A Caltrans map of the remodeled interchange at the Redwood Landfill north of Novato along Highway 101. Click to enlarge.

Nearly six months into the Highway 101 widening project between Petaluma and Novato, drivers have a lot of questions about what’s happening, why they’re being delayed and when the work will be done. For construction details, see yesterday’s Road Warrior column. For answers to specific questions about traffic, earth moving, orange fences and dairy farms, keep reading.

Question: South of Kastania Road on 101 there appears to be a road being built alongside the freeway for several miles, there’s lots of earthmoving equipment plus large pipes, drainage or sewage? And then further south towards Novato there’s a long stretch with work in the center of 101, is this just widening or is it related to the train service we keep hearing about? — AB

Answer: It doesn’t have anything to do with the SMART train, which will run on existing rail lines near Highway 101. What you’re seeing south of Kastania Road is the frontage roads that are being built on both sides of the highway south of Petaluma Blvd. South. They will serve local traffic that is now able to enter and exit Highway 101 at lots of locations between Petaluma and Novato. The widening project will limit local drivers’ access to interchanges at Kastania Road and Redwood Landfill Road.

Work being done in the center of 101 further south has two purposes — creating what will become HOV lanes and adding lanes to the existing Redwood Landfill bridge.

Question: What on earth is happening on and around the hill immediately to the side of 101 near the Novato dumps and Olompali State Park? I assume it’s part of the 101 widening, but it couldn’t possibly be where they are intending 101 to be, right? If I had to guess, I would say they are building a sound wall, would that be correct? I just looks like a monstrous undertaking for a sound wall… — kstedry

Answer: It isn’t a sound wall, it’s a retaining wall built to hold up the hillside. What you’re seeing is construction of the massive new Redwood Sanitary Landfill interchanges, which will become one of only two places to enter and exit the freeway between Petaluma and the Atherton Avenue exit in Novato. San Antonio Road, the Olompali entrance and all other driveways will no longer have direct access to 101.

The roadway being cut closest to the hill on the west side of 101 at the Redwood interchange is the frontage road that will handle local traffic to and from San Antonio Road and the farm driveways. The road cuts south of Olompali are for the frontage road that will run between the historic park and Novato.

You can read more details about the projects and its funding in an earlier Road Warrior story HERE.

Question: In the narrows proper, south of the county line, there is about 100-150 feet of land staked off, actually on both sides of the freeway. The dairy ranch between San Antonio Road and Olompali Park has lost a bit of working land. Maybe it’s just construction frontage roads? Can you find out why so much land is staked off and is being graded west of 101 through the Narrows? I thought the new lanes were going in the center of the roadway. – Chris Eich

Answer: Land from several dairy farms was purchased for the Narrows project, but the most visible is the Silveira dairy farm on the west side of 101. A portion of the farm adjacent to the highway was purchased to use for the frontage road and the interchange construction.

The new HOV lanes in the center of the highway also are being constructed. Once the widening project is finished, 101 will have three lanes going in each direction, but only two will be open until funding is available to complete the HOV lanes in the middle.

Question: What’s with all the BRIGHT ORANGE fences along 101 especially south of Petaluma? They are way off the highway out in the fields and an eyesore. How about something green or brown? The animals don’t care what color is blocking their routes and the cars aren’t driving 100 feet off the road. — Alan

Answer: You were kidding, right? Cows don’t care what color the fences are, nor should drivers, but construction workers do. They’re used to seeing orange fences around hazards and project boundaries. Using more aesthetic colors that blend with the environment would defeat the purpose.

Question: Traffic is getting really bad along 101. In the morning going south, what should take 5-7 minutes from mid-Petaluma through Kastania now takes 20-30 minutes. Going north through the Novato Narrows between Hwy. 37 and Petaluma should take 15 minutes, but now can take up to 30-45 min.

The landfill portion I’m sure will take much longer, but the only resolution appears to be the 1.5 mile carpool  lane extension. This would (hopefully) have the biggest improvement on traffic. When is it supposed to be finished? — Ole

Answer: Driving through the Narrows is a real pain during construction, and probably will get worse before it gets better. The only relief on the horizon is the 1.6-mile northbound carpool lane between Atherton Avenue and the Novato city limits. It’s on schedule to open in spring 2014.

Question: How about a map of how the new freeway will look thru the Novato narrows? — Mike O’Brien

Answer: Caltrans hasn’t prepared one yet, maybe because design work is still being done on projects in the second phase of construction and funding is still being sought. Nor is there an estimate about when the full Narrows project will be completed.


Send questions to the Road Warrior at Linda.Castrone@pressdemocrat.com.