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Susan Gorin
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Susan Gorin

What’s up with our roads?

Let’s face it, most of Sonoma County’s roads are in poor to failing condition. As the First District Supervisor, I receive daily calls and e-mails about issues with roads—potholes, lifting pavement, and overall poor quality. My colleagues who represent other areas of the county have the same experience. This isn’t because of a lack of attention on the part of your County government. To the contrary, we actually spend more discretionary general fund money on roads than any other county in the state.

Most of the reason our roads are in such bad shape is because of the way the state allocates funding: the higher the population of a county the more money they receive, regardless of the number of maintained roads. Needless to say, this leaves a county like Sonoma with sparse population and one of the most expansive road networks in the state at a disadvantage. Your Transportation and Public Works crews work incredibly hard to respond to complaints, fill potholes, administer contracts to repave roads and remove hazardous trees, among other important functions. Like most areas, weather and environmentally-related concerns result in a short construction season, and this means we’re often dealing with feast or famine when it comes to road repairs. Since roads and construction issues are always a hot topic for constituents, we are planning a Town Hall Meeting on Roads. The meeting is currently scheduled for Wednesday, November 6th in the Hanna Boys Center auditorium at 6pm. We will share more information on our Facebook page, website, in local media and through other methods, but please mark your calendars now if you’d like to attend. Right now, in the Springs, there is a lot of activity happening. The Boyes Bridge replacement, Sonoma Valley Sewer trunk line replacement, and repaving of neighborhood roads in the Springs, including Arnold, Agua Caliente, Verano, Riverside, Lichtenberg, Dechene and Greger, have created a lot of challenges for Springs residents. My staff and I have been fielding calls and e-mails from frustrated constituents who are late to appointments, deliver their children to schools, or even being able to leave their own home due to paving in the area. I share your frustration. I truly do. We desperately need our neighborhood and arterial roads repaved, and we need all of this work to be done as expediently and efficiently as possible with as little disruption of lives and travel as possible.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, and it definitely didn’t happen this time. Let me break down a little bit about the current projects, and how they came to be. Boyes Bridge Replacement This has been in the works for over 5 years, and we always knew it would be an issue. The Boyes Bridge has been identified as having deficiencies including seismic vulnerability and degrading foundations. To replace the bridge, it is necessary to close the road to vehicle traffic, but we have constructed a temporary pedestrian and bicycle connection across the creek.  This is a huge, essential project. Sonoma Valley County Sanitation Sewer District Trunk Main Replacement This has also been in the works for many years, and is a project led by Sonoma Water (formerly called the Sonoma County Water Agency). The trunk line lies under Highway 12 for the most part, and it will cause disruption to the traffic low along Highway 12 for the next 2 years. The project has been moving along for the few months after beginning at 6th street west and under the future baseball field in Maxwell Farms Regional Park. Neighborhood Road Paving-Pavement Preservation Program  Generally, Transportation and Public Works (TPW) likes to focus the limited resources on roads that see more traffic and affect a greater number of people. This definitely makes sense—the more people you can help with a project, the more it should be prioritized. However, after hearing from so many Springs residents about the incredibly poor quality of the many neighborhood roads, we have prioritized a greater number of neighborhood streets, starting with those roads which serve as arterial connectors and those leading to schools, parks and fire/police stations. This past week Sonoma Valley residents were overwhelmed and shocked by the sheer amount of work being done at the same time, and the impact this had on their daily lives. However, neither my office nor TPW had control over scheduling. When TPW awards a bid for the work, the contractor sets the schedule, not the county. Residents also expressed concerns that with so much roadwork in progress at the same time, in the event of an emergency, such as the 2017 firestorms, evacuation routes would be greatly impeded.  Please know that in the event of an emergency, all road work, of course, would cease, and our first responders would direct traffic out of the Valley expediently and safely. That said, we’ve heard your concerns and frustrations, and we will work on providing better notification and coordination with the schools, fire district and neighborhoods when the repaving and road closures occur. Currently, notification for individual projects includes “portable changeable message signs” 5 days in advance, and door hangers for full-depth reclamation treatments (one of many types of treatments performed by TPW) and bridge projects. We will discuss the potential to expand public notice practices in the hopes that we can better prepare the community. In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that construction work is messy, disruptive, and necessary. Nothing is easy, and I expect more disruption as we systematically look at repaving neighborhood roads in The Springs and other neighborhoods, which are so desperately needed. Please try to be patient, leave extra time, research alternative travel routes and most importantly, sign up with Transportation and Public Works for the email notice about road closures and delays. We are all in this together.  Thanks for your patience during these times of major construction. Roads Townhall 6pm Wednesday, November 6th Hanna Boys Center Auditorium  To sign up for e-mail updates on road closures and delays, visit https://roadclosures-sonomacounty.hub.arcgis.com/ and select “Subscribe to Updates” in the upper right above the map For information on the Boyes Bridge Replacement, visit https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/TPW/Roads/Projects/Boyes-Blvd-Bridge-Replacement/ For information on the Trunk Main Replacement, visit https://www.sonomawater.org/svcsdsewerproject For information on the Pavement Preservation program, including descriptions of the treatment techniques used and road selection process, visit http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/TPW/Roads/Services/Pavement-Preservation/    
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