pothole.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee today announced that he would ask the Board of Supervisors to put a $248 million bond measure on the November 2011 ballot that would allocate funding for pothole repair and street repavement.

The Road Repair and Street Safety Bond would generate revenue for street repaving and reconstruction, as well as improvements in sidewalk accessibility, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and street signals.

More than half of the city’s 850 miles of streets need to be repaved or reconstructed, a costly process that involves work to the concrete base instead of just the top few inches of asphalt, the mayor’s office said.

The dilapidated streets cause safety hazards in particular for cyclists, pedestrians, and the elderly and disabled, and repairs become exponentially more expensive when they are delayed, Lee said.

Elected and public officials who attended a news conference at City Hall to introduce the proposal agreed the repairs were long overdue.

“The backlog of streets that need repair is very serious,” Lee said. “Regular citizens are suffering from our inaction.”

Pavement preservation, which includes sealing off cracks to extend street life, costs about $9,000 per block, according to the mayor’s office.

Delaying repairs until the streets need to be repaved, meaning the top two inches of asphalt are ground off and replaced, jumps costs up to $97,800 per block.

Reconstruction involving the concrete base can range from $140,000 to $436,400 per block.

“I’ve been really working on fixing the city’s financial house,” Lee said. “This is one of the most passionate things I’d like to accomplish with the Board of Supervisors.”

Supervisors David Chiu, Eric Mar, Scott Wiener and Ross Mirkarimi showed up today to back the mayor’s proposal, saying they receive complaints about potholes almost every day.

“Potholes are raising my anxiety,” Mar said. “We have sinkholes in the Sunset District. San Franciscans are multi-modal…. this is an urgent bill.”

Members of the pedestrian, biking and disability rights communities also expressed support for the ordinance.

Amber DiPietra, a staff member with the Independent Living Resource Center who uses a motorized wheelchair, said she is often held up or put in danger because of outdated roads.

“I have to veer out into traffic turning lanes to get to the crosswalks,” because of potholes, she said.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, also said her organization’s 12,000 members rank potholes among their top-three safety concerns, along with bike lanes and traffic speeds.

“This really does affect every walk of life,” she added. “Not just for residents but for the city’s tourists and regional visitors.”

The bond measure would create about 1,600 construction jobs if voters pass it in November, according to the mayor’s office.

The elected officials at today’s news conference appeared optimistic the public would support the right proposal, but they admitted it would require some outreach.

“Infrastructure is not sexy,” Director of Public Works Ed Reiskin said. “It’s going to take a lot of leadership to get public support.”

The bonds would raise $148.4 million for street repaving and reconstruction, $22 million for sidewalk accessibility improvements, $50 million for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, $20.3 million for street signal improvements, and $7.3 million for street repair and strengthening.

The bond measure will go before the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee before being discussed by the full board.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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