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.