Highway 37 Getting Renewed Focus on Fixing That Mess!
I hope you all had a nice Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year celebration.
Arguably, the worst stretch of State Highway in our area is Highway 37. I have written about this stretch of road several times in my “Soapbox”, and I am writing about it again today.
When I started with the ECA, one of the first important meetings I attended were hosted by U.C. Davis and funded by EPA Grants to discuss and consider the problems with Highway 37 and the future sea level rise caused by global warming. Back in the beginning of those meetings, there was considerable “traction” for the concept of letting Highway 37 revert back to nature and have commuters simply drive around the low lying area to get from Solano County to Marin and Sonoma Counties. Economy be damned! Save the environment! Well-I have some good news for you-Caltrans does not think doing away with Highway 37 is a viable concept anymore. Now the discussion is more focused on how to fix the problem, and how feasible it might be to fund the fix.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a totally private concept being considered to make Highway 37 back into a toll road and to add two lanes that would make it 4 lanes all the way from Lakeville Highway to Mare Island. The private company that is “floating that idea” got a little dose of reality from the Transportation Authority of Marin that day, when Dianne explained that the State would need to pass legislation to allow that State Highway stretch to go private. What a downer!
There is a four County committee closely linked to MTC that has been meeting and working on the process for identifying solutions to the Highway 37 mess. That group includes the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the Napa County Transportation Planning Agency, the Solano Transportation Authority, and the Transportation Authority of Marin. This Committee is a high powered group including:
- From Solano County-Osby Davis Mayor of Vallejo, Jim Spering MTC Commissioner, Erin Hannigan Supervisor from Solano County,
- From Napa County-Mark Luce MTC Commissioner, Keith Caldwell Supervisor from Napa County, and Leon Garcia Mayor of American Canyon, and
- From Marin County-Steve Kinsey MTC Commissioner, Judy Arnold Marin County Supervisor, and Stephanie Moulton-Peters from City of Mill Valley Town Council, and
- From Sonoma County-Vice-Chair David Rabbitt, Susan Gorin Sonoma County Supervisor, and Jake Mackenzie MTC Commissioner.
The meeting held today, 1-7-16, in Schellville, included a presentation by the Deputy Chief of Caltrans, Kome Ajise. I have included a link to Kome’s bio here as anytime you meet someone in charge of 19,000 employees, it is impressive. And he is impressive.
Kome was at the meeting to present to the committee information on the process of Public-Private-Partnerships (also known as “P3”). Joining Kome was Bijan Sartipi from Caltrans. Kome and Bijan talked about the benefits and complexities of P3 projects and used the $1 Billion Doyle Drive/Presidio project as an example of P3 projects. Caltrans learned a lot from the Doyle Drive/Presidio project, and doing a P3 project for fixing Highway 37 may be the right approach. The process is not ready to get focused on a P3 only approach yet.
The process discussed was interesting, and the action taken by the Committee was to do parallel feasibility of looking at P3 process, 100% private process, and a hybrid approach. The good news is that Caltrans shares my viewpoint that Highway 37 is a “lifeline” stretch of Highway that must be fixed, rather than abandoned. More to come as I track this process—–
That’s All Folks!
ECA Advocacy Can Be Immediate!
I got a call from one of our members this morning at 9am. This member wanted to know how a request to take out a few hundred yards of an HOV Bypass lane might be made and to whom. The concern was the backup on Highway 12 where it crosses over Highway 101. As you drive West on Highway 12, you have one lane exiting to go North on Highway 101, one lane merging in a loop to take drivers from Northbound Highway 101 to Westbound Highway 12, and another land exiting from Westbound Highway 12 to a loop that contains the HOV Bypass lane with another lane that takes drivers to Southbound Highway 101.
I got the request for information and proceeded to my meeting with Caltrans and SCTA. After the meeting I asked the right person how to fix the huge delay that is dangerous on this stretch of road. The answer is that SCTA is reviewing that situation right now, and they may recommend a fix that would include turning the metering lights off in that area as well as eliminating the HOV Bypass lane. This detailed information got back to the ECA member within one hour of his asking. ECA rocks it!