County on track with Hwy. 12

Sonoma County is anticipating submitting Highway 12 plans, which are 90 percent complete, to the state by the end of this month.

At the Springs Community Alliance meeting on Aug. 8, Tom O’Kane, the county’s deputy superintendent of Public Works, said he and his staff have been meeting with Caltrans monthly since February in order to get the project going again. After the project was put on hold in February2012, the Caltrans team that had been working on Highway 12 was assigned to other projects.

O’Kane said he anticipates sending the right-of-way certification to Caltrans in November; sending the project out to bid in January or February of next year, with construction estimated to begin in spring of 2014. He said the project, which involves widening Highway 12, adding sidewalks and gutters, left-turn lanes and streetlights, among other things, could be completed – depending on the weather – by April 2015.

First District Supervisor Susan Gorin put the project’s long-stalled history in perspectivewhen she reported that, while going through old Highway 12 files, she found a letter to then-Supervisor Mike Cale from 1993.

“We have the money to move forward,” Gorin said. “We hope to be at a ribbon-cutting in April 2015.”

The project is moving forward because, in May, the board of supervisors decided to fund the project with money from the state that formerly went to the redevelopment agency.

The supervisors also decided to sue the state back in January in an attempt to recover the money the state took when the redevelopment agencies dissolved in February 2012.

The county’s suit is scheduled to be heard Friday, Aug. 23, in Sacramento Superior Court.

“I’m positive about our suit against the state,” Gorin told the group. “Even if we win, it still could go to appeal. But the City of Emeryville prevailed in a similar suit.”

O’Kane said there are still some things to be ironed out – such as extending the box-culvert over Fedders Creek. “We’ve hired a structural engineer in Sacramento to get the design finalized.” he said. The problem with the Fedders Creek Bridge is that, if the utility lines that run under the bridge have to be relocated, it could take AT&T up to a year to relocate its fiber optic lines.

Caltrans also has raised historic preservation questions about five or six properties that turned 50 years old since the original EIR was finished. “We’re not taking down any structures anyway,” O’Kane said.

The group was interested in parking – or more specifically the lack of parking, since the new highway will eliminate somewhere around 70 parking spaces. But not all of the parking spaces are permitted – some are de facto spaces on the state’s right-of-way. The county is looking at small lots to convert into parking lots, but not necessarily at the same time the road project will be complete.

John Haig, former redevelopment manager, said the redevelopment agency was just starting to identify possible parking lots when the redevelopment agencies were dissolved. “We can look at mitigation when we’re done with the project,” he said. “In January 2011, we had $2 million worth of funding for parking mitigation.”

Gorin said the county wants to make sure people can shop. “We have to move forward on parking mitigation,” she added. “We will have parking – it just won’t be as convenient.”