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Highway 101 pedestrian, bicycle crossing progressing in 2021

The project creates a pedestrian crossing across Highway 101 in northern Santa Rosa. Construction is still at least a year away.|

A Highway 101 pedestrian and bicycle crossing, which has been pursued for decades, is closer to reality now that construction is funded and its design is essentially finalized, Santa Rosa officials and bicycle advocates say.

Over the past several months, city officials announced they acquired enough funding to build the $14 million bridge that will link Elliott and Edwards avenues and provide a safe way for non-motorists to cross the freeway.

It’s design has also gone before the city’s Design Review Board and members of the public, including area bicyclists, whose glowing reviews pave the way for construction.

“It’s great for us to feel that positive benefit of bringing this project to the finishing touches, which would be finalizing its design and getting it out to bid,“ Santa Rosa Assistant City Manager Jason Nutt said.

City staff say the project has been planned since the 1990s and is already a part of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Therefore, it won’t need to go before another governing body for approval until the search for a contractor begins.

Members of the public, however, can still review the design during a public meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8.

The meeting will be broadcast via Zoom and its link is available on the project’s website, which can be found by Googling “Highway 101 bicycle and pedestrian overcrossing.”

The final design shows a 17-foot-wide cable-stayed bridge with two bicycle lanes, one pedestrian lane and ramps on each side of the freeway instead of spiral staircases.

Lighting and landscaping also will be used to provide an open walkway that makes people feel safe, officials said.

It's expected to provide easy access to Coddingtown Mall and the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station on the west side of the freeway and Santa Rosa Junior College and Santa Rosa High School on the east side.

Currently, the nearest crossing opportunities are Steele Lane to the north and College Avenue to the south. As they are now, neither stretch of roadway is as safe as it could be for bicyclists, said Eris Weaver, executive director of Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition

“It’s a very challenging thing to get across the freeway,” she said.

On Nov. 5, Santa Rosa resident Brian Reeves bicycled his way past Highway 101 along Steele Lane and he said it was rough contending with traffic coming and going from Coddingtown Mall.

Living east of the freeway, he agreed that an alternate pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians would be beneficial and has been a long-time coming.

“I heard about it once and nothing happened,” said Reeves, 52. “I thought it was just one of those things people talk about doing, but red tape slows it down.”

Concerns about construction funding lingered for years, but they were alleviated over the summer when city officials announced $12 million in funding was acquired from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Additional MTC funding of $3.4 million was secured and about $5 million in Senate Bill 1 gas tax funding is expected to be discussed at future Santa Rosa City Council meetings.

On Nov. 4, members of the city’s Design Review Board praised the progress of the project.

“This has been a long process and I’m really glad to see there’s movement on this,” Board Member Adam Sharron said during the meeting.

But there were still questions among the positive feedback. Will the bridge catch the attention of drivers on the freeway? Will it properly represent the city of Santa Rosa?

“I suggest this needs to carry a message; not just be pleasing to look at,” one viewer said during the Nov. 4 meeting.

Board members said they were not inclined to add public art to anywhere other than the base of the bridge, noting that the structure itself was artwork.

Nutt, Santa Rosa’s assistant city manager, said finishing touches, such as sidewalks on each end of the bridge, have yet to be finalized and any discussion about art would go before the city’s Art in Public Places Committee.

“We know that there are areas where it’s recommended we do some additional evaluating. But the bridge type and alignment, we feel confident we know what we are doing right now,” he said.

The number of bicyclists in Santa Rosa continues to rise and that trend could continue once the bridge is completed, Weaver said.

"Adding more of this kind of infrastructure will keep this spiraling upward,“ she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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