Sonoma County and Caltrans work to improve traffic jams on Highway 12, Arnold Drive after numerous complaints

Plus, when will Watmaugh Road finally be back to two lanes?|

Since Caltrans closed a stretch of Highway 12 on Sept. 5 to replace the Hooker Creek Bridge, drivers have been stuck in traffic jams.

The problem compounded on Sept. 6, when tree work reduced traffic to one lane on Arnold Drive just as Caltrans was diverting drivers off Highway 12 toward the Valley’s other major north-south thoroughfare. One driver reported it took 56 minutes to traverse roughly 5 miles from Glen Ellen to Boyes Hot Springs.

PG&E was conducting the tree work as part of its routine fire risk remediation, but the county was not privy to the schedule. In an email, Karina Garcia, field representative for First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, said once they were “made aware” of the tree work on Sept. 6, they coordinated with PG&E and the county’s Public Infrastructure department to ensure no more work would occur on Arnold while Highway 12 is closed.

Garcia said they were “inundated with concerns, complaints and displeasure,” despite efforts to inform drivers of Highway 12’s closure between Madrone and Agua Caliente roads, which will last until early October.

Earlier in the year, Caltrans replaced the Sonoma Creek Bridge in Kenwood, a project that did not require closing the highway because of how that bridge was constructed. The Hooker Creek Bridge, built in 1900, must be completely demolished and replaced, sparking the road closure.

To mitigate the kind of traffic congestion that occurred last week, Caltrans put a flagger to help direct the flow of traffic at the intersection of Arnold Drive and Madrone Road. Caltrans will continue to monitor traffic and listen to the reports filed by those driving the detour, including California Highway Patrol deputies and the public.

The county has also received complaints about the traffic surrounding the Watmaugh Road Bridge, which has been under construction since December, reducing traffic to one lane and causing long backups during commute hours. This is not to be confused with the stately Watmaugh Bridge, which is slated for its own repair in the next two years. The Watmaugh Road Bridge is just west; its structure is under the roadway and not visible to drivers.

The county expects the repairs will be completed in the next three to four weeks, which means Watmaugh Road could be back to two lanes by late October.

“Reminder to respect the lighted signs and practice safe driving when crossing the bridge. Be aware at times traffic lines may be longer than others. Thank you for your patience,” Garcia wrote.

You can reach Staff Writer Rebecca Wolff at On Twitter @bexwolff.

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