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Petaluma's turn for highway work

After watching patiently as the freeway got widened and interchanges were improved north of town in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, Petalumans are about to get similar relief.

One Highway 101 interchange project is already underway and two more are slated to begin in late 2012 or early 2013, though it's unlikely that drivers will benefit from any finished projects until 2014.

Work on the East Washington Street Interchange started in December. Construction includes straightening a tightly curving southbound onramp on East Washington Street, adding a second lane on the interchange's northbound offramp, and introducing a new, northbound onramp that will eliminate the need for drivers headed west on East Washington to make a left turn to go north on the highway.

Right now, workers are moving utilities like phone and electric lines farther from the freeway, a process that will last into 2013.

Actual construction won't begin until the utilities have been moved, and the project likely won't be completed until late 2014, said John Maitland, the deputy director of planning for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

Two other projects will begin in late 2012 or early 2013.

The Petaluma River Bridge, which carries the highway across the river near Petaluma Boulevard South, doesn't meet today's standards and must be replaced. At the same time, a lane will be added to the bridge in each direction.

Also, Caltrans will turn the Petaluma Boulevard South interchange into a diamond shape, where four ramps lead to an over-crossing with traffic signals.

Vice Mayor Tiffany Ren? spoke with enthusiasm about the project.

"This is an important project that will put people back to work and ease congestion and inconveniences," she said. Ren? represents Petaluma on the board of directors of the SCTA.

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