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Neighbors band together to protest potholes

  • Cars drive down the center of Lichau Rd. to avoid potholes along the sides on Tuesday, September 20, 2011, Penngrove, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

An organized protest by residents along a pothole-marred road on Sonoma Mountain represents more frustration over the conditions of Sonoma County's rural roads, which already rank among the worst in the Bay Area.

About 200 residents who live on Lichau Road east of Rohnert Park signed a petition demanding that the county improve conditions on the three-mile stretch that winds up the mountain and dead-ends at the Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

The road includes a popular and sometimes-deadly dip known as "Gravity Hill." But residents complain that the only stomach-churning thrills they experience on the road are when they are forced to weave around potholes, sometimes into the oncoming lane.

"It's terrible. I think the road should be voted the worst in Sonoma County," said Janae Rosen, who organized the petition drive and has lived on Lichau since 1997.

Supervisor Valerie Brown, whose district includes Lichau (pronounced Lee-how) said that she drove Lichau and that it's clear the road is "very bumpy."

"But I'm not sure it's any different from other country roads we are trying to find funding for," she said.

The protest may be a harbinger as the vast majority of the county's rural roads continue to fall into disrepair and residents become frustrated by the conditions.

Supervisors last year cited budget constraints when they voted to limit upkeep on more than 1,200 miles of county roads beyond routine fixes such as brush clearing, pothole and storm repair.

The controversial decision meant that these roads would essentially be allowed to fail within 10 years, with some converted to gravel surfaces.

The exception is about 155 miles of road that will receive long-term surface maintenance under the county's so-called "priority road network."

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