Highway 37 pact unites agencies on widening, elevation projects

February 11, 2023

A collective of state agencies has forged a new agreement that proponents say will commit them to addressing grueling congestion on Highway 37 while expediting planning for a proposed rebuild of the commuter corridor threatened by sea-level rise.

Six transportation and environmental entities have agreed to begin by widening the highway along a 10-mile traffic bottleneck. At the same time, the coalition agreed to begin initial work to plan for a proposed elevated highway.

“This agreement is a big step to getting this congestion relief project underway while ensuring some of the most critically impactful projects are addressed sooner rather than later,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat from Geyserville.

Assemblyman Damon Connolly, a Democrat representing Marin and part of Sonoma County, said the agreement also prioritizes projects to prevent regular flooding of the highway near Novato.


Some organizations and politicians such as Rep. Jared Huffman questioned why these agencies plan to spend this money on a project that would ultimately be replaced by an elevated causeway.

Additionally, the widening would require thousands of truckloads of sediment to be placed on protected wildlife habitats that are home to endangered species. Proponents of the elevated causeway project also said it would simultaneously be the largest wetland restoration project on the West Coast by reopening the marshlands to tidal influence, which is currently blocked by the highway.

Huffman, a Democrat from San Rafael, said that while the new agreement acknowledges some of these concerns, he said it also was “carefully worded to avoid any binding, enforceable provisions.”

“The ‘commitments’ it contains are also vague and subject to their overriding imperative of finalizing a flawed environmental impact report for the interim project and implementing that project without any major changes,” Huffman said.

“Those who share my concerns about the interim project and those who share my strong support for the ultimate project will need to stay engaged and keep working to ensure that the improved messaging reflected in this partnership agreement translates to actual improvements in the interim project,” he said.

David Lewis, executive director of the Save the Bay environmental organization, said the widening project will likely face delays both from state and federal regulatory agencies and potential litigation.

“That doesn’t help accelerate near-term congestion relief to propose things that will force years of fights,” Lewis said.

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By:  Will Houston
Source: Marin Independent Journal