Traffic concerns grow in Penngrove after Sunday fatality, injury

The tragedy has shocked and saddened the community, said Lyndi Brown, chairperson of the Penngrove Cares Steering Committee, a group of residents who have been pushing for traffic changes among other issues.|

Concerns about traffic in Penngrove were renewed after a man died and a woman was injured Sunday night when crossing Old Redwood Highway.

The tragedy has shocked and saddened the community, said Lyndi Brown, chairperson of the Penngrove Cares Steering Committee, a group of residents who have been pushing for traffic changes among other issues.

The small unincorporated town nestled between Petaluma and Rohnert Park has seen increased traffic congestion as speed limits have increased. The rural area lacks enough traffic stops and pedestrian accommodations, Brown said.

In August, after the committee raised its concerns, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a traffic study by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

The study is in its early stages, said Supervisor David Rabbitt, whose district includes Penngrove. It will look at traffic conditions on the Railroad Avenue corridor in Penngrove and make recommendations, including intersection improvements and congestion relief. It cost the county $500,000 in traffic mitigation funds.

“We are an unincorporated wide spot in the road ― only it’s not that wide,” Brown said. “So we are we're feeling the impacts of growth all around us.”

A recent speed increase from 40 to 50 mph on Old Redwood Highway frustrated residents whose input hadn’t been considered, Brown said.

“Like many other rural roads around Sonoma County there are roads here that weren't meant to be heavily trafficked,” she said.

But that speed is mandatory under state law, Rabbitt said. The input of many local jurisdictions was revoked because historically they were used as speed traps.

At around 8 p.m. Sunday, a Penngrove man and Sebastopol woman were trying to cross Old Redwood Highway when they were struck by a Hyundai Veloster traveling north, said California Highway Patrol Officer David deRutte.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. He had not been identified by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office as of Wednesday afternoon.

The 66-year-old Sebastopol woman was rushed to Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where she was in stable condition Tuesday afternoon, hospital spokesperson Christian Hill said.

The pair was leaving a benefit concert for Willard Blackwell, a well-loved Sonoma County musician diagnosed with ALS, at the Twin Oaks Roadhouse, its owner Dean Biersch said.

The driver was not speeding or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, deRutte said, but the investigation is still ongoing.

“The entire staff at Twin Oaks is stunned and saddened by the tragic accident that occurred as two of our guests were leaving a Charity event Sunday,” Biersch said in a statement provided to The Press Democrat. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families involved.”

People who were at the venue said the parking lot at Twin Oaks Roadhouse was full and vehicles overflowed along the highway stretch where there are no crosswalks.

“It's not ideal to park and certainly not ideal to cross the road,” Rabbitt said.“My heart goes out to the family and friends of the person who died in the incident and we wish a full and speedy recovery to the person who was injured.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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