Victoria Brandon, PRESS DEMOCRAT
Everyone agrees that Highway 37 needs fixing.
For nearly a decade, the environmental community has debated plans to restructure Highway 37 between Vallejo and Marin County. Usually, environmental engagement on highway projects focuses on ways to reduce negative impacts, but in this case there is an opportunity for a genuinely positive outcome.
Replacement of the current road with a built-for-resilience elevated causeway would not only protect the highway from flooding, it would reconnect the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and other tidal wetlands to San Francisco Bay waters.
Wetlands sequester carbon dioxide, encourage biodiversity by increasing ecologically vital habitat and play a crucial role in meeting the state’s 30 by 30 goals — preserving 30% of land and coastal waters by 2030.
Elevating the highway would also increase the climate resilience of North Bay communities by buffering high-tide events and reducing nearby flooding and by allowing more sediment to flow into San Pablo Bay, which will help protect marshes and communities against sea level rise.
Everyone agrees that Highway 37 needs fixing. Not only does heavy commute traffic and the absence of a transit alternative create daily gridlock, portions of the road become impassable when bay waters are high, and climate change is only going to make that situation worse.
Sierra Club Redwood Chapter activists were therefore disappointed when instead of moving forward with an elevated causeway that its own studies have identified as the preferred alternative, Caltrans proposed an interim fix — an outdated conventional highway-widening project that will reduce traffic congestion and flood risk at best temporarily.