State lets go of plans to extend Highway 12

Supporters of a plan to create a greenway across southeast Santa Rosa are buoyed by a report suggesting the state is willing to part with the two-mile ribbon of land that had been designated for the extension of Highway 12.

The draft report on the future of the Highway 12 corridor clearly states that the State Department of Transportation has no plans to extend the highway east of Farmers Lane over Spring Lake and therefore doesn't need the 50 acres long set aside for the project.

"It's a really historic moment," said Steve Rabinowitsh, former city councilman and co-chairman of the Southeast Greenway Campaign, "because it confirms the goal of the community that that parcel should be a connective asset and not a highway."

The report outlines long-range planning issues facing the stretch of highway between Sebastopol and Sonoma. It must be approved by the California Transportation Commission, and a decision of what to do with the land could be months or years away.

But supporters nevertheless were encouraged by the report language, which bluntly states the extension "will not happen."

"We're thrilled the state has finally said this is not going to be a freeway," said Linda Proulx, co-chairwoman of the campaign.

The conclusion is "not earth-shattering," she said. The creation of Spring Lake Regional Park in the 1960s energized nature lovers who fiercely opposed routing the highway through the park. In the 1990s, the city removed the highway extension from its General Plan, effectively codifying the city's opposition to the project.

But state's formal acknowledgment that the project is dead is crucial because it allows CalTrans to declare the property surplus and transfer it for other uses, Proulx said.

"Now we feel like we can move forward," she said. "This is going to light a little bit of fire under everyone."

The 300-foot-wide strip of open space runs from Farmer's Lane, past Montgomery High School, crosses Yulupa Avenue and Summerfield Road before it turns northeast and climbs the hill to the edge of Spring Lake Regional Park.

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