By Zach Friend, Santa Cruz County Supervisor 2nd District
The County recently topped $70 million in storm damage to public roads and infrastructure just in the unincorporated area. This number is expected to increase as there are still a number of sites that have reported damage but full engineering and cost estimates haven’t been completed yet.
Remarkably, the $70 million figure does not include damage to private roads or private property nor to damage sustained in the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville and Scotts Valley. While the Governor recently approved the declaration of another disaster associated with storms in late January and February, which frees up state and potentially federal funding for repair, the County is still preparing for the possibility of significant local cost-shares for these emergency needs.
The County is looking at ways to fund this local match and recently I was in Sacramento discussing this, and other transportation funding needs, with our legislative delegation, the Governor’s Office, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission. There is unified agreement that state funding help is necessary to help bridge the gap both in emergency repair needs and general deferred maintenance. While additional state funding might not provide the entire need it is clearly a key element.
Valencia Road Repairs
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has approved the County’s $4 million request for the repair of the failed culvert and road at Valencia and Trout Gulch. This is a significant step toward the repair and reopening of that section. While there is still one state regulatory hurdle to overcome (through state Fish and Wildlife) in regards to design of the culvert, this approval takes us much closer to a construction phase.
When will the road open? At this point, once we have the final culvert design/construction approval from Fish and Wildlife we believe it will only be a few weeks beyond that point until we can start construction. Once construction begins we intend to install a temporary one-lane (but most likely two-way) bridge to allow for controlled traffic flow while the major culvert work is done below.
Construction of the bridge is a few week process on top of the initial few weeks of prep work. Permanent repair work will be done in tandem with the temporary work so we won’t slow the permanent repair process with the temporary bridge. The bridge will be rated for all traffic (including emergency vehicles, heavy trucks etc.).
I’ve heard from state and federal agencies that the County’s diligence and thorough approach to this road repair, in tandem with the persistence of neighborhood outreach, was key in the approval. They were flooded with letters from local residents and students of Valencia Elementary asking that this road be prioritized for review and funding and as a result Valencia was the first approval! This was truly a community effort to have it expedited through the state and federal process.
In addition to the significant damage sustained on roads such as Valencia there are no areas of the district that have escaped pothole issues. In fact, on one single day a few weeks ago we received 200 pothole patch requests! Using information we’ve received through the County’s free Citizen Connect mobile app, the Public Works online reporting form as well as calls to our office and Public Works dispatch a triaging of locations was done. Major pothole repair work (which included digging out and replacing sections of road) has been completed on Freedom Blvd, Beach Drive, Seacliff Drive, Mar Vista and more. Additionally, pothole patching using a longer-lasting rubberized material, has been done throughout our district.
I know there are many roads that still need repair that are part of this $70 million in damage. The County recognizes that once we officially get out of the storm season we will be beginning a long rebuilding phase.
I am committed to continue to work with our state and federal partners to, wherever possible, expedite funding and regulatory approvals for repairs throughout the county. I want to make every effort to ensure that once we’ve collectively made it through this season we can collectively work to rebuild and bring a sense of normalcy to the many affected areas.
As always, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have on this (or any other) subject. Please feel free to call me at 454-2200.