San Diego's streets have long been notorious as some of the worst in the state, if not the country.
Now, the worst of the worst are finally getting fixed, to the tune of nearly $50 million.
About 135 miles of cracked and potholed streets will be repaved in a yearlong "deferred maintenance" program starting this week. Another 147 miles of roadway will be resurfaced as part of the project, which is being bankrolled by bond money that will also be spent repairing broken sidewalks, storm drains and dozens of aging city facilities.
By mid-morning on Monday, an army of big rigs and street crews was treating the roadways of Clairemont with tons of asphalt. The work will soon spread throughout San Diego, upgrading more than 1,000 city blocks where motorists have been jarred by a backlog of potholes that once numbered as high as 40,000. This may be the largest such undertaking in the city's history. In little more than a year, almost as many miles will be repaved as were in the last eight years combined.
"We couldn't wait; it was very, very bad," Clairemont resident Wally Khambata said. "Ruts were so bad that we had to go to the other side of the road. And it was very difficult to drive."
City Hall heard all this, loud and clear, but for years, San Diego's financial scandals put Wall Street out of reach for major repair money. Now, though, the city's credit-worthy again and on a roll.
"We've always said, even in down economic times, we need to move forward with a lot of these projects," San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told reporters at a news conference in Mount Etna Park. "We can't just go to sleep and then wake up in two or three years when the economy's better and hope to catch up."
In many cases, the streets are degraded by constant excavations to repair crumbling water and sewer mains and pipes underneath, a practice that is likely to to continue. As encouraging as the maintenance may be, citizens want even more.
"Where are the bike paths? Are there going to be bike paths indicated on these streets?" asked Clairemont resident Janet Klecker. "Things like that -- that would show more of an environmental, forward-looking thing."
The street repairs are coming from $103 million in bond money that will finance 90 "deferred maintenance" projects during the next two years. However, there's still $900 million worth of aging infrastructure that needs upgrading, so the city may eventually find itself back on Wall Street, hat in hand.