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Damaged Streets May Stay Neglected
March 27, 2001

Richmond council likely to invest most of the city's $25 million bond money to repair roads that receive the heaviest amount of traffic 

By Shawn Masten

RICHMOND -- Some of the city's most neglected streets would continue to deteriorate while other more healthy streets would be repaired under a project list to be considered by the City Council tonight. 

The list, put together by the city staff, recommends which streets, parks and city buildings should be fixed over the next three years with proceeds from a $25 million bond issue.

Most of the money -- nearly $15 million -- would be used citywide to improve dozens of streets, install street lights and repair sidewalks. 

The remaining money would go for improvements at parks, City Hall and the Police Department. Work is expected to begin later this year. 

Some projects emerged from lists submitted by most the 39 neighborhood councils, which complained mainly about deteriorating roads and potholes. Others have either been on the city's list of needed capital improvements for years or were proposed for safety reasons. 

"Our roads are in disgusting shape," said Eleanor Loynd, president of the May Valley Neighborhood Council, which submitted a list of 17 requests for the El Sobrante Valley. "There's probably more than a hundred potholes out here, and they are everywhere from quiet residential streets to heavily traveled thoroughfares. Sometimes the pavement just breaks open and the next day there's a hole." 

In all, the city received hundreds of project requests from residents, ranging from a proposal for a pick-up and drop-off lane near De Anza High School to the removal of a vacant feed store in the city's Park Plaza neighborhood. 

The public works staff recommended spending about $7 million of the bond proceeds on pavement improvements based on a "best first" guideline prescribed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. 

If the council agrees to follow that selection method, streets rated in fair to excellent condition would likely get overlays and other improvements while an estimated 116 streets in need of total reconstruction would continue to be ignored for at least the next few years. 

Overlayings and seals keep water from getting underneath asphalt, thus preventing roadways from needing costly reconstruction, said Rick Karvosky, public services director. 

"What we're proposing is the best use of the limited dollars we have," he said. "We could do other streets, but it's not as cost-effective." 

The city would need at least $159 million to repair all of its ailing streets over the next 10 years, Karvosky added. 

"This lease-bond measure provides only a fraction of the funding needed and a limited repair program," over the next three years, he said. 

Still, the recommendations don't sit well with Councilman Tom Butt. 

"I'm uncomfortable with this idea that totally deteriorating roads don't get anything," he said. "In pure economic terms it makes sense, but I'm not sure it does in human terms. It just doesn't seem right that the people with the worst streets aren't going to see any of this money." 

If Butt opposes the list, he likely will be in the minority. 

The selection method used by the staff is the norm for the Bay Area and a way to keep the whole of the streets from failing, Councilwoman Irma Anderson said. 

"We shouldn't wait until all the streets go bad," Anderson said. "We should prevent the streets that are in good condition from getting bad." 

Councilman Nat Bates agreed. 

"The fact is we don't have enough money to do all the repairs," Bates said Monday. "We have to do the areas where we have the heaviest and greatest degree of traffic. The other streets will have to wait their turn." 

If the council approves the recommended list, some of the city's most heavily traveled streets will be improved and given overlays, including Barrett Avenue, Carlson Boulevard, Hilltop Drive and Valley View Road. 

About $4.2 million would be used to install elevators and roofs at City Hall and the Police Department and to upgrade restrooms at parks. 

About $3 million would go to fix landslide problems in the El Sobrante Valley and to fix sidewalks and replace street lights and traffic signals citywide. 

And another $1.5 million would pay for stormwater improvements in the flood-plagued Richmond Annex, Santa Fe and East Richmond neighborhoods. The remainder would be used to finance the bonds.