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What’s ahead for Petaluma roadwork in 2022

Petaluma officials and crews are set to have a busy year as they continue to map out and complete a variety of roadway projects throughout the city.

Planned projects for 2022 include a pair of “complete streets,” as well as various upgrades to curbs, sidewalks and roadway paving. Others remain in the design and planning phase and have yet to be slotted with an estimated completion date.

“Petaluma is undergoing a Renaissance right now,” said Christopher Bolt, director of the Petaluma Department of Public Works and Utilities. “It’s really amazing that we have all of these projects happening. It’s a very exciting time for us.”

As the city moves toward a more climate-friendly transportation approach, officials are anticipating major “complete streets” projects in the coming year. The projects, one along Petaluma Boulevard South and the other on North McDowell Boulevard, will transform roadways to be more inclusive to bikes and pedestrians.

The current four lanes of Petaluma Boulevard South from Crystal Lane to the downtown area will be reduced to two lanes, making room for bike lanes and improved pedestrian safety. Construction on this phase of the project is anticipated to begin in January.

“It’s going to include a lot of active transportation,” said city engineer Jeff Stutsman in a Tuesday interview. Stutsman added that some parking will be removed from H Street to Mountain View Avenue to add bike lanes. Multiple new traffic signals will be installed as well to ensure better communication and traffic flow between bicyclists and motorists.

A similar project is planned for North McDowell Boulevard from Sunrise Parkway to Old Redwood Highway. This project is currently in the design phase, as city staff gathers public comments, reviews the design and seeks additional funding sources before proceeding with construction. With that project, city officials will also coordinate with SMART as it installs its upcoming pedestrian-bicycle pathway that is set to connect to each station. The transit agency will also install two new traffic signals along North McDowell.

More recently launched is the reconstruction of a 100-year-old, timber-framed rail bridge over Thompson Creek, located at F and 1st streets. Paid for through the city’s Street Maintenance Fund, the bridge’s replacement is set to be finished by the summer. The bridge was closed to traffic starting Dec. 16.

“We’re happy that replacement of structures is happening quickly, just as we’re noticing some accelerated deterioration that concerned us,” Bolt said.

Pavement restoration remained in the spotlight this year, as Petaluma’s roads have historically been rated among the worst in the Bay Area. Bolt said he is hopeful Petaluma could get a helpful boost from the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill passed in November. An estimated $45 billion would go toward California as a whole. Meanwhile, Petaluma has set aside $2.5 million in its budget per year for the next five years to assist in finalizing road projects.

One hundred Petaluma streets received pavement updates in 2021 as part of the city’s annual Pavement Restoration Program, which helped address more than 25 miles of roadway. Also included in that program are enhancements to curbs and sidewalks in an effort to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. City workers have already installed numerous new ramps and sidewalk dips throughout the downtown area this year, and plan to do even more in the coming year.

Senior traffic engineer Ken Eichstaedt said having those sidewalk improvements are not just beneficial for ADA purposes, but for walkability in general.

“If you’re a parent and you’re pushing a stroller along, and you’ve got your shopping bags, (these improvements would be) just making it friendlier to get across the street,” Eichstaedt said.

The city’s future thoroughfare framework comes after Bolt, Stutsman and other officials proposed a Local Roadway Safety Plan at a Dec. 20 City Council meeting, where they mapped out a draft of the city’s top priorities for increasing road safety and reducing collisions. The Council agreed to return to the plan at a later date upon revisions, after the plan prompted a wave of criticism from the public and council members.

Bolt said he and other officials will be reaching out for more public input, as well as input from local schools, to ensure that the plan moves forward to address road safety needs in the best way possible.

“It’s going to take a little time, but we’re hopeful that in the first quarter of 2022 we can get the plan completed and enhanced with more community feedback,” Bolt said, adding that officials will meet with the city-hired engineering consultant group GHD next week to re-examine the plan.

In planning phase is a moveable bridge that would be constructed over the Petaluma River, extending Caulfield Lane to Petaluma Boulevard South. It’s intended to provide an additional route to help with crosstown travel traffic. Bolt and Eichstaedt both noted officials will obtain public input before moving forward with the construction process, and that a Cross Town Connector workshop is planned for February.

The City of Petaluma this year received roughly $600,000 from the Highway Safety Improvement Grant, which allowed officials to work with Caltrans to implement other improvements to city roads. That included fixing 150 feet of guard rail on Petaluma Boulevard North and traffic signal improvements at 12 intersections.

Lynch Creek Trail also received a 10-foot concrete pathway from Payran Street north to the pedestrian bridge along Holly Lane this year, which ultimately allows pedestrians, bicyclists, and wheelchair users to travel more safely through the area. The trail connects the east and west sides of town via a passage under Highway 101.

And then, of course, the year’s main attraction was the widening of Highway 101, as Caltrans took a step forward in December to complete a third, northbound lane between Lakeville Highway and the Lynch Creek Trail bridge.

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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