Transportation and Public Works

Funding Sources

Gas Tax

When the state gas tax was enacted in 1923, it raised enough money to cover both Corrective Maintenance (patching potholes, clearing culverts, etc) and Pavement Preservation (resurfacing roads). However, due to factors like stagnant funding and more cars using less gallons, the gas tax now only covers a portion of Corrective Maintenance and leaves no funding for Pavement Preservation in Sonoma County.

Last Fiscal Year, the State allocated about $10 Million for Sonoma County’s 1,380 miles of roads. In the late hours of Thursday, April 6th, the California Legislature passed SB1, which will begin to address the legacy of underfunded infrastructure in California. 

SB1 will more than double the amount of State funding Sonoma County receives for roads, raising our total state revenue to about $23 Million when the bill is fully phased. SB1 will be phased in over a period of a few years, with new funds likely starting late in 2017. We appreciate your support and patience as we work to improve Sonoma County Roads. 

Issues and Challenges

Over time, with efficiency standards increasing, the amount of fuel consumed per mile driven is declining. This is good for emissions and the environment, but not good for road funding. As fuel consumption and gas tax revenue go down, the amount of wear and tear on roads remains constant.

Sonoma County faces further challenges. The amount allocated to a municipality for road funding is based on the number of road miles it maintains and the number of vehicles registered in that municipality. Since it has a high number of road miles and a relatively low number of registered vehicles, it receives less funding for maintenance per road mile than other Bay Area counties.

Passed by the voters in November 2004, the Traffic Relief Act for Sonoma County (Measure M) continues to deliver multi-modal transportation improvements throughout the county. The Act provides for a ¼ cent sales tax to be used to maintain local streets, fix potholes, accelerate the widening of Highway 101 for High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, improve local street operations, restore and enhance transit services, support the development of passenger rail service, and build safe bicycle and pedestrian routes. The funds are dedicated towards the specific programs and projects specified in the Expenditure Plan.*

Federal Funding

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is a transportation fund that receives money from a federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel, as well as other related excise taxes. It currently has two accounts: the Highway Account, which funds road construction, and a smaller 'Mass Transit Account' which supports mass transit.

Federal Highway funding is only available for roads that are classified as either Arterial or Major Collector. These are typically the higher-volume, higher-capacity roads. Local and residential roads are not eligible.

Local Discretionary Funds

The Department of Transportation & Public Works is responsible for maintaining about 1,379 miles of roads outside of cities in Sonoma County. It would cost $58 million every year for 10 years to bring these roads to a level where they can be maintained at a lower cost through best management practices. Sonoma County is not alone, it would cost $7 billion every year for 10 years to bring all local roads in California into this condition.

While our funding woes are not unique and must be addressed at a state-wide level, we have taken unprecedented steps to fix our roads. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors dedicates over $11 million each year to Pavement Preservation and committed an additional $13 million in one-time funds in 2015. Sonoma County and San Francisco dedicate the most discretionary General Fund money to Pavement Preservation out of all the Counties in California.

Division Funding

Airport

Operational revenue sources, such as hangar rentals, space rentals for businesses and car rental agencies, and parking, help fund operations at the Sonoma County Airport. The Airport also receives revenue from Passenger Facility Charges ($4.50 per ticket), which further contributes toward covering the cost of operations.

Integrated Waste

TPW owns the Sonoma County Central Landfill and five refuse transfer stations. The Central Landfill is operated by Republic Services, which provides TPW with a portion of revenues from gate fees. Additionally, TPW collects franchise fees from waste hauling companies, which are used for activities such as maintaining closed landfills and providing oversight of operational and collection contracts.

Roads

Funding for TPW road operations comes from multiple sources. Capital pavement preservation projects are funded by the General Fund as well as federal grants. Daily road maintenance operations are funded by State Gas Tax revenue, the General Fund, and Measure M. Bridge projects can be funded through State and Federal funding, or Measure M. Various other traffic and safety improvement projects can be funded by Measure M or Traffic Mitigation Funds. Read more about funding for Roads

Transit

Sonoma County Transit uses a state-of-the-art compressed natural gas fleet to serve locations around Sonoma County. Transit receives funding for operating expenses and capital projects from various federal and state sources, such as sales tax and taxes on diesel and gasoline. Transit also receives funding from the local sales tax Measure M (for Local Bus Transit). 

Water Service Districts

Water District operations are funded from rate payer’s base rate (a flat monthly fee connected to all meters) and usage rates that vary based on the volume of water used.

Transportation Funds

Measure M Sales Tax

Measure M is a local sales tax specifically for transportation funding. Measure M funds can be used for Road Maintenance operations, bridge retrofit projects, and other road safety and traffic improvement projects. Measure M funding can also go toward Transit operations (for Local Bus Transit).

State Gas Tax

State Gas Tax provides funding for Corrective Road Maintenance, Roadway pavement Preservation projects, as well as Transit Operations. The amount given to a municipality for road funding is based on the number of road miles it maintains and the number of vehicles registered in that municipality.

Seismic Bridge Retrofit Funds

This funding comes from the State of California, and (as the name suggests) can be used for seismic bridge retrofit projects.

Federal Highway Trust Fund

The Federal Highway Trust Fund is a transportation fund that receives money from a federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel, as well as other related excise taxes. It currently has two accounts: the Highway Account, which funds road construction, and a smaller 'Mass Transit Account' which supports mass transit.

Federal Grants

Federal Grants are awarded periodically to competitive applicants for eligible projects. These grants often fund road improvement projects. The Sonoma County Airport is also funded in part by Federal grants.

Sonoma County General Fund

The Sonoma County General Fund is used by the County of Sonoma to fund various activities across multiple departments. For TPW, the General Fund provides funding primarily for roadway pavement preservation projects (large-scale paving projects) and corrective road maintenance activities (pothole repair, vegetation management, etc.).

Cable Communications Franchise Fees

In the US, cable television services are provided by private (for-profit) cable television companies (e.g. Comcast). Since cable infrastructure is built on publicly-owned land, private providers sign a franchise agreement with municipalities (cities and counties) to provide cable television to residents. As part of the Franchise Agreement, fees are collected by the municipality as compensation for using public land.

In Sonoma County, TPW administers the collection of these fees. These are added to the General Fund, and are typically used to fund services such as public, educational, and government access TV channels. Cable Communications fees are not necessarily a direct funding source for TPW.

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