People in Libya and other Middle-East countries are rebelling against their dictators. Those uprisings could keep Paso Robles (my hometown) from fixing its neglected streets. Let me explain:
Paso Robles’ streets are crying for maintenance. Spring Street (our main drag) has many long crevices, embryonic potholes and bumpy patch jobs. Toward the fairgrounds, 21st Street is looking like an alligator’s back.
Many streets are nubby and knobby. I can feel their cobbles through the soles of my training shoes. The pavement’s smaller particles are long gone. The periodic resealing of Paso’s streets is a historical memory.
The rumble of my tires on some streets is more like a roar. The vibration is like a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. Driving on Union Road near Barney Schwartz Park is like driving on a giant rasp. The city limits end just past the park. A sign says “Begin County Maintained Road.” The sign is unnecessary. The reduced noise and vibration tell it all.
But rough, crumbling streets aren’t the worst of it. The worst problem is the fading away of the stripes that demark traffic lanes and crosswalks. That’s dangerous, especially at night and in the rain.
Paso Robles isn’t the town of 6,000 souls that I first entered 59 years ago. It’s now a city of almost 30,000, with two or three cars to every house. Its shopping centers and neighboring wineries attract tens of thousands of added vehicles.
It has two wide river bridges with complex arrays of traffic lanes. Getting into the proper lane takes advance planning and alertness. Bright street striping is essential, especially to separate two lanes of traffic that turn left at the same time.
City officials say restoring the streets to 80 percent of new condition would cost $75 million. Maintaining them would also cost $3.5 million per year. But the state diverted tax money from gas to other uses.
The city’s revenue is drastically reduced these days. It’s making do with 30 percent fewer employees. It has only $35,000 per year for streets and sidewalks.
The city councilmen are seeking more money for street maintenance. They’ve discussed a local sales tax increase. It would need two-thirds voter approval. That’s where the Middle-Eastern turmoil comes in.
The Middle East produces much of the world’s oil. The uprisings might interrupt that oil supply. That possibility has increased gasoline prices. Voters paying $4 per gallon might not vote for higher taxes even for smoother, safer roads.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.