Local Plans For Phelan And Pinon Hills Roads – Costs Skyrocketing But Slowed in 2006- Pinon Hills MAC Meeting – April 5th 2007

Local Plans For Phelan And Pinon Hills Roads – Costs Skyrocketing But Slowed in 2006- Pinon Hills MAC Meeting – April 5th 2007

Biggs and Jacobson

(Best Syndication) The high desert is in need of good safe roads. Brendon Biggs and Eric Jacobson spoke to the MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) meeting on April 5th. Jacobson is the Supervising Analyst and Biggs is Chief of Transportation Program Management. Both work for the County of San Bernardino.

Jacobson and Biggs brought the Council up to date on the county road projects. They mentioned that part of Duncan Road had been paved already. They will be paving Duncan Road from Oasis to Buckwheat Road and Johnson to Eaby Roads. They currently have biologists out trapping ground squirrels, desert tortoises and burrowing owls that have been causing some environmental concerns. The worry is that there may be some endangered species.

Various environmental reports need to be completed before they get all of their permits in order. These should all be done by the summer. MAC member Don Slater asked if they had seen any endangered tortoises, and Biggs said they have been found in the Sheep Creek wash.

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They are also doing appraisals and design work for various roads. Since prices have gone up, it costs more to pave each mile of road. They expect to bring in about one to two million dollars per year for road improvements. Biggs said it looks like they will have the money to do the projects planned.

When asked about the Proposition I funding, Biggs said that some of the funds originally planned for roads has been shifted. Most of the prop I funds are being used for traffic signals and “maintaining the roads we have”. The latest iteration of the sales tax increase (prop I) has been extended for 30 years.

Jacobson told us that the Sierra Club lost their lawsuit against the county after I passed. The environmental group sued the county saying that the added funds going for roads would promote urban sprawl. Later Don said that the new paved roads have helped promote home building in the area.

Jacobson said that 25 percent of that money is earmarked for major “roads”, which really means state highways and freeways. This has reduced the money that the county gets for county roads. Most of the funds are used for maintenance and not for building, according to Jacobson.

Jacobson said that if the measure had not passed, they would not have had any funds. He said “our share, the local share”, had been reduced to address some of the regional needs. The new measure takes effect in 2010.

Biggs said road costs have been doubling and tripling over the past few years. Concrete and steel has been increasing in price. In 2003 the costs raised 28 percent increase and in 2004 it was about a 45 percent increase. But in 2006 the cost only increased about 4 percent.

It costs about a million dollars a mile to pave a road with asphalt. That is one lane each way. It was not long ago that it cost just half a million dollars. In the early 90s the cost was about $100,000 per mile of road. Of course bridges cost much more; into the millions per bridge.

Home building fees for roads have not increased in 14 years. Jacobson said that we can expect the fees to go up. First there needs to be some analysis of the current roads, and then predictions for the expected infrastructure for 2035. The exact increase should be determined by the end of the year.

Don said that if the CSD (Community Service District) plans pass in the November election, the district (including Phelan and Pinon Hills) can levy taxes if those taxes are approved by the people. There could be a future vote to include a special road district as well. Taxes could then be approved to finance roads. This could involve property or other types of taxes, Don said.

By Dan Wilson
Best Syndication Writer

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