City could look at issuing bonds to speed up street, alley repairs

The Long Beach City Council will ask the city manager Tuesday to look at the potential of issuing bonds to help speed up the repair of streets and alleys across the city, something that would be repaid with Measure A tax revenue.

Long Beach voters reaffirmed the city’s sales tax increase in March, approving its indefinite extension by a razor-thin margin. The tax has generated about $60 million per year in revenue for the city’s general fund but not all of it used on street and alley repair.

If the city were to issue a bond it could work with bonds being sold to investors which the city paying the principal and interest on the bonds with Measure A tax revenue. Pumping more money into funding street and alley repairs now could both speed up the rate at which they’re improved but also ultimately make the repairs cheaper as streets get more costly to repair as they degrade over time.

A group of council members asking for a report on if the city could speed up the rate at which the city is able to address its aging roads and alleys, say that a bond could potentially help the city improve approximately 190 miles of streets in poor conditions as well as about 40 miles of alleys.

“That is a total of 230.3 miles of our worst streets and alleys waiting to be redone, with no plan in place to keep them from further disrepair,” the agenda item said. “The longer we wait, the more costly each construction project will be.”

The adopted 2021 fiscal year budget forecasts about $62 million in Measure A sales tax revenue, but that figure could be impacted by prolonged shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, much of the state was reverted back to the most restrictive tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan and city leaders said all things were “on the table” to address the rising case numbers in the city.

The Measure A allocation for streets and alleys in that budget is about $8.7 million.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, one of the members calling for the report, said that she’d like to see a big enough bond to fix every poorly rated street in the city but any potential bond would largely depend on the city’s projections for future Measure A revenue.

“When I talk to residents they want their streets fixed,” Mungo said. “I want to fix them but the list of needs far exceeds the annual allocation and the longer streets are left in disrepair the more they cost to repair. So a bond to fix poor streets now is a good investment.”

Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, who represents downtown and areas north of the Port of Long Beach, is also a supporter of the item and said that the industrial areas are in dire need of repairs due to the heavy truck traffic that damages the streets.

Zendejas said that as time goes by the streets would only get costlier to repair and that issuing bonds could actually save the city money in the long run.

“The sooner the better,” Zendejas said of street and alley repairs. “There’s so much need in my district, so obviously that would be my recommendation.”

The request asks for a report back from the city manager’s office and other relevant departments on ways the city could speed up repairs. The report, if approved Tuesday by a majority of the City Council, could return back to the full body within 90 days.

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