Officials Kick Off Petaluma Portion of Highway 101 Improvements

Improvements include two new bridges, highway shoulders, restriping and new interchanges at Lakeville Highway and Petaluma Boulevard South


The Petaluma portion of the Sonoma-Marin Narrows project officially kicked off Monday, part of an ambitious plan to improve traffic flow on Highway 101.

The project is a 17-mile endevour, stretching from Novato to Old Redwood Highway, but while other communities have already seen improvements, little has been done in Petaluma.

That's about to change.

Local improvements include replacing the Highway 116 and Petaluma River bridges, new onramps at Lakeville Highway and Petaluma Boulevard South and a sound wall long the northbound ramp from Lakeville Highway to the Caulfield overcrossing.

The project will also add a 10-foot shoulder and a 5-foot median to the Petaluma Bridge and improve the highway's vertical profile to increase sight distance from Lakeville Highway to the Petaluma Boulevard South interchange. 

That interchange will now connect to Kastania Road on the west side of Highway 101 and have bike lanes on the east side that will eventually connect to Novato. 

The improvements are being funded by Proposition 1B and Measure M, the quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2004.

"It may be April Fool's, but it's no joke that the project is commencing," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "This has been more than a decade in the making."

Supervisor David Rabbitt and Petaluma Mayor David Glass praised the project,saying it would create jobs for electricians, operating engineers, contractors, carpenters and others.

“The bridges will last a generation for our kids and beyond,” said Supervisor Rabbitt, reminding the public to be patient while work occurs over the next three years.

Improvements are expected to be completed by 2016.

The entire Sonoma-Marin Narrows project costs more than $1 billion and there are portions that remain unfunded, such as the carpool lanes from Lakeville Highway to Old Redwood Highway, road widening from the San Antonio Bridge to the Petaluma Boulevard South and widening from Atherton to the Marin-Sonoma county line.

The total unfunded work is about $225 million, which officials hope to obtain by renewing Measure M, together with state and federal funds.

Mayor Glass thanked voters for approving Measure M, but called for the sales tax to be extended.

Asked about the eucalyptus trees that were removed in preparation for the new Petaluma Boulevard South interchange, a source of anger for many Petaluma residents, James Cameron, a deputy director at Sonoma County Transportation Authority said that his agency, along with Caltrans, had no choice.

“We look for opportunities to keep trees whenever possible and work around them,” he said. “But we are dealing with a narrow corridor there and there was no room.”

San Rafael-based Ghilotti Brothers will be doing the road improvements.

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boethius April 01, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Very glad I don't commute south any more. Good luck to everyone else!
David Keller April 02, 2013 at 06:52 AM
It's too bad that CalTrans didn't care about congestion on our streets and new interchange. CalTrans' EIR said that slow traffic for Petaluma commuters as they approach or leave the new improved 101 isn't their problem: Southbound commuters will have to wait for 4 traffic lights and a metering light to enter 101 from Petaluma Blvd South. Northbound drivers entering Petaluma from 101 will wait for 3 traffic lights to get to Petaluma Blvd. South. Right now, there are no traffic lights to enter or leave 101 at Petaluma Blvd. South. CalTrans refused to alter any of their designs to reduce these obstructions despite 2 years of negotiation with their engineers and project directors. It appears that the new Interchange was designed for maximum convenience of truck traffic going to and from Dutra's proposed Asphalt Plant and Shamrock's aggregate facility, not our Petaluma commuters. Unfortunately, our City Council majority and SCTA reps didn't raise much of a fuss, with CalTrans telling the public that it has always been "too late to change" the Petaluma Boulevard South Interchange design and configuration, even when we proposed alternative designs for CalTrans. The destruction of the very popular heron and egret rookery (eucalyptus grove) is yet another result of poor design for Petaluma. CalTrans has once again proven their lack of creativity or sensitivity to local issues and values. And we'll live with this poor design for the next 75 years. New trees, anyone?
Linda April 03, 2013 at 06:04 AM
Wow, that is a lot of lights! I drive to Novato at least once, often twice a day. This will make my commute that much longer. Bummer.
The Fool April 03, 2013 at 06:13 AM
All one has to do is look at what CalTrans did to the Willits trees to reinforce Mr. Keller's points. Sometimes, I feel like local politicians have given up entirely on doing what's best vs. simply what's the most expedient.
Paul Claeyssens April 06, 2013 at 07:45 PM
Efficient movement for cars is now considered politically incorrect. Instead, cars should be impeded and slowed down with "Road Diets", Bulbouts, and lane deletions. The general mentality is to try to drive us out of our cars or get us to use them less. That makes no sense when there are not good alternatives. Our aging population cannot use bicycles, and most of us need to carry things with us while keeping them dry, including our children. Slowing down traffic by introducing impediments is also not safe. Impeding traffic reduces productivity, increases costs, and introduces frustration. Inadequately market traffic blockers like the Bulbouts along Petaluma Blvd north, and the way-too-tight round about at Baywood and Mcdowell, one block from the firestation are just plain dangerous. Look at the curbs there and see the tire marks and chips from damaged wheels. What are they thinking? No "Traffic Engineer" would dream up these things for efficient flow of traffic. They have been perverted.


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