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Guest Opinion: Here’s why the roads don’t get fixed


By Sue Frost–
As I come to the close of my sixth year on the Board of Supervisors, I have seen many issues fall and rise in terms of importance for the residents of Sacramento County. For example, homelessness went from an issue that I barely ever received a phone call about when I first entered office, and transformed into one of the biggest issues on most people’s minds.

But one issue has remained troubling to Sacramento County residents since the day I entered office until now, and that is the deplorable condition of Sacramento County roads.

I fully sympathize with these concerns because I am also upset. My home backs up to Madison Avenue, and every single day that I leave my home, I am driving on road conditions that are frankly embarrassing.

And due to this, one of the primary questions I receive from people when I speak in my community meetings is “why can’t you fix the roads in the county?”

I wish it were that simple, because if it were I would have done it years ago. So I want to take this opportunity to explain 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.

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 $47.3 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 Citrus Heights, as the furthest north it goes is San Francisco.

Related: Guest Column: What you should know about Sacramento County’s $7.3B budget

When voters approved CAHSR in 2008, it was supposed to cost $34 billion and be completed by 2020, connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. Four years ago this price tag had risen to $79 billion; earlier this year the 2022 draft business plan estimated it would cost $105 billion, and just three month later the “final plan” raised the estimate to $113 billion.

And not only do these costs continue to rise, but there is still no certainty the complete project will ever get built. Just the Merced to Bakersfield section of the project (which is supposedly the “easiest” section to build) has an earliest competition date of 2029, but this is a date that just keeps getting extended, as four years ago that date was 2024.

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. 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.

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights.  She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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