In 2012, Gilroy’s city pavement index (CPI) was 76.
One year later the 2013 State of the Streets report said that the CPI had dropped to 72, a figure at the lower end of the Very Good quadrant and close to 70, the minimum goal that the city targets to maintain.
Gilroy Staff brought their concerns to the attention of our elected officials, explaining that the streets are degrading faster than their ability to keep them up to their desired PCI goal of 70.
The current funding level of $300,000 per year via gas tax revenue for street maintenance is not even close to being enough to stop the CPI from continuing to drop, and quickly.
City staff strongly warned our elected leaders and urged that an additional source of funding should be found immediately.
It was at this time that our elected officials began to investigate other ways to finance our street maintenance and repair.
The city performed a citizen poll and the results indicated that a 0.5 cent sales tax (needing 50 percent-plus-one approval by voters) would pass by 63 percent, and that a property bond (needing 66 percent approval) would probably have failed.
The sales tax initiative had a much better opportunity to pass and so it was chosen. The poll was taken by the same people who did the library bond poll and their efforts showed that the public did not want a bond.
From this information, the city and our elected officials decided to bring the issue before the voters of Gilroy via Measure F (a half-cent sales tax increase for 15 years); which was estimated to bring in about $107 million in sales tax revenue for street repair; about 70 percent of the sales tax collected would have been from consumers who lived outside of Gilroy.
Ultimately, it was determined that a 30-year bond wouldn’t generate enough money to repair all the streets and sidewalks. In addition it wouldn’t be fair to property owners because they would have to foot the entire bill while others who use the streets would get off scot-free. On top of that, polls said the bond wouldn’t pass.
Sales tax is a user tax for everyone, even for those who work in the city but don’t live in it; but who still use our streets. Also, the plan was for the city to borrow the money upfront and then pay it off over the 15-year lifetime of the loan. The cost of doing the work upfront would have been much cheaper than waiting to do it over the 15-year lifetime of the initiative.
However, because of the efforts of a political faction who called themselves “No on F,” this extremely important measure failed.
Now, two years later, the city of Gilroy has released its 2016 State of the Streets report and unfortunately the concerns that the staff warned about in 2013 have come true; the situation overall is worse than they had predicted.
The CPI has fallen over the cliff and now stands at 66. The costs to repair have also significantly increased from what would typically be $2.61 per sq. ft. to $25.30 per sq. ft. and costing some $66.80 per sq. ft. for some of our worst streets.
These costs will continue to skyrocket until either funding can be found to repair them (hopefully sooner than later), or the streets will continue to deteriorate for lack of funding.
Ron Kirkish is a retired thin films semiconductor process engineer and Gilroy resident. He wrote this for the Dispatch.