Hwy 101: Airport, Fulton ramp changes coming
BY BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A newly unveiled design for the Airport Boulevard interchange will try to ease backup commute traffic onto Highway 101 but will require eliminating the on- and off-ramps at nearby Fulton Road.
“The weaving at the off-ramp to Fulton and on-ramps at Airport caused enough traffic issues that it was more important to have a better operating Airport interchange,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley.
The estimated cost of the new interchange is $45.8 million. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 and be completed two years later, in 2014.
The California Transportation Commission this week allocated $22.2 million toward the cost of the project.
The design shapes the Airport interchange like a diamond, with much longer, wider and sweeping on- and off-ramps that would abut the ramps at Fulton Road, which is already considered sub-standard by Caltrans safety standards.
“They are significantly less than a mile apart, which results in weaving and congestion,” said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “The design closes Fulton but improves Airport and surrounding roads so the access to Airport Boulevard is greatly improved.”
Smith said the ramps will be much wider at the intersections with Airport Boulevard, where there will be stoplights, and there are also plans to improve Airport Boulevard near Old Redwood Highway.
Sonoma County airport area businesses have already paid $1.8 million in fees toward the design of the interchange and will pay $8 million to $10 million of the construction cost, Smith said.
Sonoma County’s Measure M sales tax will pay for the remainder.
The $22.2 million in state financing is the last piece of the funding necessary to complete the freeway widening and interchange replacements from central Windsor to Petaluma Boulevard North in Petaluma.
By the time the work is completed in 2014 in that corridor, it will have cost $900 million and taken 21 years.
However, it still leaves the widening of Highway 101 in the Novato narrows, a $745 million project stretching through Petaluma to Novato that is complicated by the need to buy right-of-way in two counties and upgrade 18 miles of expressway to freeway standards.
So far, Sonoma and Marin counties have secured all but $330 million of the cost of the project.
The Airport Boulevard project follows the widening of the freeway from Steele Lane in Santa Rosa to the Central Windsor exit. It was separated from that project as a cost-cutting measure.
The new carpool lanes opened last December, but the contractor, O.C. Jones and Sons Inc. of Berkeley, is now putting the final paving on the roadway and ramps, closing lanes overnight to completed the surfacing work of the $82 million project.
Farther south in Rohnert Park, work on the Wilfred Avenue overpass and Highway 101 widening is on schedule to be done in 2014, said Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus.
The contractor is currently building a new freeway overpass that will join Golf Course Drive and Wilfred Avenue, a $40 million project.
The $55 million highway widening from the Rohnert Park Expressway to Pepper Road is also underway.
Workers are driving piles for the new overcrossings at Highway 116, Copeland Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Sierra and Railroad avenues. The work is expected to be completed in the spring of 2011.
The contract to continue the widening south to Petaluma Boulevard North is to be awarded this fall, with work expected to start next spring.