We have been writing about the changing transportation landscape in Sonoma County — the SMART commuter rail project, expanded air service at the Sonoma County Airport, the widening of Highway 101. All of these changes are impacting the actual physical landscape. As projects are built, the environment in the immediate vicinity is getting displaced.
The airport expansion project is cutting into habitat for the tiger salamander and Burke’s Goldfield flowers. Officials have purchased dozens of acres to offset the environmental impact. SMART rail construction in the wetlands between Petaluma and Novato requires lots of environmental mitigation. The rail agency recently bought 56 acres of wetlands for environmental restoration work.
But the most visible change to the landscape for Sonoma County drivers is the thousands of trees that have been removed to make way for sound walls, freeway ramps and carpool lanes along Highway 101 from Windsor to south of Petaluma. The Sonoma County Transportation Authority has a plan to replant the landscape, though funding for full landscaping is $13 million short. The first phase, which is funded, will landscape key interchanges along the corridor and will provide money for cities on the route to plant trees. Meanwhile, officials will continue looking for more funding to complete the landscaping.
Caltrans, which will approve the final landscape design, will not likely plant redwoods that once lined the highway. Those trees were planted when the highway was built in the 1950s and are not native to that part of Sonoma County.