First phase of north county’s Highway 101 repaving project nearly complete

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The first phase of a Highway 101 repaving project north of Windsor is nearing completion, and finally will grant northern Sonoma County commuters some reprieve from the notoriously pockmarked roadway.

Work on the segment between Windsor and Geyserville is set to wrap up by the end of October or early November, before the traditional winter rains force the majority of construction crews off the roads.

“This is one of the worst stretches of highway in the Bay Area, and we couldn’t be more excited to be completing Phase One,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg. “A promise was made to keep the initial phase on time and on budget, and that promise was kept.”

Dublin-based DeSilva Gates Construction crews spent the past two construction seasons laying 14 miles of new roadway in both directions, replacing nerve-jarring craters with a steady surface. The new asphalt is expected to have a 20-year life span. Workers also ground down bumpy transitions over concrete bridges, making it a mostly smooth drive.

Dubbed “The Big Pave,” it’s one of the largest infrastructure projects in north Sonoma County in five decades.

Caltrans is overseeing the project. The first phase cost $74 million.

The next phase will repave 10 miles of highway from Geyserville to Cloverdale and repair or replace more than 55 culverts along the overall project’s 24-mile stretch. It’s expected to cost $90 million, largely because of road drainage work that includes an estimated $1 million in wetlands and riparian environmental impact mitigation.

The entire project is expected to cost about $164 million, about $4 million more than originally planned when construction began in June 2017.

Caltrans District Director Tony Tavares said the prior estimate lacked final design and right-of-way requirements now better understood from comprehensive engineering and environmental planning.

“Utilities have to be addressed; temporary construction easements have to be purchased …,” Tavares said.

“We also compare the price we’ve received on other projects most recently in the Bay Area, and the cost of asphalt has gone up a little as well, so that affects total cost of the project.”

The Big Pave is funded by state and federal gas tax dollars, funneled through the State Highway Operations and Protection Program.

Caltrans plans to submit its funding request for the second phase by June and initiate the construction bidding and contract award processes in the spring of 2020, with targeted completion by the end of 2021.

A potential repeal of last year’s gas tax expansion threatens a number of the state’s road and transit projects.

A recent study out of San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute projected if voters approve Proposition 6 — the measure that would repeal Senate Bill 1 — in November the state will lose an estimated $100 billion in transportation revenue by 2040, resulting in further delays on decades of deferred maintenance on vital infrastructure.

Reform California, which backs Proposition 6, argued the repeal would mean nearly $800 in annual savings for the average family of four with two drivers.

However, a report from the Sacramento Bee closely analyzing the figure stated the total is “based on extreme assumptions and faulty math,” and pointed to a savings for the average California family of about $200 to $365 annually.

A Reform California spokesman said their research is well-documented and they stand by their numbers.

If Senate Bill 1 is repealed, Tavares said Caltrans would have to review its 10-year plan and reassess scheduled road projects, which could lead to some being scaled back or postponed indefinitely.

Whether or not the measure is approved, McGuire said the Big Pave would go unaffected.

“The Big Pave will be completed regardless of the outcome of Prop. 6,” McGuire said.

He said the first phase didn’t receive any SB 1 revenue because the law hadn’t taken effect until this past November.

“The dollars have already been programmed, and it’s halfway through a large project,” he said. “If Prop. 6 does pass and the state needs to secure $90 million (elsewhere), other projects that are being funding with gas tax dollars may be in jeopardy.”

A separate Highway 101 project to address a dip in an overpass transition at Healdsburg Avenue in Healdsburg is expected to get underway next month.

Contra Costa County-based Gordon N. Ball, Inc. will handle the $2 million grout-injection job, with expected completion by summer 2019.

“This improvement is a long time coming,” McGuire said. “Riding with grandma, I can remember her saying a few choice words. We’re going to see marked improvement from what northern Sonoma County commuters have faced for the last three generations. I drive it every day, living in Healdsburg, and cannot stress enough that it is 110 percent improvement from what it was to what it is now.”

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