Roads — they help you get to work, school and everywhere you need to go. They can be as smooth as an ice cube or as cracked as alligator skin, if not given proper care.
As many drivers know, has found it difficult to maintain its roads over the past decade.
“We don’t have enough money to do the job right,” said Vice Mayor Bill De Witt. “South Gate has more mileage in streets than money coming in to resurface them.”
Having well-kept roads is essential for the safety of its users and for the maintenance of their vehicles.
“Tires do not get flat and shock absorbers don’t get ruined when you have good pavement,” Mohammad Mostahkami, city director of public works. “Police, firemen and trash trucks use these streets, so it is very important that we have good roadways.”
South Gate is made up of around 123 miles of roads. For the past 10 years, it has not had the funds to keep up its roads. This has lead to a backlog in road care.
“I would need about $3 million per year [for 10 to 15 years],” said Mostahkami, when asked how much would be necessary to catch and keep up on South Gate's resurfacing needs every year. “[This year] I have about $1 million for pavement rehabilitation.”
The cost to address the road maintenance backlog in a single year would come to about $25 million, according to Mostahkami.
“We do not have the money to do that,” said Mostahkami.
The bulk of funds for the road repairs comes from California gas taxes and the Los Angeles County Metro Proposition C funds. Both of these sources have been reduced, leaving municipalities with insufficient funds for road rehabilitation.
“Over the next ten years the total revenues that are to be collected statewide would only provide less then half of the needed revenues to support system preservation and expansion,” said Robert Leiter, project manager for the report. “This is part of large funding problem that relates to the entire state.”
The California gas tax is 36 cents a gallon and has not been increased since the early nineties. In addition, Californians have decreased their purchase of gasoline for nine straight months, according to a recent report by the State Board of Equalization.
The downward economy, high gas prices, alternative types of transportation and fuel efficient vehicles may all be contributing to the decline in gas tax revenue, according to the report.
“Consumption of gas is down significantly,” said De Witt. “The gasoline tax is per gallon, so if you are buying half the gallons you use to buy, because you have new economical hybrid, then we are not getting enough money.”
Funds from Metro Proposition C, which was approved in 1991 by Los Angeles County voters, are generated by a half-cent sales tax. The tax revenue has decreased with lower consumer confidence, again cutting into available funds to fix roadways used by public transportation.
“They get part of that money to operate buses,” said Mostahkami. “I cannot use that money for residential roads.”
The shortfall in funds and deferral of road maintenance will cost more in future repairs with every passing year.
“We can only take care of them when we need to,” said Mostahkami. “Deferrals are costing us more because I don’t have money to take care of this every year.”
The public works department can revamp a road in several ways to extend their life and use.
Among the least expensive ways is to refurbish a road with slurry seal when it begins to show damage. This preventive approach fills small cracks and allows for better slip resistance, adding 5 to 7 years of usage to the road. The most expensive project is complete replacement or reconstruction of a street that has too much damage.
“That’s what I am trying to prevent because we don’t have the money,” said Mostahkami. The expense of replacing or reconstructing a road can triple or quadruple the cost of early prevention. “Wherever I can do a slurry seal, I do a slurry seal,” he said.
The public works department has argued for more funds by pointing to the regional importance of some South Gate roads.
One example: the city was awarded a $9.5 million Call for Projects Grant that will be used over the next four years to maintain Firestone Boulevard. It is a reimbursement-based grant, which means the Los Angeles Metro reimburses the city for the funds it uses to repair Firestone.
“We were able to justify its regional significance,” said Mostahkami.
Approximately $2 million will be used for repaving of the street, while the other funds will go toward other improvements, such as road widening, said Mostahkami.
But the bulk of funds to fix roads are subject to outside factors over which the city has little control.
“There is a formula for Prop C and the gas tax — that we don’t have any control of, and we can’t ask for any more than what it allows us to get,” said Bryan Cook, city director of finance.
Residents can call the Public Works Department at 323-563-9500 if they want to report potholes or any road concern.
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