Market Overview

Bay Area Pavement Conditions Fair to Middling


The pavement on the Bay Area's 42,600 lane-miles of local streets and roads remains in “fair” condition, with the typical stretch of asphalt showing serious wear and likely to require rehabilitation soon. Data released today by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) puts the region's 2011 pavement condition index (PCI) score at 66 out of a maximum possible 100 points, as computed on a three-year moving average basis. This marks the third consecutive year the region has registered an average PCI score of 66, and is within two points of readings going back to 2006.

“One of the Commission's top priorities is to restore the Bay Area's transportation system to a state of good repair,” commented MTC Chair and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier. “For local streets and roads, that target has been frustratingly elusive. And the main issue, not surprisingly, is money.”

MTC Vice Chair and Orinda City Councilmember Amy Rein Worth echoed Tissier's view, noting, “Most cities' pavement maintenance needs have far outstripped available funds for many years. We have seen big improvements in places like El Cerrito, which passed a half-cent sales tax in 2008 to finance a citywide street improvement program. But unless local voters decide pavement conditions are an important priority, city and county governments will be doing well just to keep their streets and roads in current condition.”

El Cerrito was honored last year by MTC's Regional Streets and Roads Program for the effectiveness of its voter-approved Street Improvement Program, which reduced the Contra Costa County city's maintenance backlog to $500,000 in 2010 from $21.2 million in 2006, and boosted its one-year PCI score from 48 (poor) to 85 (very good) and its three-year moving average from 53 (at-risk) to 62 (fair). El Cerrito's three-year moving average PCI score has since climbed to 73 (good). The Regional Streets and Roads Program later this year will recognize the cities of Brentwood, Dublin and Richmond for the achievements made in 2011 by their pavement maintenance programs. Brentwood and Dublin have consistently posted some of the highest average PCI scores in the Bay Area. Richmond registered a 13-point jump in its one-year PCI score from 2010 to 2011, an increase that will be reflected in the city's three-year moving average score through 2013.

One of the ways cities and counties are maximizing the returns on their pavement maintenance investments is by embracing new technologies. MTC in 2010 awarded a $2 million grant through its Climate Initiatives Program to Sonoma County and the city of Napa to help finance a demonstration of cold-in-place recycling (CIR), a repaving process in which specialized machinery shaves existing pavement to a depth of two to eight inches, pulverizes the removed asphalt, mixes it with additives, and then replaces and smooths the mix back onto the roadway. While not appropriate for all roadways, this technique has been shown to cut asphalt rehabilitation costs by 20 percent to 40 percent, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating the need to produce new paving material or transport it to the worksite.

“CIR is a win-win-win for motorists, city and county budgets, and the environment,” said Sui Tan of MTC's Regional Streets and Roads Program. “We expect CIR projects to become more common around the region over the next few years as more pavement contractors invest in the needed equipment.”

Following the completion of the pilot project in Sonoma County and Napa, several other Bay Area jurisdictions — including the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara; and the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Foster City, Mill Valley, Orinda and South San Francisco — have used CIR for asphalt replacement projects.

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.

The lowest-ranked pavement in the Bay Area was found in the Marin County city of Larkspur and the Napa County city of St. Helena, each of which recorded a PCI score of 44 for 2009-11. “There are a lot of streets and roads around the Bay Area with PCI scores below 60,” noted Tissier. “That's the point when the deterioration of pavement really accelerates. MTC is working with cities and counties to make it possible for them to invest in both preventive maintenance and in rehabilitation.” In addition to Larkspur and St. Helena, other jurisdictions with three-year average PCI scores below 60 include Albany, Berkeley, Napa, Oakland, Orinda, Petaluma, San Leandro, Vallejo, and unincorporated Marin and Sonoma counties.

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

Note to editors: The complete 2011 Bay Area Pavement Conditions Summary, with a listing of PCI scores (three-year moving average for 2009-11) and prior years' three-year moving averages for all Bay Area counties and cities, is available at

Metropolitan Transportation Commission
John Goodwin, 510-817-5862
Randy Rentschler, 510-817-5780
Theresa Romell, 510-817-5772

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