Highway 37 improvements aim to ease congestion

Highway 37, a major North Bay artery,  is chronically congested where it narrows to one lane eastbound. 

Now Caltrans is trying something new to tackle part of the problem: line-cutting. 

"If you've been waiting for thirty minutes and then somebody doesn't wait and cuts at the last minute that's super-aggravating," said Sgt. Ross Ingles, of Marin CHP.   

Over the Easter weekend, Caltrans re-configured and re-painted lanes leading into the Highway 37- 121 interchange, so that drivers are not forced to merge to one lane as early as before. 

CHP has received countless complaints about drivers darting over late, to squeeze into what was the single lane for Vallejo.

The line-cutting was so rampant on Highway 37, tempers flared among drivers, and cases of road rage were reported. 

Officers had no trouble finding and citing violators who crossed the solid white line to cut in. 

"We didn't even have to move our car. You can sit in one spot and just wave them over," said Sgt. Ingles, "because once they would cut over, they are stuck in traffic, so you wave them to your spot."  

Monday evening, drivers were still dodging to the right, not realizing they had two lanes headed east.
With more capacity, the flow of vehicles should improve.   

"It will eliminate a lot of drivers getting mad at each other, so that's better, " said one driver, in the stop-and-go traffic, "but they need to have it two lanes going all the way through, traffic is horrible." 

Caltrans own statistics show the 21 mile trip from Novato to Vallejo takes twenty minutes without traffic, but 90 minutes or more when it's congested. 

A wider highway is not planned at this time.

"That's something that we'd all love to have but those projects take time and money," said Caltrans North Bay spokesman Vince Jacala.

"There's no way we're going to get rid of congestion in the Bay Area, and especially Highway 37. We can only do the best with what we've got and this is a short term solution."  

It is not a solution for the bottleneck, but the bad behavior that accompanied it. 

"I let people over when they try to cut in," said one driver, crawling along in traffic.

"It's so backed up, I think some people don't know until the last minute, they're not paying attention, or they're not from the area."  

Others were not so benevolent. 

"It's horrible, and I never let them over," exclaimed one young man from his driver's seat.

"About six or seven times, somebody tried to cut us off, and you've got to speed up and not let them in because it's ridiculous."

Shifting the merge further east means that everyone still has to come together into a single lane, but at a more distant point. 

CHP says the law doesn't dictate how drivers merge, but taking turns seems to work.    

"Courtesy is involved in merging," reminded Sgt. Ingles, "so it would be great if people were nice to each other."