Redwoods not in plans for Highway 101 makeover

  • Several redwood trees were removed for the construction of the southbound Highway 101 onramp, at the Airport Boulevard interchange, in Santa Rosa on Friday, January 10, 2014. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

The Redwood Highway may need a new name.

Sonoma County transportation officials are planning to pump nearly $5 million into landscaping projects along Highway 101, but will likely not plant any of the majestic redwoods that gave the route its nickname.

Thousands of trees, including hundreds of redwoods, have been cut down to make way for carpool lanes along the highway from Windsor to the county line south of Petaluma.

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority on Monday will unveil its plan to replant the 101 corridor that was torn up during construction and remains a barren eyesore in places.

The redwoods removed along the highway are not native to that part of Sonoma County, said James Cameron, deputy director of projects at the SCTA. They were planted when the highway was built in the 1950s and require a lot of maintenance to survive.

"Right now, Caltrans does not plan to plant redwoods," Cameron said. "All of the redwood trees that have been cut down were part of the original highway landscaping. They are not native."

The county plan would focus landscaping efforts on key locations at Airport Boulevard south of Windsor, between Highway 12 and Steele Lane in central Santa Rosa and at the southern gateway to Petaluma. The projects, costing a total of $4.7 million, will be paid for through state transportation funds and local sales tax money.

The SCTA plan would make an additional $200,000 available for cities to plant trees along the highway in their jurisdictions. Windsor, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Petaluma are the cities most likely to participate in the program, according to the plan.

Funding for landscaping along the full 29-mile corridor remains $13 million short, according to the SCTA plan. Officials say they will continue to look for sources of funding to finish the landscape project while also trying to fund the highway widening project, which has a $125 million shortfall.

Supervisor Mike McGuire, who serves as the SCTA's chairman and also is a member of its tree committee, said he will lobby for replanting some redwoods along the corridor.

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