Editorials ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


It’s called Broadway, not Narroway 

Posted on September 10, 2021 by Sonoma Valley Sun

For a century and a half the entrance to Sonoma has been a broad boulevard. It once led to an eight-acre fenced meadow where livestock grazed, but since the early 20th Century, leads travelers directly to the entrance to City Hall. 

The bustle of horse-drawn wagons and carriages turned to automobiles and trucks, and Broadway was lined with parked vehicles and pedestrians going shopping. As the local economy shifted, so did the nature of the vehicles; tourism and population increases were reflected by a huge increase in traffic. This is, in part, the story of America.

The question before the city right now is whether its decision to ask CalTrans to re-stripe Broadway is a good idea. Narrowing Broadway to one lane in each direction was selected as the best option for study and possible implementation from the the city’s 2016 Circulation Element, a portion of the city’s General Plan that must be revised periodically. That plan, different from the one recently adopted in a 3-1 City Council decision, included bike lanes but kept the parking at the curb. The recently adopted plan flips parking and bike lanes, placing bike lanes in the gutters.

The problem with this  plan is that the studies recommended in the Circulation Element never happened. Although preliminary studies of existing traffic were conducted, a concerted effort to analyze the effects of narrowing has never occurred. CalTrans scheduled pavement repairs long ago, and restriping should have been studied and planned long ago as well. With a September start date looming, the city rushed into a plan with an uncertain effect.

The uncertainty extends not just to auto and truck traffic, but pedestrian traffic and safety as well. Narrowing the area that can be occupied by vehicles in theory reduces the time pedestrians need to use to cross the street, but no tests have been conducted. Pedestrian safety is the responsibility of drivers and pedestrians alike. Entering the crosswalk while taking selfies with one hand and grasping a dog leash in the other is not safe.

That said, crossing improvements can and must be made. Better pedestrian-activated crossings, improved driver safety signage and notification systems, improved crossing design, and most importantly, increased traffic enforcement are essential. Speeders need to know they will be caught and cited.

There remain some hurdles to be crossed before this project can proceed. The City of Sonoma has notified the County Clerk that it has applied for a categorical exemption under CEQA for this project; this exemption can be challenged. In addition, the cost of the specially designed, thermo-plastic, color-painted bicycle lane will be charged to the City of Sonoma; the amount of that charge is unknown at this time. If it is over $25,000, approval will require yet another council meeting.

By all indications, public sentiment is running strongly against restriping Broadway in a new, narrowed configuration. People point to 5th Street West, which was narrowed for the addition of  bike lanes as evidence that traffic backs up and bicycle use is infrequent. Any reconfiguration of Broadway will never be safe for bicycles; there are just too many cars and trucks. 

We hope the City Council will back off this plan and simply let CalTrans proceed with repaving and restriping Broadway in the way it is configured now.


3 thoughts on “It’s called Broadway, not Narroway 

  1. “By all indications, public sentiment is running strongly…” What is the evidence for this? Is this public opinion by appearance and government by Facebook? Only five people made comments against the current restriping at the last city council meeting. Is that the bar for running strongly? A previous Sun editorial said social media agitation is not worthy and a lower quality expression; this is hardly “all indications” unless we want to surrender government to people on Nextdoor popping off with anecdotal, emotional outbursts. At the same council meeting there were also strong, data-based comments from respected Green and bike advocates Matt Metzler and Tom Conlon; they lobbied persuasively for the current restriping and curb bike lanes. This editorial lacks a sense of balance, fails to articulate the pro view, and sounds more like a personal opinion piece. Then appeals and lawsuits are implied if the plan is not changed…

  2. Your complaint that ‘The editorial sounds more like a personal opinion piece’? That is exactly what an editorial is.

  3. At some point – like four decades ago, we need to move the state highway OUT of Sonoma. (How many California state highways have THREE schools within half-a-mile of each other?) But keeping freeways out of Valley of the Moon comes at a cost that politicians and Caltrans don’t want to pay.

    It’s this simple and this complicated…
    1. Widen Hwy 12 to four lanes from Napa to Bonneau.
    2. Reduce speed limits and narrow Napa Rd from Hwy 12 to Broadway to restrict local traffic enormously.
    3. Widen Arnold Dr four lanes from Bonneau to Stage Gulch Rd and widen Stage Gulch, too, to four lanes.
    4. Widen Adobe Rd to four lanes to Frates in Petaluma
    5. Widen Frates to four lanes to Hwy 101.

    Of course, it’s taken a couple of decades to make Hwy 101 wider from the county line to Santa Rosa. (I call it the Winchester Mystery House Caltrans Project of the Century.) So, we’ll have to wait for Caltrans to build a toll-funded floating Hwy 37 from Vallejo to Novato sometime in 2065 before they’ll consider spending $50 million to even study my proposal!

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