Highway 37 improvements are necessary and costly
By Sonoma County Supervisors David Rabbitt and Susan Gorin, and Mayor of Rohnert Park Jake Mackenzie
Highway 37 was closed for nearly half of January. This 21-mile east-west corridor carries 44,000 vehicles each day and provides a critical link for commuters, weekend trips and freight hauling.
Recent news stories about flooding correctly pointed out that local policy makers are working hard to figure out how to make the much-needed improvements happen quickly. It is not a simple nor easy task, but work is underway.
Two key facts have been established:
Initial studies conducted by Caltrans and U.C. Davis provide preliminary analysis about how sea level rise will impact the corridor. It is dramatic information that shows complete inundation by the end of this century.
Traffic counts and analysis have been conducted to identify who is using the corridor at certain locations. The results show an even split among the four counties but the direction of travel is very dependent on the time of day, with commuters going west in the morning and east in the evening.
There are five areas where action is underway:
1. Caltrans is pulling together plans and resources to raise the roadway where flooding occurred and pumping was needed.
2. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has a contract already in place to analyze alternatives for all the problems facing the Highway 37 corridor – traffic congestion, flooding during storm events, and other approaches such as bikeways, buses and rail. The $1 million evaluation of design alternatives will be completed in December 2017.
3. Decisions on if and how a proposal to privatize a portion of the roadway – from Sears Point to Mare Island – fits into the solution.
4. Community outreach through public meetings, websites and social media have begun and will ramp up in 2017 as we have more detailed concepts related to environmental impacts, design ideas and funding options.
5. Funding is the most significant challenge. State and federal transportation money will be needed for a project of this size – estimated costs far exceed $1 billion. And, at the same time, it is not the only large highway project we need to work on. In Sonoma, we need to finish Highway 101; plus there are important projects on Interstate 80 at 680 in Solano, on Highway 101 at 580 in Marin, and on Highway 29 in Napa.
The funding challenge has led to an exploration of charging drivers like a toll bridge. In other corridors where this approach has been used – such as the Golden Gate Bridge – the user fees help provide the funds for improving and maintaining the corridor.
As the three Sonoma representatives on the four-county policy committee, we ask for your help to find the best solutions.
If you want to keep informed, follow Highway 37 on Facebook www.facebook.com/route37/. To review the work projects related to the corridor – current and historic – please visit the Sonoma County Transportation Authority web site scta.ca.gov/projects/highway37/.
Supervisors Gorin and Rabbitt and Mayor Mackenzie all sit on Sonoma County Transportation Authority’s State Route 37 Policy Committee.