The set of heavy rainstorms the last few months have had a bruising impact on our roads in the Springs. If your neighborhood is like mine, many of the potholes road crews filled last year are open again, plus new potholes have emerged. In addition, the county suffered $18 million in emergency road damage. At a recent Board of Supervisors’ meeting the Director of Transportation and Public Works, Susan Klassen, gave the bad news that due to the costs of the emergency repairs, the county won’t be able to fix all the roads it had planned this year. The county qualifies for federal disaster relief for the emergency repairs, but the feds will likely only pay 50 cents on the dollar.
As the supervisors prepare for their budget process, Craig Harrison, president of the roads advocacy group SOSRoads, advises Springs residents to tell the supervisors you want fixing the roads to be a top priority. Temporarily filling potholes isn’t fixing a road. Fixing a road is when you create a new, smooth surface that won’t develop potholes every time it rains. This is called pavement preservation. Harrison points out that the roads the county truly fixed in recent years, such as Bennett Valley, made it through the storms unscathed.
“This proves that the most cost effective, long term investment in our roads is to focus on pavement preservation, versus continually refilling potholes on crumbling roads,” Harrison said. Read more about county road issues at sosroads.org.
And speaking of roads, let’s talk about Highway 12 through the Springs, specifically the Springs Specific Plan which encompasses the parcels along the highway, plus parts of a few neighboring streets and Donald Avenue. At the community workshop held earlier this month to review three land use and circulation alternatives, the planning consultants from the De Novo Planning Group floated an idea that made my jaw drop, as it would worsen the congestion and create grid-lock during the peak traffic hours.
First, let me point out that I served nine years on the City of Sonoma’s Planning Commission. I did Sonoma’s general plan update and its first integrated development code. I’ve read many traffic studies, environmental impact reports, and other planning documents.
The consultants suggested removing much of the highway’s central turn lane, with the exception of major intersections, in order to install parking on the highway. The center turn lane exists so cars can get out of the line of traffic when turning onto the smaller streets and highway frontage properties. Without the turn lane, traffic would stop every time someone made a left turn that wasn’t at a major intersection. Furthermore, the loss of the center turn lane is a public safety hazard, as our first responders rely on the center lane to get around traffic during emergencies. And a warning to those of you living on Monterey Avenue, Arroyo Road, Hawthorne Avenue or Mulford Lane, as this alternative calls for restricting the ability to make left turns from those streets.
Regarding parking, ever since we started making plans in the early 1990s to install sidewalks and bike lanes, it was stated that parking along the highway would go away to make room. The original Springs redevelopment plan, written way back in the mid-1980s, called for new parking lots. The reasons we don’t have adequate parking lots yet are the same reasons why it took nearly 30 years to get the sidewalks installed. So please, instead of worsening congestion and creating a public safety hazard, let’s stay the course and develop parking lots.
The process at the community workshop was rather limiting and simplistic. After the consultants’ presented general descriptions of the three alternatives, they told us to vote for one by placing a sticker on a board. We also wrote on post-its what we liked or didn’t like about each alternative. The consultants offered that we could mix and match options from the plans, but they didn’t offer the possibility that there could be other options, although there definitely could be.
Voting also occurred via a written survey, which included the opportunity to vote on removing the highway’s center turn lane to add parking. You can still fill-out the survey online at surveymonkey.com/r/ZBDP5WF. However, you’ll need to visit the Springs Specific Plan website, thesprings.specificplan.org/resources, to read the alternatives in order to answer the questions.