The pace of work to widen Highway 101 through Sonoma County is picking up and shifting to Petaluma, where four major projects to rebuild overpasses and bridges will start within the next few months.
It will also probably make Petaluma traffic a mess until work is completed in late 2014.
"Patience will be required and tested with all the work being done," said David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and a longtime Petaluma resident. "The widening project as a whole has been widely supported over the years. Once people see it finished, it will be very, very welcome."
Ghilotti Construction of Santa Rosa is expected to begin work to rebuild the Highway 101 interchange at Old Redwood Highway-Petaluma Boulevard North this spring after submitting the low bid of $19.6 million.
At the same time, work is supposed to get under way on rebuilding the Highway 101 bridges over Highway 116 and the Petaluma River, the South Petaluma Boulevard overpass and some Highway 101 frontage roads south of Petaluma, at a cost of $119.7 million.
"We had all the work between Windsor and Petaluma the last eight years, and we are now going to see that shift to a lot of work happening from Petaluma to Novato over the next number of years," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
Work to widen Highway 101 to six lanes through Sonoma County began a decade ago, when a five-mile stretch of freeway was opened between
Highway 12 in Santa Rosa and Wilfred Avenue in Rohnert Park.
Since then, an additional lane has been added from Windsor to the northern part of Petaluma, major overpasses have been replaced and soundwalls built.
The seed money for the work has been Measure M, a quarter-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2004. It has raised $140 million for Highway 101 construction, and been used as leverage to attract $615 million more in state and federal funds.