Thursday, February 07, 2008

County Has More State Funding For Rural Roads

County Has More State Funding For Rural Roads
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | February 06, 2008

A bird sits on the Grizzly Island Road one-lane bridge over Hill Slough south of Suisun City Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Solano County has a new $71 million, five-year public works plan to maintain or improve 339 miles of its 470-mile rural road system.

For years, county officials have bemoaned the lack of road maintenance money. But this year, they sounded a more optimistic note, calling the new plan 'the much-improved road program.'

'It's very, very good news this year, compared to previous years,' county Engineering Manager Paul Wiese told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. 'This year I can say it provides reasonable funding of major road maintenance projects.'

The reasons are a voter-approved 2006 state transportation bond and a voter-approved measure that keeps state gas tax money going to transportation needs. Both will send money to Solano County for roads, even as the rest of the state budget faces drastic cuts.

Much of the road maintenance will be doing chip seals, slurry seals and overlays on existing rural roads. The county plans to replace five old, structurally deficient bridges, including the Grizzly Island Road bridge over Hill Slough in Suisun Marsh.

Some of the projects are in well-traveled areas, such as doing maintenance work on a mile stretch of Mankas Corner Road near Fairfield. Others are in remote areas, such as replacing a bridge over No Name Creek in the east county.

However, $18 million of the $71 million must still be found to fund the entire five-year plan. The missing money is for larger improvements in the Fairfield-Suisun-Vacaville area. They are:

- Turning two-lane Vanden Road into a four-lane segment of the Jepson Parkway linking Vacaville and Fairfield at a cost of $12.5 million.

- Improving Peabody Road between Vacaville and Fairfield at a cost of $3.4 million.

- Improving North Gate and Canon roads at a cost of $1.4 million to provide better access to Travis Air Force Base.

- Building a quarter-mile walking path through Old Town Cordelia at a cost of $500,000.

- Building a segment of the Vacaville-Dixon Bikeway on Pitt School Road at a cost of $400,000.

One possible funding source is imposing a public facilities fee for transportation on construction in the cities. The rationale is that growth in cities means more drivers using rural roads. The county is doing a study on the topic that could be finished this summer for consideration by county supervisors.

Solano County is also pursuing federal and state money for the projects.

Wiese sounded one note of caution about the key source for road money, the state gas tax. The tax has remained the same at 18 cents per gallon since 1995, he said, although construction costs have risen.

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

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