Challenge: To implement a roadway preservation program without a dedicated funding source. State law prohibits counties from charging more than “actual cost” (interpreted to mean operational expenses) for right-of-way use. Now that the 25-year franchise agreements are expiring, utilities are adopting a “we don’t have to renew” argument. In 2010, they successfully lobbied the legislature to continue operating under the terms of their expired franchises.
Solution: Rather than float another add-on to the local sales tax, we asked the board of county commissioners to require that franchises be renewed and commit the revenues to street rehab and preservation. For 2014, we convinced commissioners to convert leftover bond funds to “life-extension” fog seals, slurries, and even gravel roadbed replacements. To make the case for new franchises, we’re using the 2002 Santa Cruz County falling weight deflectometer study that shows a 25% reduction in road life due to patching to prove the very high actual costs associated with hosting roadway utilities.
Web extra: Read the 2002 report “Analysis of the Impact of Utility Cuts on Rehabilitation Costs in Santa Cruz County, CA.”