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Officials Kick Off Northern Portion of Highway 101 Improvements

Improvements include two new bridges, highway shoulders and restriping.

State and local transportation officials broke ground today on the Petaluma area phase of the 8-mile, Marin-Sonoma Narrows Project along U.S. Highway 101 between Petaluma and Novato.

The $700 million project will eventually widen the heavily congested 2-lane “Narrows” portion of the highway from Novato to Petaluma.

A new 3-mile northbound carpool lane and a 1.5-mile southbound carpool lane were completed last summer.

Today's ground-breaking was for the reconstruction of the Petaluma Boulevard South interchange, the replacement of the Petaluma River Bridge, construction or widening of 2.5 miles of frontage roads and providing a new pedestrian and bicycle pathway, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.

The northbound state Route 116 bridge will be replaced and the southbound bridge will be widened to accommodate future carpool lanes, Haus said.

The Petaluma projects were allocated $120 million in funding, including $105 million from Proposition 1B, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond measure, Caltrans spokesman Bob Haus said.

Other funding is from Measure M, which was approved by Sonoma County voters in 2004, Haus said.

The construction or widening of nearly three miles of frontage roads in the Petaluma phase will take U.S. Highway 101 from its current highway status to freeway status by eliminating driveways and other highway access points, Haus said.

Officials from Caltrans, the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission participated in the groundbreaking.

The improvements are being funded by Proposition 1B and Measure M, the quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2004.

"It may be April Fool's, but it's no joke that the project is commencing," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "This has been more than a decade in the making."

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt praised the project,saying it would create jobs for electricians, operating engineers, contractors, carpenters and others.

“The bridges will last a generation for our kids and beyond,” said Supervisor Rabbitt, reminding the public to be patient while work occurs over the next three years.

Improvements are expected to be completed by 2016.

The entire Sonoma-Marin Narrows project costs more than $1 billion and there are portions that remain unfunded, such as the carpool lanes from Lakeville Highway to Old Redwood Highway, road widening from the San Antonio Bridge to the Petaluma Boulevard South and widening from Atherton to the Marin-Sonoma county line.

The total unfunded work is about $225 million, which officials hope to obtain by renewing Measure M, together with state and federal funds.

San Rafael-based Ghilotti Brothers will be doing the road improvements.

Bay City News contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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David Randolph April 10, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Notice how the former "I hate building much needed new roads" congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is not in this photo.

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