Local Road Infrastructure Crumbling in the Age of Austerity

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


While state and federal governments increasingly opt for austerity measures over infrastructure investments to cope with the never-ending 2008 economic downturn, California streets and roads are crumbling

A just–released report, sponsored by the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties and other transportation entities, calls the situation a “crisis” and says it will take more than $82 billion over 10 years to bring California streets and roads up to par.

Only 56% of California’s local streets and roads were deemed to be in good condition, and 49 of the state’s 58 counties were rated “At Risk” or in “Poor’ condition.

By “streets and roads,” the report is also referring to bridges and essential components like sidewalks, storm drains, curbs and traffic signs. Pavement accounts for $59.1 billion of the projected shortfall. Essential components are $21.8 billion and bridges are $1.3 billion.

The 2012 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment characterized the entire system as “on the edge of a cliff.”

Local governments currently spend about $2.5 billion a year on pavement projects, but it would take an additional $1.9 billion just to maintain the status quo, according to the report. The state provides 59% of the funding to cities and states. The federal government contributes 10% and the rest comes from local sources.

The report charts a steady decline in infrastructure maintenance since 2008 and predicts that if funding is not increased, 25% of the statewide system will be in a “failed” state within 10 years. The report’s pavement condition index (PCI) has declined from 68 in 2008 to 66 in 2012, and the authors predict that it is on a pace to reach 53 by 2022.

The cost of rebuilding the infrastructure would far exceed the cost of repairing it on a regular basis. Cities and counties own 81% of the streets and roads covered by the report.

Only 15 counties showed improvement in PCI since 2008. Some showed dramatic declines. Yuba County lost 18 points, Imperial and Sutter counties 17, Inyo County 15, Mendocino County 14 and Monterey County 13.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Local Streets and Roads Pavement, Non-Pavement and Bridge Needs Financial Analysis (Save California Streets) (pdf)

New Study Shows California’s Local Streets and Roads at Crisis Point (California Statewide Needs Assessment Project) (pdf)

2012 California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment (Nichols Consulting Engineers, Chtd.) (pdf)

Leave a comment