By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Geyserville and nearby Alexander Valley are in line for road and bridge improvements leading to River Rock Casino.
More than a mile of Geyserville Avenue will be repaved in coming months with $200,000 secured from federal funds set aside for roads to Native American lands or businesses.
Another $150,000 has been obtained to kick off engineering and environmental studies on the Highway 128 bridge over the Russian River near Jimtown, to bolster the span’s abutments.
Hundreds of cars and about 30 tour buses use those roads daily to bring 1.3 million visitors annually to and from the casino on the Dry Creek Rancheria, about four miles from Geyserville.
North County Supervisor Mike McGuire said the use of the specially designated funds is new on the North Coast.
“This is the first collaborative project that will be getting off the ground north of the Golden Gate Bridge utilizing the Indian Reservation Road Fund,” he said.
The Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo applied for the money as part of a joint partnership with the county, McGuire said.
Tribal Chairman Harvey Hopkins said Friday that even though the money is being used on the most traveled routes to the casino, “this is not a mitigation issue. It’s an an opportunity to share a grant the tribe receives with the county.”
He said the Federal Highway Administration allocates the money for roads that tribes use.
“It doesn’t have to be going to the casino. It could be going to the (tribal) office in Santa Rosa,” he said.
But he said people in Geyserville “will get the benefit. It’s great.”
Another $50,000 from the Indian Reservation Road fund will be applied to an engineering study to develop sidewalks on the east side of Geyserville Avenue downtown.
The street is part of state Highway 128.
“We’re working collaboratively with Caltrans in their right of way to launch engineering studies,” McGuire said.
Harry Bosworth, whose family has been in Geyserville for generations, said his grandfather installed sidewalks in front of the store after lifting up the Bosworth and Son building in 1925, when the highway was first paved.
But sidewalks don’t extend all the way down the east side of the street. In one spot, pedestrians have to wade through puddles when it rains. At a nearby vacant lot, “people step off and almost break a leg,” he said.
Bosworth said putting in sidewalks may be complicated by the presence of aging water pipes and a PG&E main gas line that run where the walkway would be.
“They represent small problems. They’re not insurmountable,” he said.
McGuire said after the engineering work is done, there will be a community meeting toward the end of the year to inform people about the results. Work could begin in 2014.
But the street re-surfacing should start before summer.
Bosworth said the repaving of Geyserville Avenue from the main Highway 101 off-ramp into town is welcomed.
“It’s getting kind of beaten up,” he said. “It’s kind of clunky and bouncy on your car.”
He added that the last “experimental, thin asphalt paving didn’t last.”
Cosette Trautman-Scheiber, owner of the Hope-Merrill House bed and breakfast inn, hopes the repaving also “offers bicyclists a little safer place. We get a lot of bicyclists in Geyserville.”
She anticipates the work will “not only improve the road for us folks driving in our cars, but improve the shoulder lanes.”
The work on the Jimtown bridge is a little further out.
McGuire said studies will begin this summer to address the scouring at the base of the span related to the river’s shifting course.
He said as much as $1.5 million for the bridge retrofit needs to be secured with the help of the tribe from the Indian Reservation Road Fund.
Overall, he said, the projects are “a win for the community that utilizes the roads and bridges on a daily basis, as well as those utilizing the activities up at the casino.”