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  Richmond Streets - Bad and Getting Worse
December 4, 2004

The City of Richmond has a major unresolved challenge in the condition of its streets. An excerpt from the December 3 Chronicle Watch regarding a specific street maintenance need in Richmond prompted me to complete this editorial E-FORUM I started back in October. The Chronicle Watch piece involves the street surfacing on Canal Boulevard under the I-580 grade separation near Point Richmond. A couple of months ago, the City completed some patch work that improved the potholes, but the street is still in terrible condition, especially for a major freeway interchange at the entrance to some of Richmondís most expensive residential real estate and the Richmond Parkway.


What all Richmond residents know, however, is that this is not an isolated need. The majority of Richmondís streets are in poor repair and getting worse. Furthermore, there is no plan to do anything about it. Much of the decision-making about street maintenance is a mystery to Richmond residents and, unfortunately, is based on the squeaky wheel method, as represented by Chronicle Watch article.


What we need to do is find out what level of street maintenance property owners and/or voters in Richmond are willing to pay for and get on with it.


Richmond has about 279 miles of paved streets. The condition of streets is rated by a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) based on a rating of 100 for a new street with a life expectancy of about 21 years. Using the PMS, all streets in Richmond have been rated from 0 to 100 on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI), as follows:


  • 78-100: Excellent, no maintenance required
  • 70-77: Very Good; general preventive maintenance such as crack sealing or slurry seal
  • 50-69: Good; thin overlay (minimum/moderate dig out)
  • 25-49: Poor; Thick overlay with dig out
  • 0-24: Very Poor; Reconstruction


Based on the 2003-2004 Program Update Ė Final Report, the current average PCI of Richmond streets is 53. During the first 14 years of life of a street, the PCI value will drop gradually to around 50. From that point, it will drop much more rapidly if not rehabilitated. When the PCO falls below 25, reconstruction is required. The cost of preventive maintenance is so much lower than reconstruction that a triage method is used in planning street repairs when limited funding is available. In the case of Richmond, this means that badly deteriorated streets will only get worse while only some marginally deteriorated streets will be repaired.


At the current annual budget level of approximately $3 million (gas tax and Measure C/J funds), the PCI would drop to 38 by 2013. For Richmond to maintain the PCI level at the current level of 53 would require an annual expenditure of $9 million annually. The 2003-2004 Program Update Ė Final Report recommends the annual street maintenance budget be increased to at least $12 million, which would begin an upward trend in the overall pavement condition while lowering the deferred maintenance backlog. At this level, the overall PCI would increase to the minimally acceptable level of 60 in the next ten years. It would take an annual funding level of $20.8 million to increase the PCI to a level of 79 in ten years.


Increased street maintenance costs could be paid for with one or more tax strategies, including general obligation bonds, which are paid for on an ad valorem basis, the same as property taxes, or the City could set up one or more benefit assessment districts. All of this takes time and, in the case of a general obligation bond, has to conform to schedules election cycles.


What would this cost? At the minimum level, an increase of $9 million annually for the next ten years to yield the total $12 million investment would cost about $30 annually for a $350,000 home, rising to about $210 in ten years. At the higher level of $20.8 million, it would cost about $60 annually for a $350,000 home, rising to about $420 in ten years.


The question is, do the people want to pay for better streets or not, and if so how much? Our City government should be asking these questions, but they arenít. So I am.


Working for a better Bay Area

- Suzanne Pullen
Friday, December 3, 2004


Richmond road needs work: It's called Canal Boulevard, but smooth sailing is out of the question on the stretch that runs under Interstate 580. Several tipsters have contacted ChronicleWatch about wretched road conditions on the southbound side of the underpass. Philip Rosenthal of Point Richmond says he's almost been hit twice by big rigs -- which use the road to get to the Chevron refinery and receiving ports at Point Richmond. "The potholes and ruts are so deep that the rigs and local cars and trucks are forced to swerve to avoid (them)," he said. Tipster Heather Tunis of Point Richmond says she's hoped someone would fix Canal Boulevard for years. "This is a heavily utilized exit and underpass," she said. Status: ChronicleWatch initially contacted Caltrans, which had jurisdiction over the road when it was part of old Highway 17. But spokeswoman Gidget Navarro told us Canal Boulevard reverted to Richmond's domain after Interstate 580 was built in the mid-1980s. After our call, Caltrans contacted city officials -- who were indeed under the impression that the area belonged to the state transportation agency -- and cleared up the confusion. City engineer Rich Davidson told us crews have filled the worst of the potholes, but he said the road needs to be redone. His agency is looking into having a contractor from a nearby project repave the road.

Who's responsible: Rich McCoy, Richmond's assistant manager for public services, (510) 620-6538; rich_mccoy@ci.richmond.ca.us