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Safety Improvements Finished on Deadly Cotati Intersection

An improvement project that included left-turn pockets at the intersection was designed, funded and scheduled for construction three times between 2001 and 2005, but the project was abandoned due to rising costs.

Safety work on Madrone Avenue in Cotati is finished. Credit: Patch archive
Safety work on Madrone Avenue in Cotati is finished. Credit: Patch archive
Cotati officials on Thursday celebrated the completion of safety improvements by Caltrans at a deadly intersection in the city.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the end of six months of construction at state Highway 116 and Madrone Avenue in Cotati, where a 36-year-old mother and a 17-year-old high school student were killed in separate crashes in 2009.

The $690,000 improvement project added 350-foot-long left-turn pockets in each direction of Highway 116 and a 5-foot shoulder at the intersection's south side. The improvements will improve access to Madrone Avenue from Highway 116, city officials said.

"This is a clear benefit for our citizens, one our community has been hoping to see accomplished," Cotati Mayor Mark Landman said.

Maria Juana Flores, 36, of Santa Rosa, was killed on Oct. 16, 2009, when her 1988 Honda was rear-ended on westbound Highway 116 by a 2009 Hyundai and pushed into the path of an eastbound big-rig while she waited to turn left onto Madrone Avenue.

A 17-year-old girl died a week after the car she was riding in was hit by a truck as the car turned left onto Madrone Avenue from Highway 116 on Nov. 16, 2009.

Jeremy Fietz, the attorney who represented the Flores family in a wrongful death suit against Caltrans and the Honda driver, said a Sonoma County jury found Caltrans was 25 percent responsible for the death due to the lack of a left-turn pocket.

The Honda driver was found 75 percent responsible, but his insurance company paid the family $100,000. The remaining $6.8 million owed by the driver was un-collectible, and Flores' family received $3.2 million from Caltrans, Fietz said.

Fietz said an improvement project that included left-turn pockets at the intersection was designed, funded and scheduled for construction three times between 2001 and 2005, but the project was abandoned due to rising costs.

Flores was on the way to pick up her children at school when she died in the crash. "I'm extraordinarily happy the project was done, but sad for the family it was not done when it should have been done," Fietz said.

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