Berkeley city auditor releases report outlining city street deterioration

Photo of cracked concrete
Sunny Shen/File
According to Berkeley city auditor Jenny Wong, the streets in Berkeley are some of the worst in the Bay Area, and in 2018, the city’s pavement condition index was 59 out of 100.

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On Thursday, Berkeley city auditor Jenny Wong released a report discussing the deterioration of city streets, the limited funds allocated to improving street quality and the inadequate guidelines being directed toward street paving.

The audit, titled “Rocky Road: Berkeley Streets at Risk and Significantly Underfunded,” critiqued the current state of the city’s roads and sidewalks and predicted a continuing trend of decline in coming years if the issue is not adequately addressed. As an independent office, the city auditor oversees municipal operations and provides information to both the public and city government officials to ensure a responsible “stewardship of public resources,” according to city’s website.

Berkeley streets are among the worst in the Bay Area. Out of 101 Bay Area cities, Berkeley is 15th from the bottom,” Wong said in a citywide email. “The most recent pavement condition index (PCI), used to measure street quality, was 59 out of 100 in 2018.”

In the same announcement, Wong discussed the funding needed to curtail the pattern of deterioration, referencing the high costs of simply maintaining current street conditions. According to Wong, a city contractor determined that maintaining PCI levels would cost Berkeley $17.3 million each year, as of 2018. 

As for the process of active improvement, Wong said past efforts to address worsening street quality were met with insufficient funding from the city. 

According to Wong, as calculated by the same city contractor, it would cost the city roughly $27.3 million to raise Berkeley’s PCI by five points in five years. 

“In 2012, Berkeley adopted the Complete Streets Policy, which mandates a holistic approach to streets improvements to include sidewalks and other things,” Wong said in the citywide email. “Additional funds, however, were not allocated to implement this approach. More work is being required with the same amount of funds.”

Street quality, among issues such as housing insecurity and homelessness, is a primary concern of city constituents, Wong added in the email. The report was meant to recognize those concerns while exploring possible solutions to the state of the streets. 

Wong then provided recommendations for commencing improvement procedures in the released audit. 

According to the report, the Berkeley Department of Public Works has agreed to an initial corrective plan including annually analyzing budgets, identifying fund sources, updating the city’s Street Rehabilitation and Repair Policy yearly, incorporating equity in alignment with the city’s Vision 2050 and defining performance measures. 

“Without significant additional funding, Berkeley streets will continue to deteriorate and deferred maintenance costs will increase,” the audit states.

Contact Samantha Lim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sssamanthalim.