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A major city road project begins this month that is likely to cause traffic delays through December along East Washington Street west of Highway 101.

Taking advantage of good weather and the low summer water table, Team Ghilotti has begun the early stages of  replacing water mains between Edith Street and the Petaluma River. Work will be done 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays, and will include lane closures and delays. Some tie-ins will be done at night when service shut-downs would affect busiensses dependent on water.

Crews will be replacing the 75-year-old, cast iron and steel pipes that range in diameter from 6 to 10 inches with new 18-inch pipe. The project also includes installing new water services and fire hydrants, tie-ins into existing water mains, pavement resurfacing and re-striping.

For more information about this project, call Petaluma’s Department of Public Works and Utilities at 778-4546. Patricia Gothard is the project manager.

Traffic is already backed up on East Washington Street because the interchange at Highway 101 is being rebuilt as part of the Marin-Sonoma Narrows project, which is widening Highway 101 between Novato and Petaluma.

We also have answers to questions about why that project is taking so long and causing so many delays, but not much in the form of good news. Expect the on-ramp project to continue through mid-2014.

What’s the on-ramp hold up?

Question: The Northbound onramp at Washington Street is still not done after more than a year, although work on city streets all around it at the new Target center has been done for quite awhile. What’s the hold up? – Robert

Question: Could you please explain why the 101 N. Bound Onramp @E. Washington seems to be going @ a snails pace? There has been no work for the past 2 weeks. – Eddie

Answer: City projects are supervised by Petaluma engineers, while the on-ramp work is overseen by Caltrans. Spokesman Allyn Amask was able to tell us that “no observable work took place at the on-ramp for several months due to a required settling period for an embankment and retaining wall.”

When contractors could report that no movement was observed on the retaining wall, construction work resumed in mid-June. The intersection is scheduled to be done in mid-2014, but could be finished earlier if good weather days continue, Amask says.

“Work completed so far includes utilities, the northbound on-ramp bridge and the northbound on-ramp embankment. Remaining work includes barrier rails, bridge railing, paving and opening of the new  northbound U.S. 101 on-ramp,  and realignment of the on- and off-ramps on the south side of the East Washington Street.”

Can traffic signals be improved?

Question: The traffic signal from East Washington Street onto Southbound Hwy 101 Freeway Entrance needs to be fixed. The timing system at this intersection is set for each lane, which is causing a big backup for cars trying to go northbound 101. This traffic signal has been broken for over a year now. Can you please get Caltrans to fix this signal? Yesterday it took me six minutes to get onto the freeway. – Mark Johnson

Answer: Mark is right to say that signals on the overpass are overseen by Caltrans. Local agencies are doing what they can to ease the problem and have plans in place to get things running smoothly again once the 101 work is done.

Petaluma City Engineer Curtis Bates said the city has been working with Caltrans staff to figure out how to improve traffic flow while the interchange is under construction.

“Once the interchange project is complete, traffic signal timing will be modified in this segment of East Washington, from McDowell to Ellis, to coordinate traffic timing during peak a.m., mid-day and p.m. commute hours,” Bates said. “Traffic flow and operations will improve once the project is complete and the timing has been modified.”

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