Petaluma city staff present ideas to improve safety on D Street

The city estimates that about 9,500 vehicles travel over D Street every day.|

Petaluma city staff are rolling out a preliminary plan that aims to increase safety by calming traffic on D Street, one of the city’s oldest and most utilized roads.

In a public workshop held via Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 18, city engineers and public works staff proposed what’s called “quick build” pilot projects in areas along D Street between Petaluma Boulevard and the city’s southern boundary. Suggested projects include bike lane restriping, traffic diverters and other design elements.

By using these pilot projects, the city hopes to learn what will and won’t work when the time comes for a complete reconstruction of D Street, which would follow large-scale sewer and water main replacement projects slated for 2024.

“The City is committed to creating safer streets and doing so in a way that best suits the needs of our community,” staff stated in a report published prior to the workshop. “We are seeking input on proposed traffic calming, pedestrian, and bicycle improvements that can be installed quickly using low-cost, flexible materials.”

Tuesday’s virtual workshop came as the D Street area has seen an increase in vehicle speed and traffic collisions in recent years. Staff reported roughly 63 crashes have occurred on D Street since 2017. Staff reported that roughly 9,500 vehicles use D Street every day.

Proposed changes included using “traffic diverters” to prohibit left turns from D Street onto 4th and 5th streets, since the current left turn lanes have been reported to create traffic backup. At the same time, the project calls for a “refuge island” to be installed at those intersections for pedestrians, giving them a safe place in between oncoming traffic. But staff agreed that these intersections need to be further studied after one resident raised concerns about traffic buildup in areas near the post office.

Residents will be able to give further feedback on the project via an online survey, which was set to be launched Oct. 20 and available until Nov. 11. (The survey was not yet online as of Oct. 21.) It will also be brought to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting on Nov. 2.

A survey given during the workshop also asked the public about whether a portion of D Street near Sunnyslope Road should leave room for multiple buffered bike lanes and take out street parking, leave some street parking, or stay as is with no bike lanes.

Other feedback staff received Tuesday included a call for more street trees in the plan and a call to undo D Street’s truck route designation, due to concerns over large commercial trucks coming through the area.

“This is a residential neighborhood that doesn’t like the traffic, doesn’t like the noise, and there are a lot of people up in arms about this,” said a resident named Michael, who said he’d lived on D Street for about nine years. “I don’t think they’re going any less than 60 or 70 miles an hour.”

City engineer Jeff Stutsman responded, noting the truck route designation was approved by the City Council in 2012, but that removing it may be under consideration in the future.

“It’s not a simple process,” said Stutsman. “But it can be done.”

Some residents also asked why this specific proposal leaves out the east leg of D Street, from Payran Street past Lakeville to the Petaluma River, which has been the center of recent traffic complaints. But staff reassured that this section will not be neglected during the larger Local Roadway Safety plan and the General Plan update.

No specific action or direction was given at the Tuesday workshop. But after gathering more feedback on the proposal, quick-build project elements are expected to be installed this winter, with specific dates still to be determined.

The project will be evaluated until 2024, when a more long-term project will be constructed.

Funding for the quick-build project will come from traffic mitigation impact fees and street maintenance funds.

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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