Plenty of Cracks, Potholes on Road to Meeting Pavement Quality Goals

The Bay Area's local streets and roads continue to earn only a "fair" grade for pavement quality, according to a new report released by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

OAKLAND, CA- The Bay Area's local streets and roads continue to earn only a "fair" grade for pavement quality, according to a new report released by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), with the typical stretch of asphalt showing serious wear and likely to require rehabilitation soon.

Pavement conditions on the region's more than 42,000 lane miles of local streets and roads have been largely stable for the past several years, with the three-year moving average of pavement condition index (PCI) scores over the 2006-2009 period rising a single point to a score of 66 out of a maximum possible 100 points from an average of 65 points in the 2005-2007 time period. (Note: The reported 2009 three-year moving average is computed from the individual-year scores for 2006, 2007 and 2009. Increased utilization of online reporting options by many jurisdictions in 2009 allowed MTC to collect and tabulate 2009 pavement condition data, even as 2008 data was still being compiled. To simplify reporting, MTC has decided not to separately report 2008 data, electing instead to bring all PCI data up to date as of 2009.)

"MTC and its partners are committed to keeping the Bay Area's transportation system in good repair," explained MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. "Last year we directed $122 million of new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to local streets and roads. We also reward jurisdictions that invest in preventive maintenance with increased regional funding. So we're pleased there's been a slight improvement in overall pavement conditions."

Cities and counties are taking advantage of improved asset management techniques and tools, including MTC software programs, to get the biggest bang for their maintenance buck. Every Bay Area city and county uses MTC's StreetSaver(®) pavement management software, with all but seven using an online version that allows for faster reporting and tabulation of pavement condition data. Several Bay Area public works departments are now using hand-held computers equipped with MTC's MobileRater(TM) software -- which is fully compatible with StreetSaver Online -- to accelerate the collection of pavement distress data.

"What's troubling," continued Haggerty, "is that cities and counties still have a lot less money for pavement maintenance than they need. Despite the one-time infusion of federal stimulus dollars, the best they've been able to do is to basically tread water. We have to do better. The big challenge will be to find the political will to increase the state gasoline tax or dedicate other long-term resources to local streets and roads that will move pavement conditions into 'good' territory."

MTC's Regional Streets and Roads Program later this year will recognize the city of Brentwood for having the best streets and roads in the Bay Area. This will mark the second consecutive year Brentwood has earned the title. The eastern Contra Costa County city recorded an average PCI score of 85 for the 2006-09 period. MTC will present its Most Improved Award to Suisun City, which logged the biggest pavement quality improvement in the Bay Area, with the Solano County city's 2006-09 average PCI score jumping five points to 55. MTC's Best All-Around Pavement Management Program Award will be presented to the Santa Clara County city of Los Altos, which has consistently registered PCI scores of 80 or higher in recent years.

The largest declines in pavement quality came in the Napa County city of St. Helena, where the average 2006-09 PCI score fell five points to 48 from 53 in the 2005-07 period, and in the San Mateo County city of Colma, where the average PCI slipped to 67 points in 2006-09 from 72 points in 2005-07. The lowest-ranked pavement in the Bay Area was found again in unincorporated Sonoma County, which recorded an average PCI score of 44.

PCI scores of 90 or higher are considered "excellent." These are newly built or resurfaced streets that show little or no distress. Pavement with a PCI score in the 80 to 89 range is characterized as "very good," and shows only slight or moderate distress, requiring mostly preventive maintenance. The "good" category ranges from 70 to 79, while streets with PCI scores in the "fair" (60-69) range are becoming worn to the point where rehabilitation may be needed to prevent rapid deterioration. Because major repairs cost five to 10 times more than routine maintenance, these streets are at an especially critical stage. Roadways with PCI scores of 50 to 59 are deemed "at-risk," while those with PCI scores of 25 to 49 are considered "poor." These roads require major rehabilitation or reconstruction. Pavement with a PCI score below 25 is considered "failed." These roads are difficult to drive on and need reconstruction.

"We see a lot of streets and roads with PCI scores below 60," noted Haggerty, "particularly in older cities and in rural areas. That's the point when pavement begins going downhill fast. One of MTC's priorities is to make sure the Bay Area's cities and counties can invest in both preventive maintenance and in rehabilitation."

The complete 2009 Bay Area Pavement Conditions Summary, with a listing of PCI scores (moving average for 2006-09) and prior years' three-year moving averages for all Bay Area counties and cities, may be found at

MTC is the transportation planning, funding and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

SOURCE Metropolitan Transportation Commission