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Santa Ana to repair streets

The city will spend $100 million over five years, but some say poor areas are left out.

December 05, 2007|Jennifer Delson and Christian Berthelsen | Times Staff Writers

Santa Ana is poised to spend $100 million over the next five years in an aggressive push to repair aging city streets.

The effort will increase the city's spending on its road projects by about one-third. The money will come from a statewide infrastructure bond approved last year, as well as from Orange County's Measure M funding.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve the additional funding. About $40 million will come from county, state and federal grants available in part from the local and state ballot measures, while the remaining $60 million will come from city-issued bond proceeds to be backed by gas tax revenues.

Some of Santa Ana's 400 miles of roadway are among the oldest in Orange County. The city's major city thoroughfares have received continued maintenance and improvements in recent years, thanks to state and federal grant money. But until last year's passage of the infrastructure bond, there was no similar source of funds for smaller neighborhood streets.

"Some of these areas, we probably haven't been able to do any work in there for 30 years," said Jim Ross, Santa Ana's public works director, so neighborhood streets are in far worse shape than the main roadways.

Under the first version of Measure M approved in 1990, cities had wide latitude in spending their road funds.

As a result, several cities, including Santa Ana, put most of the money they received toward major thoroughfares, said Monte Ward, the director of special projects for the Orange County Transportation Authority. The version reauthorized by voters last year required more Measure M funds be spent on neighborhood streets.

Santa Ana's road improvement plans immediately touched a raw nerve Tuesday among the have-nots toward the perceived have-mores. Residents who live in the neighborhoods just south of 17th Street say they have not gotten the same treatment as those who live north of 17th Street or in more affluent neighborhoods near South Coast Plaza.

"The roads are so bad here that it hurts the wheels of my car," said Rolando Rodriguez, who lives near the intersection of Standard and McFadden avenues. "I really try to drive very slowly around here because I know that if I don't, I'm going to damage the car and it will cost me."

In the Delhi neighborhood, one of Santa Ana's oldest that was once home to Latino orange pickers, some streets are in such bad shape that they received a score of zero out of 100 on a citywide survey of road conditions. Residents were skeptical of the city's improvement plans.

"I'll believe it when I see it," said Kasey Rivera, 35, whose husband's family has lived on the same corner -- at Central and Orange avenues -- for nearly 60 years. Her husband, Jason, used to lower the chassis of his Chevrolet Silverado truck for style, but the rutted roads damaged the rims.

"It seems like the lower-middle-class neighborhoods in Santa Ana don't get any attention," said Dolores Rivera, Kasey's 58-year-old mother-in-law.

The elder Rivera couldn't recall the city doing any major work on her street after it was paved during her childhood. "In the richer neighborhoods, the streets look totally different," she said. "Here in the barrio, we don't get any attention."

City Councilwoman Michele Martinez said she hoped that roads in poor repair in the low-income areas would be fixed first.

"These roads are in disrepair because this wasn't a priority for many years," she said. "The residents have waited longest and they deserve the same treatment."

But Ross, the public works director, said they probably will be waiting for a bit longer.

He said the city first plans to spend money on roads already in good condition, because it is more cost effective to maintain those streets than refurbish the bad ones.

Most of the work is expected to be completed in the next three years.


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