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$8.8 Million in Road Funds May Smooth the Way for Drivers

Infrastructure: Relief package will go toward filling potholes and repaving in cities and unincorporated areas.


Potholes on neighborhood streets may finally get filled when the county and its cities receive $8.8 million in the next month to provide street and road repair.

As part of Gov. Gray Davis' six-year, $7-billion Transportation Congestion Relief Plan, the state will provide $400 million this year for maintenance projects on local streets throughout California.

Nearly half of the money going to Ventura County--$4.04 million--will go to improve roads in unincorporated areas. But the cities will receive an average of $7.20 per resident, with the largest city, Oxnard, getting $1.2 million. Thousand Oaks will get $869,000 and Simi Valley $813,000.

Transportation officials throughout Ventura County enthusiastically await the money, expected to arrive in a one-time lump sum check.

"This is terrific news. We can spend it 20 times over," said Rita Johnson, Oxnard transportation program manager. "It will be evaporated before it hits the ground."

Most cities will spend the money on "overlays," the resurfacing of streets and smoothing out of potholes and cracks. Johnson said C Street between Gonzalez and Wooley roads would get that type of rehabilitation, along with streets in the Lemonwood neighborhood and along Patterson Street.

"The street maintenance crews have told us we are behind many years," Johnson said. "People are going to see a lot of improvements now."

The county will use its share to resurface about 20 to 30 of the 545 miles of roads in the unincorporated parts of the county, said Butch Britt, who oversees the county's transportation division, adding that it costs between $150,000 and $200,000 to resurface one mile.

"This is great because one of our biggest deficiencies is that we haven't had money to go out and do preventive maintenance. If you don't stay up on it by being proactive, you pay more later."

Britt said the county already plans to spend $3 million on repairing roads in such areas as Montalvo, El Rio, Somis and the Oxnard Plain.

Tom Fox, Camarillo transportation engineer, said cities throughout the state have been lobbying for years for additional road maintenance funds. His city will receive nearly $500,000, which will supplement the $3 million the city has already budgeted for road repair.

"Typically, these roads last 10 years before they need major resurfacing," he said. "We are at that point with a lot of our roads, so we are happy this has occurred."

The available money must be used for repair, not construction of new roads or major expansion of existing roads. Cities annually receive funds specifically for road improvements, but often the money carries restrictions on the types of roads that can be repaired. Sometimes residential streets are excluded.

The state's one-time payment will allow cities and the county to repave roads that may not have been resurfaced for many years, such as residential areas in midtown Ventura.

Tom Mericle, Ventura's transportation engineer, said the city may spend its share--$745,000--to rehabilitate roads in the midtown area made of concrete, not asphalt.

"Some of the concrete roads ride rough, and you can't fix them by putting asphalt on top of them, you have to take the concrete off," Mericle said.

Mericle said the money also might be used to speed the city's already planned improvements.

Thousand Oaks officials said they had not heard of the road funds and didn't know how they would spend their share of the money.

Davis' state transportation plan will also pay for about 150 capital projects statewide, including $15 million to move the traffic-choked Ventura Freeway offramp at California Street.

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