It’s only about a year old, but the group Save Our Sonoma Roads is making headlines and scoring some success.

Last Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved spending $6.5 million on repairs for 13.2 miles of roads — a feat that SOS Roads takes some credit for.

Last Thursday, the Wall St. Journal published a story in its Bay Area edition on SOS’s campaign to get the county to spend more on road repairs.

The article promptly was promoted by a public relations firm with offices in Maryland and Sonoma.

And SOS’s growing political heft is evident in the group’s “Road Summit” next month at which county Supervisors Shirlee Zane and David Rabbitt are scheduled to appear.

“It’s been a pretty good week for us,” Craig S. Harrison, a cofounder of SOS, acknowledged last week.

Harrison, who lives along Sonoma Mountain Road in the Bennett Valley area, said the Board of Supervisors in June was on a track to improve long stretches of only four roads. But after some lobbying by SOS, he said, the county boosted that to 14 roads covering shorter segments. At SOS’s urging, he said,the county also agreed to spend $500,000 on demonstration road improvement projects trying out different methods and materials.

One of the 14 roads will be Lichau Road — 2011’s worst road in Sonoma County in last year’s Road Warrior reader poll — in the hills west of Rohnert Park. Lichau Road residents have organized to pressure county officials to improve the road, and SOS cofounder Michael Troy, a former CEO of Knowledge Point,  lives off Lichau.

After last week’s Board of Supervisors vote,  Susan Klassen, the county’s deputy director of public works and transportation, acknowledged to Press Democrat reporter Brett Wilkison that some roads were selected to balance funding among supervisorial districts or because of a groundswell caused by political pressure.  “I guess you could use the word squeaky wheel,” she told Brett.

Harrison says the PR firm, A. Bright Idea Advertising and PR, is working with SOS but “a benefactor” is paying for it. He wouldn’t say who, other than “a human being who lives on a lousy road” in Sonoma County.

Cobey Dietrich, the PR firm’s director of advertising and public relations, said, “Our client is a concerned citizen and supporter of SOS Roads who has asked us to support the organization’s advocacy efforts.”

So you can expect to hear more about SOS in coming months.

Harrison says November’s “Road Summit,” which is free and open to the public, although a $10 donation is welcome, will be an opportunity for county residents to ask Zane and Rabbitt about the county’s road crisis. Klassen also is scheduled to give a short presentation on the status of county roads and funding.

The meeting is 5 to 7  p.m. Nov. 14 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park’s Sonoma Mountain Village — the old Agilent facility.

Harrison, an environmental lawyer who telecommutes to his job for the D.C.-based law firm Hunton & Williams, says he finds it ironic that the online travel site recently rated Sonoma County as the nation’s premier wine destination even though the county’s roads are rated among the worst in the Bay Area.

“Something goofy is going on,” he says. “…we have great food and wine, but we can’t keep our infrastructure going.”

He says his research indicates the county needs to spend $30 million to $40 million a year for 10 years to truly repair and maintain the county’s 1,382.8 miles of roads rather than “the couple of million here, a couple of million there.”

To go to the SOS website, CLICK HERE.

To go to the Wall St. Journal story, CLICK HERE.


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