Oakland's infrastructure, already among the worst in the Bay Area, appears locked into further deterioration even as federal stimulus funds offer a chance to help.

A story should detail the challenge Public Works is facing, including its momentum, scope, and possible solutions. This is a complicated issue and the city's current plan raises some class issues, as the streets in the worst condition, often found in the poorest neighborhoods, are being deprioritized in favor of maintaining the overall quality of the system.

  • The city's 2,300 miles of road are on an 85-year resurfacing cycle, more than three times slower than the industry standard.
  • City engineers grade a third of Oakland's streets in poor condition or worse.
  • The city's Public Works department has left three of four supervisor jobs vacant, including those overseeing heavy paving, pot holes and concrete repair.
  • The repairs for personal and government-operated vehicles, such as public transit buses, are getting more expensive when we can least affort them.

As streets become rougher, the pot holes become harder to avoid and the damage to vehicles worsens. A pot hole more than a foot square and eight inches deep crippled a sedan coming off the freeway downtown in February.

With federal stimulus money potentially playing a role in the situation, and the deadline for city engineers to prepare to apply those funds looming, a rich public discussion of the issue needs to happen very soon.

This piece will have editorial support from the Oakland Tribune where I've written about the topic as a freelancer. It will be published there and made available later for others to republish.

How will it help?

A lot of money is potentially coming into the city for this problem very soon and the people need to know what the city's plans are for that money. Because this is a gradual problem and not an immediate, event-based issue like crime or scandal, news media outlets largely ignore it and politicians don't openly discuss it.

But for Oakland drivers and transit riders, this has a big impact on their budgets, and needs a full public discussion, one that my reporting can hopefully spark and inform.

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