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Preserving rural roads means hard choices

  • Bennett Valley Rd. east of Grange Rd. is currently not included on the county's pavement maintenance priority list.

A plan to preserve decent pavement on an additional 63 miles of county roads — at a cost of $4.5 million a year — will be considered by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

To pay for the work, the board will review cost-cutting options such as turning roadside brush clearing over to private property owners and a menu of suggested tax increases.

Residents and board members may bristle at some of the proposals, said Phil Demery, county transportation and public works director, but they warrant consideration by a public fed up with bumpy roads.

"We all know the roads are in bad shape in the county," Demery said.

Bennett Valley Community Association leaders have notified their 280-member households of the plan, and some will attend Tuesday's board meeting to lobby for a 5.4-mile stretch of Bennett Valley Road from Grange Road to Warm Springs Road.

"It's like a lifeline," said Larissa Goliti, the vice president of the association vice president who lives on Pressley Road.

For Goliti and hundreds of others living on side roads, Bennett Valley Road is the only direct route to Santa Rosa to the west and Glen Ellen to the east.

Marilee Jensen, a Bardy Road resident and former association president, said the traffic volume on Bennett Valley Road justifies putting it on the priority list.

In this year's Bay Area road-quality rating, Sonoma County's 1,384-mile network of roads in the unincorporated area got a 45, described as "poor" on a 100-point scale, and second worst among nine counties and 100 cities in the region.

The new plan prepared by the Transportation and Public Works Department comes as a sequel to the supervisors' decision last October to designate 150 miles of heavily traveled roads for pavement preservation, which includes sealing and resurfacing as needed.

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