Wednesday, October 25, 2006

County Backs $3 Million in Regional Road Funding

County Backs $3 Million in Regional Road Funding
By Barry Eberling

Cars travel on Vanded Road between Fairfield and Vacaville on Tuesday. (Photo by Zachary Kaufman/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - Fees on new homes and other development could help pay the price tag for congestion-relieving, regional roads such as the Jepson Parkway and North Connector.

Solano County is proposing the idea to help it come up with its share of the money for regional roads. But cities would have to agree to help the county out by imposing a yet-to-be-determined road fee within their borders - an outcome that's far from certain.

In the meantime, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to spend $3 million from the county general fund to help keep proposed regional road projects moving forward. Supervisors hope the cities will pass the fee to repay the money, with interest.

"It's abundantly clear there's a giant need and we have to address it," Supervisor Duane Kromm said.

Supervisors John Vasquez, Barbara Kondylis, John Silva and Kromm voted "yes," with Supervisor Mike Reagan absent. Reagan attended the earlier portion of the meeting.

The Solano Transportation Authority wants to build a number of regional roads. Among them are the Jepson Parkway linking Vacaville, Fairfield and Suisun City and North Connector linking Green Valley with central Fairfield. Such roads could help take traffic off of congested Interstate 80.

Federal and state money will pay for only part of the costs. The STA proposes that the cities and county help pay the match for the roads that run through their jurisdictions.

For example, Fairfield would help pay for the North Connector segment within city limits. The county would help pay for the segment in the unincorporated, rural areas.

County growth policies say most development must take place within cities. That leaves the county with no way by itself to raise a substantial amount of road money through development fees. The Board of Supervisors governs the unincorporated areas with little growth and the various city councils govern the urban areas with speedy growth.

Solano County must depend on the cities to help with the fee. County officials said cities should do so because much of the traffic on rural roads comes from the cities.

Kromm expressed concern about the county loaning $3 million from its general fund before a single city agrees to establish the road fee.

"I don't want the cities to look at us as the Bank of Solano," Kromm said.

But the STA wants $2 million from the county for the North Connector next spring. Finishing a study on how much the fee should be could take another 12 to 15 months, county Resource Management Department Director Birgitta Corsello said.

Vasquez favored providing the money. The cities can see the county has taken the first steps, he said.

Cities already impose development fees to raise money for their own road and infrastructure projects. There are no guarantees they will want to impose a new one to give to the county for regional roads. Higher development fees often get passed on to buyers of new homes, creating higher housing prices.

"I appreciate the county Board of Supervisors wanting to help," Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said in a phone interview after the meeting. "Certainly that $3 million will go a long way. But I really don't know whether or not the council would be in favor of an additional fee."

Fairfield will be looking at an increase in its own development fees, Price said. Meanwhile, there is a slowdown in the real estate market, particularly for new development, he said. That's a nationwide problem, he said.

"The development community is very much concerned about any increase in fees," Price said.

Solano County would have to negotiate a deal with each city for the road fee. There is a precedent. Cities already have a county development fee to help pay for public facilities, libraries, social services and other services. In Fairfield, that fee is about $5,000 for a new single-family home.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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