Paso Robles City Council to hear street repair plans

Critics of Paso Robles’ cracked and crumbling streets will finally get a long-awaited glimpse of the city’s fix-it list tonight as a multiyear road repair plan goes before the City Council.

The effort is the first step toward fixing roads after voters agreed last fall to fund street repairs with an additional half-cent sales tax on their purchases.

The City Council will make three decisions related to tackling the approximately 15 miles of proposed street maintenance throughout the city.

Up for discussion: deciding which streets to work on; deciding whether to repair streets as the new tax money comes in or to take out a loan to get started right away; and deciding whether to hire a field tester to determine the type of repairs each road needs.

Two maintenance plans will be presented to address problems on different kinds of streets. One includes fixing arterial, collector and residential streets with a series of paving, sealing and reconstruction. The second option is mainly for arterial and collector streets in addition to a few residential streets used as shortcuts to businesses and schools.

Collector streets are low- to moderate-capacity streets that move traffic from residential areas to main thoroughfares, or arterial streets. For example, 13th, Vine and Spring streets are all named as arterial streets, while Scott and Sixth streets are considered collector streets.

The city’s half-cent sales tax increase, which goes into effect April 1, is expected to generate

$3.5 million for road repairs annually for 12 years.

The council is interviewing residents to serve on a seven-member committee tasked with overseeing how the tax money is spent.

Also, the state is expected this year to return some gasoline sales tax money it borrowed from all cities in 2010 to help fill its deficit. For Paso Robles, the gas tax could bring an added $700,000 a fiscal year through 2017.

But because the money isn’t coming in all at once, city leaders will need to decide whether they want to front some cash for the work.

One approach lays out the repairs as the new money comes in, while another, more aggressive approach involves borrowing money over five and 10 years.

As city staff points out, loans mean some road money would end up covering interest payments.

Each loan option calls for $11 million with 4 percent interest. A five-year loan would require nearly $1.2 million in interest, while a 10-year loan would require nearly $2.4 million in interest, according to the city.

The council will also need to consider other logistics in  how to approach road work.

“It would not be practical to have all roads in construction at the same time, creating frustration to the driving community,” city staff says in its council report.

The council will also consider a contract of up to $150,000 to Pavement Engineering Inc. of San Luis Obispo to determine the extent of repair each road needs. The firm would do various testing, including walking each street and drilling cores in the roads to determine the structural deficiencies.