New Oakmont escape route avoids Highway 12
That awful traffic backup that Valley residents endured during the 2017 fire evacuations could be substantially lessened in another emergency thanks to an agreement to allow one-way traffic on Highway 12 and a back door escape route out of Oakmont that avoids the highway altogether.
A collaboration between several government agencies and the Oakmont and Wild Oak homeowner associations has resulted in a memorandum that details the processes for staggered evacuation routes, including the use of Channel Drive and one-way traffic on Highway 12. Channel Drive is an Emergency Vehicle Access route (EVA) primarily reserved for official emergency vehicles coming into Wild Oak and Oakmont.
As envisioned, a fire coming from the north or south would likely send traffic east from Pythian Road and west from Oakmont Drive. Otherwise, traffic would be routed on two lanes in the opposite direction of a fire.
Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal said the document memorializes existing evacuation processes and how they will be used in the event of an emergency. It means that officials can now target emergency alerts to specific portions of the population and use staged evacuations, including within Oakmont and Wild Oak, lessening the chances of traffic bottlenecks.
“This clarifies for the community that egress routes, including Channel Drive, can be used, and that officials can designate Highway 12 one-way in both directions out of Oakmont if it is deemed necessary,” Lowenthal said.
“The memorandum helps people understand the process and assures residents of their safety,” he said. Channel Drive would be an evacuation route under “unique circumstances,” according to the memorandum and under the direction of public safety officials.
“This should provide residents some comfort that our safety and well-being continue to be top concerns of local officials,” Oakmont’s board president Spanier said. The collaboration between Oakmont, Wild Oak, city leaders and fire officials is an “important part of the story and something that doesn’t happen often enough, where all the organizations work together to make progress.”