NOVATO (CBS SF) — State Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, Friday said he has introduced legislation to form a toll authority that would collect money for improvements to flood-prone Highway 37 — a key connection serving motorists in Sonoma, Napa, Marin and Solano counties.

The toll revenue would help leverage state and federal funding to complete a needed overhaul of the highway that now sees 40,000 vehicles daily, Dodd said.

The number of vehicles on the highway along the edge of San Pablo Bay is expected to increase to 58,000 over the next 20 years, Dodd said.

Dodd said a recent University of California study found sea level rise will make the highway impossible to use by the end of the century with serious periods of flooding expected annually in the coming decades “If we don’t act, increased traffic and sea level rise will make an already bad situation simply un-passable. Without a dedicated revenue source, the problem won’t be fixed in our lifetimes,” Dodd said.

Details about the toll authority proposal – the amount of the toll, how much revenue it will raise and where tool booths would be located, will develop during the legislative session and public hearings, Dodd said.

Possibilities include constructing an elevated causeway between Sears Point and Vallejo. The highway flooded in Marin County at least twice last winter.

There are eight toll bridges in the Bay Area including the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, who also is the Chair of the State Route 37 Policy Committee comprised of the four counties’ transportation authorities, said the toll proposal is “a giant leap forward and a game changer.”

Sonoma Land Trust Executive Director Eamon O’Byrne said preserving the last expanse of wetlands in northern San Pablo Bay are crucial to safeguarding wildlife habitat and buffering the impacts of sea level rise.

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