Highway 37 toll proposal approved

Members of the California Highway Transportation Commission greenlighted the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s request to turn the highway into a toll road, but how much that toll will cost will be be decided later.|

The California Transportation Commission approved the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s request to apply a toll on State Route 37.

The unanimous vote, made during Wednesday’s meeting, does not specify the toll amount.

The approval came with two amendments: that the Transportation Commission is required to consider toll discounts based on regional, rather than federal income levels.

The second amendment requires the commission to update its guidelines for toll hearings.

Still to be determined, the $7 toll as it stands now, is the rate for crossing the San Francisco Bay Area bridges. That rate is due to go up to $8 by the year 2025, according to MTC spokesman John Goodwin.

Also to be hashed out among transportation authorities is whether the toll will be applied in both directions. For example, if the Highway 37 toll price rises to $8, drivers might pay $4 each way. Details are pending.

Prone to heavy traffic congestion and flooding, Highway 37 is scheduled to receive short- and long-term improvements whose costs will be passed along to motorists.

A $7 toll for commuters who drive the critical 10-mile stretch between Mare Island and Sears Point might not go down well, but officials contend it’s necessary to add a lane to relieve congestion and for long-range plans to elevate the highway.

The tolls are seen as a matching incentive to attract state and federal funds.

“Overall, the project would be a benefit for those working or living in Marin and Sonoma. Two lanes in each direction rather than the single lane section would reduce travel time and allow transit options from Solano County to Marin,” Transportation Authority of Marin Executive Director Anne Richman has said.

State and regional transportation officials are proposing the toll to help offset a $430 million price tag on the road widening of the road that overall runs 21 miles between Marin and Solano counties from U.S. Highway 101 to Interstate 80.

The road widening is expected to start in 2025 and finish two years later.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission secured more than $80 million for the initial added lane. It will use the toll to pay back the $100 million raised from selling bonds to help with funding.

That leaves $250 million remaining to improve the highway that carries more than 35,000 vehicles a day. Over half of Highway 37 users are from Solano County and 25% are from the City of Vallejo, and the corridor is the only major alternate evacuation route from the North Bay to the San Rafael/Richmond Bridge.

The project to raise Highway 37 because of flooding caused by torrential rains and tidal surges will cost approximately $6 billion and take 10 to 20 years to complete, according to transportation officials.

The highway was originally designed as a toll road when it was built nearly 100 years ago.

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