13-mile Sonoma Valley Trail to allow Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma cycling

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The 13-mile, $24 million Sonoma Valley Trail moved a half-million dollars and a half mile closer to reality recently, as the Board of Supervisors approved a construction contract for a portion of the proposed bicycle path in the Agua Caliente area.

The funding was approved for the Central Sonoma Valley Trail, a portion of the more comprehensive Sonoma Valley Trail, roughly from Agua Caliente Road to Maxwell Farms. It is designed to connect the Sonoma Valley Trail with the City of Sonoma’s Bike Path.

The board voted to award G.D. Nielson Construction a total of $468,832 to build .42 miles of trail, in two segments. The first is just over a tenth of a mile, from the Larson Park trail north through Flowery Elementary, to connect at Depot Road with the existing trial. As of Monday, July 24, crews were at work on this section of the path.

The second .31 mile section starts at Main Street – that little spur off Sonoma Highway at the McDonald’s restaurant – and continues west on the north side of Verano Avenue to Sonoma Creek, on the edge of Maxwell Farms Regional Park. This section of trail is primarily designed to provide access to Sonoma Creek, as it does not advance the overall direction of the Sonoma Valley Trail toward the city’s bike path.

Most of the Central Valley Bike Trail between these two sections follows surface streets through residential neighborhoods in an indirect route roughly parallel to Sonoma Highway (which also has marked bike path lanes from Agua Caliente Road to Verano Avenue).

Another section of the Sonoma Valley Trail also progressed at the July 11 Board of Supervisors meeting – this one at the other end of the Valley. The board approved an “irrevocable option” on a public trail easement for the bike path over the Annadel Estate Winery site, adjacent to Sugarloaf Winery, across the highway from Oakmont.

Though the Sonoma Valley Trail is still several years from full realization, the County has to make sure they have the necessary easements on private property to assure the Trail’s future development, especially in the convoluted landscape of the Santa Rosa/Sonoma County interface on the north end of the Valley.

Eventually, upon the trail’s completion, the 8-foot-wide paved trail, with 2-foot gravel shoulders, is designed to provide two-way bike traffic with room for pedestrians along a trans-Valley route parallel to Highway 12.

Set back from the often heavily-trafficked highway the trail will typically be 5 to 7 feet from the road shoulder, and might include a landscaped buffer strip. In some locations the trail separation could include a a guardrail, where necessary.

The Sonoma Valley Trail is identified as a project in the adopted 2010 County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. In 2013, the County received $190,575 funding from the Caltrans Community-Based Transportation Planning grant to launch the trail feasibility study that would help identify a separated pathway along the Highway 12 corridor connecting Sonoma with Santa Rosa.

The Final Sonoma Valley Trail Feasibility Study was released in February 2016, with preferred and alternate trail alignments. According to the study, “the total project cost of the preferred trail alignment of about $24 million for the 13.1-mile trail between the City of Santa Rosa and Agua Caliente is based on typical costs for similar constructed trail projects... Trail construction costs... average about $1.4 million per mile of trail.”

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