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L.A. council considers funding $3-billion street repair program

August 21, 2013|By Laura J. Nelson
  • A street worker places cones on the road near a large pothole near Lincoln Park in Los Angeles.
A street worker places cones on the road near a large pothole near Lincoln… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday is expected to take  preliminary steps toward approval of a $3-billion borrowing program to pay for the repair of 8,700 miles of badly damaged streets.

Lawmakers are weighing a 1% increase in property taxes on Los Angeles homeowners for 29 years to pay for the program. The revenue would be used to resurface and rebuild the worst streets, part of a 60-year backlog of repairs.

Council members Joe Buscaino and Mitchell Englander hope to include a proposal to issue city bonds for the work on the fall 2014 ballot. A two-thirds majority of city voters would have to approve issuing the debt.

If the bond package is approved, staff will report in 45 days on a variety of questions, including whether alleys and sidewalks could also be repaired with the money. Officials will also explore other funding options for street repairs, including tolls, vehicle fees or a change to the California gas tax.

Since 2005, the city has paid for normal upkeep and maintenance on good-quality streets, but has left a backlog of severely damaged roads largely untouched.

Laying down slurry seals the dark coating of asphalt, oil and water that keeps roads with minimal damage in good condition costs about $25,000 a mile. Digging up deeply cracked and pothole-riddled streets and rebuilding them can be 10 times as costly.

Between 2005 and 2013, the estimated cost to repair the worst roads doubled from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. Officials say that if they do not act now, the cost will double again in the next decade. 

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