City plans to repair roads

Nearly one-quarter of Rocklin?s proposed $33.8 million capital improvement plan unfunded
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The City of Rocklin is preparing to pour $33.8 million into freeway interchanges, roundabouts and road resurfacing over the next five years, but officials admit even more work is needed. Mayor Brett Storey said the constraints experienced during the recent recession have been tough for city planners. ?We are several million dollars behind where we should be at this stage due to the downturn in the economy, the state?s desire to take our tax dollars targeted for roads to support their deficit and the past councils? desire to spend on other items within the budget,? Storey said. To decide what would be done first, the city painstakingly prioritized projects by having department heads rank them as a group, according to Rick Forstall, Rocklin?s Director Public Services. ?There was a committee that was formed. There were reviews done. Different department heads submitted different requests for projects. It went through a ranking, based on funding and availability,? Forstall said. The new budget, which could be approved later this month, includes $3.9 million to reconstruct Stanford Ranch Road south of Sunset Boulevard, $6.3 million to add an on- and off-ramp from Highway 65 to Whitney Ranch Parkway and continue a $20 million project to revamp the Interstate 80 Interchange with Rocklin Road using roundabouts. ?I have always stated that the priorities of the city should be public safety, business attraction and retention and infrastructure, such as good roads,? Storey said. Two more council-approved roundabouts on Rocklin Road, totaling $3.7 million, are part of the plan, including one at Meyers Street and another at Grove Street. Construction on the Meyers Street roundabout could begin this summer. Rocklin resident Cathy Mee, who owns a house on Meyers Street, isn?t sure the roundabout is a good use of funds. ?Are they expecting all this influx in cars? It?s not going to be near the new shopping centers they are building,? Mee said. Rocklin has been cutting staff and programs, scrapped a plan for another fire station, and used $6.3 million of cash reserves since the recession started in 2007, according to the city. This year?s budget was balanced without drawing on reserves. More than $7 million of the $33.8 million five-year capital improvement plan is unfunded, meaning the city doesn?t know how it will pay for projects like the Whitney Ranch Parkway/Highway 65 interchange and new parking lots for Johnson-Springview and Lonetree Parks. Storey, who is not running for re-election, said paying for the needed street improvements will be a challenge for the next council. Three seats are up for election in November. ?The next council will hopefully deal with the issue by setting aside additional funding that will be dedicated to the improvement of our roads,? Storey said. ?Large portions of Rocklin were built in phases and those phases age and need repair at the same time. We are facing some of those milestones.? The current City Council is expected to review a proposal that will put nearly $1.5 million of next year?s budget into a noise reducing rubberized chip seal project to cap and seal 14.4 miles of road in neighborhoods off Fairway Drive, Midas Avenue, Wyckford Boulevard and Wesley Road. ?We are stepping up our efforts, increasing our budget allocation and paying more attention to preventative maintenance rather than more expensive repairs at a later date,? City Manager Rick Horst said. The city is also avoiding a general fund drain by paying for the cap and seal project with funds from a grant, gas taxes and money set aside from California?s Proposition 1B infrastructure bonds. Storey said the city is doing a good job of leveraging funds to get important road work done. ?I believe that we should utilize our tax dollars to keep them from disintegrating,? Storey said. ?Roads are the backbone to business and the support property values for all. I have reviewed our staff?s five-year plan and believe that it is adequate given the limited funding opportunities we have currently.?