales tax dedicated to street repair.
The MTC also extolled new technology as way for local governments to stretch road maintenance dollars.
It cited a $2 million MTC grant in 2010 to Sonoma County and the city of Napa for "cold-in-place recycling" (CIR), where the top 2-8 inches of asphalt is is scraped off, pulverized and mixed with additives, and then put back on the street.
"While not appropriate for all roadways, this technique has been shown to cut asphalt rehabilitation costs by 20 percent to 40 percent, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to produce new paving material or transport it to the worksite," MTC said.
Following the pilot project in Sonoma County and Napa, a number of other Bay Area local governments — including Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara coounties, as well as the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Foster City, Mill Valley, Orinda and South San Francisco — have used CIR, MTC said.
The localities with the most pressing road-repair needs are those with PCI scores in the "at-risk" range of 50-59 and the "poor" range of 49 and below. They "require major rehabilitation or reconstruction," the commission said.
“There are a lot of streets and roads around the Bay Area with PCI scores below 60,” Tissier said. “That’s the point when the deterioration of pavement really accelerates."
"The lowest-ranked pavement in the Bay Area was found in the Marin County city of Larkspur and the Napa County city of St. Helena, each of which recorded a PCI score of 44 for the 2009-11 period," the MTC said.
Other localities with the most recent three-year averages below 60 include Albany (58), Berkeley (59), Napa (58), Oakland (57), Orinda (48), Petaluma (52), San Leandro (56), Vallejo (51), unincorporated Marin County (52) and unincorporated Sonoma County (45), the MTC said.