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Drake Boulevard Renovation to be Feted

'After' photo of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near Samuel P. Taylor S
'After' photo of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near Samuel P. Taylor S
A celebration is planned to mark the completion of major renovations to Marin County’s most important and historic east-west transportation artery, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

The County of Marin Department of Public Works is hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. Feb. 6 at the group picnic area in Samuel P. Taylor State Park (8889 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Lagunitas). District 4 Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who represents West Marin, plans to attend along with representatives from the Transportation Authority of Marin, California State Parks and other agencies. 

Many of the improvements were the first in the storied history of the route, which was first paved in 1929 but dates back thousands of years.

“If a Road Repair Hall of Fame existed, this project would be prominently displayed,” Kinsey said. “It has transformed an endurance ride into a scenic journey once again while also improving protections for the sensitive creekside habitat the road moves through.”

In August 2012, the 5.4-mile project was divided into three phases to meet environmental and habitat concerns. Contractors completed Phase 1A, a repair of an existing slide, with a 212-foot-long retaining wall.   Phase 1B included pavement restoration and rehabilitation of 1.5 miles of roadway from Shafter Bridge at the state park’s eastern entrance to Irving Bridge in the middle of the park. Phases 1A and 1B were completed in fall 2012.

In June 2013, Phase 2 began and included pavement restoration and rehabilitation of more than 60 storm drains using innovative sliplining procedures instead of the conventional “dig and replace” method. Phase 2, completed in January 2014, was the final 3.9-mile phase stretching from Irving Bridge to Platform Bridge Road west of the park.

Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is the most direct and least circuitous roadway linking the eastern urbanized portion of Marin County with rural communities and recreation areas in western Marin all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It provides the primary access for visitors to the Golden Gate National Recreational Seashore, Point Reyes and one of the most pristine coastal shorelines in California. The roadway is the essential transportation link for local commercial, residential and recreational traffic, especially to communities such as Olema, Point Reyes Station and Inverness.

The combination of challenging terrain, endangered species habitat, federal and state parks, watershed concerns and varied land uses presented unique circumstances for rehabilitating the deteriorated portion of the roadway. In addition, the road traverses an area of unquestionable beauty, mountainous terrain, sensitive stream channels, evergreen forests and rural grassland. The road is located in a habitat for rare and endangered species including the northern spotted owl, California red legged frog, the western pond turtle, coho salmon and steelhead trout.

“Our approach was to involve as many stakeholders as we could from inception through completion,” said Public Works Director Bob Beaumont. “We worked in conjunction with federal, state and local agencies, community organizations, environmental organizations, bicycle advocates, researchers and scientists. The completed project is a masterpiece of interagency cooperation, community involvement and protection of a world-class environmental resource that will benefit all aspects of the community for years to come.”

Archeological documentation proves that the route marked by modern-day Sir Francis Drake Boulevard was used by the Coast Miwoks to travel and trade with adjoining tribes along San Pablo Bay shoreline and the Olompali settlement just north of Novato. Samuel P. Taylor, who made a modest fortune during the Gold Rush, was one of the first nonnative settlers near San Geronimo Valley and created a number of businesses that required upgraded transportation in the area. The North Pacific Coast Railroad was extended through the corridor in 1874 to connect Sausalito and Tomales Bay, but industrial activity along Lagunitas Creek was gone by the 1920s. 

Taylor’s widow, Sarah, deeded the existing road right of way to the County of Marin for the construction of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in 1926-27. The roadway was allowed to “settle” for two years before the concrete was poured. The road had remained mostly unchanged and unimproved since that time.  

“While the work may not last another 80 years, it will be a striking example of what Marin residents have gained by raising our own funds to take care of our roads,” Kinsey said.



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