Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The people who are planning the long-needed improvements on heavily congested Highway 37 are faced with more than just the amount of time commuters spend in gridlock each day en route to and from jobs in Marin and Sonoma counties.
There also are climate and environmental concerns along the sensitive shoreline of San Pablo Bay — the focus of tidelands restoration investments topping $600 million already. The diminished marshes and wetlands that once lined the greater San Francisco Bay are productive habitats that foster wildlife, filter water, sequester carbon and can help buffer the land from sea level rise.
But the varying needs don’t always line up easily. What solves one problem could exacerbate another.
And there is distrust among some who believe a short-term plan to widen the eastern stretch of 37 between Sears Point and Mare Island on slightly raised berms does more harm than good, despite the cost and time involved in a long-term plan to raise the whole highway.
They include Congressman Jared Huffman, who has, as he attests, “been lobbying nonstop” to change the approach to the highway redesign, moving directly to a full causeway instead of a freeway widening project “straight out of the 1980s.”
But in an effort to assure environmental stakeholders that their interests are on equal footing as work on the 21-mile highway corridor goes forward, the multicounty State Route 37 Partnership, currently dominated by transportation agencies, will now include key leaders from “environmentally oriented” state groups.
And it will have a new name: The Baylands Restoration and Transportation Expanded Partnership.