Fresno Mayor Swearengin, council members want to fill more potholes

The Fresno BeeFebruary 25, 2014 

MTD CEK POT HOLES

Fresno city workers make street repairs in 2006. Current Mayor Ashley Swearengin says that over the years, the city has fallen behind on maintenance. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, Swearengin and three City Council members plan to unveil a three-step plan to catch up.

CRAIG KOHLRUSS — Fresno Bee file photo Buy Photo

Top City Hall officials want to spend more money on Fresno's crumbling streets.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Wednesday will unveil a plan to fill more potholes, seal more cracks and lay more asphalt.

"The basic, routine maintenance of our neighborhood streets is falling dramatically short," Swearengin said.

The key is finding the money. Swearengin, Council President Steve Brandau and Council Members Paul Caprioglio and Lee Brand have scheduled a morning news conference to offer solutions. They are:

1.) Add $2 million to the street-maintenance budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year budget beginning July 1. This would come from one-time general fund savings (no specifics yet on the source of these savings) and annual federal grants for struggling neighborhoods. This would more than double the street-maintenance budget to $3.6 million.

2.) Ask the Fresno Council of Governments to tweak its rules for certain countywide transportation tax Measure C funds, including rail consolidation. The effort to shift the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks from central Fresno to the Union Pacific corridor was once a hot political topic. The momentum has died, in part because high-speed rail may be coming through town. Swearengin says rail-consolidation money could be better spent by cities throughout Fresno County on things like road repairs.

3.) Require future developments to include street maintenance when they create special taxing districts for neighborhood upkeep.

Brand said his research shows the city spent $7 million to $8 million a year on street maintenance before the Great Recession hit with full force in 2009. He said the city should be spending $10 million annually if it wants to merely keep pace with normal wear and tear.

Revenues are ticking up but remain inadequate. Brand said City Hall can't afford to let streets continue to deteriorate.

"If you look ahead 10 years and we keep spending $1.5 million or $1.6 million a year on streets, what's the city going to look like?" Brand said. "It's going to be devastating."

Swearengin on Thursday will ask the City Council to support her effort to return cars to the Fulton Corridor between Inyo and Tuolumne streets.

Her administration, Swearengin said, "is mindful of streets throughout our city."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6272 or ghostetter@fresnobee.com. Read his City Beat blog at fresnobee.com/city-beat.

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