Sonomans could be one step closer to being able to bike – or walk – to Santa Rosa and any place along the way.
The possibility of such safe and easy human-powered travel comes after Sonoma County Regional Parks received a grant from the California Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of a bike path from Sonoma to Santa Rosa.
After years of applying for the grant, said Sonoma County Regional Parks Director Caryl Hart, the county was finally awarded the prestigious “Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant,” which totals $190,575, as part of a larger plan to make the county completely – and safely – navigable on bike or foot.
The highly competitive grants are only awarded to projects that Caltrans finds encourage public involvement and partnership.
The study for the inter-city pathway, referred to as Sonoma Valley Trail, will span 13 miles from Agua Caliente Road north of Sonoma to Melita Road south of Santa Rosa.
The key areas of study, which will develop an overall project cost, will be design, engineering and environmental compliance, Hart said.
The trail is part of Sonoma County’s plan to create an additional 800 miles of off-street bike and pedestrians paths and lanes to make the county more user-friendly, said Hart. About 40 miles currently exist, including the Joe Rodota Trail, a Class I paved pathway that links Santa Rosa with Sebastopol.
“Our vision here is to create a world-class park system,” Hart said.
The county hopes to implement a Class I trail, which is completely separated, and protected from the travel on the adjacent roadway – much like Sonoma’s bike path, Hart says.
Hart noted that only a few areas along the busy Highway 12 corridor have sidewalks or bike lanes, and those are not protected from the traffic traveling 50-plus miles per hour. The Sonoma Valley Trail would provide cyclists and pedestrians a safe, much-needed alternative to riding in a car along the congested corridor. “It’s challenging to ride a bike from Santa Rosa to Sonoma right now. … It’s dangerous and most people don’t do it – or, if they do, they take their life into their own hands,” Hart said.
Chris Woodcock, a member of the Sonoma County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and a proponent of the project, says the corridor has been known for danger and fatalities for a long time. He is excited at the safety a Class I trail could provide for both experienced cyclists and novices, adding “this trail could serve to link Sonoma … The Valley bike path is a great example of what the county could do.”
Woodcock frequently commutes through the Highway 12 corridor, since he lives in Sonoma and teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College. “It’s great to think that I could ride my bike to school one day,” he said.
Part of the project, Hart said, includes intensive community outreach to collect surveys and get public feedback. The county will hold community meetings, conduct surveys and have workshops. Before the county presents its final report to the Board of Supervisors, a draft study will be presented to the public for input.