August 19, 2005
New Highway 37 Debuts Today
By MATTHIAS GAFNI, Times-Herald staff writer
Finally. After more than 50 years of bureaucracy and political speedbumps, the new Highway 37 is opening to traffic.
The finished freeway, built on stilts over Highway 29 and near the ever-congested intersection of Highways 29 and 37, was to open to westbound traffic at 5 this morning.
Caltrans expects traffic to be flowing in both directions by about 8 a.m. Saturday.
"I'm happy it's finally happened. I think it's a big, positive thing for the city," City Engineer Gary Leach said Thursday.
The project, last estimated at $124 million, has been delayed over the years by everything from the Loma Prieta earthquake to historic floods, from an oil embargo to an endangered mouse.
"With a sign posted on that roadway saying the opening was for June 2004, I was beginning to wonder if it would open," Councilwoman Joanne Schivley laughed Thursday upon hearing the news.
"What a relief it's going to be for traffic in that intersection."
The new roadway will eliminate three intersections with traffic lights and a railroad crossing.
"This is going to be great for commuters and people just going through town," said Steve Cobb, a Caltrans spokesman.
Leach said the new alignment will benefit the city in many ways.
"I think it's a big plus to clean up the congested problem we've had at 29-37 for quite a long time," Leach said. "It will greatly improve access to Mare Island and make it way more marketable.
"It will improve the access and safety of the access to those businesses adjacent to the highway as well," he said.
Schivley stressed the safety aspects. "The configuration of the new 37 is a definite boon to traffic safety," she said.
Other stretches of road surrounding the 29-37 intersection will also benefit, Leach said. "A lot of traffic diverts away from the existing intersection along city streets," said Leach, who expects those alternative routes to clear up.
Caltrans will host a Sept. 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony with U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Caltrans Director Will Kempton attending.
Cobb said to expect more lane closures and delays over the next couple of months as Caltrans makes the transition permanent and releases the old stretch of Highway 37 to the city of Vallejo.
- E-mail Matthias Gafni at email@example.com or call 553-6825.
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