Since a statewide gas tax increase was passed in 2017, cities, counties and agencies in Yuba-Sutter have used their portion of the generated funds to carry out a number of road improvement and rehabilitation projects. If Proposition 6 passes this November, repealing the gas tax increase, the area stands to lose an estimated $102 million in funds over the next 10 years, officials say.
The idea of missing out on those funds and repealing the gas tax increase – Senate Bill 1, or the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 – has those local officials concerned.
“The possible repeal of the gas tax would dramatically reduce the county’s ability to perform road rehabilitation,” said Neal Hay, director of Public Works for Sutter County. “Prior to SB 1, our department budgeted between $500,000 and $1 million annually for pavement rehabilitation. As part of SB 1, our county is estimated to receive $39 million over 10 years. Obviously, the infusion of these needed funds will dramatically increase the miles of country road that we can maintain each year.”
Maintaining roads is a priority for all local jurisdictions, but funding sources for streets and roads have declined over the past few years, making it more difficult for officials to keep up with the growing demand.
Yuba City Public Works Director Diana Langley said as roadway conditions decline, the cost to maintain or improve them increases exponentially.
“For instance, if the roadway is kept in good condition where it only requires a slurry seal every few years, the cost is $2-$4 per square yard. If the condition of the roadway declines to where the road requires a thick asphalt overlay, the cost increases to $30-$40 per square yard,” Langley said.
For small cities like Wheatland, a repeal of the gas tax increase would virtually halt all planned road improvement projects.
“The short answer is the city receives too little gas tax money for even basic maintenance. The SB 1 funds are the only resource for doing anything more than filling potholes,” said Wheatland City Manager Jim Goodwin.
Agencies like Yuba-Sutter Transit also stand to lose out if SB 1 is repealed.
“In addition to the impact on highway and road funding, repealing SB 1 would significantly reduce the amount of funding available for public transportation uses for both ongoing annual operating costs as well as capital replacement, rehabilitation and expansion projects,” said Transit Manager Keith Martin.
Sutter County and cities
Sutter County is projected to receive approximately $3.9 million in SB 1 funds this fiscal year – and a projected $39 million over the next 10 years.
Hay said the most significant impact a repeal would have is a “dramatic reduction in the number of road miles” the county can repave and rehabilitate each year.
For the current fiscal year, the county has plans to conduct more than $3 million worth of road repairs using funds from the gas tax increase. That includes $672,000 worth of road overlay paving on portions of four roads, as well as more than $2.3 million on road pavement sealings on 12 different road segments.
Yuba City is expected to receive approximately $1.12 million this fiscal year from SB 1 funds – and a projected $10.5 million over the next 10 years.
Langley said those funds – along with a combination of other funding sources – are going to be pivotal for the city’s plans to widen Bridge Street between Gray Avenue and Cooper Avenue.
“This project has been identified as a priority project by the City Council, with the intent to have construction completed concurrently with the completion of the new Fifth Street Bridge. If SB 1 is repealed, the city may have to reduce the scope of the project or reprogram funds from other projects, thereby delaying those projects,” she said.
Yuba City put together a list of 14 projects that would use SB 1 funds through Fiscal Year 2028. Two projects were anticipated to start this fiscal year, and include rehabilitation work on parts of Franklin Avenue and Sanborn Road.
Live Oak officials did not provide specifics in time for publication.
According to SB 1 funding projections by the League of California Cities released in January, Live Oak was estimated to receive $153,227 in funding this fiscal year and approximately $2.4 million total over the next decade.
Yuba County and cities
Yuba County is expected to receive up to $5 million a year for road improvements from SB 1 funding – and a projected $37 million over the next 10 years.
Yuba County Public Works Director Mike Lee said the county has plans to carry out 68 miles worth of overlay projects during the next three years with the help of the state transportation funding. He said if the money was to go away, his department’s budget situation would be dire and would likely require layoffs.
Marysville is expected to receive about $214,000 annually – and a projected $2.14 million over the next decade.
City Manager Marti Brown said if those funds were taken away, the city would be pretty much relegated to only filling potholes until other grant monies could be secured. She said many of the city’s roads need major reconstruction.
If SB 1 is repealed, she said the city would only have $220,000 to improve its streets, which would likely pay for about 387 feet of new construction or rehabilitation. On average, she said, that’s about one city block per year.
With the help of SB 1, the city has plans to conduct repairs and maintenance on eight streets this fiscal year – H Street, F Street, First Street, Yuba Street, D Street, B Street, Ramirez Street and East 17th Street.
Wheatland is expected to receive about $59,700 worth of SB 1 funds this year. Over the next 10 years, the city is projected to receive a little less than $1 million in SB 1 funding, according to the League of California Cities.
“Since the SB 1 revenues make up about 40 percent of the city’s outside income for street repairs, repeal of SB 1 would force the city to scale back any maintenance and repair projects accordingly,” Goodwin said. “SB 1 funds allow the city to perform capital maintenance projects, and without SB 1 the city can only perform basic road safety functions and repair potholes.”
The city has plans to repave and construct safety improvements on Hooper Avenue along the front of Wheatland Elementary School next year using money from SB 1.
Yuba-Sutter Transit is expected to receive nearly $1 million this year in SB 1-related funding for both operating and capital purposes – and a projected $10 million in funds over the next 10 years.
Of the funding received for the current fiscal year, almost 75 percent has been programmed for operating expenditures. The remainder will be used as part of a funding package for the “much needed replacement of 11 local fixed route buses in 2020,” Martin said.
“The loss of these funds would require some combination of deferred capital expenditures, fare increases, service reductions and/or greater use of other discretionary local funding sources for public transportation purposes,” Martin said.
Caltrans District 3 operations could also be hindered with the passage of Proposition 6. The amount of money the district would receive from SB 1 funds over the next decade depends on a variety of factors, said Gilbert Mohtes-Chan, a Caltrans spokesman.
Caltrans has a four-year program with plans for nearly 1,000 projects statewide, and a significant portion of the funding for those projects comes from SB 1, he said.
“If the ballot measure is passed, Caltrans may have to delay, defer or delete projects,” Mohtes-Chan said. “The evaluation would come after the election. Current construction projects underway would not be impacted if the measure is passed by voters.”
Caltrans has 11 projects – worth a total of $510,519 – planned for Yuba-Sutter this year. The projects will be funded partially by SB 1 and include a combination of collision reduction, bridge preservation, roadway preservation and roadside preservation projects.