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Santa Rosa celebrates Sixth Street undercrossing

Santa Rosa leaders, city staff and neighbors gathered Monday at the site of the new Sixth Street undercrossing to celebrate the completion of a project designed to help reconnect a city long divided by Highway 101.

The project was finished over the summer at a cost of about $1.3 million, more than half of which came from federal and state transportation grants.

It was a rare opportunity to improve the connections for cars, bicycles and pedestrians between the downtown and Railroad Square neighborhoods, said Rick Moshier, the city director of transportation and public works.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares noted that the short new stretch of roadway, including sideways, bike lanes and pedestrian-scale lampposts, connects the West End neighborhood, Chops Teen Center, future SMART train station and miles of trails with the St. Rose neighborhood, Sonoma County Museum and downtown.

"That's what the highway underpass behind me represents -- connectivity; the connection between two vibrant business districts and unique neighborhoods on either side of the freeway," Olivares said shortly before cutting an orange ribbon with an oversized pair of scissors.

Olivares thanked numerous people, including Councilman Gary Wysocky, who represents the city on the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and pushed for redirecting funds left over from the Highway 101 widening project to the undercrossing.

One of the engineering challenges was that the roadbed had to be dug down 3-feet to provide the required 15 feet of vertical clearance. That created some drainage issues that had to be resolved, Moshier said.

"Projects like this get so complicated, you wouldn't believe it," he said.

The work was completed by Ghilotti Construction Co. of Santa Rosa.

Allan Thomas, a director of the West End Neighborhood Association, said Sixth Street was cut off when the freeway was elevated decades ago, something he said was poor planning.

"It has taken us years and years -- probably 20 years -- to undo what we did 50 years ago by blocking off that street," Thomas said.

Several other public works projects are planned for the area, including a SMART multi-use path between West Eight Street and College Avenue, sewer and water improvements at Sixth Street, storm drain improvement at Fourth Street and the construction of the SMART station, Moshier said.

"There a lot of public investment going on in this part of town," Moshier said.

You can reach Staff WriterKevin McCallum at 521-5207or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.

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