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Fixing Cotati’s roads

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
March 29, 2019

Cotati’s streets are set to see some much needed improvements, thanks to a new five-year plan presented to the Cotati City Council Tues. evening. 

It’s called the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and its purpose is to address the disheartening score Cotati received last year on the conditions of its roads. The Pavement Condition Index (PCI) is a list of criteria designed to boil down the conditions of streets within a city to a basic number value, and in 2018 Cotati scored 56 out of 100 on its 23 miles of streets. That placed the city on an average at the bottom end of ‘Fair’, with many of its roads receiving a significantly lower rating. 

“I think this is pretty exciting. It used to be a black art of sorts for investing—the roads would just kind of eat the money,” Councilmember Mark Landman said. “Now it’s become a science. There’s a real value in investing in the science to put us in a position where we have an ongoing plan, a decision tree and a rough accounting of what roads we’re going to hit and when.”

The goal then is to get that score of 56 to 61 by the end of 2024. Raising the PCI is no mean feat, nor is it cheap, and as such the city plans to spend $1.2 million a year over the next five years to accomplish their goal. It’s a budget that is double what would normally be allotted to road maintenance. Harris & Associates, the civil engineering advisors Cotati hired to put together the CIP, estimated that the cost to maintain the city’s streets at their current level would come out to $600,000 a year. 

And that’s just to tread water. Even with $600,000 a year spent on maintenance, Harris & Associates estimated that many of Cotati’s streets would continue to degrade, albeit slowly, due to heavy traffic and a lack of preventive maintenance. 

Most of the roads in the direst need of improvements are centered on Cotati’s central hub. Arthur St., La Plaza and Charles St. all scored below 40 on the PCI and were slated for high priority improvement come 2020. From there, Cotati would branch out—most of the work focusing on and around the hub and the western parts of the city. 

“We do live in a situation where times aren’t always good. Some of us that are here have suffered through the horrible times,” Councilmember Susan Harvey said. “At some point we will have another down cycle. If we can get ourselves as prepared as we can as far along as we can then I think we’ll have serves our community well.”

To be clear, the CIP does not call for new roads. Even tearing up and replacing the existing streets is a tool of last resort, reserved for only the worst of offenders. The main strategy for improvement will focus on patching cracks, repaving surfaces and, only if necessary, digging out and replacing the most distressed sections. 

Now that the Cotati City Council has voiced their opinion on the CIP, it goes back to the staff to finalize the changes. Citizens who might be curious whether their street will be included in the planned work should contact city hall at 707-792-4600.