Stretches of two major streets are being slimmed down to improve traffic flow and safety ? we?ll find out this spring if it works

If the ?road diet? project on Petaluma Boulevard North could be compared to a weight-loss commercial, then it?s nearly time for the ?after? shot.

New pavement and lane striping is complete, along with wider curb parking, new sidewalks and streetlights on the stretch between Washington and Lakeville streets.

Only a few cosmetic changes remain ? activation of flashing crosswalk lights at two locations and new traffic-signal timing at the main intersection.

The new signal poles are already in and should be active in a few weeks, after electrical work is checked to ensure the signalization works properly, said Larry Zimmer, the city?s capital improvements manager.

That will bring an end to the long-planned project, a $2.2 million reconfiguration of the four-lane road segment into three lanes ? a wider travel lane in each direction and a dual left-turn lane in the center.

With a center turn lane, traffic won?t back up behind a driver trying to make a left onto a side street or driveway, officials said ? that driver can now move into the center lane and wait for one lane of oncoming traffic to clear, rather than two.

In addition, the wider parking areas along each curb give drivers the ability to park without pulling their right wheels onto the sidewalk.

Combined with the wider traffic lanes, passing drivers won?t have such a narrow space between their cars and those parked along the curb, which caused many to slow to a crawl in order to safely navigate the precarious stretch of road, the city said.

At the intersection, the new signals will improve traffic flow by monitoring traffic patterns more closely, said Frank Penry, the city?s traffic engineer.

Previously, drivers heading north or south on the Boulevard crossed the intersection at the same time as others turning left from the same direction.

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