Petaluma Boulevard is getting its diet started before the new year arrives.

Work to reduce the number of lanes on the stretch of the road between Lakeville and Washington is mostly complete, with fresh striping laid down to mark wider curb parking and a dual left-turn lane now separating the northbound and southbound travel lanes.

Drivers now have the benefit of the center turn lane acting as a buffer from oncoming traffic, where before the narrow lanes resulted in sideswipes and long backups as drivers turning left onto side streets had to do so from the inside travel lane.

The travel lanes will be a foot-and-a-half wider than before, and curb parking will be 8 feet wide rather than six ? so drivers won?t have to pull their right wheels onto the sidewalk to feel like their cars are out of harm?s way.

It all means traffic will flow more smoothly and quickly through that stretch of the Boulevard, the city said.

Crews are taking a break from work during the traditional holiday shopping season, so new signal timing at the intersection of Washing-ton and the Boulevard won?t go into effect until a few weeks after the new year, according to the public works department.

?The existing traffic signal will work with the road diet, but not at its highest efficiency,? said Larry Zimmer, the city?s capital improvements manager.

Even so, ?Things are working well. It?s operating better than it was prior to us starting construction,? Zimmer said.

When the new signal configuration is complete, drivers waiting to turn left from the Boulevard onto Washington ? in either direction ? will turn at the same time, rather than when through traffic in the same direction gets the green light.

That means north- and southbound drivers on the Boulevard will not be held up by left-turning drivers, and can proceed across the intersection at the same time.

In addition to the signal work, street trees remain to be planted along that stretch of the Boulevard, Zimmer said.

The $2.2 million project, planned since 2005, is being funded with a combination of grants, redevelopment funds and city money.

(Contact Corey Young at