New toll planned for stretch of North Bay's congested Highway 37

A new toll road is coming to the North Bay: State transportation officials plan to add a toll to a 10-mile stretch of Highway 37 from Vallejo to Sonoma County.

Driving on this one-lane stretch is currently extremely congested and transportation officials want to expand it by creating a toll to pay for that roadway expansion.

The California Transportation Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to make that stretch of highway a toll way.

"I can unequivocally say, traffic is going to flow better," said John Goodwin, a spokesperson with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. "We expect congestion to be reduced by at least half." Adding that the expansion will include carpool lanes that would encourage people to drive with co-workers and friends.

The estimate is that it will raise $430 million and that will pay for widening the road in both directions and adding a carpool lane. Drivers in the carpool lane would not have to pay the toll.

Vallejo resident Steve Harper works as a contractor and drives from Vallejo to Marin County every day.

"I think they should do something with the road, but I don't know if this is the best way to do it," Harper said. "I can't always carpool, so that seems a little unfair."

Other Bay Area drivers also expressed concerns about the extra financial burden a toll road would have.

 "It's going to hurt the people who can't afford it, most," said Marin County resident Bella Robbins. "A lot of people work in Marin County, but live in Vallejo. This is going to be a burden on them."

Transportation officials say drivers won’t be charged until two things happen first:

  • Bus service is fully established between Marin County and Vallejo to give people a public transit alternative to driving on that highway.
  •  A toll-discount program is created for low-income drivers.

The toll is not expected to be up and running until 2027

"The people who travel highway 37 regularly know they're already paying a crushing toll in the form of highway congestion," Goodwin said. "Without the tolling component, there is no project."

The exact amount hasn't been determined but it's expected to bs similar to what people pay to cross Bay Area bridges: $7 to $8.