Colin Atagi, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
The favored plan also proposes the route have a 60 mph speed limit, as well as two lanes in each direction with bicycle and pedestrian paths. The plan is in its early stages and officials haven’t identified a cost or funding source.
Caltrans, in order to keep traffic flowing decades from now, intends to build an elevated road along Highway 37 to combat rising water levels, which are expected to eventually inundate the North Bay arterial.
The proposed project essentially stretches across the existing route along San Pablo Bay and through Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.
It preserves travel patterns, allows landward marsh migration and is resilient to sea level rises, officials said in explaining its benefits.
Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/news/hwy-37-could-be-under-water-by-2050-heres-how-caltrans-plans-to-keep-tra/
Paulina Pineda, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa became the largest city in the nation to ban new gas stations on Tuesday, joining other cities in Sonoma County that have led a coordinated effort to combat climate impacts of fossil fuel.
In the latest volley of a locally grown movement that supporters hope will catch on across the nation, the City Council voted 6-0 to ban construction of gas stations and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure at existing gas stations within city limits.
The new rules will not close gas stations though it will put some limits on current operators.
Santa Rosa has 44 operating gas stations and there are two proposed stations under review at Rincon Road and North Wright Road. Gas stations that submit completed applications before the ban goes into effect in October will be considered by staff.
With Tuesday’s vote, more than half of Sonoma County residents will live in a jurisdiction that has banned gas stations. Supporters point to elected officials in Los Angeles and mid-state New York who are looking at similar ordinances.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/santa-rosa-approves-ban-on-new-gas-stations/
Chase Hunter, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Highway 37 serves as a key artery of Bay Area traffic from Marin County to Vallejo, but its low-lying place in former wetlands makes it susceptible to flooding and sea level rise over coming decades.
Leaders in transportation will need to address two issues at once to ensure the long-term sustainability of the key corridor: the creation of flood-resistant, sea-level impervious infrastructure and the environmental restoration of the wetlands.
“You can’t do the environmental restoration and address sea level rise without doing the transportation project. And you can’t do the transportation improvement projects without addressing sea level rise,” said Suzanne Smith, the executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/article/sea-level-rise-threatens-highway-37-leaders-prepare-billion-dollar-plan-to/
Dan Ashley & Tom Didion, ABC7 NEWS
There’s a vocal debate over building a better Bay Area, by building a better highway. At stake is not just traffic, but potentially vast stretches of restored wetlands.
When Kendall Webster gazes across the levees and farmland in southern Sonoma County, she can envision the tidal marshes that once flushed water back and forth from meandering waterways to San Pablo Bay.
“And so this whole flatland here was a mosaic of tidal wetlands,” she explains.
It’s a vast expanse of wetlands that the Sonoma Land Trust and their partners are working to restore.
“And you know, California is investing in climate, the way no other state in the country is right now. So we think that this is the natural infrastructure project that the state should be highlighting,” Webster maintains.
To make that vision a reality, the Trust has joined with Save the Bay and more than a dozen environmental and land management groups, urging Cal/Trans and the state to remove the one barrier that could open up natural marshland across the entire North Bay.
Read more at https://abc7news.com/highway-37-restoring-sonoma-county-wetlands-san-pablo-bay-land-trust-restoration/12117895/
Andrew Graham, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County will pilot a new $6 million effort to develop a unified mapping system that will help commuters better navigate the Bay Area’s 27 public transit systems, beginning in 2024.
The goal is to develop digital and physical maps and a wayfinding system that would provide uniform signage, information about walking distances, along with shuttle options between bus stops, train stations and ferry terminals.
The unified regional mapping system was one of 27 recommendations made by a task force convened to encourage riders’ return to public transportation as COVID-19 restrictions on social gathering and office work have been relaxed.
The task force was formed in 2020 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the government agency that oversees transportation planning in the Bay Area.
Design and installation of the new system is scheduled to begin in early 2024. The initial roll out will include new signs and physical maps. The system is to begin with transit locations in Sonoma County before expanding into Solano County and then the rest of the Bay Area.
Sonoma County is a good place to start the project because it is an example, on a small scale, of the challenges of navigating disparate public transit systems, commission spokesperson John Goodwin told The Press Democrat on Wednesday. Sonoma County has different bus systems in its various cities, in addition to the Sonoma County Transit system and the Sonoma Marin Area Regional Transit System passenger train.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-county-to-play-host-to-start-of-6-million-effort-to-unify-maps-of-b/
Sonia Waraich, FORT BRAGG ADVOCATE-NEWS
Federal regulators have decided to turn down a late application from a shadowy corporation seeking to take over the 175 miles of rail line stretching from Willits to Eureka, which may have submitted a fraudulent bank statement with its filing earlier this month.
“(North Coast Railroad Company’s) notice of intent will be rejected,” the Surface Transportation Board’s decision states. “NCRCo has not articulated a sufficient reason why its notice could not have been filed by the May 31 deadline, especially given that NCRCo has been an active participant in this proceeding and has noted, in previous filings, its intent to file an (offer of financial assistance).”
North Coast Railroad Company’s proposal to resume service along the rail line would have blocked the ability of the Great Redwood Trail Agency, formerly the North Coast Railroad Authority, to convert the line, which has been out of service for 20 years, into a trail. Part of the process of doing so included getting the OK from the STB to railbank the line, that is to preserve the rail line’s right of way by using it as a trail until conditions for rail service improve.
The North Coast Railroad submitted a poorly redacted filing with the federal STB almost two weeks ago that shows on any given day between March 31 and April 21, its balance with the Self-Help Credit Union fluctuated from less than $100 to a high of $3,269.96. That’s a lot less than $15.7 million beginning and ending balance at the top of the statement.
Read more at https://www.advocate-news.com/2022/06/10/north-coast-railroad-co-s-stb-filing-includes-potentially-fraudulent-bank-statement/
Jeff Morales, CALMATTERS
Decades of federal and state transportation policy and funding have focused primarily on the automobile — and the roads and highways needed for us to get around in them. While this focus produced many benefits, it also ignored or created significant problems, such as greenhouse gas emissions, a key driver of climate change. Today, half of all greenhouse gas emissions in California come from transportation.
Agencies and processes have been built to support this focus. Caltrans and regional transportation agencies receive federal and state funds not only to build and maintain, but also to develop highway and road improvements — doing the planning, public engagement, preliminary design, environmental and other work needed to get projects ready. It can take years for major projects to make it through the approvals required before construction can start. Significant resources are dedicated to this annually, and there are statewide structures in place to carry it out. It is necessary work in order to have a pipeline of projects ready to be implemented when funding becomes available.
No parallel system is in place for public transit and rail projects, however.
Much of this structural disconnect flows down from decades of federal policy and funding constraints. For the most part, public transit and rail improvements are a series of one-off projects, with local agencies on the hook to develop and advance them. Unless the governor and Legislature address this, California’s ambitious climate-related goals for increased public transit and rail will not be realized. If the state wants to change the outcomes, then it is vital that it change the processes and funding that produce the outcomes.
Read more at https://calmatters.org/commentary/2022/05/california-needs-to-put-its-money-where-its-mouth-is-on-public-transportation/
Andrew Graham, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The federal body that oversees the nation’s railroad rights of way indicated this week that it will consider the proposal from a mysterious Wyoming company to reconstruct defunct rail lines and ship coal out of Humboldt Bay to Asia.
The coal export proposal, widely regarded as unrealistic, is facing staunch opposition from local and state lawmakers, the tight margins of a declining coal industry and would need up to $2 billion to restore abandoned sections of track in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, according to previous state estimates.
But the decision by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board could complicate another North Coast venture: the proposed Great Redwood Trail, a 320-mile bicycle and pedestrian recreation route along former railways stretching from Eureka to San Francisco Bay.
The trail project, championed by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and many other elected officials, conservationists and economic development officials, made significant strides in March with the creation of a state agency to spearhead the effort.
The coal shipping proposal surfaced in August 2021, when a newly-formed, Wyoming-based entity called the North Coast Railroad Co. filed documents with the federal rail board suggesting it could raise the funds to restore abandoned rail segments.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/federal-rail-board-wants-to-hear-out-mysterious-coal-train-proposal-jeopar/
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Maybe 138 gas stations in Sonoma County is enough for now. Or really, forever.
That’s the thinking behind a wave of new ordinances making their way through local governments around the region that would prohibit permit applications for new petroleum fueling stations or expansions.
While it may be years yet before electric vehicles dominate the roadways, elected officials think planning ahead for a successful transition away from planet-fouling, gas-powered cars makes sense. And that includes putting a stop to any more fuel pumps in the county.
The Rohnert Park City Council took the first vote on its new ordinance Tuesday and is expected to adopt a citywide ban on new gas pumps at its March 22 meeting. The Sebastopol council will take up the matter April 5, when it considers a draft ordinance already approved by the planning commission. And Santa Rosa City Council’s climate action subcommittee has sent a recommended ban to its planning commission which, if OK’d there, would move onto the City Council later this year.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/new-gas-station-bans-working-their-way-through-sonoma-county-communities/
Joshua Bote, SFGATE
Route 37 PEL Meeting Jan 25 2022 (Caltrans)
California State Route 37, the major throughway that bridges the divide between Highway 101 and Interstate 80 and serves thousands of drivers daily in the North Bay, is in dire straits.
A recent dispatch from the California Department of Transportation warns that nearly the entire route — spanning Novato to Vallejo — could be “permanently submerged” as soon as 2040 by increasing weather crises and rising sea levels caused by climate change.
Its proximity to the San Pablo Bay makes this route especially vulnerable. The marshlands in the bay, while vital for preventing flooding, are in a precarious state, with a 285-foot-wide levee only being breached in 2015, after the area had been drained and used as farmland for decades. The marshlands in that area still require decades to fully establish.
If left unchanged, the effects will be severe, Caltrans warns. Alternate roads will be clogged up, worsening traffic on other Bay Area highways. Caltrans also warns that “economic loss and reduced opportunity” for Solano County residents could be major impacts.
Already, the impacts of rising sea levels are evident on the highway, with closures popping up more and more in recent years.
Caltrans and affected Bay Area counties have worked over the past decade to shore up Highway 37, with multiple studies conducted and crews working to raise pavement on the highway. Another one, called the Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study, is set to begin this month and is expected to be the most comprehensive look into the corridor.
Read more at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Highway-37-could-be-underwater-2040-16786102.php?