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Rainier Avenue undercrossing inches forward in Petaluma

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Flooding, traffic relief and the effects of development will be major issues fleshed out as Petaluma begins an environmental impact report on a long-planned Rainier Avenue cross-town connector.

One topic that won’t be in the EIR but is just as crucial is how it would be paid for. The project, on Petaluma’s radar for more than two decades, currently isn’t funded.

Interested parties will have an opportunity to weigh in on what should be in the EIR at a public meeting Aug. 30.

The project would extend Rainier Avenue from its end at North McDowell Boulevard east of 101 to a new intersection at Petaluma Boulevard North west of the highway.

It would create a new four-lane street a little less than three-quarters of a mile long that would pass under Highway 101 about eight-tenths of a mile north of East Washington Street. It would cross over the Petaluma River and the railroad tracks on a new bridge.

It would provide what motorists have said for years they want: another way to move between the east and west sides of Petaluma across the highway. Currently, drivers have four spread-out options: Caulfield Lane, East Washington, Corona Road and Old Redwood Highway.

A Rainier crossing has been discussed for years in Petaluma, previously as an overcrossing with a Highway 101 interchange, as just an overcrossing and most recently as a less expensive undercrossing.

An interchange with 101 still has supporters, but the City Council unanimously decided last year to move ahead with the undercrossing-only plan.

The undercrossing had to be planned before Caltrans completes the freeway widening now in progress, which will add an additional commuter lane in each direction through Petaluma.

Councilman Gabe Kearney said Friday there are multiple issues to be examined as the city proceeds with the project, not the least of which is funding.

“I like the idea of it,” he said, “but I also like the idea of having a personal helicopter, and that’s not happening.”

The city last year committed $3.5 million toward the planning and design of the project. This year, it pledged another $7 million toward construction in an effort to prevent the state from taking redevelopment funds.

The proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center would be required to pay nearly $6 million in traffic impact fees for a Rainier project. The EIR for that project is being completed now.

That is still many millions short of what the total project is expected to cost. No recent cost figures were available Friday, but previous city estimates from $32 million upward.

Kearney said the connector would have to ease existing traffic woes before he would support it. “All of our traffic mitigation is based on having Rainier in place,” he said.

Construction in the flood plain along the route would have to be restricted, as would any development, he said.

Former Councilman David Keller said the EIR must prove to residents that it will make a long-term difference in the city’s traffic problems.

“I have been asking for years how much relief will there be at East Washington and on North McDowell?” he said. “How many seconds of relief, and how long will that last? I have not gotten an answer to that, not once.”

A lack of data, he said, has perpetuated a “myth” that a Rainier crossing is a traffic panacea.

The public meeting will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Petaluma Community Center at 320 N. McDowell.





10 Responses to “Rainier Avenue undercrossing inches forward in Petaluma”

  1. Chris says:

    Whats with the wood fence behind all the houses on Rainer and McDowell? East Washington and Caulfield have a solid sound wall down all sides with the same speed limit and the roads have the same number of lanes. It seems like there is a discrepancy in what residences are being asked to put up with. The city should either lower speed limit and narrow the roads, or do what they have done on all other roads. An underpass is out of the question unless there’s tolerable road noise. I believe the City of Petaluma requires 25dB or less. I’m pretty sure all the houses on McDowell and Reiner hear road noise well above that level.

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  2. Kim says:

    Homegrown,
    While you’re correct in the backup that happens there, this happens during evening commute hours and the traffic is coming from HWY 101, not from the west side of town. While I have no statistics to back that statement, only observances, I’d be willing to look at any statistics that anyone has that denote how much time a cross town connector will save….but….there aren’t any! Its ALL speculation!

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  3. homegrown says:

    Kim,

    YES it is proven that it will bring traffic relief… Just go sit at the church on the corner of Washington st and sonoma mnt parkway. Notice the quarter mile long left hand turn lane?

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  4. flood watcher says:

    John Cheney is right. He’s not a NIMBY because upstream delveopment caused his flooding. You can’t stop flooding. You can only move where it floods (to a degree).

    Industrial Ave. on the north end of town (where the Auto Maul is) used to be the lowest point along the river. That whole area flooded during every heavy winter storm. Sometime back in the late 70′s/early 80′s the Petaluma city council decreed the area to be a floodplain instead of a floodway. The major difference between the two is that you can develop in a floodplain. And that they did.

    They brought a good 4 feet of fill in order to develop there. This was the low point no more. This action made John Cheney’s Payran Street neighborhood the new low point. And flood there it did.

    Now we have the so-called “flood fix”. This isolates the Payran Street area from flood waters. Sort of anyway. This isn’t the low point anymore.

    The new low point is the Deer Creek Plaza site as well as points due west across Highway 101. This is precicely where Rainier Ave. would run. What good is a road that’s flooded throughout the winter?

    And nobody knows how they plan to build the section from 101 to Petaluma Blvd North. Imagine a road going under the freeway, over both the river and the railroad tracks (whatever regulatory agency it is will not approve an at-grade crossing there) AROUND Cinnebar Hill and over to the Boulevard at some point. That would look more like a roller coaster than a road.

    Wouldn’t you think that if Rainier Ave. was honestly intended to connect to Petaluma Blvd, they would have placed it so there wouldn’t be any obstacles in teh way? My hope is that this pre-EIR meeting will shed light on how grossly improbable, impracticle, ridiculous a Rainier Ave. extension is.

    Oh yeah. And there’s hardly any money available to build it.

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  5. Kim says:

    Believe me I’m no David Keller fan but on this one he’s got it right. Nobody, but nobody can give an accurate representation of how much time a cross town connector will save in gas or driving time to get from one side to the other. Is it worth 12 million dollars(or more) to save three minutes (or less) in travel time? Is it worth putting in a dam across a flood plane only to have more business, mobile home parks and homes to the north flood during heavy rains?

    On top of that with the present city council majority (not to mention the dizzy planning commission) we’re never going to get enough business to grow roots in Petaluma to support a tax base to allow for such a project. Besides the David Kellers and the Matt Maguires will file law suit after law suit that the city will have to defend…plus they would also shread any EIR that came along.

    All in all….It ain’t gonna happen! If someone running for city council campaigns on this issue…..run away…they’re one taco shy of a combination plate.

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  6. homegrown says:

    BigDogatPlay,

    It is not really a “under crossing” it will actual be ground level along with the “SMART Train” tracks

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  7. BigDogatPlay says:

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that an undercrossing at Rainier is going to be a water park and impassable most winters.

    Rainer has to be an overcrossing or not at all. But the problem with that is that it would have to be at least 35 feet in the air to accommodate the railroad tracks.

    Once again the Petaluma City Council fiddles while the city rhetorically burns. What money there is would be far better spent on repairing the roads we have and re-building the Corona overcrossing with on and off ramps.

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  8. Seriously says:

    @ John Cheney

    Is there flooding downstream of you? Your home was part of “greedy construction” upstream of others at one point. Don’t be such a hypocrite. You have yours and no one else can have theirs and you are going to use the flooding issue as your stopgap. The projects can be designed to negate the flooding issue, very easily actually. Although you and all the others looking to kill any of these projects will not listen to sound design because it will not suite your argument.

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  9. John Cheney says:

    John Cheney
    I’ve lived in the flood area of Petaluma for over twenty five years and my home has been flooded numbers times. You may think of me as a fool for continuing to live here. But, it’s my home where I raised my family. It was greedy construction above us that started the flooding here in the Payran area. After eighteen years of debate the city and federal government started a flood fix in the year of 2000–now eleven plus years later it is still not completed. Without completion of the flood fixes the army corp of engineers will not do a new flood map of the Petaluma river, and there are using old maps from before it started flooding. Complete the flood fixes, call in the Army Corp Engineer , than in conjunction with the Army Corp do an EIR on both Rainier and Deer creek. Is it to much to ask for have safety from flooding? No it is not!! We deserve to be safe from flooding . We paid our taxes too!!!

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  10. GAJ says:

    Would you put a new addition on your house when the foundation under the existing house is crumbling?

    Ironic that this article appears on the same day as the PD article entitled “Petaluma’s roads still the worst in County.”

    Here’s the opening paragraphs:

    Petaluma officials agree with recent grand jury findings that the city’s roads are deplorable, but there isn’t enough money to fix them, they say.

    “No matter what you do, the dollars aren’t there,” said Petaluma Mayor David Glass.

    A section of the 2010-2011 Sonoma County Grand Jury Report, titled “Petaluma Potholes,” finds that “staff reductions, due to budgetary priorities, have left the city without the proper resources required to adequately maintain all city infrastructure.”

    The grand jury report comes at the same time as a Metropolitan Transportation Commission pavement condition index that ranks Petaluma’s roads as the worst in Sonoma County — for the second time in two years.”

    http://www.petaluma360.com/article/20110808/COMMUNITY/110809542/1362/community?tc=ix

    Here’s a novel thought; how about you don’t build any new roads until you can maintain the existing ones?

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