Now that the elections are over (almost-several races too close to call, including the City of SR 4th District between Fleming and Beattie), I get to write about other things than politics.
Traffic and Roads:
On Tuesday, at the ECA’s Annual General Membership Meeting being held at Epicenter on Coffey Lane, 12-1:30pm, we will have the Director of Transportation and Roads for the County of Sonoma, Johannes Hoevertsz, discussing the future of Sonoma County’s 1384 miles of roads. I would imagine this presentation will be specific as to what roads will be addressed first and when. Following Johannes’s presentation, we will hear from Jason Nutt, the Director of Transportation and Public Works for the City of Santa Rosa. Jason will also talk specifically about what we can expect with the funding streams in place as we move forward from our devastating fires of last year and the uncertainty of funding due to the Prop 6 effort to do away with SB1 taxes. This should be a very informative presentation and I hope you all can join us. Also, keep in mind, at the Annual GMM, the one-time members get to vote is on Tuesday as Members vote on the 2019 Board of Directors.
Highway 37 Update:
Although the Highway 37 process has taken a lot of time (I started attending meetings on the future of Hwy 37 eight years ago!), the State Route 37 Policy Committee (consisting of MTC and Caltrans as well as Sonoma, Marin, Solano, and Napa County and their respective Transportation Authorities) is getting quite close to “action”. I attended the meeting in Vallejo on Thursday, 11-8-18, and was able to see a vote to spend some of the first real funding from RM3 (the bridge toll hike) for Planning and Design of some important upcoming projects. Suzanne Smith of Sonoma County Transportation Authority prepared and got approved the following spending plan:
Solano Transportation Authority-$15 million for the Segment C-Fairgrounds Interchange improvements
Sonoma County Transportation Authority-$20 million for the Interim Segment B PAED and PS&E work for Highway 37 (Segment B is the stretch from Highway 121 to Mare Island)
Sonoma County Transportation Authority-$4 million for the PAED for Highway 37/121 Intersection Improvements
Transportation Authority of Marin-$3 million for Segments A1 and A2 Levee Study on Hwy 37
Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Transportation Authority of Marin jointly-$58 million for Segments A & B Improvements for Hwy 37
This is a huge step forward. If you recall, when MTC Regional Measure 3 was passed, it had allocated some $100 million for studies and design work to fix Highway 37. This action taken on 11-8-18 is the first allocation of funding from those RM3 dollars. Things will not move “quickly” in Contractor time now, but they will move forward with the needed design for both an interim fix (construction estimated to start in 2022) to the most congested 10 mile segment (from Sonoma Raceway to Mare Island) and also work on design and studies to do the ultimate fix to Highway 37 moving forward over the next 25 years.
The Committee also heard reports on the considered interim approach to the 10 mile Segment B (from Sonoma Raceway to Mare Island) which is construction of a 3rd lane and a movable barrier that would allow 2 lanes heading west in the morning commute, then the movable barrier would switch in late morning so there would be 2 lanes heading east in the afternoon commute. This interim fix is estimated to cut 80 of the 100 minutes out of a typical commuter’s drive time on Hwy 37.
I would be remiss if I did not talk briefly about how complex this Hwy 37 “solution” is. No less than 5 different alignments have had to be studied and vetted in order to determine the best route and the best way to design the final roadway. To refresh your memories, not only is the commute from Mare island to Hwy 121 (the 10 mile stretch referred to as Segment B) a 2-lane nightmare for traffic congestion, but the presumed sea level rise anticipated to be some 55” over the next 40-50 years puts large segments of the existing road under water. Private land is farmed on either side of Hwy 37 and levees are maintained by a wide variety of folks including the Sonoma Land Trust, private owners, Marin County, Sonoma County, and Caltrans. The five different alignment studied were:
- The existing alignment-just raise the road with fill and widen the road. Estimated cost $2.4 Billion
- The existing alignment-parts get raised, and part would be built as a causeway or bridge. Estimated cost $2.9Billion
- Move existing road to the North along the railroad tracks which would be a circuitous route but would bypass (inland) much of the sea level problems. Estimated cost $3.3 Billion
- Move the alignment to along the San Pablo Shoreline and build it as a causeway the whole way. Estimated cost $2.9 Billion
- Finally, move the alignment into San Pablo Bay, a direct line from San Rafael to Mare Island that would all be a causeway. Estimated cost $3.3 Billion.
Although a formal decision has not yet been made on the 5 alternatives, there was a motion to not spend any more money considering the Northern Alignment (#3 above). I would guess the preferred solution will be #1 or #2 above as they each would involve procuring less acreage than the other alternatives considered.
There was also a study presented on who the commuters were. This was very interesting, and I am not going to waste your time going over it, but the detail was impressive, and the bottom line is that commuters start and end in diverse locations which will make it very difficult to provide public transit that would work for the bulk of the commuters. The idea considered was to understand the commuter trips, so dollars would not be spent unnecessarily to try and publicly move these drivers if not feasible.
It may have taken a few years to get here, but this group deserves accolades for working together amongst themselves and also with the various environmental stakeholders along Hwy 37. Everyone seems to be getting along and the Chairperson of the Committee is none other than David Rabbitt from Petaluma-a staunch friend to the ECA.
If anybody is interested in looking at the staff reports and consultant reports that went into this or other meetings on Hwy 37, contact me please.
That is all for now-next week I can start writing some more opinionated columns as we move towards the end of 2018.
That’s All Folks