By JIM FREMGEN
This year's worst road in Sonoma County is Lichau Road, a scenic, country route that winds up into the hills east of Rohnert Park.
At least that's the verdict of Road Warrior readers who responded to our second annual poll last month, voting for a total of 87 roads.
Runner-ups were Spring Hill Road west of Petaluma, Sonoma Mountain Road between Bennett Valley and Glen Ellen and Frei Road north of Sebastopol.
Lichau and Frei were runners-up in last year's poll, in which Irwin Lane just west of Santa Rosa won. Irwin was excluded from this year's poll.
The poll is informal, and this year's results probably were tilted to Lichau by Janae Rosen, who lives on a sidestreet along Lichau and whose email blitz to her neighbors got dozens to vote for Lichau (pronounced Lee-how).
Rosen also has whipped up Lichau's residents to sign a petition — about 200 so far — demanding that the county fix the 3.8-mile road that starts out flat and then heads up the hill, offering amazing views of the Santa Rosa Plain. Lichau ends at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.
In meeting so far with county officials, the neighbors have won promises that the county will look into repairs but no guarantee of actual major improvements.
Tom O'Kane, deputy director of the county Transportation and Public Works Department, said he feels for Rosen and other Road Warrior readers who want their roads fixed. But it's a matter of money — the lack of it — that's preventing the county from doing much more than patching potholes on most of its roads, he said.
In fact, the county Board of Supervisor has decided to have O'Kane and his crews keep only about 150 miles of the county's 1,387-mile network in good shape, meaning the remaining 1,230 or so miles essentially will be left to deteriorate, other than very basic repairs.
For Lichau, O'Kane said, county officials plan to meet again with the residents, figure out what repairs can be made, how much they'll cost and try to figure out where to go from there. He said the lower stretch of Lichau can be relatively easily repaired if money for the project is found but the upper stretch where the road is being damaged by shifting hillsides is not an easy fix.
O'Kane said the county has a plan for fixing Spring Hill Road — grinding it down, putting a heavy duty sealant over the pavement and chip sealing it off — but again it's an issue of funding before the work can be done.
He said the funding crisis is forcing crews to focus on major roads rather than country roads where traffic is low. He didn't have figures for Lichau, but O'Kane said the county counted 229 vehicles using Spring Hill over 24 hours on a Wednesday in June 2010.
One possible alternative for improving rural roads is for residents to create a service district and basically tax themselves to pay for repairs, he said.
Victims identified in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino fires
Karen Aycock, 56, Santa Rosa
Christina Hanson, 27, Santa Rosa
Linda Tunis, 69, Santa Rosa
Carol Collins-Swasey, 76, Santa Rosa
Lynne Anderson Powell, 72, Santa Rosa
Arthur Tasman Grant, 95, Santa Rosa
Suiko Grant, 75, Santa Rosa
Donna Mae Halbur, 80, Larkfield
Leroy Peter Halbur, 80, Larkfield
Valerie Lynn Evans, 75, Santa Rosa
Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75, Apple Valley (vacationing in Santa Rosa)
Michael John Dornbach, 57, rural Calistoga
Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67, Santa Rosa
Carmen Colleen McReynolds, 82, Santa Rosa
Sharon Rae Robinson, 79, Santa Rosa
Mike Grabow, 40, Santa Rosa
Daniel Martin Southard, 71, Santa Rosa
Lee Chadwick Roger, 72, Glen Ellen
Roy Howard Bowman, 87, Redwood Valley
Irma Elsie Bowman, 88, Redwood Valley
Kai Logan Shepherd, 14, Redwood Valley
George Chaney, 89, Napa
Edward Stone, 79, Napa
Charles Rippey, 100, Napa
Sara Rippey, 98, Napa
Sally Lewis, 90, Napa
Teresa Santos, 50, Napa
Garrett Paiz, 38, Missouri