A friend recently asked me if I’d noticed the swath of downed redwood trees along Highway 101 near its interchange with 116 at Cotati. Although more often a 101 traveler north of that area, generally between Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa, several visits to Petaluma and points south during our lengthening springtime daylight revealed lots of logs and stumps instead of trees.
What’s going on is commencement of the Caltrans Central Project for widening 101 from north of Pepper Road to Rohnert Park Expressway. As planned, this $55 million expenditure will provide a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in each direction, together with new sound walls along the highway while also widening existing bridges at Copeland Creek and Laguna de Santa Rosa Creek plus replacing the interchange of Highways 101 and 116 and the Sierra Avenue and Railroad Avenue undercrossings.
While taking these trees down is unfortunate and not enjoyable for any of the people involved in this project, the trees have to be removed to accommodate the widening. Caltrans has a re-planting program that establishes a one-to-one tree replacement ratio; for every tree removed, a new one will be planted.
Of course replacement trees won’t attain the attractiveness of those removed for many years. However, we don’t want trees too close to traffic. I still remember the Rancho Cotate Homecoming weekend in 2001 (so soon after September 11th) when three high school women students plowed into a redwood very close to the southbound lanes on 101 just north of the Wilfred exit. One died and the other two were injured. It’s still difficult for me to drive by that spot after these many years. In fact, when on my way from Santa Rosa to Rohnert Park, I often get off 101 at Todd Road and use the “back way” home.