FAIRFIELD — Solano County has a newly adopted, $71 million, five-year plan to improve its rural roads and bridges, an anticipated $63 million to make it happen and, for once, plenty of optimism.
A shortfall for the public works plan is hardly unusual. The county updates the plan annually and typically has too little money to cover all it wants done.
In fact, having to find only an additional $8 million over five years sounds good to county officials. Plans in recent years have had shortfalls of $26 million, $18 million and $31 million amid the economic downturn.
“This report really is a good-news report,” county Engineering Manager Matt Tuggle told the Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
Money goes to filling in potholes, repairing damaged pavement, fixing bridges and buying public works equipment. The 466 miles of paved roads and 93 bridges covered by the plan are all outside of the county’s seven cities.
Among the planned projects is the construction of a new Winters Road Bridge at Putah Creek. This $12.2 million project is already underway and involves replacing the existing, 1908 bridge.
Tuggle said a temporary bridge could open there as soon as Thursday, clearing the way for the county to tear down the existing bridge.
Solano County is also preparing for the $2 million Travis Air Force Base south gate project. Trucks enter the base here on Petersen Road near Suisun City. Tuggle said the line of trucks on Petersen Road can reach a mile long.
The project will create a truck-stacking area. The county is working to get rights of way and environmental clearances and could begin construction late this summer or spring 2015, Tuggle said.
Then there’s just routine road maintenance that helps keep pavement from having potholes and crumbling. This is the work that makes for a smoother ride on local roads – or, if neglected, a jarring experience because of deterioration.
The plan calls for maintaining 320 miles of roads with such treatments as chip seals, slurry seals and overlays. A county report called this “a reasonable level of maintenance” and “a slight improvement over the past two years.”
County rural roads have a pavement condition rating of 71 on a scale of one to 100, with 100 being the best. That ranks fourth among the nine Bay Area counties. The pavement rating also marks progress over the past decade – in 2004, Solano County’s rural road rating stood at 58.
Road conditions are better today in part because the county uses a newer, polymer-modified rejuvenating oil in its chip seal treatments to pavement, Tuggle said. The new chip seals last seven to 10 years, about three years longer than chip seals done with the old method. Chip seals involve putting oiled gravel on the roads to prolong their lives.
Tuggle called chip seals “the work that keeps our roads together.”
But chip seals can also make the roads rougher for bike riders, Tuggle acknowledged. It takes a couple of months for the chipped rock to get embedded in the oil.
Supervisor Erin Hannigan asked for more information on this topic. County officials said the county has started using a smaller rock in the chip seal.
“The county road system is in good condition, the average, anyway,” Tuggle told supervisors. “We still have roads that are in rough shape.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.