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Lengthy Highway 12 resurfacing project begins in Sonoma May 19

All that main sewer-line replacement work that took place on Sonoma Highway over the past two years was a prelude to the work about to be started this week: a five-month project to resurface 4 miles of Highway 12 as it passes though town, from Boyes Boulevard to Napa Road.

The repaving project is set to begin as soon as May 19, when crews will begin “pot-holing” to locate underground utilities, said California Department of Transportation Information Officer Jeffrey Weiss. He told the Index-Tribune that the following week is scheduled for an operation he called “lowering utilities” ‒ grinding down the existing pavement to reach and replace utility access outlets such as manholes.

“There’s a whole lot of prep work we’ll be doing up until then,” said Weiss.

The work will include pedestrian safety improvements at crossings that currently lack traffic signals.

Two of those will be installed on West Napa, one an upgrade at Third Street West (in front of the St. Francis Solano church), and a new one just west of Seventh Street West near the public library.

Weiss said the pedestrian crossing improvements will include curb ramps and bumpy yellow mats to create an ADA-compliant sidewalk. A “pedestrian beacon” light would be activated by someone wishing to cross, which would include an overhead traffic signal that would turn to red in both directions. Drivers who disregard the traffic signal would be subject to citation.

Two pedestrian crossings on Broadway ‒ including one which saw a 75-year-old woman struck and badly injured in the crosswalk on April 17 ‒ are not currently part of the project plans for similar safety improvements. The reason they were overlooked in the state transportation department’s plans is unclear.

“It’s an excellent question,” said Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson, when asked about the pedestrian safety plans for the Broadway stretch of Highway 12. “I’ve been asking Caltrans about that since I saw the plan.“

Caltrans contractor Bay City Paving and Grading does plan high-visibility crosswalks and signage at the crossing locations, similar to that recently installed by Sonoma County at the intersection of Sonoma Highway and Verano Avenue.

Those crosswalks on Broadway are planned for the intersections of Andrieux and Patton, where pedestrian activated in-ground warning lights are now found, as well as at Malet and Newcombe for better crossing opportunities near the high school. But they will not get the pedestrian-activated signals that crossings on West Napa will receive, unless additional funding can be found to pay for them.

Ferguson pointed out that there were proposed pedestrian-safety expenditures in the city budget for 2021-2022, currently in discussion by the city council.

According to the project paving map, the resurfacing project is scheduled to begin at the north side of the highway in Sonoma at the intersection of Boyes Boulevard and Vallejo Avenue and continue south in stages to the end of construction where Broadway crosses at the Broadway and Napa Road intersection, the Sonoma city limit.

The Caltrans crews plan to conduct most of their work at night, said Weiss, in accordance with the City of Sonoma preferences. “Whenever we embark on a paving project, we talk to local officials on working hours, and want to have an agreement on the best time to do it here,” said Weiss.

Weiss said that the entire width of the street, curb to curb, would receive asphalt resurfacing. “I think the paving will go quickly, once it begins. It’s nice to have all the preliminary work done first because it makes the paving go smoothly and quickly,“ he said.

The resurfacing of the highway will use asphalt with rubber components, made of recycled vehicle tires. Such rubberized asphalt has been in use since the 1960s but is increasingly popular for, among other reasons, its noise-reducing qualities. A Federal Highway Administration study in Arizona found that rubberized asphalt can reduce highway noise by up to 12 decibels.

“There’s advantages and disadvantages of working in the day or the night,” said Weiss. “During the day you affect traffic and business; at night noise can be disturbing to nearby residents.”

City officials preferred a night construction schedule, since much of Highway 12 inside the Sonoma city limits is zoned commercial.

The overall schedule of the 4-mile, $6 million resurfacing project is not yet finalized. One reason is that the rubber crumbs in the asphalt will settle out if the asphalt material is too cool.

“The only problem is it needs to be fairly warm in order to bind. In the summer it’s perfect, but if we get pushed too late in the year we want do a good job so we’ll finish in the spring,” said Weiss.

A similar rubberized pavement resurfacing was just completed on Stage Gulch Road, Highway 116 between Lakeville Highway and Old Adobe Road.

“It will be very nice when it’s finished; it will make the city more walkable and ADA friendly, and the road will be smoother,” said Weiss.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

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