Proposed Petaluma crosstown connector at Caulfield takes leap forward

On Monday the Petaluma council took a major step forward in making the Caulfield crosstown connector a reality.|

It’s been a long road for a short bridge. But on Monday the City Council took a major step forward in making the Caulfield crosstown connector a reality.

In a unanimous vote at the May 15 meeting, city staff were directed to move forward on the Caulfield Bridge Crosstown Connector Project, beginning with a contract with engineering design firm Mark Thomas & Company. Following further design and environmental review work by the firm, staff hopes the project will be shovel-ready by 2026.

“I am supportive of moving forward with this so we can determine what design is needed,” said council member Janice Cader Thompson, who made the motion to approve the work contract after presenting questions to staff.

Providing a much-needed route over the city’s natural barrier, the Petaluma River, the long-sought connector is considered an essential part of the city’s plan to ease traffic congestion and improve crosstown connectivity.

Its current design calls for a 300-foot movable bridge to span the river between the Petaluma Boulevard South roundabout and the recently constructed section of Caulfield Lane at the Riverfront subdivision. The multi-use bridge would shortcut a two-and-a-half-mile journey for people walking, biking or driving from one side to the other.

Mark Thomas & Company will go through an environmental review process to satisfy California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act approval requirements, reevaluating and confirming a previous analysis of the bridge’s footprint completed by infrastructure consulting group AECOM back in 2018. The firm will also analyze which bridge type to use and complete other necessary work to make the project ready for construction.

The original bridge design proposed having sidewalks on each side of the bridge with on-street bike lanes. But the city will now consider a design that calls for a 10-foot multi-use pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists on each side of the road, with one vehicle lane traveling in each direction.

The planning-level portion of the project is expected to cost at least $48.5 million, with funding to come from city traffic impact and development fees, as well as grants. The professional services contract with Mark Thomas & Company is not to exceed about $5.3 million.

According to a May 15 staff report by public works staff, an early study evaluating river crossing alternatives was completed in 2006, with the Caulfield option chosen based on its anticipated cost-effectiveness and having the least amount of impacts on nearby properties.

The project was last discussed in a Crosstown Connector Workshop on Oct. 10, 2022, when the City Council received updates from staff on costs, funding opportunities and effects on mobility and traffic that this and other similar projects would bring to the city, including the long-debated Rainier Crosstown Connector project.

In February, staff issued a request for proposals for engineering and environmental services on the Caulfield project, and after receiving two proposals, an internal selection committee found Mark Thomas & Company was the best fit for the job, as the firm has an extensive portfolio of similarly complex projects – including several movable bridges currently being developed in the Sacramento area, the staff report said.

“This phase of work will be extremely complex given the technical challenges associated with designing movable bridges and the considerable regulatory requirements associated with performing work in and near waterways, which are heightened due to the river’s designation as a navigable waterway,” city public works staff said in their report.

Next steps also include a series of public meetings to gather community feedback, which are expected to take place in the near future, as well as a pair of online surveys.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at or 707-521-5208.

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