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May 27, 2018
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Study completed by Penngrove engineer for proposed Sebastopol trail

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
March 9, 2018

A feasibility study was completed and presented to the County Board of Supervisors last month for the proposed 13-mile paved trail connecting Petaluma and Sebastopol. The trail would provide safe cycling, walking, jogging and other recreational and commuting opportunities for residents of Petaluma, Sebastopol and some unincorporated areas. In addition, connections were identified that would feed into other trails such as the Joe Rodota trail in Sebastopol, the future Laguna trail, and connections to Cotati and Rohnert Park. 

The feasibility study, performed by Jeffrey Peters, Principal of Penngrove-based Questa Engineering Corporation and funded by a Caltrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant, evaluated existing site conditions, challenges and constraints, opportunities, health and environmental benefits, alternatives and identified and recommended an optimal route to connect Petaluma and Sebastopol. 

“The trail would provide both a recreational experience for people to get in between two places and enjoy being outside, and provide a commute experience,” says Jeffrey Peters. “It will create a safer and traffic separated route between the two cities.”

The study looked at the possibility of having much of the proposed trail follow the former Petaluma Sebastopol Railroad. However, when the railroad stopped operations much of the property was sold to adjacent property owners. Today much of the railroad right-of-way is privately owned and developed for other purposes such as family homes. The county regional parks department is hesitant to use imminent domain because of the difficulty and expense. Therefore, the study also evaluated other options for a route to connect the two cities.

The feasibility study estimates a total cost of approximately $33.5 million, including not just construction but other expenses such as environmental studies and mitigation, surveying, engineering, utility relocation, right of way and property acquisition costs and traffic control. While costly, the study showed the project being feasible and is envisioned as a network of trails, some overlapping.

The county hopes the trail will meet various transportation objectives including bicycle commuting and pedestrian connections to local destinations such as schools and businesses. Trails connecting cities have been shown to promote healthy communities and safer alternatives to bicycling or walking on roads and help reduce traffic and greenhouse gases. 

“The feasibility study is just the first step in a long multi step process,” says Peters. “Most likely it will take three to five years of engineering and environmental work to begin construction, assuming funding is expeditiously lined up.”

The trail would be constructed in segments and it could take 10 to 15 years, or more, for all construction to be complete, especially since funding for the project still needs to be identified. The most likely segments to be completed first include the north side of Petaluma near Old Redwood Highway and Stony Point Road, past the KOA campground, as well as on the Sebastopol side, Cooper Road to Bloomfield Road. These two segments have been identified as “high priority” segments.

“The people of Sonoma County are lucky to have an advanced thinking regional parks department,” says Peters. “There has also been much cooperation between the cities involved and the regional parks.”

On Feb. 13 the County Board of Supervisors accepted the findings and recommendations of the feasibility study. Next, the regional parks department will pursue grant opportunities and other means of funding to develop the proposed trail.