Many greater Tehachapi residents run into potholes and roll along unpaved county roads on their way to work. Yet others travel two-lane paved highways with little damage.
But when they need repair, what funding is available to fix Kern County roads?
“We have to maintain all our roads equally as much as we can, and maintenance for the roads is based on needs,” said Craig Pope, director of public works for the Kern County Roads Department. “We have a lot of work to do."
Now that road-fix funding Senate Bill 1 was not repealed by voters in November, cities and counties are waiting to see when some of those funds will be released for local projects.
More than 3,300 miles of roadways are maintained by the department and county road quality averages 5.1 out of 10, added Pope.
Each project is given a different priority.
Main collector roads in greater Tehachapi that are given high priority are Highline Road, Banducci Road, Red Apple Avenue, Woodford-Tehachapi Road and Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road, said Alex Bedolla, an Engineer III at the Kern County Roads Department.
“The work for a particular road, be it in a big city or small town, is based on the type of damage the road has and the amount of traffic that travels over the road daily,” Bedolla said.
Some residents of the greater Tehachapi area have expressed their concerns in emails to Tehachapi News.
David Hiner, a Golden Hills resident for more than 25 years, said that residential roads off Westwood Boulevard and other areas need better maintenance that's better than simply patching potholes. He believes potholes aren't being repaired well.
“A lot of our roads need to be resurfaced since it has been a long time since they have done anything to them,” he added.
Some roads in Golden Hills are maintained by the county, whereas others are privately owned. Some residential areas were developed and not originally built to county standards. Stallion Springs, Bear Valley, and some areas of Sand Canyon, excluding Sand Canyon Road and Umtali Road, are not county roads, said Pope.
Grant funding for maintenance of existing roads does not exist, but there are other related grants that Kern County applies for when new street signals and possible roundabouts are needed, added Pope.
While many grants cover transportation-related projects, certain requirements must be met.
Grants sometimes cover a state highway transportation project, ways to improve the air quality, such as paving a dirt road contributing to air pollution; fixes to technology related to non-road vehicles and engines, or increasing pedestrian modes of transportation, such as bicycle paths.
Some of the grants that help fund related transportation projects are the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Grant, Active Transportation Program, Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, the Regional Surface Transportation Program, and the Community Development Block Grant.
Funding devoted to county roads depends on revenue generated from gas, diesel and aviation taxes, small amounts of motor vehicle license and registration fees and tolls, and other forms of revenue, according to dot.ca.gov.
A new revenue source generated from Senate Bill 1, which became law on Nov. 1, 2017, is expected to bring additional funding for streets, roads, state highways and other transportation projects. It will also fund safety projects for active transportation, rail and trade corridor investments.
Funds will go into a Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Program and generate an estimated $2.97 billion that is split into 13 state and local accounts, said the fiscal 2018-2019 year financing package from state's Department of Transportation.
“I think we will receive an additional $12 million a year and that will go up over time. We design the projects and bid them out in a competitive process,” Pope said.
The projects are completed by local contractors. The law stipulates that the work has to be bid out. SB 1 will provide additional funding on top of the $15 million per year that was originally available to the county, added Pope.
SB 1 funding created an increase in gasoline fuels costs by 12 cents per gallon, 50 percent of 20 cents per gallon in diesel, between $25 to $175 increase in fees for vehicle registration and title depending on vehicle value, and a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee for zero-emission models 2020 or later — all with a stipulation that the fees come with an inflation adjustment, according to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.