11/27/20 10:39pm (The Berkeley Post) - “Without significant additional funding, Berkeley streets will continue to deteriorate and deferred maintenance costs will increase,” explains a recently released audit by Jenny Wong, Berkeley City Auditor, which discusses the deterioration of Berkeley’s streets.
The report discussed the decline of both the sidewalks and streets and suggested they would continue to decline if not fixed soon.
“Berkeley streets are among the worst in the Bay Area. Out of 101 Bay Area cities, Berkeley is 15th from the bottom,” Wong said in a citywide email. “The most recent pavement condition index (PCI)....was 59 out of 100 in 2018.”
According to Wong, a city contractor determined that maintaining PCI levels would cost Berkeley $17.3 million each year, as of 2018. Wong said that insufficient funding from the city of Berkeley is preventing improvements. According to Wong the same city contractor said it would cost the city roughly $27.3 million to raise Berkeley’s PCI by five points over the course of five years. Wong provided recommendations for starting improvement procedures in the released audit.
Berkeley Department of Public Works has agreed to an initial corrective plan including incorporating equity in alignment with the city’s Vision 2050, defining performance measures, annually analyzing budgets, identifying fund sources and updating the city’s Street Rehabilitation and Repair Policy yearly.
City Councilman Ben Bartlett, who represents District 3 in South Berkeley, where much of the disrepair has been allowed to take place, says, “Berkeley has a legacy of underfunded street repair. After decades of passing the buck we are left with only a fraction of the necessary resources. We have to face this problem head on and create an omnibus funding package to repair our streets once and for all.”
Bartlett was recently re-elected to City Council after winning 69% of the local popular vote.
Bartlett has been a long time advocate of improving roadways and has supported investment to improve streets for pedestrian, bike access and cars. He’s recently been instrumental in helping to get 6 permanent positions added to Berkeley’s Transportation Division for 2020/2021. Bartlett also spearheaded the Alcatraz safety study in 2019. He has voted to put additional street lighting, cross walks, round-abouts, and ground stop lights in dangerous crossing areas to name a few.
Bartlett launched the nation's first community micro bond initiative, which he hopes will someday give the community a faster and more relevant way to fund their local neighborhood projects. This initiative is based on crowdfunded municipal micro bonds secured by a blockchain-based system. The system would allow community members in Berkeley to invest directly in the public projects they care most about, including street replacement and repair. The Microbond pilot project is slated for this year.
Other funding options exist such as property taxes, sales taxes, infrastructure bonds and grants. However residents may not have the appetite having just passed Measure FF, the affordable housing bonds and school funding bonds two years ago.