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QUESTION: When can we expect the Parrotts Ferry Road segment from Marble Quarry Road to the Parrotts Ferry Bridge at the Calaveras County line to be repaired and resurfaced? It’s heavily traveled and falling apart.

ANSWER: This patchwork quilt of a road looks like it has been attacked by pickaxes in places. It's had dozens of quick fixes and is marred by hundreds of cracks. As the twisting and curving road plunges steeply into the canyon, the shoulder is broken, hunks of asphalt litter the side, endangering any motorist forced off the road by too-fast drivers coming in the opposite direction who fail to stay in their lane – not infrequent.

The last time any part of that segment of Parrotts Ferry was resurfaced was in the 1990s when a large swath suffered extensive storm damage, said Duke York, Tuolumne County deputy director of roads and engineering.

The segment from Marble Quarry back toward Columbia was resurfaced last year, with some of the money coming from fees from Blue Mountain Mineral.

York said he has good news and bad about the section from Marble Quarry to the bridge and about many of the other deteriorating county roads. The bad news is that section won't see a fix this year. The good news is the 12 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax imposed last year will finally – after many years of limited funds – provide the county with a sizable inflow of cash. That is, if the California State Legislature doesn't bow to pressure from constituents who think the 41.7 cent tax is way too high.

The state expects to bring in $5.2 billion each year for roadwork from the increase. York said Tuolumne County will get $940,000 in February, and then a payment every two months, if the tax increase remains.

“We've had many, many years of insufficient funding to get us in the hole we're in,” York said.

Plus, entire roads were washed out by last year's storms, which has caused the county to use a year's worth of funding in the first six months of the fiscal year. FEMA likely will repay the county for the work. Someday.

York said Marble Quarry Road to the bridge is considered poor condition and has worsened since the bypass around Angels Camp on Highway 4 was built, allowing motorists to avoid the sharp turns and hills on Highway 49 south of the city.

He said the existing Parrotts Ferry Road was built by the Bureau of Reclamation when the bridge and New Melones reservoir were built in the 1970s. Back then, the county had four road crews of 10 employees. Now they have three crews of seven.

And much less money.

“It is very frustrating to explain to people that once a road starts deteriorating they get much worse,” York said. “You do what you can with the money you have. Our road guys take it personally. They live in the community. They want to do more.”

The bottom line is York doesn't know when the county will get to that stretch of road, but it will come sooner than it would have if the gas tax had not increased.

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