When Mark Houghton took over as Manteca’s Public Works Director in late 2007 he was impressed with how the city had a good handle on most municipal services. The one glaring exception was municipal streets.
Houghton’s concerns were backed up by a pavement management survey in 2014 that determined Manteca needed to spend $37.5 million over the next five years to avoid preventing 180.14 miles of city streets from deteriorating to a point they would need evenly costlier reconstruction. Street pavement experts from Harris & Associates surveyed 219 miles of municipal streets. The survey excluded all streets that had either been put in place or had maintenance done on them within the previous two years.
The report noted “delays in repairs can result in costs increasing as much as 30-fold. In other words, it is not simply ‘pay today or pay tomorrow’ but rather a ‘pay today or pay more tomorrow’ proposition.” Overall pavement maintenance cost is reduced by the timely application of crack seals and slurry seals before the subgrade fails and requires pavement reconstruction
The report inventoried existing pavement conditions, assigned condition ratings, and listed suggested maintenance strategies.
The report indicated:
u135.18 miles of streets are in very good shape and simply need a crack seal.
u33.91 miles are in good shape and need thin asphalt overlay.
u9.01 miles are in poor condition and need thick asphalt overlay.
u2.16 miles are in very poor shape and require reconstruction.
u39 miles are in excellent condition and do not require work.
Work set for next
year on Main &
Almost three years later after the report was issued Manteca is struggling to whittle down the backlog of needed street maintenance. Next year Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to Cottage Avenue as well as Main Street from Atherton Drive to Yosemite Avenue are being reconstructed. The projects will cost roughly $5.5 million overall using Measure K sales tax, gas tax, and federal funds. No municipal general fund money is being used.
When the Main and Yosemite work is completed along with neighborhood slurry maintenance efforts since 2014, Manteca will still have at least $20 million worth of work left to do by the end of 2019 to meet the minimum recommendations in the 2014 report.
Money — or more precisely the lack of money — is the problem.
There are now just eight city street maintenance workers or half the staffing level of a decade ago. As a result Manteca has been unable to effectively tackle sidewalk repair work in-house.
“The cutbacks (due to revenue shortfalls during the Great Recession) cost us our concrete crew,” Houghton said.
As a result the city instead of following a mapped out plan to upgrade sidewalks is struggling to keep up with complaints about sidewalk hazards. The city addresses the most pressing issues by grinding down concrete. Recently they had time to tackle the removal of trees and replacing buckled sidewalk on the northeast corner of North Main and Alameda streets.
The bottom line is the city’s plan to systematically upgrade sidewalks as well as put in place missing links including curbs and gutters has stalled.
City street crews have a long list of tasks to handle for more than 200 miles of municipal streets from sealing cracks and removing debris to the upkeep of street signs and lights.
They also prep streets for seal slurry work that is handled through the bid process in a bid to keep costs down.
Keeping existing streets in shape is just half of the problem. The other half is funding and constructing new streets and interchanges needed to handle projected growth.
How will city fund
major roads needed
due to growth?
There is now only one public works employee coordinating all street projects — new and existing. While that backs up work and requires hiring consultants to keep major undertakings such as the upcoming Yosemite Avenue and Main Street corridors moving forward, it has also creates a situation where Manteca is allowing growth to occur that isn’t paying its fair share for the need they are creating for major road projects.
Part of it has to do with Manteca’s unparalleled freeway access for a city of 75,000 — six interchanges within seven miles of freeway with a seventh on the way — that is both a blessing and a curse.
Between those interchanges Manteca has at least four linear miles of prime retail and office development potential along the 120 Bypass at the epicenter of 1.3 million consumers in a 30-mile radius that is viewed by city leaders as Manteca’s ace in the hole. So is the access to the approved 1,049-acre Austin Road Business Park along the Highway 99 corridor that currently is dead in the water.
New road needs
framed as a $300M
question in 2008
The downside was framed as a $300 million question during a Manteca City Council discussion in 2008: How is Manteca going to pay for all the interchange upgrades plus major arterials to connect with them?
Or, more precisely, who is going to pay for them?
The city’s only answer in place — a growth fee adopted 19 years ago — is considered inadequate. City leadership has said the fee and overall funding sources need to be rethought but nothing has been formally adopted since the issue was revisited nine years ago even though Mayor Steve DeBrum has equated every month that passes when hew housing permits are issued is essentially “leaving money on the table.”
Interchange upgrades are targeted along the Highway 120 Bypass at Main Street, Union Road, and Airport Way, plus a new interchange at McKinley Avenue as well as Highway 99 at Austin Road. Surface streets included are typically four-lane arterials such as Atherton Drive and the proposed southern street almost a mile south of the 120 Bypass that at one time was dubbed Raymus Boulevard.
The figure would be even higher if the Highway 99 widening projects didn’t include the new interchange at Lathrop Road.
The state isn’t likely to be much help even though the bulk of the improvements are along freeways. Back in the 1960s, 25 percent of the state’s annual expenditures went to infrastructure. Today it is hovering around one percent.
The city has had some success in tapping federal sources for funds needed for studies related to interchange environmental review and design work. That money has been married with growth fees.
But how most of the work will be funded is a big question especially since one potential funding source — redevelopment agency tax receipts — was taken away in 2012 by Sacramento in order to try and balance the state budget.
Key growth fee
revised for 19 years
The RDA by itself would not have covered the tab.
That leaves several funding possibilities including Mell-Roos benefit tax districts and similar mechanisms. But arguably the biggest source of money could be the Public Facilities Implementation Plan fee that was conceived 23 years ago to make sure that Manteca had the roads, traffic signals, major sewer and water trunk lines, and other improvements needed as the city grew. The fee is assessed on residential construction as a per unit charge and commercial/industrial on a per square foot basis.
Exactly how that fee is assessed is critical. Putting too much on the back of business parks and retail complexes could drive away jobs and potential sales tax critical for the ongoing funding of day-to-day municipal services.
On the flip side, if the city taps into too many sources that are used to maintain its existing street system that has almost 222 linear miles streets already in place streets could start falling apart.
Whatever course the city takes, there is agreement an equitable funding formula for fees needs to be in place before growth starts picking up more since the city can’t retroactively collect new or increased fees once a permit is issued. At the same time, the city can only make new growth pay for its “fair share” of any infrastructure improvement including major roads and interchanges.
A revised PFIP fee is expected to be brought before the City Council early in 2017.