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Petaluma to extend downtown ‘road diet’


At Viva Cocolat in Petaluma, customers can enjoy a gourmet truffle, a luscious chocolate bar and, at the right time of day, the view of a traffic jam through the picture windows.

The popular chocolate shop in downtown Petaluma sits along a bustling strip of Petaluma Boulevard where city leaders are planning a “road diet,” which has nothing to do with the indulgent treats chocolatier Lynn Wong prepares inside.

This stretch of Petaluma Boulevard North through the heart of downtown will be reduced to one lane in each direction with a center left-turn lane. (PD File)

The idea is to reduce Petaluma Boulevard from four narrow lanes to two wider lanes with a two-direction turn lane in the middle from East Washington Street through the heart of the downtown shopping district. A similar change was completed farther north on the street in 2008.

Traffic engineers say the reconfiguration will make the road safer for all travelers — motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians — who all have to share the tight space. Collisions, especially side-swipes, are expected to be reduced by more than a third with the new configuration.

But some downtown merchants have concerns that the reduction in lanes and the elimination of some parking spots could make shoppers avoid the area.

“I see traffic every day through my windows,” Wong said. “At key times, it’s completely backed up. And that’s with two lanes. I can’t even imagine when it’s just one lane what it’s going to be like during those congested times.”

City traffic studies of Petaluma Boulevard North show a decrease in collisions, from 20 to 9, after the 2008 road diet, while traffic volume remained the same.

Senior engineer Erica Ahmann Smithies said the project will add to the total number of parking spaces downtown. While a few will be lost on the north end, 18 will be added closer to the Theatre District, between C and E Streets.

Downtown Association president Jeff Mayne said most merchants are happy with the city’s adoption of their suggestion to reopen Water Street to parking as part of the diet. About six years ago, the city removed some parking along the Petaluma River behind businesses as part of a rehab of Water Street.

“That’s everyone’s deal: where are people going to park when they come in to my restaurant, my store, whatever,” he said. “That, to us, was a really big win to have the city listen and respond.”

The City Council has approved the project, which will come before them again this summer to awarding a construction contract and add the Water Street parking idea, Ahmann Smithies said.

Work could start in late July or early August.

If the city approves the Water Street parking, that would ease the parking crunch, Wong said.

“Out of towners find it very frustrating to find parking,” she said. “They never say the streets are too narrow.”

Also to ease merchants’ concerns, Ahmann Smithies said, work must be done before the holiday shopping season begins, must stop on the weekends and lane closures will be minimized.

Eighty percent of the $610,000 project is funded through a regional traffic grant, with the city using about $122,000 it has from state transportation bonds funds.

Contact Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

8 Responses to “Petaluma to extend downtown ‘road diet’”

  1. Dana says:

    Traffic is already so congested in Petaluma, it is hard to see how reducing the number of lanes will do anything but frustrate people even more. More and more businesses in the downtown are closing and this plan appears to bode poorly for the shopping district.

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  2. Carole I. Huygen says:

    If we’re going to waste (oops I mean spend) Petaluma’s money on this project, is it going to include retiming the traffic signal at Washington and “the boulevard” so pedestrians have more than 5 seconds to cross the street. Can we keep in mind the senior citizens and parents with strollers when considering this renovation, please.

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  3. patrick says:

    Good. It’s about time.

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  4. Corn Fused says:

    Ms.Smithies and her like are practicing their social engineering skills on innocent municipalities all over county. GUESS WHO LOSES? Not her, oh no, the rest of us.

    Ridiculous concepts like traffic circles, center turning lanes to nowhere, and downtown live/work units are bankrupting EVERYONE involved. Look at Windsor as an example, the city, businesses, homeowners and the developer all got the shaft when they woke up from the “downtown dream”. 100′s of MILLIONS! were lost to the concept.

    Where does she think the traffic will go to? D street? Kentucky? Western? 4th? and more parking for the Theater district? seriously? there is a 600+ car parking lot there already!

    It is about time someone grew a set on the Petaluma City Council, this charade needs to stop. Here’s and idea, fire Ms. Smithies and use the money to fix the crappy roads we already have.

    Enough already!

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  5. Kay Tokerud says:

    Here we go again. Spend money we don’t have to conform to the UN Agenda 21 smartgrowth model. Removing roads or not maintaining them when we DO NOT have any good public transportation options will only further destroy the economy in Sonoma County. To the Agenda 21 people along with ICLEI that’s a good thing because the ultimate goal of agenda 21 is to break down our capitalist free market system. Yes, they want to destroy our system of government so they can convert our country to the new world system.

    United Nations Agenda 21 Sustainable Development lays out the new system.

    The three E’s. Environment, Economy and Equity. What’s Equity? It means that nobody should have any more than anyone else. Except for the elites at the top of course.

    Road diets are part of the anti-car, anti- single family homes, anti-private property rights and anti-free market capitalism system of world government that is being foisted on our country right now with the implementation of UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development..

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  6. 0 Representation says:

    What a complete waste of money. People are going to get tired very quickly of sitting in even more traffic and then avoid the area all together. It’s really too bad for the downtown merchants.

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  7. Kirstin says:

    “A regional traffic grant?” Reporter Carter, please specify exactly who/what is “giving” this “grant” of 80% of $610K. Is it MTC or SCTA or?

    As worded, this report makes it sound as though this money is just a gift out of the air. But of course it is not. It is taxpayer money! It may be “regional” or “state” but it is still money that we taxpayers have to pay off in some way or another.

    Does it make any sense for any city to undertake these traffic “calming” (as they are termed in Santa Rosa anyway) projects at a time when each municipality faces deficits?

    I don’t care that the money isn’t coming directly from a city coffer. No tax money, regardless of its source, should be used for such relatively frivolous projects when other streets are literally falling apart, and unfunded pension liabilities are climbing perilously, to name just a few pressing concerns.

    We taxpayers are going to have to pay the piper for all the tremendously out-of-proportion spending that has been going on at the local, state, and federal levels. Gov. Brown wants more taxes. Cities and counties want more. The feds too are already finding some ways to tax us and will find more as things get more strapped. Do all these politicians think the public has bottomless pockets? Well, news flash. We don’t.

    So, I hope ALL cities will get some smarts and stop spending money on everything but the basics for now. Let’s get our financial house in order and be sure we can pay for the necessities before we go off and “calm” the streets.

    This street “engineering” is, by the way, a fad among the crowd that also advocates high-density housing, spending over a billion dollars on a train that will only carry a tiny percentage of the population, and controlling how and what you do to your own property. That, in and of itself, should be enough to encourage the public to just say no to these misuses of public funds.

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  8. Jim Bennett says:

    ICLEI has successfully highjacked our transportation dollars (MTC).
    They are misappropriating our tax money to carry out oppressive ICLEI directive.
    These kind of shenanigans are happening at ICLEI towns across America.
    Sometimes they’ll build an over pass for the highway to competely bypass a downtown hub that’s been intact for ever.

    Another ‘business diet’.

    Paying public officials to **** you.

    Wonder how much grant money is tied into this act of treasonous small business sabotage.

    Those poor down town merchants are probably asking; ‘How can they do this to us’?

    They’re asking THE ICLEI QUESTION and probably don’t even know it.

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