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Council Candidates on Transportation

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

According to a report released in June 2011 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Albany’s roads are among the worst in the Bay Area. What’s more, according to the report, our roads are at the threshold at which deterioration accelerates rapidly and the need for major (i.e., expensive) rehabilitation increases; that is, simply tarring over a poor roadbed is not a long-term solution. (Just look at how quickly Marin Ave is deteriorating, due to the poor underlying roadbed.) So, how much should we be spending on roads, how much are we currently spending, and how would you go about creating a sustainable budget for roads, and sidewalk repair and maintenance, over the long-term? What plans or ideas do the candidates have for slowing down traffic along (particularly) Marin/Solano/Buchanan (and possibly other streets) and increasing visibility of people using crosswalks?

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

In an ideal world, the city would have enough funds to meet all of our needs, be it road maintenance, police and fire positions, senior meals, recreation programs or whatever. In times of budgetary restraint, not everything is going to be fully funded. Albany may have some of the worst roads in the greater Bay Area but, from what I see (particularly when I’m riding on my bike), compared to Berkeley and El Cerrito we’re not in that bad a shape. Relative to the roads however, I think that many of our sidewalks are in terrible condition. While the city does have a 50/50 program to help homeowners repair sidewalks in front of their homes, funds are limited. More creative means for funding may have to be considered. Slowing traffic on our east-west major thoroughfares can be accomplished by both lowering speed limits (I would consider 15 or 20 mph for Solano and near any of our schools when they are in session), and adding flashing lights to our pedestrian crosswalks.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

We have had a long-term plan with various levels of noted repair for streets. From fiscal year 2010-11 through fiscal year 2013-14 the city has budgeted $400,000 each year from Measure F 2006 funds for street pavement rehabilitation, reconstruction, and resurfacing; proposed projects have been identified. The Pierce Street pavement project was funded separately at a cost of approximately $2 million. As far as slowing traffic on Marin/Buchanan and Solano, we need to continue enforcement and to look into providing devices which identify when pedestrians are present in crosswalks to increase visibility.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

I will use the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s 2011 Pothole Report along with the Master Programs Funding Agreement between the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the city of Albany, as well as city staff to determine necessary and appropriate pavement preservation schedules and their funding. I think slowing the traffic on our larger roads, especially near the schools, is important. A relatively inexpensive way to alert drivers to school zones is to incorporate road surface marking. Our current street signs are not particularly visible, and painting signs on the street would greatly improve school zone awareness. Speed monitoring display boards are also effective in reducing speeds. I also think key crosswalks should have flashing in-pavement lights to increase visibility of pedestrians.

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s 2011 Pothole Report specifically lays out solutions to our current deteriorating streets.

1) Complete Streets
2) Pavement Preservation

I am a huge advocate of the complete streets approach to city planning and have advocated for years to apply this methodology to the Dartmouth Street neighborhood where I live. A complete street not only cuts down on maintenance issues but it makes the area safer and more desirable.

Albany uses the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s StreetSaver® pavement management software to inventory our streets and create maintenance programs based on our revenues. Albany currently receives a “fair” rating for our streets. I will look to city staff for recommendations on how to best use our improved budget outlook to improve our street rating. [Read more]

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

I can’t say in the abstract how much we should spend on roads. I’d need to hear from staff, consultants, and I’d have to balance those costs against revenue and other priorities. 

The amount we spend is surprisingly little. It’s difficult to tell from pouring over the city documents on a weekend, but street repairs appear to be funded out of several different restricted funds to the tune of about $500K annually. This is not enough to maintain our current level of repair, so streets are likely to get worse.

Passing Measure F will help. The county’s measure B1 would help, but that requires a supermajority vote of 2/3. Getting the Safeway and UC mixed-use projects completed would help. But, as we’ve seen, these projects can be stalled. I’m not sure in the current situation that we can create a long-term budget for sidewalks and streets. Right now, the money isn’t there.

As for slowing traffic and improving visibility, especially upper Marin where the skateboarder was killed, the obvious solution is better lighting and more stoplights. I like the blinking crosswalk lights embedded in the pavement in downtown Petaluma.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

According to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, the city had $3,611,000 in its Street and Storm Fund, with revenues to that fund of $978,000 for that fiscal year. I believe other funds are used for re-surfacing and repair of streets as well. I was unable to find a number for how much was spent in that year. We should certainly spend enough to remain above the threshold mentioned in the question in order to prevent costly rehabilitation later.

In 2006, Albany voters approved Measure F, the "City of Albany Street Paving and StormDrain Facility Improvement Parcel Tax." This measure will fund future street paving and storm drain improvement projects.

A thorough analysis of the source of street repair funding and the annual outlays would be necessary to determine whether there is a sustainable budget for roads and sidewalks. If Measure B1 passes, there will be additional funds for street repair as well.

It should be noted that the city has proceeded with paving projects. Fairly recently, Pierce Street and Santa Fe Avenue were repaved.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

We are caught in the situation faced by homeowners when they are forced to choose between day-to-day needs and necessary maintenance. Things that are most urgent get attention—which leaves long-term maintenance issues to fester and become urgent themselves (and often more expensive to fix). With our present resources we must prioritize the many needs and aggressively pursue funds to address them since we have less than $1 million/year to devote to them. In this situation, we may consider teaming with a nearby city (such as we do with Piedmont for Emergency Services) to present a request that can be considered regional rather than simply a single city. The money we spend on transportation comes from a number of sources. 

As a walker, biker, and parent, I share the concern about safety—for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Traffic engineering is incredibly complex, and fraught with the risk of unintended consequences. I will not pretend to be a traffic engineer. The issue of managing traffic is rightly handled by the Traffic & Safety Commission. Consequently, my role would be to carefully consider my appointment to the commission, and be responsive to concerns expressed by the public.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

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