The County Voice

Local Transportation Projects Keep Rolling

After weeks of seemingly non-stop COVID-19 coverage, I had the chance to finalize the press release for the 2020 Outstanding Local Streets and Roads (LSR) Project Awards. Sponsored by the California State Association of Counties® (CSAC), the League and the County Engineers Association of California (CEAC), the Outstanding LSR Project Awards Program also highlights cities and counties that promote fiscal and environmental sustainability in the local transportation system. View the release here.

In many ways, local streets and roads are a metaphor for local government. Most people tend to take them for granted. We expect our streets and roads to remain in good condition without much consideration for what that entails. That maintenance and effort becomes obvious in its absence, causing frustration, indignance and even anger.

As Californians spend more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many local governments are investing in infrastructure projects. There are a handful of projects going on right now between my home and the CSAC office. The timing may be coincidental, but it’s a great time to get work done without snarling traffic and incensing early morning or evening commuters.

To help keep local streets and road projects running, part of our news release addressed the need for additional funding and flexibility from Congress in the next Coronavirus aid package. Anticipated budget cuts related to the COVID-19 economic downturn could stifle the innovation and ingenuity displayed by counties and cities in this year’s award program.

It’s a special kind of irony that vehicle tires can be repurposed to repair road damage, but that’s exactly what’s happening in counties across the state. Repurposing old tires into transportation-related building materials and diverting them from landfills is exactly the kind of innovation in sustainability that the LSR program is designed to highlight. And we’re not talking one or two tires per project, but more than 500 tons! Be sure to watch CalRecycle’s video about Tire-Derived Aggregate to learn more about this process being used in counties across California.

It’s a similar Catch-22 that the traffic reductions that make it a good time for road work also equate to lower fuel tax revenues that fund such projects. With local governments bracing for about half a billion dollars in lost revenue, infrastructure funding and flexible funding for lost revenues in the next Coronavirus relief package is critical. Making sure that any earmarked funds can be passed through to local governments of all sizes is equally important.

As we celebrate the achievements of Santa Barbara and Yuba Counties, along with the cities of Cities of Santa Cruz, Hayward and Santa Clarita, don’t forget to reach out to your federal representatives and remind them that improving local streets and roads is also an important way Congress can help local communities recover from COVID-19.

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