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Healdsburg officials are pushing an ambitious plan to transform the gateway to the downtown despite uncertainty over funding.

The loss of redevelopment programs statewide has removed a way to help kick-start the plan, which calls for traffic roundabouts, a new southbound on-ramp to Highway 101 on Westside Road, new streets and pedestrian paths to the Healdsburg Plaza.

"We're in a quandary with a lot of projects," Mayor Gary Plass said of the demise of the redevelopment agency and its impact on urban renewal plans. "The dream is it would still move forward."

The vision is detailed in a newly-released draft plan that establishes guidelines for public infrastructure and private investment in the Central Healdsburg Avenue and train depot area.

The goal is to create "a sense of arrival, calm traffic and create a comfortable walking environment," according to consultants.

It's also intended to stimulate economic and residential development in the area, generally south of Mill Street between the freeway and the Russian River.

The study was conducted because a number of parcels in the area are for sale, or being considered for new uses, including the 12-acre Nu Forest Products lumber yard.

The 149-page plan proposes land uses, building designs, circulation framework, trail and creek improvements and utility upgrades.

The City Council last week approved a $160,000 expenditure toward the environmental impact report for the plan.

Most of the funds for the environmental work come from the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission because the plan aims to integrate future development with train and bus service at the depot.

One component identifies ways to improve access to the transit center for pedestrians, bicyclists, shuttles, transit vehicles and autos.

Another prominent proposal is construction of a roundabout at the city's problematic five-way intersection of Healdsburg Avenue, the railroad tracks Mill and Vine streets.

A roundabout "is much simpler for pedestrians and cyclists," said Senior Planner Lynn Goldberg who noted that the intersection gets backed up at times and is confusing, especially for visitors.

Another three-legged roundabout is planned to replace the intersection of Healdsburg Avenue and the Central Healdsburg Avenue freeway off-ramp.

Computer modeling found the roundabouts are projected to perform "considerably better" than the current intersections, even with large vehicles, higher future traffic volumes and the addition of rail service.

But the city had been counting on $2.4 million in redevelopment money to create the five-way roundabout. With the elimination of redevelopment agencies by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, that money is doubtful.

The city has $13.5 million remaining from the sale of bonds for various redevelopment projects. But it will be up to an oversight committee yet to be appointed by county supervisors, the cities and schools to determine how much of the funds will be returned to underlying taxing districts in the redevelopment area. And the state Department of Finance also will sign off on how the money is disbursed.

Healdsburg officials may argue that the money already was committed to the five-way intersection by previous City Council actions.

"We have been doing work on the five-way for some time now. It remains to be seen how that will play out," said Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian.

The draft plan details other ways of paying for improvements, such as regional, state and federal transportation grants; fees paid by developers, or special assessment districts in which property owners agree to tax themselves.

Sizing up public transit fares

Santa Rosa to San Rafael $9.50 adult for one way on the SMART train; $8 one way on Golden Gate Transit Bus.

Sonoma County Transit one-way $3.90 for the 40-mile plus trip between Cloverdale and Rohnert Park/Petaluma.

Santa Rosa City Bus, Petaluma Transit and Marin Transit have one-way adult fares of $1.50 and $2 within their service areas.

Altamont Commuter Express $13.75 for 75-mile trip between Stockton and San Jose. From Livermore to San Jose, approximately 40 miles, the fare is $9.

Caltrain’s adult cash fare for the 41-mile trip from San Francisco to Sunnyvale is $7.75.

Capitol Corridor’s adult fare for the 66 miles from Oakland to Davis is $27. The 45-mile trip between Suisun City and Sacramento is $16. The 15-mile trip between Davis and Sacramento is $9.

SOURCE: SMART staff research

"Potentially, it could put more onus on developers," Mayor Plass said of how the goals of the plan will be achieved without redevelopment funds.

Regardless of how much Healdsburg can pay for improvements and infrastructure, the plan "encourages, good, clean, sound development," he said.

The Central Healdsburg Avenue Plan is available at www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

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