FORT BRAGG, 6/2/23 — After the winter rains scoured out new potholes, the City of Fort Bragg is readying for a summer of street repair projects. The City will also be asking voters to renew its half-cent sales tax for another 10 years. City voters have approved the last two rounds of 10 years each of street repair taxes. Those two decades have shown a dramatic increase in the quality of Fort Bragg’s streets. A report by NCE Engineering says if the City continues the current streets program it will hit a catch-up point where regular preventative maintenance should handle most issues. Having the tax in place has actually saved the city money by doing regular work, rather than react and try to repair badly deteriorated streets
While streets have been getting better, alleys lag behind in quality. The street repair projects on the 2022-2023 docket begin on the southern end of Fort Bragg with projects on South Harold, South Street, Boatyard Drive and Chestnut Street. Some of the work will be complete repaving but some will be restriping. Summer Road renovation crews will head north across the City to finish up working on North Franklin Street and Stewart Street. (See map) The work is done this way for efficiency, and because the City can’t have crews working on North Franklin Street at the same time as Caltrans is working on the Pudding Creek Bridge, which will be subject to one-way traffic much of the summer. A light is about to be installed there.
Using State-directed priorities to determine which roads are repaired is much cheaper and more productive, Chantell O’Neal the city’s Assistant Director of Engineering said. And it brings in much matching State grant money. But it also means the City must follow the priorities of the program and fix the streets found to be in the greatest need of repair by its criteria, she said. Since 2001, the City has improved its Pavement Condition Index (PCI) by 29 points between 2001 and 2021. Drought may have helped some too. The City’s roads rated 68 on a 1-100 scale on that 2021 assessment. The City now wants to include alleys in its annual inspection and improvement plans. Because alleys have gotten much more foot and vehicle traffic than originally foreseen, they are in the worst shape. Alleys rated 25 on a scale of 1-100. Combined, the City’s streets and alleys rate a 65 on that scale, better than the Statewide average of 55 but not yet what residents have asked for.
Each two years the half-cent sales tax funds $2 to $3 million worth of street work. Sales tax money results in less spending in the long run, as those funds are paired with State grant funding. The City is also rewarded by the State with “self-help” dollars. Self-help funding came to $200,000 last year for the City projects.
This year, complaints about streets have reached a high water mark because of the damage created by the rains. Unfortunately, the City can’t fix the roads in winter, because only emergency repairs can be made during a time rain runoff to the rivers and creeks and ocean is in full flow, said O’Neal. The City is ready to get started on the bidding process as soon as State money arrives. That could be later than usual, and road work might not commence until July, O’Neal said.
Why can’t the City fix the road in front of my house right now?
Major road repairs are planned years in advance. New major projects identified this winter and spring won’t be scheduled until 2026 and beyond. The City can do emergency repairs with its own crews, but for the bigger projects, it uses the program that maximizes State dollars. “The more that we use this software in this programmatic approach, the more competitive and eligible we actually are for additional grant money from the State,” O’Neal explained.
The program used by the City to improve the PCI looks not only at the condition of the roads, but the usage and the amount of revenue those streets create. The Pavement Management Program also identifies the best time to repair streets. Let a street go too long, and it gets prohibitively expensive to repair.
Among the streets that are being repaved are Penitenti and Azalea courts, neither of which has been repaved since they were built. When were they built? Residents helped answer after that question was posted to a Fort Bragg history Facebook page.
Janet Lewis and Donna Winters remember playing on the ruins of the old Union Lumber mill site across from the schools and sports fields on Sanderson Way. The entire area was a wild and thrilling area of bushes, ruins and a gigantic old cast iron broiler-burner.
“Dean and Bill and I used to ride up to the mill and play…we were not supposed to go into the burner,” Janet Lewis said in a Facebook discussion.
That area was purchased in 1952 by the Penitenti family, county records show. The entire area west of Sanderson was converted to housing. Fort Bragg was then powered by jobs in fishing, lumber and local businesses. Houses on the two cul-de-sacs were built by different builders as part of a plan to prevent them from looking like cookie-cutter housing, a feature of so many suburbs of that time.
The two streets, to be repaved for the first time, were finished in the ‘80s, the local history buffs said, and records confirmed.
A budget needs analysis done for the City indicates that about $25.3 million over the next ten years will need to be spent to a catch-up point where major projects would not be needed and ongoing preventative maintenance can largely take over. The alleys would need about $5.3 million to reach that point, or about a fifth of the total required.
A purchase in a Fort Bragg business currently comes with the State sales tax of 6 percent. The City’s taxes for streets and to fund the CV Starr Center combine total 1 percent. There is also a quarter county sales tax and a special sales tax of 1.13 percent.
The sales tax issue is expected to come before the City Council at a meeting in June. The City has a presentation on the sales tax that you can view here.
The process of fixing the streets got started on May 25 when the city got the nod that state money and permission had been received. Bids on the street project will be opened and read publicly at 2:00 pm, on Thursday, June 29, 2023 via Zoom video conference:
Join Zoom Meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83722208290?pwd=NnpsVGNZRTlGSTlXM1BMZWQyUGdMdz09