Will Schmitt, Press Democrat 7/29/20
Santa Rosa is weeks away from beginning a two-year sewer and water project that will add more than a mile of new piping to northeast Santa Rosa, bolstering the city’s infrastructure grid but upending local traffic patterns.
About $9 million has been set aside for the Chanate Road sewer replacement project, which will install about 2,200 linear feet of new sewer main along Chanate Road between Mendocino Avenue and Terra Linda Drive, relocating the present alignment along Paulin Creek. Crews also plan to lay 3,300 linear feet of new sewer main and more than 60 sewer laterals in the surrounding area, while also extending one existing water main and replacing and extending another along Lomitas Avenue that is beginning to fail.
The city plans to secure a contract in September and begin work in October on the project, which it has billed a “a giant leap forward” to prevent damage to outdated infrastructure, make it easier for maintenance crews to access the system and reduce the potential for damage to the Paulin Creek ecosystem.
The fall start date — before the rainy season and when groundwater levels are at their lowest — is an intentional and critical component of the project, parts of which require drilling down as deep as 40 feet to lay new lines, according to city officials.
“This timing is important for the protection and safety of the crews that are undertaking this activity and will help the project to move forward more efficiently,” said Erich Rauber, a Santa Rosa supervising engineer, during a July 22 online city meeting about the Chanate sewer project.
But timing the project for the driest part of the year also puts the start of the project up against the peak of fire season — raising the specter of evacuees fleeing a wildfire down Chanate Road only to run smack into a construction zone.
City officials say they’ve considered this and have worked on plans to stop construction and fully open Chanate Road in case of emergency. That includes proactive work stoppages in case of critical fire conditions and updating city evacuation mapping tools, said Paul Lowenthal, a Santa Rosa assistant fire marshal.
“We have had a number of conversations leading up to tonight’s community meeting and definitely do understand the concerns of our community regarding evacuations,” Lowenthal said at last week’s community meeting.
The city held that meeting and created a project website — chanatesewerproject.com — due to the duration of the project and its range of expected impacts.
The most obvious impact to most in Santa Rosa will be when it comes to vehicle traffic over the next two years.
“We anticipate significant delays at the intersection of Mendocino Avenue and Chanate Road during construction in that area,” said Mike VanMidde, a Santa Rosa associate traffic engineer.
Two-way traffic with turning and parking restrictions will be open on Chanate Road between Mendocino Avenue and Humboldt Street.
But only eastbound traffic will be allowed on Chanate between Humboldt Street and Terra Linda Drive.
Westbound Chanate Road traffic will be blocked and detoured north onto Parker Hill Road where drivers can get to Mendocino Avenue via Fountaingrove Parkway.
For vehicles using Terra Linda Drive, crews will open an emergency access gate near Francis Nielsen Ranch Park. The city also will remove traffic bollards that separate tiny Andy Way’s northern cul-de-sac from Baldwin Way.
A list of frequently asked questions prepared by the city explains that the pipelines in the area — a grid featuring outdated clay pipes that date back to the 1950s — need to be replaced due to their age and the risk of sewage overflows that could damage the environment.
“By replacing these and other aging sewer pipelines, we are protecting the riparian habitat of Paulin Creek, and the areas around homes and properties in the affected neighborhoods,” the city’s website says.
The city has prepared a list of key questions and answers about the project off Chanate Road. For more information, visit https://chanatesewerproject.com/faq/.