Study of proposed Santa Rosa greenway highlights growing traffic woes

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The newest plans for a greenway proposed to run through southeast Santa Rosa to Spring Lake Regional Park call for more housing that would accommodate up to 632 people in 244 apartments, along with open space, new trails and recreational areas.

The plans represent an increase of 54 apartments, a boost that reflects Santa Rosa’s emphasis on creating new housing across the city, especially in the wake of the 2017 wildfires.

But a new traffic analysis unveiled Thursday at the Planning Commission said congestion at key intersections in the area was likely with or without the greenway and its housing. A long-term and currently unfunded extension of Farmers Lane is expected to decrease delays at some spots but could increase congestion at others, the analysis found.

The traffic projections examined current conditions at intersections along Farmers Lane, Hoen Avenue and Hoen Frontage Road, and examined how driving on those roads could change if both the planned 57-acre greenway and the extension of Farmers Lane south of Bennett Valley Road come to pass.

Afternoon rush-hour traffic on Farmers Lane at the eastbound Highway 12 off-ramp already leads to traffic delays that exceed city standards, according to the traffic analysis. The addition of the greenway could add another 10 seconds wait per driver on average, and the analysis suggests adding another off-ramp lane and widening Hoen Frontage Road to include two eastbound lanes.

City traffic consultants do expect a Farmers Lane extension to the southwest, at Petaluma Hill Road, to relieve pressure at the Highway 12 interchange, and some residents urged planning commissioners to spur action on that extension project.

“We will forever, for decades to come, hear the traffic news say that there’s a back-up on Highway 12 from Farmer’s Lane to 101 if something isn’t done with the intersection,” Santa Rosa resident Mike Raymond said during the public hearing. “This is becoming a ‘let’s back-up highway traffic’ plan rather than an eastbound greenway plan.”

Without additional changes, congestion at the Farmers Lane-Fourth Street intersection could be severe with both the greenway and the extension project, with service potentially considered “unacceptable” at peak morning and evening times, according to the analysis. Evening traffic at the intersection could be delayed for an average of about 81 seconds per vehicle — half a minute longer than current conditions, and bad enough to earn the lowest possible level-of-service grade.

The new traffic report noted that these snarls could be eased by widening the intersection at Farmers Lane and Fourth Street and changing nearby signal timing. But officials have not identified funding for the widening project and have not analyzed its effect on the environment, the report said.

The path for the greenway’s development was cleared earlier this decade when the California Transportation Commission dropped plans to extend Highway 12. The tentative plans call for most of the land to go to either the city of Santa Rosa or Sonoma Water, the county agency, with pockets set aside for residential and commercial projects sold to private developers.

The new traffic study is part of the larger environmental impact report that needs official approval before the greenway can be zoned for development and the project can be appraised for sale of the land.

The city is accepting public comments on the newest version of the greenway environmental impact report until March 13. The City Council is set to consider the project in mid-summer. More information is available at srcity.org/2571/ Southeast-Greenway.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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