YUBA COUNTY, Calif. — If you drive around Yuba County, you might notice a lot of road work happening.
Construction crews are repairing roads faster than usual and it’s all thanks to a new law.
Currently there are more than 70 miles of repairs happening, which makes up about 15 percent of county roads.
“It really is massive, none like I’ve ever seen,” Russ Brown, Yuba County’s Communications and Legislative Affairs Coordinator, said.
When the new state gas tax legislation, Senate Bill 1, passed two years ago, county officials realized it would still take many years before roads would be repaired. According to Brown, officials did some research to find out if there would be any advantage to borrowing funds from another county organization, the Yuba Water Agency, and using future payments from the SB 1 money to repay the loan.
The county was able to get a funding advance from the Yuba Water Agency at a low interest rate, in an arrangement that has the county paying off the loan at a slightly higher rate, but still much lower than a standard loan. The $9 million loan from the Yuba Water Agency, combined with $3 million from the ongoing annual SB 1, is what’s funding the completions of the road work.
“It was just going to take us too long and was going to be too expensive,” Brown said.
Through the creative approach, the county is able to complete four years’ worth of road repairs in a single summer, and do it at a lower cost.
“Doing multiple years of road repairs in a single season allows us to realize huge cost savings, mostly because we are able to get big discounts by bundling several road projects into a single contract, and we avoid construction cost increases over the next few years,” Brown explained. “The savings cover any interest costs on the loan and we end up with enough savings to add more roads into the repair contracts."
Brown added that the county will save about $3 million even after paying the interest by doing all the work in a single construction season.
“In such a way that the county is now on track to complete four years’ worth of road repairs in just one summer, it’s amazing for all of us,” Brown said.
Initially, the loan arrangement hit a roadblock, when county officials realized state laws did not allow SB 1 money to be used repay loans. But, Yuba County officials were able to work with state lawmakers to pass legislation that changed the regulations to allow loans that are related to road repairs.
This is also a win, win situation for the Yuba Water Agency since they are able to get a better return on its investment.
“It’s just a great plan, think about it, the county is able to pay off the loan with the cost savings we achieve by doing four years of construction in one summer,” Brown said.
The regulatory change now allows any county in California to make similar arrangements for advanced funding. In fact, according to Brown, Yuba County is trying to get other California counties to look into the same approach so residents don’t have to wait so long for repairs and the counties can save money.
“It’s a great way to give our residents what they need and want and a an even better way for counties to save money,” Brown said.
All road repair projects in Yuba County are expected to be completed by mid-August, just in time for summer concerts and events at the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland and before the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in the fall.
“There will be a lot more traffic coming on, some of them will benefit from the roads along Highway 70, and once they get off Highway 65, they’re going to see some smooth roads,” Brown concluded.
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