The California legislature’s approval of a $52 billion road repair plan for the state couldn’t come too soon for the rain-battered streets and highways that have already suffered severe damage this year.

Since the beginning of the year, California’s state highway system has been buffeted with more than 400 sinkholes, downed trees, and mudslides. According to Caltrans, the price tag for all this wet weather damage is roughly $866 million. That means 2017 — just three months in — is already the most expensive year for California’s state road system in at least two decades.

In the twelve counties of Southern California, Caltrans puts the price tag for state highway damage at nearly $111 million. Both Los Angeles and Ventura counties have sustained significant damage this year — over $55 million in Los Angeles and over $24 million in Ventura as of March 30, 2017.

“It’s a disaster out there,” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “If we don’t have the ability to move goods and trade—we’re the largest trade state—then obviously that directly impacts our overall economy.”

With additional snow melt still to come and the possibility of more weather damage in the months ahead, Caltrans is likely to see well over $1 billion in emergency road repairs and restorations before the year is out. That figure does not include the costs borne by city and county transportation and public works departments, which manage roughly 80 percent of the state’s roadways, paying for maintenance and repairs out of their own budgets. “The share of the burden borne on the shoulders of local funding has been growing for a generation,” said John Goodwin, a spokesperson for the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The cost of providing emergency fixes to the state highway system has been on an upward trend for the last few years. In contrast to this year’s storm-induced damages, the $660 million bill from 2016 was largely the result of fire and the clearing of trees killed by the drought. But this year’s storm costs could be worse than they otherwise would be thanks to years of neglect. Pockmarked, low-quality pavement degrades at an escalating rate and small potholes beget larger potholes.

“The storms put the consequences of years of deferred maintenance and underinvestment on stark display,” said Caltrans spokesperson, Vanessa Wiseman.

Click here to view source: CalMatters