By Sal Hepatica
PETALUMA IS FALLING APART--literally. The North Bay's third largest city has the worst streets in the San Francisco region, according to a recently released Metropolitan Transportation Commission report dutifully titled "The Pothole Report: An Update on Bay Area Pavement Conditions." Sad but true--remember that the next time someone complains that you don't need that gas-guzzling global-warming-inducing SUV to get around town.
Any Petaluma resident who has veered wildly through the obstacle course of potholes and buckled pavement on Water Street while trying to catch a quick cup of cappuccino at the Petaluma Coffee Co. knows firsthand that the city is on the road to ruin. In fact, you have to wonder why Petalumans don't hold their elected officials up to closer scrutiny when it comes to fixing potholes--after all, former Petaluma vice mayor Lynn Woolsey is their U.S. congressional representative, and what are our state reps doing to stem this urban decay?
The report--filled with such nifty items as a chart depicting the life cycle of pavement--points out that potholes don't just drive people crazy, they can kill, since 30 percent of fatal traffic accidents involve bad road conditions. They also drive up car repair costs and contribute to low gas mileage.
The report offers a comparison of Bay Area roads, the so-called pavement condition index. It gauges average pavement expenditure per mile, and right there at the bottom of the list is Petaluma. The River City rates a PCI of just 40. How bad is that? Suffice to say that most Bay Area communities spend two to five times more per mile keeping their streets in fair to very good shape, while Petaluma alone qualifies as "poor."
Pathetic? You bet.
Oh, there is some federal money to help fix the roads (city officials didn't respond to phone calls last week), but the MTC figures that it will take a sales- or gas-tax hike to raise enough money to fill all the ruts.
I doubt that the harried drivers of those gas-guzzling, global-warming-inducing SUVs are going to approve a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike to fix ruinous roads that have been allowed to get out of control (it's far cheaper to keep roads in good repair than to let them go to hell, says the MTC).
Woolsey will be at Sonoma State University on Sept. 22 speaking at a rally against the proposed missile defense system (hey, nuclear war can ruin your whole day and would make those potholes seem pretty small by comparison). Cruise by and ask her why the Petaluma roads suck so bad.
Sal Hepatica of Petaluma drives an ancient Toyota with bad shocks and knows the personal cost of the pothole pandemic. He feels your pain.
From the September 6-12, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.