Road realignment will increase water rates

By George W. Foote

I have been hearing some strong opposition to the proposed San Vicente Road realignment project in recent weeks. The county is proposing the project primarily for increased traffic safety.

Reasons I have heard for the opposition include: Two years of traffic congestion from the construction, a belief that straightening the road will encourage some to drive faster making the road less safe, the cutting of dozens of mature oak trees and destruction of the rural ambiance of the area.

I am sure we will read more from others about these issues in the coming weeks in letters to the editor. I will say that accidents are going to occur no matter what the configuration of the roadway and are usually due to speed, impairment, distraction, inexperience, or weather related road conditions. Case in point, I wouldn’t consider State Highway 67 to be narrow nor winding yet it is plagued with serious accidents.

Whether you are in favor of the project or not, if you are a Ramona Municipal Water District water customer, you need to know this: This isn’t a $20-something million project paid entirely by property tax and state highway funds. It is a $24-something million project because it is going to cost $4 million to relocate the water pipeline that lies beneath that stretch of San Vicente Road.

The county’s position is that the pipeline belongs to the Ramona Municipal Water District and therefore the customers must pick up the tab for the $4 million. There are approximately 9,600 water customers in Ramona so the tab would be just over $400 each. However, the District will be forced to finance the project so they can extend the cost out over several years rather than hit each customer with a large one-time payment.

Financing raises the overall cost even further. You will be paying this cost through higher water rates.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to make a final go-ahead decision on the project in the next couple of months. I wrote a letter last week to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob requesting that she schedule one or more public hearings in Ramona on this issue. If you don’t think it is equitable that you are one of 9,600 people singled out to pay a lion’s share of a road project meant to benefit every commuter, you may want to spend 30 minutes and a 45-cent stamp to let Supervisor Jacob know. Her address is:

Supervisor Dianne Jacob

County Administration Center

1600 Pacific Highway

San Diego, CA 92101

George W. Foote of Ramona was elected as Division 5 representative on the Ramona Municipal Water District Board in the Nov. 6 election.

Related posts:

  1. County road project to cost water district about $3.8 million
  2. Water rates up 7.8 percent, sewer up 3 percent
  3. County OKs road agreement with RMWD
  4. CWA to discuss water, future rates at RMWD
  5. Water district’s public hearing on rates scheduled for Tuesday

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Nov 15 2012. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “Road realignment will increase water rates”

  1. Grammy

    Perhaps there is a way engineers could fashion the road so that the new road doesn't have to cross this aqueduct. For example, a four way stop at Wildcat Canyon Road and
    San Vicente Road might be one way and would also control the speeding traffic here. Another way might be to split the road around the aqueduct, aesthetically pleasing as well as safer and consistent with the roads already in the Estates area. I have often wished the highway through Main Street in Ramona was a divided road, so the trees could be in the middle to create a safety barrier and provide shade, rather than cutting them all down to make the road wider. It seems that they always look for the very cheapest way to do things, when all they end up with is a cheap looking road. But having to move an aqueduct does not sound like a very inexpensive dea to me.

  2. Kyle B

    Why would a water board member not respond to the following points made in the following Sentinel article written in June 2011, "County road project to cost water district about $3.8 million":

    "Because the water line is 38 years old and the service life is estimated at 50 years, RMWD staff said the district would have to replace portions in 10 to 12 years and would duplicate excavation and other costs. By partnering with the county, Barnum said, the water district will save millions for such requirements as CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), traffic control, construction management, bonding, mobilization and insurance."

    Sounds like replacing the pipeline at the same time as the roadwork will end up saving RMWD customers money in the long run, while also allowing for valuable county-funded infrastructure improvements on a key arterial route. Shouldn't our elected officials engage in this kind of long-term thinking?

    And the argument that accidents will happen irregardless of road configuration is easily disproved by the fact that other roads exist in the world, with more traffic, on which less people die. Pointing to Highway 67 to prove that San Vicente Road is safe by comparison is analogous to saying that riding a bull is safe because, hey, you could be riding a shark.

    • Herve Auch-Roy

      Sorry Kyle B, your argument about comparing Highway 67 to San Vincente road is flat out wrong. Highway 67 sees far more traffic than San Vincente road, hence people pay more attention on 67.
      The issue is not curves, but drivers attitude. If you really want to spend $20 Millions of tax payers’ money, spend the most part on schools, and teach your kids to drive safely.
      Put $1M on better road signs and strips on the pavement of San Vicente road, and spend the remaining $19M teaching people to be responsible while on the road, and elsewhere for that matter.
      Educated and responsible: this is how things will get better.
      No matter how wide the road will be, no matter what speed limit will be posted (55, 65, 60 MPH), there will be people driving above it, and the wider the road, the higher speed these people will go over the posted speed limit.
      Every day on the straight portion on San Vicente road within the Estate, I’m being passed by tens of cars and trucks driving at around 80 MPH, where the speed limit is 45 MPH. And every month, there is a crash on that section.
      People are either on the phone, or drunk, or under the influence of drugs of all sorts.
      Once again, the issue is not the road; the issue is right inside the vehicle, on the driver’s seat.
      Faster is not the solution. Smarter is, and for that, education is key.

      • Kyle B

        Hi Herve,

        I agree that each driver's attitude is the single greatest factor affecting their own safety and the safety of other's while on the road. Too many drivers drive far too fast, and the ultimate reponsibility for any injury and loss of life that may occur while they are behind the wheel lies on their shoulders. However, some roads are inherently more dangerous than others, resulting in higher accident rates for everyone, whether a safe or unsafe driver. I am not arguing that faster roads are safer; I am arguing that San Vicente road can be made safer than it is in its current state, and that the county's planned improvements are a step in the right direction.

        And the "flat out wrong" argument comparing Highway 67 to San Vicente Road was made by Mr. Foote, not myself. My mention of this comparison was an attempt at humor to highlight the same absurdity in this arbitrary comparision that you yourself also pointed out.

  3. Sandy C.

    1) It is illegal for the County to pay for the water line relocation. 2) The County was going to loan the RMWD the money to pay for the pipeline relocation at a very low interest loan until the RMWD’s General Manager told them that repayment was included in the RMWD’s long range plan (it wasn’t). The County rescinded their offer after reviewing the plan and told the RMWD to go pound sand. 3) The RMWD could use their pipeline on Old Julian Highway to provide water to the San Diego Country Estates if it wasn’t for the fact that they spent $7 million on a pump station and pipeline that they can’t get water to. It’s affectionately called the “Pump station From Nowhere” by RMWD staff. That $7 million would have more than paid for this pipeline relocation.

    • Kyle B

      Sandy – Thank you for your comments – I would love to read an "old-school" investigative journalism piece looking into the pump station you refer to, as well as more on what exactly happened in negotiations between the county and the RMWD. Point 1 that you make, in particular, is very important to keep in mind.

  4. Sandy C.

    Regarding 1, there's three issues. First is that the money for the relocation comes from gas tax revenue which is illegal to spend on anything other than roads. The second issue is California Streets and Highways Code Section 1463, allows utility companies within public right of way to construct facilities within the road on the condition that are responsible for all costs when improvements are made to the road. The third is it constitutes a gift of public funds even if it's to another public agency. Dianne Jacob's discretionary "slush" fund is an option, but she tends to reserve that money for parks. Regarding 2, on September 29, 2011 the RMWD sent the County (Terrence Rayback) an email saying that repayment of the County's loan was within RMWD's rate model. The County asked for and received a copy of the rate model and it was blatantly obvious that it wasn't included and statements made in the email were untrue (You can make a public information request of the County or RMWD for a copy of the email and rate model). The County rescinded the loan offer. Regarding 3, you can ask any of RMWDs Operations staff about the ability to use their pump station without draining the tank that feeds customers in downtown Ramona. $7 million was spent on the project in conformance with voter approval of Proposition S. Contrary to the vote of the public, RMWD's management decided not to finish the project so the "pump station from nowhere" sits idle without the ability to get a sufficient supply of water to it to meet demands of the San Diego Country Estates.

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