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(dailynews.com) This winter’s rainy season may have filled the state’s reservoirs, but for the state department tasked with keeping California’s highway system unobstructed and pothole free, it’s been a record-breaking financial drain.

Since the beginning of the year, California’s state highway system has been buffeted with more than 400 sinkholes, downed trees, and mudslides. Caltrans puts the price tag for all this wet weather damage at 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.

“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.”

Yolo County hasn’t been spared. Initial damage estimates are for more than $6 million. And that amount is expected to continue rising as more water recedes, more damage is uncovered and better engineering estimates for permanent fixes are developed over the next several months.

It was only last week that Hwy. 16 through the Cache Creek Canyon was reopened to Hwy. 20, for example, due to damage created by numerous landslides.

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.

For state Democrats, this budget buster of a rainy season came at a politically opportune moment. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) unveiled a plan to raise $52 billion for road repairs in the coming decade with a spending package that includes a 12-cent gas tax and higher vehicle fees.

The state Legislature narrowly approved the plan to increase gas taxes and vehicle fees late last week, a move expected to raise tens of billions of dollars over the next decade to repair the state’s worn and aging transportation infrastructure. And, of course, to repair the roads made worse by our wet winter.

 “The rain has exacerbated — but it’s also really illustrated — the vulnerability of these poor streets and roads throughout the state,” said Amy Worth, a commissioner for the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission and a council member for the City of Orinda. “The silver lining of the storm will hopefully provide the energy to push this (vote) over the line.”

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 under-investment on stark display,” said Caltrans spokesperson, Vanessa Wiseman, in an email.

According to a Senate analysis, Caltrans would need an additional $6 billion each year to properly maintain and operate the state highway system. At the local level, cities and counties would need another $7.2 billion to bring their streets and roads back up to working order. That adds up to $132 billion over the next 10 years.

Though few lawmakers disagree that the state’s transportation infrastructure has been neglected, opinions differ over where to place the blame.

Whatever the cause of the state’s increasingly shoddy network of roads, the result has been a higher burden on local and county governments, which have had to pay 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.

According to Caltrans, the three counties that saw the most severe damage to the state-owned highway systems were all in the Bay Area — Marin, Santa Clara, and San Mateo. Though local and county roads were similarly affected, the region has passed local sales tax initiatives to keep up with some of the repair. That’s fortunate, says Goodwin, since repairing a moderately damaged pavement is five to 10 times cheaper than replacing it.