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An official from the Humboldt County Public Works Department cited research on Tuesday outlining dire conditions in the county’s infrastructure, prompting the county board of supervisors to formally oppose state Proposition 6, a November ballot measure which would repeal a tax that funds road repair.

The board voted unanimously 3-0 to oppose Proposition 6, with Supervisors Virginia Bass and Ryan Sundberg absent.

If passed, Proposition 6 would repeal a tax on gasoline set forth in April 2017 by state Senate Bill 1. It would additionally mandate any future gas taxes be approved by two-thirds of the state’s voters.

The average road pavement in Humboldt County is “at risk,” putting the county’s roads at a relatively unique position of need among other areas in California, according to information cited by Thomas Mattson, the department’s Public Works director.

The county has racked up nearly $200 million in “deferred maintenance,” or road repair that has not yet been completed. The amount is so high, Mattson said, because it costs far more to rebuild a road than it does to simply maintain it. Over the years, rural Southern Humboldt County has fallen victim to heavily damaged roads.

Thirty-five percent of bridges across the county are in need of repair, according to documents provided by the county association of governments. In raw numbers, 76 of the 204 bridges across the county are in need of replacement or rehabilitation.

When it comes to highways, the damage gets worse: 56 percent of all lane miles in the state’s highway system are in fair condition or worse, while just 44 percent of the miles are good.

In the next decade, another $663 million is required to maintain and improve the county’s pavement conditions, according to the documents.

If Proposition 6 passes, Mattson warned, the county would be set back greatly from the repairs it is already undertaking with the money it has. As reported previously, next year’s fiscal year budget will recede from a projected $8.8 million to $7.4 million with the passage of Proposition 6, while a year later, a projected budget of $10.8 million drops to $4.4 million, according to county documents.

SB 1 brought nearly $110 million in funding of road repair to the county while adding 12 cents to the price of gas. With the repeal of Proposition 6, the tax goes away, but so does future funding of the county’s efforts to repair its roads.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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