Questions from our readers:

What’s up with the dirt/concrete pile along 101?

What is all the construction going on east of Highway 101 just south of Petaluma?  It’s been a curiosity for a couple of weeks now, and has gotten to the point where it’s now causing traffic delays in the morning.  The work isn’t technically on the freeway.  It’s just east of it, a hundred yards or so off the side of the road.  They’ve put a long orange temporary fence off the east side of the freeway that stretches from the South Petaluma Blvd offramp down to where the Gas Club gas station is just north of Kastania Road.  Almost directly across the freeway from the gas station they have been creating giant piles of broken concrete and land fill.  Normally, during commute hours I don’t see much going on–just bigger piles every day.  But this morning they had all kinds of construction equipment moving dirt around.  Not sure if they’re replacing some sort of water or sewer main, preparing to widen the freeway, or building new construction?  At first I thought it was SMART train construction, but then I realized the tracks don’t run along the freeway in that area. I’d love to know what they’re doing.  Do you know? Lori

The answer comes from Michael Ghilotti, president of Ghilotti Bros. Inc., a construction company based in San Rafael. He says the company is stockpiling recycled concrete and asphalt and clean dirt for use as road base and such in future projects in the Petaluma area or so.

“It’s pretty awesome and growing every day,” he says.

He says storing the material, some of which came from the Doyle Drive reconstruction project in San Francisco, will not only provide ready access to it but will save natural resources by cutting reliance on rock and gravel from Sonoma County quarries and will reduce truck traffic.

Upcoming Ghilotti Bros. projects in which the material might get used are redoing the Petaluma River bridge and Highway 101 widening in northern Novato.

Free air and water as gas stations

What is the law regarding air at service stations?  Some charge as much as a dollar while others are free. Daryl

If you buy fuel at a station, it has to provide you with free air, including and water, according to the state Business and Professions Code Section 13651. If you don’t buy fuel, they can charge you.

For bathrooms, the same law requires the station to have separate men and women’s restrooms available for customers if the stations is “located within 660 feet of an accessible right-of-way of an interstate or primary highway,” which I understand to mean on and offramps. For stations in rural areas and not along interstates, the law requires at least one bathroom for customers. Gas stations built before 1990 are exempt if they would have to build bathrooms to meet the law.

The key for bathrooms is that you must be a customer, so you have to buy something, even if it’s not gas.

To read the law, CLICK HERE. If you have a complaint about bathrooms or free air/water, you can access the state complaint form by CLICKING HERE.

Danger at Highway 116 at Occidental Road

I live in Graton and have seen multiple near misses at the intersection of Hwy 116 and Occidental Rd with drivers who are making a left turns from Occidental Rd onto Hwy 116. There is no left turn signal allowing cars to make the turn safely from Occidental Rd onto 116 so they have to gauge if the oncoming traffic is coming straight at them or if they are going to make a turn themselves. Because of this, the traffic backs up a bit and so then drivers make the decision if they are going straight through the intersection to pass the turning drivers on the right, and sometimes then get into games of chicken with the drivers turning left from the other direction. Seems like it would be easy to add the left turn only signal for drivers on Occidental Rd, as they have it for drivers on 116 turning on to Occidental Rd. Andrew

The answer comes from Caltrans spokesman Adam Priest, who writes, “Caltrans is preparing a minor project to change the operation of the signal. The project will add left turn arrow indications to the existing signal and provide a split phase to give better protection for the left turning vehicle. The project is scheduled for 2013-2014 fiscal year.”