Inter-Departmental Correspondence

Department of Public Works



February 11, 2011


March 1, 2011







Honorable Board of Supervisors


James C. Porter, Director of Public Works


California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment and Comprehensive Fix to the Transportation Tax Swap



Adopt a Resolution:



Supporting the findings of the comprehensive statewide study entitled, “California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment” dated February 2011; and



Authorizing the President of the Board of Supervisors to send a letter to each State Legislator involved with transportation policies and budget making decisions, urging the Legislature to enact a comprehensive fix to the transportation tax swap.



In 2007, the League of California Cities (League), the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the County Engineers Association of California, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works embarked on a mission to complete the first comprehensive statewide study of California’s local street and road system. The current report, dated February 2011, is the first update since the initial report that was completed in 2009.


On January 26, 2010 your Board adopted Resolution No. 070594, supporting the 2009 report and authorizing that the Resolution and a letter, declaring opposition to future cuts in vital transportation funding and support for stable funding for local streets and roads, be sent to the Governor and each State Legislator involved with transportation policies and budget making decisions.


On February 8, 2011 your Board approved the 2011 State Legislative Session Program for San Mateo County, which includes supporting the reenactment of the March 2010 transportation gas tax swap by the State Legislature.



California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment

The objectives for the study were to assess the condition of the local system, complete the overall transportation funding picture for California’s transportation network, and educate the public and policymakers at all levels of government about the infrastructure investments needed to provide California with a seamless transportation system. California’s 58 counties and 480 cities, which own and maintain 82% of the publicly maintained lane-miles in the State, were surveyed as part of the study. Information was collected that resulted in capturing data for more than 97% of the State’s local street and road miles.


The pavement condition index (PCI) is a measurement of a road’s condition. Typically, a score between zero and 25 is considered “failed;” between 25 and 50 is considered “poor;” between 50 and 70 is considered “at risk;” and between 70 and 100 is considered “good/excellent.” The results of the study show that the statewide average PCI has deteriorated from 68 to 66 in the two years since completion of the last study.


The study underscores the need for adequate funding for the State’s local streets and roads. According to the study, an additional $56.3 Billion of funding over the next ten years is needed to achieve a statewide PCI of 80, which is considered a Best Management Practice (BMP). At these BMP levels, less expensive preventative maintenance treatments, such as slurry seals and chip seals would be recommended to keep the roads in good condition. If the current funding levels remain unchanged, the study indicated that the statewide condition is projected to deteriorate to a PCI of 54 by 2020. By comparison to the State average of 66, the roads within the unincorporated areas of the County of San Mateo (County) currently have an average PCI of 69. If the County can improve and maintain its road system to BMP levels, the Department can more cost-effectively maintain more streets on an annual basis.


Support for a Comprehensive Fix to the Transportation Tax Swap

In March of 2010 a historic transportation tax swap resulted in the elimination of the sales tax on gasoline and an increase in the gasoline excise tax equal to the amount of the eliminated sales tax. For the County, gasoline excise taxes average $10 Million per year and gasoline sales taxes averages between $5 Million to $6 Million per year. Combined, they are the primary sources of revenue for the County’s Road Fund and are used to maintain and rehabilitate the County’s road system.


In November 2010, State voters approved Proposition 26, the “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act”. Among other things, Proposition 26 requires a two-thirds supermajority vote in the California State Legislature to pass new fees, levies, charges and taxes, retroactive to January 1, 2010. As a result, the gasoline excise tax increases were nullified because the March 2010 tax swap was approved by a simple majority vote, however the elimination of gasoline sales tax remained in effect because it was a reduction in taxes. This translates into a loss of $5 Million to $6 Million to the County’s Road Fund, or approximately one-third of our transportation funds. Such a large reduction would have serious consequences for the Department, including the delay or reduction of necessary road maintenance, a decline in the condition of the County’s roads, and significant staff reductions.


The Governor’s budget proposes a plan advocated by the transportation community and local government to reenact the March 2010 transportation tax swap by having the Legislature approve the tax swap with a two-thirds supermajority vote. It is critical that the Legislature approve this item to avoid major reductions in transportation funding, which would result in a severe decline in the condition of State’s local streets and roads over time.


A vital component of a comprehensive fix includes the transfer of truck weight fees, which is consistent with the transportation tax swap and would provide the State nearly $1 Billion in general fund relief in FY 2011-12 and similar amounts into the future. Enacting the weight fee proposal separate from the validation of the excise and sales taxes could potentially leave the transportation program with another $3.5 Billion annual deficit.


The Department is in agreement with the findings in the study, and recommends your support of the findings of the study. A complete copy of the study can be obtained at:


The County has been working closely with CSAC and the League and supports sending a letter to each State Legislator involved with transportation policies and budget making decisions, urging the enactment of a comprehensive fix to the transportation tax swap to prevent the loss of funding essential to the survival of state, regional, and local transportation programs. A letter is attached for the Board’s consideration. This Department recommends that your Board support this action.


County Counsel has reviewed and approved the Resolution as to form.


Support of the study and authorizing a letter of support for a comprehensive fix to the transportation tax swap contributes to the Shared Vision 2025 outcome of a Collaborative Community, and demonstrates the County’s support of an alliance with the other counties and cities for preservation of the State’s local streets and roads.



There is minimal impact to the General Fund for supporting the study due to staff time necessary to finalize the letter to the State Legislators.



Letter to State Legislators