Readers have questions about the Highway 101 widening project, which will add an additional lane in each direction between Novato and Windsor. From just north of Novato to Windsor, the highway will have three lanes in each direction.

Mike writes: “I would like to know why nobody has questioned why we are not widening all bridges or creek crossings to handle eight lanes? I would like to see our tax dollars spent wisely. You already have mobilized construction crews and have the structures torn apart, what is another three feet on each side of the bridges?”

Another reader writes: ” Have you done any research on what is planned as far as development in the narrows area? By the looks of it they will be putting homes up in that area near the landfill and dairy operation. They are widening the freeway so developers can exploit the land there and create new traffic nightmares.”

The answer to these two related questions comes from the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. First, adding an extra lane, whether it is a third lane or a fourth lane, is an expensive undertaking. Millions are spent to design the project, purchase the right of way and expand the freeway. There may be some cost savings in adding two additional lanes at once, but the project would balloon well beyond the current budget.

The highway was built in the 1950s when car speeds were slower and Sonoma County’s population was a fraction of what it is today. As cities and Sonoma and Marin counties plan for future growth, the general plan calls for a six-lane freeway through Sonoma County. There has always been a desire for a rural separation between Novato and Petaluma, and the land in The Narrows is zoned for agriculture. The construction that drivers see along the highway in that area is to build frontage roads to serve the existing farms and ranches in the area once they are cut off from direct highway access. They are not for a planned housing development.

Incidentally, the roads that will front the highway do not connect, and that was planned on purpose. There will be no way to drive along the frontage roads from Novato to Petaluma. Planners did not want drivers to use these roads as an alternative to Highway 101.