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Keeping streets maintained
Manteca residents want alleys paved
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The alley located behind Cowell Avenue in the Powers Tract neighborhood.

More fuel efficient vehicles are making it more difficult for cities such as Manteca to maintain streets, let alone alleys.

California’s gas tax – which is the primary source of revenue cities use to maintain streets – hasn’t been raised in 20 years. Property and sales taxes are used to fund police, fire, parks, libraries, general government as well as the skeleton street crew Manteca has to do day-to-day and annual street and sidewalk maintenance and not major overlay or surface sealing projects. Manteca has 16 street maintenance workers in 2008 before the Great Recession. Today there are 10.

Motorists since 1995 have paid 39.5 cents per gallon in state gas taxes in California. The taxes paid at the pump are actually higher as it includes 18.4 cents in federal gas tax plus sales tax, neither of which goes for state and local road maintenance. And of the 39.5 cents only a sliver goes to local jurisdictions for street maintenance as the bulk goes to the state for freeway, highway, and bridge upkeep.

Meanwhile the average fuel efficiency of vehicles on the road has increased by almost 30 percent since then based on Environmental Protection Agency statistics. And that doesn’t include the impact of all-electric vehicles such as Tesla cars that pay no gas tax at all.

It is against that backdrop that cities such as Manteca are struggling to keep streets maintained.

An audit of Manteca’s streets conducted two years ago by Harris & Associates — a firm with expertise in pavement life noted Manteca would have to spend at least $37.5 million in work over the next few years to prevent conditions deteriorating to the point they would cost 30 times that amount to replace. The study isn’t gospel although it is based on actual situations, life expectancy, and normal wear and tear. To do nothing and let 180.4 miles of Manteca’s 219 municipal miles of streets deteriorate completely would cost $1 billion to replace.

None of this matters to someone that is irritated because the street in front of their home is in need of repair and simply sealing cracks or filling in potholes won’t do the trick.

And those who have public alleys backing up to their homes that aren’t maintained by the city and either are dirt or have very little pavement remaining are even in a worse predicament.

Residents want city

to pave their alleys

Raylow Court resident Lou Varni and his neighbors have been asking the city to pave and maintain the city-owned alleys behind their homes.

The dirt alley isn’t accessed by municipal garbage trucks nor is sewer and water service from the alley as there is in some neighborhoods in Manteca such as Powers Tract nestled between Spreckels Avenue and Manteca High. The only utility service is the power poles maintained by PG&E.

It is why the city doesn’t put a higher priority on some alley work when measured against other needs.

“Street maintenance is a higher priority (from my perspective) than alleys,” noted Public Works Director Mark Houghton who oversees the city’s streets and their upkeep.

That said, Houghton said the city should maintain infrastructure that they have put in place over the years regardless if neighborhood designs have changed. He did add in some cases where alleys do not have garages on them and there are no services except for power lines, it would make more sense in the long-run for the city to re-locate the power lines and allow adjoining property owners to claim the alley. That, however, still costs money.

Varni said residents in older sections of Manteca should expect their neighborhoods to be maintained as well as those around Woodward Park. Varni was referring to the recent seal coats placed on streets in the area as part of an established maintenance program aimed at prolonging and maximizing pavement life.

He also disputed whether it would cost as much as the city contends to pave alleys in his neighborhood. Varni and elsewhere noted he was first quoted a figure of $625,000 by city staff, then $500,000, and ultimately a concession that could be on the high side. Houghton at Tuesday’s council meeting said the city could put the work out to bid to get a more true cost. That, however, wouldn’t address how the city would pay for the alley work.

“This is a big problem for Manteca,” Varni said of alley maintenance.

This year’s fiscal budget contains $187,382 in federal pass through Community Development Block Grant funds to repave alleys in the downtown district.

The $625,000 price tag for paving alleys in poor condition given the council in July covers three areas:.

$175,000 for alleys in west central Manteca found behind Nevada Street, Edythe Street, and Virginia Street.

$160,000 for alleys in central Manteca found behind Lincoln Avenue, South Grant Avenue, Sherman Avenue, and North Grant Avenue.

300,000 for alleys in east central Manteca found behind North Powers Avenue, Sheridan Avenue, Marie Avenue, Hansen Avenue and Mylnar Avenue.

Residents Greg Mendosa noted the city doesn’t even pull weeds that sprout up in the middle of the alley forcing neighbors to do the work.

Houghton is advocating the council back a plan to address some alleys by recycling road pavement that is removed. It would be crushed into gravel sized pieces.

He proposes taking out a layer of soil from the alleys, compacting it, and then placing four inches of the crushed pavement and going over it with a steam roller.

Proposal to improve

on earlier strategy

Houghton said that is an improvement on a similar measure the city did on the alley behind Cowell Avenue in 2008 that was too narrow to pave. Back then, though the city crews didn’t take out soil first and put in place just two inches of gravel. While it has held up well and addressed mud holes and dust, the gravel interfered with the opening of gates and has allowed some weeds to grow.

The removal of dirt and double the amount of material is designed to address those shortcomings.

It also has the advantage of not creating storm run-off as the material is permeable.

Houghton noted it is essentially cost-free for the city as existing staff and equipment could do the work. And since it uses used road pavement that has to be recycled, there is no material cost.