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Gallaher Homes executive spends $500,000 to derail SMART sales tax citing broken promises

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A stunning infusion of money from an unexpected source has rocked SMART’s campaign to renew the sales tax that subsidizes the commuter rail line running between Sonoma and Marin counties.

Molly Gallaher Flater, daughter of prominent Sonoma County developer Bill Gallaher, contributed more than $500,000 to defeat Measure I — and suggested she would be willing to double the amount to kill the March sales-tax extension the rail agency projects would raise nearly $2.4 billion over 30 years to operate and expand service.

“If I end up spending $1 million to save our community taxpayers from a $2.4 billion mistake then I feel it is worth every penny,” Flater said in a written statement Thursday.

Novato resident Mike Arnold, an economist and longtime critic of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, said he was approached by Gallaher in October about funding a campaign against the tax measure, and met his daughter for the first time this week. When he learned the size of Flater’s donation, his reaction was astonishment.

“How’s falling out of my tree? Are you kidding me?” Arnold said Thursday. “I’d never heard of the Gallahers. They’re running the campaign, I’m just the technical advisor.”

The financial contribution blindsided SMART officials and members of the Yes on Measure I campaign. They expressed dismay Thursday at the prospect a single donor could jeopardize the future of the public transit system’s primary revenue stream for decades to come.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10595957-181/wealthy-donor-spends-500k-to

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Santa Rosa upbeat on finding millions of dollars for long-planned footbridge

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has yet to secure the millions of dollars needed to build a long-planned bridge for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Highway 101, but that’s not stopping city officials and consultants from pressing ahead with design and location plans for a span they hope to start building in less than two years.

The bridge is touted by the city and its supporters as a necessary connector that will facilitate safer nonautomotive access over the freeway near its high-traffic interchanges at College Avenue and Steele Lane. They serve Coddingtown Mall, the nearby Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station, Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa High School and nearby neighborhoods.

Beyond figuring out how to drum up the estimated $11 million to $13 million needed to build the crossing, Santa Rosa will need to determine whether they want a light, airy design that preserves views for highway motorists — or a more imposing and unique bridge that becomes a new city landmark.

“What’s really great is that this is an amazing opportunity to right some of the planning wrongs” of the past, Adam Sharron, a landscape architect and member of the city’s Design Review Board, said at Thursday’s meeting. Cost permitting, he added, the city’s new crossing could be a statement piece “that is made to be a design, rather than utilitarian bridge.”

The city has a lot of work ahead before it can realize that vision. Initial designs conceived by city staff and consultants called for a bridge that would blend into highway surroundings and preserve far-reaching views for northbound drivers. The City Council is not expected to consider the project until early 2020, said Jason Nutt, the city’s director of transportation and public works.

The bridge has been in the works for more than a decade, and city documents show work slated to begin in January 2021 and finish in July 2022. The city has been able to find money to study potential bridge designs, but “we don’t have funding secured for construction,” Christopher Catbagan, a city engineer, said Thursday.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9505687-181/santa-rosa-upbeat-on-finding

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Map reveals wildlife roadkill hot spots in Sonoma County

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Building a better bridge in Petaluma

Building a better bridge in Petaluma

Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Standing atop a column that will soon support a new bridge over the Petaluma River, Jeffrey Kress reached up, touched the underside of the existing span and felt the vibrations of thousands of motorists zipping along Highway 101 unaware of the work taking place just a few feet below the road.

Constructing a major bridge in the exact footprint of an existing one without disrupting road, rail or river traffic is a highly complicated dance, one that Kress, a senior bridge engineer at Caltrans, and his colleagues have been choreographing for months.

They are overseeing efforts to swap out the 60-year-old twin two-lane spans over the river with a modern, six-lane, $130 million bridge.

via Building a better bridge in Petaluma | The Press Democrat.