(Updated Thursday, April 18)
Taking a westbound turn on to Highway 12 will require planning and patience for the next several weeks while PG&E completes hydrostatic pressure testing to enhance the safety and reliability of the natural gas system in Sonoma County.
The utility company said it was working with traffic officials to find ways to alleviate the jams, including adding traffic lane shift barriers on Highway 12. The project involves the transmission line that runs along Highway 12 in Santa Rosa past Oakmont. Deanna Contreras, spokesperson for PG&E, said that only about 196 customers received notifications of the work that started on April 15 and will extend into early June.
“We have been hearing from our customers about traffic impacts on Highway 12 and we want to thank everyone for their patience,” Contreras said. “We are preparing to replace valves on the line, which requires excavation, and are also strength-testing the line, which requires venting.”
She said PG&E requested a permit from Caltrans to do the work at night, but was denied. The current permit allows PG&E gas crews to be working between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Contractors are also on site to handle traffic Mondays through Fridays.
Contractors are shifting the lanes to improve safety for drivers and alleviate traffic impacts. But Contreras said drivers may not see those improvements for a few days – and throughout the project, drivers should be alert to the shifts to get used to them.
Gas service will not be affected during the work. Barring inclement weather or other factors, the safety projects are expected to be complete by June, she said. Customers will receive automated phone calls near the end of the month when PG&E will need to vent the line.
Hydrostatic testing is a procedure to strength-test pipelines with pressurized water at much higher levels than a pipe will ever operate with natural gas. This enables PG&E to validate the safe operating pressure and detect and repair potential issues safely, the utility said.
What you need to know and what you can expect
- Following standard safety practices, crews may vent natural gas from the pipeline as the project progresses. As PG&E vents the pipe, the smell of natural gas and the sound of venting may be noticeable. The small amounts of natural gas released during venting will quickly dissipate into the atmosphere and will not be harmful. However, PG&E encourages anyone who has concerns about natural gas odors in or around their home or business to call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. PG&E will notify nearby customers and public safety agencies prior to venting.