Ask the PAC: A look ahead at Safe Streets

The City looks to spend about $13 million in Measure U and road maintenance funds in 2023 alone.|

For the 2023-24 fiscal years, the Petaluma City Council is committing to strengthening a “safe streets” initiative, so that all city residents – whether driving, biking or walking – will feel an increased sense of protection on the roads.

The May 2 decision to make so-called “safe streets” a priority came as the city continues to study local traffic collision reports and monitor pavement conditions to finalize a Local Roadway Safety Plan.

At a May 9 budget workshop, city staff introduced a five-year pavement investment plan which amounts to more than $43 million in roadway projects to cover about one third of Petaluma’s streets – or roughly 62 miles – of roadway rehabilitation by 2027. The City looks to spend about $13 million in Measure U and road maintenance funds in 2023 alone.

But with the extensive to-do list, many residents are wondering what officials plan to get done first in relation to increasing the level of “safe streets.”

Question: What will a “safe streets” initiative entail and which projects will be prioritized to achieve city goals?

Answer: The Safe Streets Petaluma initiative started as a community-led effort to incorporate active transportation methods along city roadways as a way to not only create a wider range of transportation options for residents, but do so in a way that helps the city step toward its carbon-neutral, climate-friendly goals, and lower the amount of dangers that traffic imposes.

“But it’s a big ask to do that without having the infrastructure in place,” said Nicole Camarda, Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee member who helps lead Safe Streets Petaluma efforts.

In a slideshow presentation Monday, city officials laid out a plan of more than a dozen upcoming and ongoing projects that look to transform roads with “safe streets” and traffic calming elements over the next two years. Among the first efforts include the ongoing Petaluma Boulevard South Complete Streets project, set to reach completion by the end of the summer. In the Fall of this year, officials will conduct a $25,000 assessment study of the city’s pedestrian bridges.

Projects that the city is currently focusing on include downtown ADA improvements ($140,000), pedestrian improvements ($100,000), traffic signal improvements ($150,000) and citywide striping improvements ($105,000). Improvements to the East Washington sidewalks, an Active Transportation Plan and crossing improvements on Corona Road and McKenzie Avenue are expected to be completed next year.

In 2024, residents can expect for pedestrian bridge renovations to be completed ($200,000), D Street improvements ($100,000), an LED street light and facility lighting retrofit ($533,000) and the completion of the Complete Streets project on North McDowell Boulevard ($5.49 million). These projects will be made possible greatly in part due to the voter-passed Measure U tax.

Camarda said that while she looks forward to these projects being brought to reality, she hopes they will be done as quick-build models, citing that it took more than a year before she saw the temporary traffic circle on Bassett and Upham Streets finally installed. Camarda also hopes the road improvements will include an increase in tree canopy, which she said is very important for active transportation.

“We know that the more trees and shade (there are) the more likely people are to walk and ride, and also it acts as a carbon sink so we don’t have just all asphalt,” she said.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at amelia.parreira@arguscourier.com or 707-521-5208.

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