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The taxing challenge of maintaining 225 miles of streets in City of Manteca
A car passes deteriorating pavement in the southbound lanes of South Main Street in front of the Manteca Walmart. The city will be starting a major pavement project of the Main Street corridor from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive at the end of the rainy season. - photo by Bulletin photo

Editor’s note: This is an occasional series recapping challenges facing the City of Manteca in 2019 and beyond.

Airport Way.


Spreckels Avenue.


Lathrop Road.

And roll.

Bill Halley & his Comets musical standard comes to mind every time you take a jarring ride down a number of major streets in Manteca including Main Street and Yosemite Avenue. Pavement quality isn’t what it was once cracked up to be.

It’s a problem not just facing Manteca but virtually every other city in California.

How potholes, deteriorating pavement, and even washboard roads occur is due to a few simple facts.

Based on asphalt industry data general, asphalt pavement has an average life of approximately 25 years if properly maintained. Without proper care, however, most asphalt pavements lose 10 percent of their structural integrity within 10 years, and after 20 years, the pavement will have lost 45 percent of its integrity and initial durability. 

The state gas tax — the primary source for cities to pay for street maintenance — was not raised for 23 years. Senate Bill 1 took it to 47.3 cents per gallon from the 35.7 cents per gallon tax that had been in place since 1994. Meanwhile based on general inflation, it costs $1.65 in 2017 to pay for what $1 would pay for in 1994. It should be noted that construction inflation is significantly higher than general inflation.

There were 35.9 million registered vehicles in California in 2017 or 20 percent more than in 1994. At the same time new vehicles that hit California streets in 2017 averaged 24.7 miles per gallon for a 17 percent improvement in fuel efficiency meaning less gas purchased and less gas tax paid.

A typical 9-ton big rig weighs nearly five times the average car of 4,000 pounds but the wear and tear on pavement is significantly higher. It is why trucks pay much higher register fees than general vehicles.

All of that combined to put cities such as Manteca further behind when it comes to upkeep of streets. The biggest culprit has been the dwindling gas tax funneled to the city at the same time streets and more vehicles are being added. Making matters worse, the drop in gas tax dollars has had its purchasing power gutted significantly by inflation.

Just how far behind

is Manteca when it

comes to upkeep

of street pavement

So just how far is the city behind on pavement maintenance?

Based on the last pavement management survey done in 2014 it was 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 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. Manteca now has nearly 225 miles of streets.

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 conductions, assigned condition ratings, and listed suggested maintenance strategies.

The report indicated:

135.18 miles of streets are in very good shape and simply need a crack seal.

33.91 miles are in good shape and need thin asphalt overlay.

9.01 miles are in poor condition and need thick asphalt overlay.

2.16 miles are in very poor shape and require reconstruction.

39 miles are in excellent condition and do not require work.

The city has been trying to concentrate what limited resources they have to prolong the life of streets. The seal coasting of dozens of miles of residential streets every year that a number of people pan claiming it does nothing actually is effective. Asphalt Institute engineers note asphalt residential streets that receive only normal traffic can last 20 years or more before they need resurfacing or seal coating. Resurfacing can often double or triple the life of a street before it is necessary to repair it. Without that seal coating residential streets would deteriorate faster and would resemble the stretch of southbound South Main Street in front of Walmart right before the 120 Bypass ramps.

Gas tax hike generates

another $1.2 million a

year for Manteca streets

Prior to Senate Bill 1, gas tax revenues sent to Manteca were just over $1.6 million a year. The State Department of Finance estimates the 12 cent hike in gas tax will send Manteca an additional $1,251,552 in the current 2018-2019 fiscal year. That, married with $1.1 million in Measure K half cent sales tax makes up the source of funding for pavement maintenance. If gas tax and Measure K receipts hold up, the city would receive $4.2 million a year going forward for pavement maintenance and other day-to-day street upkeep costs compared to $2.7 million a year before passage of Senate Bill 1.

Only a portion of the state gas tax and countywide Measure K sales tax goes to pavement maintenance. The rest goes to major street repaving such as the money Manteca secured to pay for the bulk of repaving and other work that will start in the next few months on Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to Cottage Avenue and Main Street from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive. Other funds from those two sources go to upgrade interchanges such as proposed improvements for the 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchange, adding new freeway lanes, funding mass transit projects such as the extension of ACE service, retrofitting bridges that sustain fatigue from use, and other transit-related endeavors.

Statewide the 12 cent gas tax — that is now indexed for inflation — over the next decade alone will generate more than $52 billion to pay for repairs to state highways and local streets, along with improvements to bridges, public transit, and biking and walking trails. It will also put $400 million toward extending Altamont Corridor Express service to Merced by 2023. That will include stops in downtown Manteca as well as Ripon, Modesto, and Turlock-Ceres.

Senate Bill 1 also created an annual DMV vehicle fee that started last year ranging from $25 for cars valued at under $5,000 to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more. In additional, all electric cars will pay $100 a year. The fees are paid when your DMV registration is due.

Exploring ways to

cut future pavement

upkeep costs

 Interlocking concrete permeable pavers — such as those used in downtown Ripon — could provide Manteca with a way to reduce long-term street maintenance costs.

The Mayors’ Park neighborhood bounded by Louise Avenue, Union Road, and the railroad tracks as well as Springtime Estates bordered by Louise Avenue, Main Street and Highway 99 will serve as a paver pilot projects in Manteca. Work could start later this year in one or both neighborhoods

Ripon street paver projects as well as a pavers on Howard Road — a route with heavy truck traffic in Wesley off Interstate 5 — have been cited by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute as two examples of how pavers hold up much better in the long haul and therefore have lower lifetime costs than asphalt.

While asphalt or concrete is less expensive to install — $45 per square yard as opposed to concrete pavers at $68 per yard — over an equal life cycle the asphalt approach the city currently uses is significantly higher. The long-term maintenance costs for asphalt or concrete is $66 a square yard as opposed to $12 for concrete pavers.

That means over the same time period, it costs a city $80 a square yard to install and maintain interlocking concrete pavers as opposed to $111 for asphalt or traditional concrete pavement the $31 per square yard savings is significant.

The cost savings was the driving force behind elected leaders in Ripon adopting interlocking concrete pavement as a roadway standard for 1.3 million square feet of new residential streets constructed between 2005 and 2008. The higher cost of the pavers was transferred to buyers of new homes.

In terms of the 5,555 square yards of pavers on downtown Ripon streets, that city will avoid $172,222 in maintenance costs over the life cycle of the streets.

Advantages the Manteca public works staff has cited besides lower overall costs are:

simplified utility trenching as pavers can be replaces seamlessly unlike when asphalt has been ripped up and then replaced to access buried sewer, water, storm, power, natural gas, cable, and telephone lines.

reduced storm water runoff as the permeable design allows some water to percolate into the ground. That provides additional benefits in less storm water that can add to flooding concerns as well as avoiding some of the costly solutions the federal government is requiring for storm water run-off in the coming years.

proven results of being able to hold up on heavily traveled streets and frontage roads.

Other sources cite pavers as being significantly less susceptible to potholes as well as greatly reducing or eliminating issues associated with buckling and cracks developing.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email