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Placeholder Image photo credit: Caltrans
Floodwaters inundating Highway 37 West in 2019 

Changes to Highway 37 have been discussed for decades, and now big decisions on the highway’s future loom, including the possibility of a toll section.

The need - and the price - of improvements on the important east-west thoroughfare is large - over 400 million dollars for interim improvements alone.

The focus of which are in three key areas, said Bart Ney of Caltrans.

"Flooding issues more towards the Marin side, but also a little bit on the Solano side," Ney said. "Congestion issues more towards the Solano side, and also sea level rise is a big impact to the route over the next few years."

The interim measure: widening the stretch of highway between Sears Point and Mare Island - and funding it in part via a new toll.

The proposed toll on the 10 mile stretch is estimated to raise close to 100 million.

Ney said the widening, which will add a carpool lane in each direction, is projected to cut congestion on Highway 37 in half.

It’s also integral to Caltrans preferred solution to the highway’s issues: a raised viaduct bridge with reduced impacts to sensitive Bay wetlands.

"So we might as well go ahead and do the interim project now, reduce congestion and then it will be part of the solution to put the new structure online," Ney said.

The widening project could be completed as soon as 2027, according to Ney.

John Goodwin with the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission said tolls could be collected electronically.

"Our proposal is that the carpool lanes would be toll free, and the general purpose lanes would be tolled likely at a rate similar to the tolls that are charged on Bay Area toll bridges," Goodwin said.

But Goodwin noted the tolls won’t start right away.

"The tolls would not begin until the improvements are complete, would not begin until bus service is established between Vallejo and Marin County and until a toll discount program is established for low income residents," Goodwin said.

The tolling proposal comes to a vote before the California Transportation Commission on May 17th.

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