Published Tuesday, July 3, 2001, in the Marin Independent Journal
Counties fund freeway widening
By Mark Prado
The long-anticipated Novato Narrows widening project on Highway 101
is gaining momentum, with officials in Marin and Sonoma counties
taking steps to acquire funding for the massive $235 million project.
Marin's Congestion Management Agency approved a plan last week that
shifts $10 million away from local roads, local transit and bicycle
and pedestrian plans and toward the Narrows project. On Monday, the
Sonoma County Transportation Authority will consider its own plan to
shift $10 million toward the Narrows project.
The commute bottleneck that occurs along the Narrows has been a
growing source of frustration for drivers as more vehicles use the
section of Highway 101 and as Sonoma County continues to grow. The
stretch of freeway through Marin and Sonoma is the fourth busiest
commute pocket in the Bay Area.
The project calls for widening, by at least one lane, the eight-mile
stretch of roadway between Novato and Petaluma, where traffic moves
in two lanes in each direction.
Officials at the California Department of Transportation and the
Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area's transportation
planning agency, have told county officials they would push for state
funding for the project if Marin and Sonoma contribute a combined $20
"The project would have fairly good standing with local support,"
said Doug Kimsey, MTC senior planner. "The fact that the counties are
willing to use money that otherwise would go locally definitely
helps. We recognize the importance of the project."
Marin's bicycle community has not objected to the money being moved
toward the Narrows plan. The project would include a bicycle path the
length of the project, said Farhad Mansourian, head of Marin's
Congestion Management Agency.
Suzanne Wilford, executive director of the Sonoma County
Transportation Authority, said she expects the authority board to
approve the shift in funding.
"It's a huge project that will have to rely on state and federal help
as well," she said. "Hopefully, with all the agencies working
together, we can get his done sooner rather than later."
The $20 million from the counties would be combined with an existing
$35 million for the project. The final $180 million would come from
the state Interregional Transportation Improvement Program, but it is
The final decision will be made by the California Transportation
Commission later this summer, but the project has a better chance if
the MTC and Caltrans are behind it, officials said.
If the money did arrive it would be part of a 25-year plan, but Marin
officials believe the project could be finished within six to eight