HIGHWAY 37 REDESIGN
Bumper to Bumper
More than 40,000 cars drive along State Route (SR) 37 daily, flooding the 21-mile roadway with bumper-to-bumper traffic on their way to Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties. Drivers, already facing lengthy commute times, are likely in for worsened congestion as the population increases. On top of that, rising sea levels are causing another headache for commuters: flooding. In 2017, catastrophic flooding closed the highway for nearly a month and it’s only likely to get worse with climate change.
The highway sits parallel to the northern arc of San Pablo Bay — an extension of San Francisco Bay. Characterized by tidal and seasonal wetlands, the bay serves as an important buffer between urban areas, agricultural land and infrastructure — including Highway 37.
The redesign of State Route 37 — currently in early planning — represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity, as well as a potential threat, to achieving conservation goals for North Bay tidal wetlands. A redesign of this major thoroughfare will directly affect the ecological health and resilience of thousands of acres of wetlands along the North Bay shoreline and impact the future of decades of conservation investment in the region’s wetlands.
Redesigning a Highway
The need for redesigning the highway is apparent; however the redesign must protect the values and services that the surrounding natural and agricultural landscapes provide. Significant public investments have already been made along SR 37 to protect and restore wetlands and connected habitats, increase climate resilience and protect infrastructure, including SR 37. Continued investment in long-term resilience now will pay enormous dividends for future generations.
Sonoma Land Trust, along with North Bay wetland land managers, ecological restoration practitioners and other stakeholders, formed the State Route 37−Baylands Group to represent the interests of the wetlands during the redesign. Sonoma Land Trust and the State Route 37−Baylands Group are working closely and cooperatively with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans on this effort. We are committed to ensuring that the redesign is in line with and advances the ecological restoration and conservation goals for the San Pablo Baylands.
The State Route 37−Baylands Group prepared a white paper to provide recommendations to the highway redesign. Read it here.
Sonoma Creek Baylands Strategy
In May, 2020, Sonoma Land Trust completed the Sonoma Creek Baylands Strategy. This is a high-level plan for the lower Sonoma Creek watershed between State Route 121 in Schellville and San Pablo Bay that:
- Coordinates the protection, acquisition, restoration and enhancement of diverse baylands habitats,
- Integrates natural processes to increase climate resilience,
- Identifies opportunities for public access, and
- Provides recommendations for SR 37 and the SMART rail line.
The Sonoma Creek Baylands Strategy was funded by San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Resources Legacy Fund, and Dolby Family Fund. Project partners included San Francisco Estuary Institute, Point Blue Conservation Science, Ducks Unlimited, ESA, Sonoma Water, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The study’s development was peer-reviewed by a Science Advisory Panel.
In development of this project, Sonoma Land Trust met with many of the public and private property owners in the study area. Sonoma Land Trust looks forward to implementing our restoration vision in the Sonoma Creek baylands in partnership with interested landowners.
For more information about the highway redesign and the State Route 37−Baylands Group, visit their website.