Report: Highway 13, Ashby Ave. Second Most-Deteriorated State Roadway in Bay Area

By Rio Bauce Special to the Planet
Monday December 21, 2009 - 01:47:00 PM

A new assessment of conditions of state roadways ranks Highway 13—including Ashby Avenue—as the second most-deteriorated section of roadway in the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area. 

The report, released by the The Road Information Program (TRIP), a national transportation research group, says Highway 13 carries about 72,000 motorists daily along its 4.4-mile route from Highway 80 through Berkeley and into Oakland.  

According to the report, inadequate roadways prove costly for state taxpayers, with levels of deterioration reflecting a 22 percent increase in state highway travel in the last 18 years. 

“I haven’t seen the report,” said Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz. “We have urged CalTrans to try to make improvements in the street in resurfacing [the pavement]. It is a problem during rush hour because it is a one-lane street. It’s always been an issue for us.” 

John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said the TRIP report, which relies on data from 2008, does not reflect recent improvements to the roadway.  

“Highway 13 was resurfaced and smoothed out, particularly in the portion between Broadway Terrace and Telegraph Avenue,” said Goodwin. “The portion of the highway between Telegraph and Seventh Street still appears to be a bit dicey.” 

Goodwin predicts that next year’s report will bring better news for the Ashby corridor. 

“My assessment is that when TRIP gathers smoothness assessment for next year, [Highway 13] will fall off the list or further down the list,” said Goodwin. “Clearly, some work has been done. It is a smoother ride than it was a couple years ago.” 

Berkeley transportation manager Farid Javandel said Highway 13 was not repaired sooner due to a lack of funding. 

“Highway 13 is actually in process for repair by CalTrans right now,” said Javandel. “A year and a half ago, they did some deep spot repairs in the pavement. They were planning to do the finish repaving last summer but it got postponed until summer 2010.” 

“I think that the report makes some general comments about the shortfall in ongoing maintenance funding,” said Javandel. “If the simple maintenance doesn’t get done often enough, you need more aggressive maintenance techniques even up to replacing the roadway surface. The simple maintenance is cheaper than replacing the roadway. However, when we have these shortfalls in funding, we have to prioritize the roads. On an annual basis, they don’t have enough money to do all the necessary repairs.” 

The California Department of Transportation did not return calls for comment. 

The TRIP report is released every year and gathers statistics from the Federal Highway Administration. Although the state has received increased transportation funding, there still remains a $4 billion shortfall for highway improvements. 

Goodwin contends that many shortfalls could be filled through increasing the gas tax.  

“We are living off gas tax investments made in the 1950s and 1960s,” said Goodwin. “There appears to be an absence of willingness at the state level to increase the state gas tax. I do not think it is unreasonable to increase gas tax for inflation.” 

The report says that improvement in California roadways would decrease driving accidents and deaths. In addition, the report says that half of the bridges and overpasses in the region either lack proper structure or are obsolete. 

Goodwin said that the results are not surprising. 

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Goodwin. “We have got the highway system that we are willing to pay for.”  

Other heavily deteriorated state highways in the East Bay include Highway 112 near the Oakland Airport and Highway 185 in San Leandro, along sections of East 14th Street. 

Although the TRIP report only detailed the state’s highways, the MTC will put out a report in January that evaluates the status of pavement in local municipalities.