City faces steep road ahead with street costs

Road Work Sign

Hollister council members Monday learned that it will take an investment of more than $8 million annually for five years to bring local roads into good shape, while it will cost nearly $4 million to maintain their condition.
The dollar amounts presented by a hired consultant at the special meeting were tough to swallow for council members, though the officials expressed a need to move ahead on a structured road-repair program and make it a priority in the years to come.
That presentation from Petaluma-based Pavement Engineering Inc. detailed the amount of local roads, which ones needed more work than others, and the costs associated with taking their condition to varying levels. The company established a so-called Pavement Management System for the city to use in keeping track of street needs and deterioration levels. It includes a list of every street in the city and where it might fit on a 1-100 pavement condition index.
“The way we’re going right now, we’re headed for disaster on our roads and a disaster in trying to fix it all,” said Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who supports spending more local dollars on street work.
City and county officials have been discussing the area’s deteriorating road conditions in recent months. The Council of San Benito County Governments is proposing a half-cent sales tax on the June ballot that would fund about $240 million in highway and local street repairs over the next three decades. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has also pushed for city officials to use funds from Hollister’s 1 percent sales tax toward roads as well.
As discussed at this week’s council meeting, Hollister would receive about $1.1 million or $1.2 million annually from COG tax to put toward local roads, said Councilman Victor Gomez, a COG board member as well, during a discussion on the topic. The city currently spends about $1 million annually, largely from gas-tax funds, on street repairs, top engineering official David Rubcic told council members Monday.
According to the figures presented by Pavement Engineering, the city would need to add at least another $1 million to $2 million in other funds annually just to make sure the roads don’t deteriorate further.
The entire system average is at 69 on that index, with 70 considered a standard to pursue and 100 being brand new, but is nearing a threshold where the city could experience major drop-offs in condition levels soon if more work isn’t done.
Pavement Engineering President Joe Ririe made the related PowerPoint presentation to council members Monday. He lauded the city for having its PCI at 69, but warned about a “great, big bubble” as well.
“Now if we don’t do something, you’re one of those at-risk kind of places where we’ve got to take care of it or it’s going to cost us a lot of money,” Ririe said.
Ririe showed council members a curve that he used to explain how repairs are much less costly in earlier stages of deterioration and how costs increase exponentially the further a community gets down the curve.
Ririe told council members to get the overall system up to an 80 or 81 PCI, the city would need to spend $11 million annually between now and 2020. To get it to a 74, $8.4 million annually is needed. For a 69, because some roads will wither as the city does modest repairs, the city needs to spend $3.8 million per year, Ririe said.
“This is obviously very valuable as we reassess our priorities,” Councilman Victor Gomez said.
One other way the city might offset some expected road costs is through increased traffic impact fees, which were discussed Monday as well.
San Benito County and San Juan Bautista already approved their versions of the countywide hikes to the fees charged to developers for new construction, meant to pay for costs of new roads.
The fees were previously updated in 2011 and are broken down by zones and building types. In Zone 2, which covers the City of Hollister, the new impact fee for a single-family residential unit is set at $13,817 compared with $5,233 charged by the county and $5,803 charged by the City of Hollister currently, according to data in the report. The new multifamily fee is at $8,589 compared with $3,223 charged by the county and $3,574 charged by the city currently.
It was proposed increases to office and commercial space that got officials’ attention and held off moving forward before asking the consultant about it. City Manager Bill Avera broached the issue by arguing that certain types of new businesses will not add traffic to Highway 25, which accounts for a big chunk of the correlating impact fees resulting from a recent study, and that they might actually reduce the impact by prompting locals to stay in town.
Avera wanted the city to question the consultant about the prospect of looking at an adjustment, and council members seemed supportive.
Councilman Karson Klauer also expressed concern about major increases to impact fees charged on multifamily units. He argued that it would result in no multifamily projects since the demand is already so low.

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