At times, it seems I’m the only one going 55 on the Cotati Grade. You too?

With the opening late last year of the third north and southbound lanes on Highway 101 between Petaluma Boulevard North and Rohnert Park Expressway, many drivers have turned the stretch into a speedway, often far exceeding the 55-mph speed limit.

As I cruise in the slow lane doing 55 or so, I’ve been passed by a variety of trucks and cars, from clunkers to expensive, from gas guzzlers to hybrids; a couple of River Rock Casino buses; PG&E pickups; and even a Caltrans pickup! Many are going 70 or faster.

“Left and right, people are just blowing through there,” acknowledged CHP Officer Jon Sloat, the spokesman for the Sonoma County office.

But speeders now do so at their own peril.

The CHP has stepped up patrols and ticketing on the Cotati Grade after a rash of complaints from the public, Sloat said.

Last October, before the extra lanes were opened as part of the highway’s widening project, the CHP issued a total of 391 tickets on 101 between Petaluma Boulevard North and RPX, covering speeding and other violations. In November, that climbed to 486 tickets, then 601 in December and 504 in January, Sloat said.

He said two officers are assigned to patrol that stretch of 101 each shift, although they can get called away to handle calls elsewhere.

Sloat said he expects many drivers to continue to speed over the Cotati Grade “until people get the message. And that message comes from us having to write tickets.”

Because the Cotati Grade is in a construction zone, those tickets aren’t cheap.

According to the Sonoma County court system, if you’re ticketed going 56 to 70 mph on the Cotati Grade, you can expect to pay a total fine of $360. The base fine is $70 — double the usual fine because of the construction zone. But the ultimate fine is much more because of added fees, which increase as the base fine rises. Here are those extra fees for the $360 fine:

–$70 for a state penalty assessment.

–$49 for a county penalty assessment.

–$28 for a DNA penalty assessment.

–$35 for a court facility construction assessment.

–$14 for a state criminal surcharge.

–$14 for an emergency medical services assessment.

–$4 for an emergency medical air transport assessment.

–$40 for court operations.

–$35 for a criminal conviction assessment.

–$1 to help pay for night court.

If you’re going 71 to 80 mph, your ticket will cost a total of $514. The base fine is $105, then there are all of those fees, most of which increase as the base fine does.

If you’re going 81 mph or more, it’s $634. The base fine is $135.

Once you get one of those tickets, 55 mph might not seem so bad.


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