By John Ramos

VALLEJO (KPIX 5) — Highway 37 is a vital commuter route between the city of Vallejo on the east and Sonoma and Marin Counties on the west, but the road is narrow and susceptible to flooding.

Now a state lawmaker is proposing that drivers pay a toll to raise money to fix the highway.

Highway 37 narrows down to two lanes and everyday commuters stack up as they try to get to work. With tidal wetlands on each side of the road, it is especially vulnerable to sea level rise.

Last week, State Senator Bill Dodd announced legislation to add Highway 37 to the list of Bay Area bridges that charge people a toll to drive on.

“The fact is, without taking this step, this highway will not get fixed in our lifetime,” Dodd said at a news conference.

Finding a fix for the eight-mile stretch of road will be expensive. Officials say they need to start raising money now through a toll if it is to ever happen. Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan says without it, the project wouldn’t be completed until 2088 at the soonest.

“Something has to be done and it has to be done now,” he said.  “There is so much time wasted in that commute that we could have productive time as opposed to stand-still time.”

But Sampayan says Vallejo is a blue-collar town and it would hurt his residents if they had to pay an extra six or seven dollars to drive to work each day.  He would like to see some kind of discount for lower-income people.  Those sentiments were echoed by drivers who use the road regularly.

“We’re all construction workers and blue collar people, you know? So, of course it’s gonna be hard to have to pay that everyday,” said Novato resident Andrew Elloway.

“In Vallejo we’ve got to pay Carquinez and then we’ve got the Bay Bridge. And now they’re going to put another one here on 37? That’s three bridges we’ve got to pay!” said Vallejo resident Stanley Williams.

“And it’s just another way to keep minorities away from jobs that they need,” said Linette Grigone, also of Vallejo.

Senator Dodd’s bill would place Hwy 37 under the direction of the Bay Area Toll Authority, which already controls fares at regional bridges. How the road could be raised and its capacity increased has not yet been determined.

That will depend on how much money is available. But officials warn that the process has to start now or the vital roadway will only get more crowded or one day end up underwater.

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