Road work hits dead end

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By ABBY SOUZA

Deep state funding cuts will all but eliminate long-term maintenance on Tuolumne County's 611 miles of roads during the 2003-04 fiscal year.

Public Works Director Peter Rei said patch jobs will be all road crews can do through next June, because the department has no money to spend on materials.

"Never before have we reached the point where we've had zero," Rei said.

Money for road upkeep has been dwindling for the past several years, Rei said.

But the biggest blow was the state decision to suspend Proposition 42 funding, which allocate gas taxes to roads and other transport purposes. This year the state Legislature reclaimed the cash for the general fund, resulting in a $450,000 loss for Tuolumne County.

"This is just the most recent broken promise from Sacramento," Rei said.

This money loss leaves the Public Works Department with no money to make any long-lasting repairs to roads.

"We have the knowledge to do the work, the staffing, the equipment we just don't have the money to buy the material," Rei said.

Instead of repaving or overlaying cracked roads with asphalt, workers will be doing minor patch work and crack sealing. Rei calls this the least productive way to fix a deteriorating road, because the repair is temporary.

"We're putting a Band-Aid on a compound fracture," Rei said.

Patch work is no more than filling holes with hot asphalt in hopes of keeping water from seeping into roads. When water gets into a road, it creates "alligator cracks" that make asphalt break off in blocks. That is how potholes are formed, Rei said.

"We're just trying to do the minor repairs," said Cy Hoblitt, deputy Public Works director.

He said the department doesn't want holes in the road so deep that they would throw a car's alignment off if they were hit.

Failure to make permanent repairs, warned Rei, will mean more potholes on county roads.

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