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Downtown Merchants Split on Petaluma Boulevard Roadwork

Major concern is that construction will drag into holiday season, impeding sales

Downtown merchants remain split about the city’s plan to reduce the four lanes of Petaluma Boulevard to two starting next summer. The project will take out a lane in each direction of the boulevard between East Washington and E streets, and make the remaining lanes wider. It would also add a left turning lane at B Street and Western Avenue and add more depth to each parking spot.

Work is expected to start at the end of July 2012 and be completed in three months. But merchants say that’s getting dangerous close to the holiday season, a risk they just can’t afford to take in a shaky economy.

“They really need to be done by the end of October because that’s when the holiday season starts,” said Linda Postenrieder, co-owner of who opposes the project.

Postenrieder would like to see parking extended on all of Water Street, instead of being closed off halfway like it is now. An avid bike rider, she’s also concerned that the reduction of a lane on the boulevard will make the thoroughfare more dangerous for cyclists.

“Right now, I can take a lane and have traffic going around me, but with one lane, I will be backing up traffic,” she said.

But many other merchants are in favor of the project, saying they agree that it will help reduce accidents and make it easier to park downtown.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing for us,” said Holly Wick, owner of , a sporting goods store at Western Avenue and Petaluma Boulevard. But she too is concerned about the project dragging on for more than the allotted time.

“The worst thing for downtown would be to extend the construction into winter 2013,” Wick said. “The key to this is ‘Can the city deliver it in a timely manner?’”

A city staffer in charge of the project who did not want to go on the record, said there are already provisions in place that require the project to be completed by the start of holidays. The hard part, it seems, is convincing local businesses.

Do you think the so-called “road diet” will help reduce accidents and increase parking? Are you optimistic that the city can finish the project in three months? Tell us in the comments.

Will Bomar October 06, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Not real sure the title is 100% accurate, most merchants I have spoke with and most merchants at Council Meetings have expressed opposition. As owner of two store at the end of this project, I am very concerned of the impact of this project. I am also VERY concerned of the impact it will have on my sales during the summer. For my stores, June, July and August are some of my most profitable months. Residents already have a hard time getting downtown and parking is an issue. I also find it funny that the city staffer who did not want to go on record has a hard time wondering why we don't think it will be finished on time. Personally I was opposed to this road diet, I feel it is a complete waste of money. Money the city does not have. Who needs a turn lane down the middle of downtown when there are NO businesses with driveways! Just another way city government show it does not care about what downtown wants or needs. They had some "free" money from the Fed's and wanted to spend useless money on a project to keep city staff working. This is exactly why I closed one business and will not open another in downtown Petaluma. For the record, I hope I am wrong. I hope this project is a success and I hope the city will finish the project on time. I would love to be proved wrong.
Chad M. October 07, 2011 at 07:25 AM
I work at a downtown business on the blvd and i'm pretty open to this idea, as i've witnessed enough accidents on this stretch of road to know that something has got to change. There are no driveways - this is correct, however there are two intersections that currently don't have a protected left turn lanes and this is why western @ petaluma blvd is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city (by accident count). Parking is also something that will improve with this project, as traffic will no longer be inches away from hitting you as you try to get out of your car. I don't believe city staff is doing the design work or the construction, so I doubt it's really keeping staff all that busy. I think the main problem is the lack of communication from the city. They did a really poor job of getting feedback and addressing concerns from downtown businesses. I also find it troubling that the city staffer refused to go on the record. That IS exactly why many businesses in downtown don't trust the city.
John.Maher October 07, 2011 at 10:00 AM
Western & Petaluma Blvd? I personally "live" there on the weekends and believe it is not the street as much as it is the drivers. Entitled drivers who are thinking only of themselves at the risk of others. Solution: Patience and consideration.
Chad M. October 07, 2011 at 02:03 PM
That would be a good (less expensive) solution...
Goofpod October 07, 2011 at 03:08 PM
Learn from Sebastopol!! One lane and a turn lane is a solution?! Mark my words, watch and see the gridlock as you sit four blocks back at 3:00 in the afternoon. ONE-WAY TRAFFIC on the Blvd allows THREE LANES plus angled parking, opening up hundreds of additional parking spaces. Three lanes won't require dedicated turn lanes. Traffic would FLOW THROUGH DOWNTOWN with PLENTY OF PARKING. The city could generate more meter revenue (sorry) and downtown would stop being a non-green, congested area. Sure, it's a bigger undertaking but a far better solution than dicking around with these short-term fixes that are lacking logistically. Sebastopol downtown rocks!!
Chad M. October 07, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Oh yeah... the meter idea would go over real well right now. Let's build a bunch of big box stores with plenty of free parking and then put up meters in front of all the downtown mom and pop businesses. What a novel idea Goofpod!
Roy Bean October 07, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Wrong plan wrong place. I borrowed that from the groups against the asphalt plant!! By the way does Petaluma really need asphalt??
Goofpod October 07, 2011 at 05:01 PM
One-way BLVD, Kentucky St. pedestrian promenade, Train Depot Square... tying downtown together as a walking/shopping destination the Bay Area would love to visit. I'll never give up...
Goofpod October 07, 2011 at 05:04 PM
I hate parking meters, a real deterrent to attracting visitors/shoppers. But city coffers wield power via their need to be satiated... May be the only way to sway the powers that be.
Chad M. October 07, 2011 at 05:33 PM
The best way to sway the powers that be is at the ballot box.
Paul Claeyssens October 07, 2011 at 07:04 PM
The Center Lane is worthless as a left-turn lane, but a boon as a passing lane, as was used forever on many highways in California, including the Coast Highway One. This would relieve pressure when cars are parking, in a similar way to it works now.... in fact, the way it works now is great. Don't change anything.
Carol Castillo October 08, 2011 at 02:33 AM
Why not do a trial period with just painted lines? Then if it works, great. If not, not much is lost.
Chad M. October 08, 2011 at 02:41 AM
That would be a great idea. But I think it has to be all or nothing because of the grant money being used.
Karina Ioffee October 09, 2011 at 04:18 AM
Interesting idea. Which way would you have the traffic flow? south to north?
Goofpod October 09, 2011 at 08:22 PM
It doesn't work great now. What Planet Petaluma are driving on? Downtown congestion is a PITA every day, especially at rush hour. Only one solution makes sense long term: one-way Blvd, three beautiful lanes of flowing traffic and tons of angled parking spaces. Think big!

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