Mostly clear

Safety upgrade for Hwy. 116 intersection a year away

A key safety change could come within a year to a Cotati intersection that was the scene of two fatal vehicle crashes in 2009.

Transportation officials are planning to create a westbound left turn lane from Highway 116 onto Madrone Avenue on the town's west side.

But construction won't start until next summer at the earliest, Caltrans district director Bijan Sartipi said in a letter to Cotati and Sonoma County officials. Last March, the department said it might go forward within a few months.

Still, local officials were happy with the news.

"I'm very glad that Caltrans is moving forward on the project even if it's still a year out," said Barbara Vrankovich, superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District.

Sig changes to clarify the area's 45-mph speed limit already have been completed.

The intersection has raised concerns for years.

"It is a tragedy waiting to happen," Cotati resident John Metras, then a teacher at nearby Thomas Page Elementary School, said in 1998 in a letter to the Cotati City Council.

Last week, he said Caltrans' plans were dismally late.

"There's no crosswalk, there's no turn lane, there's no traffic lights, there's nothing, and it's two blocks from a major highway," Metras said. "It should have been in the planning 15 years ago."

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