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Rocky Roads: Streets will take years, millions to rebuild

Chico >> Chicoans want to see a lot of roads repaired throughout the city, but they’re not likely to anytime soon. The initial costs for the reconstruction of just one stretch of a roadway is often beyond an entire year’s budget for road projects or maintenance.

The city has 294 miles of roadway to maintain and an annual budget of about $1.2 million. The additional revenue from Senate Bill 1 — an increase in the gas tax — is projected as $522,430 this year, and $2.1 million per year starting in 2019.

The waste-hauling franchise agreement will bring in an additional $800,000 each year, earmarked for roadway maintenance projects.

According to the city’s pavement management plan, ideal maintenance would require $7 million a year. To actually improve the roads and not simply maintain them, that would be $10 million a year.

In an ideal world, the city would create a roadway and monitor it closely for about 20-30 years, said Public Works Engineering Director Brendan Ottoboni. Once it reached year 18, the city would do a slurry seal on cracks and imperfections. On year 25, they’d do another, and maybe two or three more to keep stretching out the lifetime of the roadway before a complete reconstruction.

That is preventative maintenance, Ottoboni said. But the city is not doing preventative maintenance at all because it doesn’t have enough funding for roadways.

When this newspaper asked its readers to nominate roads in need of repair, more than 300 people responded. When it asked readers to vote on which roads should be prioritized first, more than 1,000 voted.

“There’s obviously a certain level of frustration in the community on roads and the condition of them, and I share the feeling,” Ottoboni said.

The overall cost:

A group of civic leaders active with the Chico Chamber of Commerce have studied the problem, including Mark Francis of Golden Valley Bank, Jim Stevens of NorthStar and retired City Manager Tom Lando. They analyzed the city’s pavement condition index, and calculated the costs to truly repair all roadways in Chico.

It came to a whopping $188.6 million.

For comparison, the city’s entire payroll in 2016 — for police, firefighters and everything else — was $30.6 million. The entire operating budget in the current fiscal year is $114.9 million, with a small fraction going to roads.

The needs, broken down by roadway type, include:
• Arterials, like East Avenue and The Esplanade: $39.5 million
• Collectors, the intermediary roads that link local roads to arterial, like Cussick and West Sacramento avenues: $51.3 million
• Residential/local: $97.7 million

The repairs that racked up the most are full-depth reconstructions, where the subgrade (native material under the roadway) has failed, at $68,274,475. Reconstructions, where old, failing asphalt is repaired, followed closely, at $49,161,027.

They discovered that The Esplanade between Cohasset Road and Mission Ranch Boulevard is the arterial in the worst condition in the city.

A breakdown:
The Enterprise-Record asked readers in an online poll: Which roadways give you the biggest headache in Chico?

More than 1,000 of the surveys were filled out online.

Most of the roadways identified as the worst problem by readers were located in what the city government classifies as “zone 7” in north Chico, bordered roughly by East Avenue to the south, Cohasset Road to the east, past Eaton Road to Sycamore Creek to the north, including north Esplanade and the Chico Municipal Airport, and slightly past Highway 32 on the west.

Chico tackles road maintenance through its pavement management program, which breaks up the city into eight maintenance zones.

Public Works surveys one zone per year and proceeds sequentially, Ottoboni said.

Ottoboni said this approach allows the city to narrow its focus and can be more cost effective when it comes to contract services.

“We don’t just choose the worst road and go fix it,” he said. “We want to be prudent with our dollars and get the biggest bang for the buck.”

In general, the city prioritizes arterial roads, the main thoroughfares with high traffic that deteriorate faster.

“Unfortunately, local/residential roadways essentially aren’t going to get addressed at all because we don’t even have the funding for major roadways,” he said.

Here’s the city’s response to the projects our readers wanted to see fixed.

Ottoboni said the costs provided are very rough estimates, and do not include new sidewalk, curbs or gutters. Estimates do include the cost of Americans with Disabilities Act ramps, which are state-mandated.

1. Esplanade between East Avenue and Shasta Elementary
Problem: Deterioration of roadway, subgrade failure.
Fix: Reconstruction and/or cold-in-place recycle (a method of removing and reusing the existing asphalt surface)
Cost: $3.84 million.
Funded: No.
Who’s responsible: Chico

2. Cohasset from East Avenue to Eaton Road
Problem: Failed pavement, raveling and cracking.
Fix: Cold-in-place recycle
Cost: $1.4 million
Funded: Yes. $450,000 in gas tax funds and $600,000 in waste hauling franchise funds.
Date: Summer 2018
Who’s responsible: Chico

3. Hicks Lane, from Eaton to Sycamore Creek bridge
Problem: Deterioration of roadway, cracking.
Fix: Reconstruction
Cost: $470,000
Funded: No.
Who’s responsible: Chico

4. Lassen Avenue, west of The Esplanade to Cussick, resurfacing
Problem: Deterioration of roadway
Comments: “It’s definitely in horrible shape,” Ottoboni said.
Fix: Reconstruction
Cost: $840,000
Funded: No.
Who’s responsible: Chico

5. Rio Lindo Avenue from The Esplanade to Cohasset Road
Problem: Deterioration of roadway.
Comments: Ottoboni said the city is “very aware of that” roadway and receives many complaints.
Fix: Full-depth reconstruction
Cost: $1.01 million
Funded: No.
Who’s responsible: Chico

6. Highway 32, Orland to Chico, widen to four lanes
Problem: Unsafe passing on two-lane road.
Cost: $350 million
Funded: No, and unlikely to happen (see related story).
Who’s responsible: Caltrans, Butte County Association of Governments, Glenn County.

7. Cohasset Road from Eaton Road to airport, resurfacing
Problem: Cracking, worn pavement
Comments: Traffic is not as high on this part of the roadway, so it’s not as big of a priority for the city. Fix: Cape seal.
Cost: $860,000.
Funded: No. $5 million grant for widening roadway was lost when RDA dissolved.
Who’s responsible: Chico.

8. Highway 99, add lane between Highway 32 and East 20th Street
Problem: Congestion from heavy onramp traffic merging with freeway traffic.
Fix: Add a third lane connecting the onramp at one road with the offramp at the other.
Cost: Perhaps $15 million.
Funded: No.
Who’s responsible: Caltrans, Butte County Association of Governments, Chico.

9. Eaton Road/Highway 99/Hicks Lane intersection
Problem: Heavy traffic, vehicles backed up onto highway, posing safety hazard.
Fix: Roundabout.
Cost: $6.2 million.
Funded: Yes. $5.3 million federal grant, development impact fees.
Date: 2021-2022.
Who’s responsible: Chico.

10. Highway 99, widen to four lanes north of Chico
Cost: $640 million.
Funded: No, and unlikely to happen (see related story).
Who’s responsible: Caltrans, Butte County Association of Governments, Tehama County.

City Editor Steve Schoonover contributed to this story."


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