Yellow light: Madrone Rd., Hwy. 12 light still on hold

Sonoma Valley residents are still waiting on a new traffic signal for the dangerous three-way intersection where Madrone Road meets Highway 12 – a project Caltrans hoped to have done months ago.

Back in March of last year, a Caltrans project manager told the Index-Tribune the agency planned to have a light installed there by the end of 2013, and he said the next stage of work was up to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which needed to move some poles.

Those poles still haven’t been moved – although that work may finally begin this week. According to Caltrans spokesman Allyn Amsk, the electric company was held up “due to a change in ownership of one of the properties adjacent to the project.” That led to right-of-way issues that needed to be resolved before PG&E could begin.

This is only the most recent setback for a project that has been on the county’s plate since 2002. In February 2013, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors finally OK’d an agreement with Caltrans that included the county’s share of the cost – about $337,000 of $1.34 million.

Prior to that, Tom O’Kane, the county’s deputy director of Public Works and Transportation, wrote a memo to supervisors declaring that, “The project design has been completed, all the permits have been issued so it’s finally ready for construction.” That was in the fall of 2012.

Madrone Road runs from Arnold Drive to Highway 12, where it terminates in a high-speed, three-way intersection. Although vehicles headed north on the highway do have a pullout lane for turning left onto Madrone, it has always been a dangerous intersection, with 26 accidents during the five-year period from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2005, according to Caltrans.

On Tuesday, Amsk said PG&E was “supposed to go up there Thursday to begin that work” on moving the poles. Once that’s done, “We’re going to work with the contractor, find out when they want to start work,” he said. “With winter on us, they may choose to wait till spring.” That would put the current estimated completion time at “late summer, early fall” of this year.

Meanwhile, another traffic light project in the City of Sonoma proper has overcome delays and is moving forward, according to Dan Takasugi, the city’s public works director and engineer.

The intersection where Napa and Leveroni roads meet at Broadway is increasingly busy, planners say, since it serves as a point of entry for travelers from Napa and Petaluma. Three years ago, in fact, a crash involving a gravel truck prompted Sonoma police Chief Bret Sackett to send pictures of the incident – three cars were struck and a retaining wall smashed, but no one was hurt – to Caltrans with a formal request for a left-turn signal there.

The City Council approved purchase of the new signal back in August, and currently it’s due to be installed in mid-February, Takasugi said.

Besides the new signal – which will face Leveroni Road drivers approaching Broadway from the west – work will include repaving the intersection, also known as Four Corners. Further work will begin in 2015 to repave a section of Leveroni Road and much of Napa Road out to the city limit, Takasugi said.

Three-quarters of that project is paid for by Caltrans, with the remainder covered by Measure J funds.