People driving through Fullerton can expect a bumpy ride on streets that are dotted with divots, cracked like alligator skin and broken up in spots with potholes.
An Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) report¹ from earlier this year gave Fullerton the worst road rating of all cities in Orange County. Current and former city council members acknowledged in a 2016 state of the city video that Fullerton roads are old and need repairs, but said that there wasn’t much excitement in it previously.
Jan Flory, a former city council member, said that in the past infrastructure “just wasn’t a very sexy topic.”
Jennifer Fitzgerald, who was mayor at the time and is now a city council member, added that changes were forthcoming: “This council in the current budget doubled our investment in road repair to $10 million.”
However, it appears that budgeted amount wasn’t spent, according to a watchdog group and others. A city official hasn’t confirmed that information or provided detailed comments, but this post will be updated when that information is provided.
Fullerton resident Denise Dobson said the city does a good job of patching the streets when residents call to complain, but it’s typically a patch—rarely a resurfacing or resealing.
“They’ll come out and fix it, but we actually have to call them to do it. That’s it. That’s all they do is a spot fix,” said Dobson, adding that the city is better about trimming the trees.
In the 43 years Dobson has lived on Porter Ave. near Orangethorpe Ave., the city has only repaired it a handful of times.
Dobson said the residential streets – and even some busier streets – sorely need repairs.
Another resident, Krista Evavold, said her family has lived on a portion of Valencia Dr. that’s down the street from Maple Elementary school, for over 10 years and has never seen improvements on the street, though the cracks and potholes make it dangerous for kids and families to get to school.
David Grantham, a civil engineer who works for the city, said Fullerton is considered “the bad child” of Orange County cities when it comes to OCTA’s street rating system.
Currently, the city budgets about $3 million a year to road improvements, and funding comes from a mixture of gas taxes and OCTA money from Measure M2, which comes from part of the sales tax revenue in the county. However, Grantham said he and his department believe the city should be spending about $10 million a year for the foreseeable future to catch up with the repairs that are needed.
Grantham, when asked if previous city councils had neglected the roads, said, “I wouldn’t use the word neglected. I would just say that the resources weren’t available to address it correctly.”
Travis Kiger, member of the watchdog group, Friends for Fullerton’s Future, believes the lack of money stems from outside interest groups, like the police and fire unions, asking for increases in salaries and benefits.
“For a politician, it is very costly to go against a union…The road’s not going to yell at you, the road’s not going to spend money against you at the next election. So it’s very tempting for them to keep putting it off…[and say] ‘Next council will fix it in five years,’” said Kiger.
Kiger also believes council members’ pet projects sometimes take priority in their minds.
“It really relies on a city staff, engineering, to say, ‘Okay, guys. I know you want your parks and your things where you can hold up balloons and throw yourself a campaign party there, but you really also have to make sure you’re spending this much every year to maintain your streets.”
¹ Page 15 of the report.