The upcoming June 3 election will test whether Orinda residents finally are ready to commit the funds desperately needed to repair their crumbling roads.

The city's infamous streets were in poor shape when the city incorporated in 1985 and have continued to deteriorate as bond measures to pay for repairs have failed to garner the required two-thirds voter approval.

City leaders in 2012 changed tactics and sought a general sales tax increase, which only required majority approval, to jump-start the long-overdue repair program. Surprisingly, a solid 70 percent of voters approved it.

It was made clear at the time that would be just the first of four funding phases. Now comes the tough part, Phase 2, another bond measure attempt requiring two-thirds approval. The $20 million would be repaid with a property tax increase.

No one likes to pay higher taxes, but it's time for Orinda residents to acknowledge that their streets are a hazard and that they need to fix them. Voters should approve Measure J.

There is no free ride here, figuratively or literally. The $20 million of bonds would be issued in two series, to be repaid by 2038. Property tax rates would increase an average $15.90 for every $100,000 of assessed value. That works out to $103 per year for a median home in the city.


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Lest anyone later says there wasn't full disclosure, hear this: There will be two more phases. The City Council-appointed Citizens' Infrastructure Oversight Commission recommends asking voters in 2018 to approve another $25.5 million of new revenue, perhaps through another bond, a parcel tax or another source.

And in 2022, by which time the oversight commission expects all public roads in the city to be repaired to good or excellent condition, voters will be asked to approve extension of the 2012 half-cent sales tax increase to help fund ongoing street maintenance.

The city has other funding sources, gas tax and a portion of the countywide transportation sales tax, to repair the major arterials. Funds from the 2012 measure as well as Measure J and the anticipated 2018 measure will be used for residential streets.

It's easy to complain about the cost, as some residents are doing. It's easy to poke holes in any plan. But this is a reasonable solution to a problem that some city voters have refused to face for too long.

Further delay only will mean additional road deterioration and higher costs to fix the mess. It's pay now or pay more later.