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Santa Rosa Avenue work aims to solve traffic logjam

Looking north on Santa Rosa and Yolanda avenues Thursday, traffic backs up to Hearn Avenue and then to Kawana Springs Road. A number of changes will be made to try to improve traffic flow at the busy intersection near the Santa Rosa Marketplace. (Kent Porter / PD)

Looking north on Santa Rosa and Yolanda avenues Thursday, traffic backs up to Hearn Avenue and then to Kawana Springs Road. A number of changes will be made to try to improve traffic flow at the busy intersection near the Santa Rosa Marketplace. (Kent Porter / PD)

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Construction will soon get underway to unclog one of the city’s most notoriously congested arteries — Santa Rosa Avenue near Costco.

Traffic near the Santa Rosa Marketplace, one of the city’s busiest retail centers, backs up onto surrounding roads and onramps as shoppers flock to big box stores like Costco, Best Buy, and Target.

Add rush hour and holiday shopping into the mix and the already overwhelmed roadway quickly turns into total gridlock.

But beginning in January, Santa Rosa Avenue will be widened from Yolanda Avenue, near the site once eyed for a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, two blocks north to Kawana Springs Road, which forms the southern border of the Santa Rosa Marketplace.

From there north, the road won’t be widened, but it will be restriped to improve traffic flow in and out of the shopping center and around the intersection at Baker Avenue, which serves as the northbound Highway 101 onramp.

“It’s going to be such an improvement for the community,” said Colleen Ferguson, deputy director of public works. “It’s a great project.”

The work is the second portion of a three-phase effort to one day widen Hearn Avenue over Highway 101. The two-lane overpass is woefully undersized, often causing traffic to back up onto the avenue as well as southbound Highway 101.

The first phase of work involved widening Hearn Avenue between Dutton Avenue and Corby Avenue, which was completed several years ago.

The current work involves adding travel, turn and bicycle lanes to improve the capacity of a 1,200-foot stretch of Santa Rosa Avenue near the Hearn Avenue intersection.

Elements include a second left-turn lane from Kawana Springs Road to Santa Rosa Avenue; a right-turn lane from northbound Santa Rosa Avenue to Kawana Springs; a second left-turn lane from northbound Santa Rosa Avenue to Hearn Avenue; and a second left-turn lane from southbound Santa Rosa Avenue to Yolanda Avenue, and extension of the southbound right-turn lane on to Highway 101.

A new computerized traffic monitoring system will also be installed, as will sidewalks and landscaping. Total cost of this phase is $11.9 million. Work is expected to be concluded by November 2015.

With those two phases complete, the stage will be set for the eventual widening of the overcrossing and rebuilding of the interchanges, a project estimated to cost about $40 million.

The overall project has long been considered vital to the future development of southwest Santa Rosa by linking the residents of the historically fast-growing area with one of the city’s key retail districts.

Earlier this month, the City Council awarded a $6.1 million construction contract to a joint venture between Ghilotti Brothers of San Rafael and TerraCon Pipelines of Healdsburg.

The city has spent several years acquiring property and moving underground utilities to prepare for the widening.

“Just acquiring the right of way was a huge task,” Ferguson said.

In one case, the city had to use its powers of eminent domain to acquire and demolish a small used car dealership, called Dib’s Auto Sales, at the corner of Kawana Springs Road, against the owner’s wishes.

To reduce the effects on businesses and residents in the area, the contractors will be required to keep access open to driveways at all times, Ferguson said.

In addition, the city has set up a special Web page explaining the project and throughout construction will send email updates to anyone who signs up for them, she said.

“It’s going to be a mess while we’re doing it, but it’ll make it a lot better,” Mayor Scott Bartley said.

Some businesses at the southern end of the project area are already concerned about access issues during and after construction. “It’s going to be a disaster,” predicted Dan Berry, owner of Cartronics just north of Yolanda.

Currently southbound drivers can turn left into his driveway. But the project will be adding a median strip that will prevent them from doing so, Berry said. This will force them to make elaborate u-turns just to find his business, he said.

“My issue is what will the impact will be on people’s ability to access my store?” Berry said.

He’s leery in part because the project has already affected his car audio sales and installation business. Last year, when a city contractor relocated a storm drain in front of his showroom they failed to hook up a culvert that drained an adjacent field.

After the first rain, the field flooded and six inches of water spilled into his showroom, causing $170,000 in damage, he said.

Jesus Ochoa, owner of neighboring Quality Motors, also has access concerns. He knows medians are designed to improve traffic flow by reducing the number of motorists turning across oncoming traffic, but he can’t see how that will help businesses.

“There may be more traffic going by, but there will be less coming here,” Ochoa said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)





6 Responses to “Santa Rosa Avenue work aims to solve traffic logjam”

  1. Jackson says:

    That’s what you get for shopping big box stores, and malls.

  2. Grapevines says:

    So let me get this right.

    They want to encourage people to shop downtown and benefit local business so they charge us to park there.

    And now they are spending more money to make it faster to get to and move about in mostly non local business parks where there is free parking.

    What idiot in local government thought this one up? Would it be the same pack of idiots that screwed up the golf course or do we have another pack of idiots to claim ownership for this one?

  3. Follower says:

    @MOCKINGBIRD

    So let me get this strait… the solution to the problem that the Government created is to give the Government who created the problem MORE TAX DOLLARS to grow the already (according to YOU) unreliable, inefficient and inaccessible bureaucracy known as “SRT”.

    genius

  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    The only solution for this traffic mess is mass transit. The SRT needs to be completely revamped. The bus needs to be reliable, cost effective, accessible and gets you where you need to go. Bus routes need to be at least every thirty minutes and need to be ON TIME. It would help if SRT did some advertising and special free offers to coax commuters to ride the city bus. A full page ad in the PD maybe, with a free pass attached. Go downtown to the movies, shop, have lunch or dinner and the advantage is no traffic to deal with, no paying for parking, and no parking ticket if you take too long. Maybe along with some discount offers from downtown restaurants and movie theaters. I can’t imagine why anyone working regular hours downtown or shopping would drive.

  5. James Bennett says:

    I’d like to see small business have accomadations for their success.

    Like parking and ingress.

    See a pattern?

    Small downtown business’ get road diets and all manner of parking manipulations.

    However, big national retailers get subsidized parking, accomadations like this.

  6. brown act jack says:

    And you wonder why things always go wrong, do you?

    No amount of roadway will stop traffic jams if you do not stop increasing the population of cars that want to use the road.

    Remember the freeway was to stop that crowding on Santa Rose Ave, and , of course , the offramps cause a lot of the stoppaging of the traffic.