101 Narrows project worth the wait – Marin Independent Journal

For thousands of motorists who depend on Highway 101 to cross the Marin-Sonoma County line – for work, play or family – the start of construction on the final stage widening of the Novato Narrows should be saluted.

The project spanned two decades, beginning with widening the freeway to six lanes through the north end of Novato and including larger-scale widening projects through Petaluma. The final six miles of the 17-mile long project, from Novato to the county line, are beginning and expected to be completed around summer 2026.

It can’t come soon enough for the 150,000 North Bay commuters who depend on this busy stretch of road.

Veteran commuters remember when this stretch of 101 amounted to a four-lane freeway — barely a freeway — with several precarious crossings. It was an example of Caltrans’ inability to keep up with increasing traffic levels and changing travel patterns.

Marin commuters got the first break, when the first stage of the widening was completed to Novato’s Atherton Avenue interchange. This project moved the 101 nighttime traffic choke point and gridlock north of Atherton.

But most of the recent work has been in Sonoma County, where the Petaluma River Bridge had to be replaced and the freeway raised over San Antonio Creek, which often flooded and closed the freeway.

At a ceremony marking the start of construction on the final stage, Novato Mayor Eric Lucan joked that the widening of the section should make the name “Novato Narrows” go back to the history books.

The widening will fill a void in the commuter route and improve bus service times in both counties.
This won’t solve all of Route 101’s commute-hours issues, especially as traffic gradually approaches pre-pandemic levels.

The works will also include the construction of a link in the cycle path between the two counties and much needed safety improvements.

Construction of the final stage was suspended for several years as much of its funding was blocked in a legal battle over the legality of the 2018 Regional Measure A, which increased tolls on bridges in the La bay to raise funds for regional transportation. improvements.

Advocacy from local and state leaders has kept the completion of this project high on the state’s to-do list.

Instead of waiting for a court ruling — and the promise that the delay will only increase the cost of the project — the Metropolitan Transportation Commission offered a cash advance to take advantage of available federal funding and begin construction.

It was a wise use of taxpayers’ money.

This is a project that has needed to be built for years. Miles of traffic jams don’t help the environment or the local economy. Marin employers know that gnarly commutes are a barrier to recruiting and retaining workers.

It has been a long wait, but the final stage widening work has begun. The promise that the Narrows project will be fully completed is heading towards reality and making a difference.

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