Tolls are coming to Highway 37.
Despite hand wringing over the necessity, consternation over the financial hit to commuters, and questioning of whether tolls advance or undermine equity - the California Transportation Commission - CTC - moved unanimously to approve a plan to add a toll lane in both directions on Highway 37 between Sears Point and Mare Island.
Andrew Fremier is the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission chief and he said reducing congestion is a major motivator for the project.
"Right now from about the Sears Point Raceway to Mare Island, you have one lane in each direction, and that really is the pinch point, both in the westbound direction in the morning where there's about an hour delay, and in the eastbound direction in the evenings, that is up to a hundred minutes," Fremier said to CTC commissioners.
Fremier said the game plan is to widen the roadway to provide an extra lane in each direction.
"The idea is the outside lane would be a priced general purpose lane," Fremier said. "The interior lane would be a no toll HOV lane."
Fremier said project planners estimate the additional lane will reduce commute times by half for the general purpose toll lane, and over half for the HOV carpool lane, which will also allow for bus transit on the corridor.
Placing the toll booth west of the Highway 121 intersection to capture drivers moving between Marin and Napa is under consideration said Fremier.
"We are talking about tolling in both directions," Fremier said. "So whether you're going westbound or eastbound, there will be a toll. It would be half in both directions, so it's not like a double hit."
The roadway widening and toll project on Highway 37 includes restoration of the Strip Marsh East bay lands, a widened bridge over Tolay Creek, and a reduced fee program for lower income commuters.
Tolls are expected to contribute 100 of the 400 million dollar project price tag and would not go into effect until the project is complete - forecast for 2027.
Authority to set rates, maintain toll gantries, and collect fees will rest with the Bay Area Infrastructure Finance Authority, a joint powers agency led by Metropolitan Transportation Commissioners.