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A map from the Caltrans website quickmap.dot.ca.gov shows red and black markings indicating extremely slow eastbound traffic at 4:20 p.m. Monday on Highway 37 at Sears Point. A Road Warrior reader says he runs into this regularly now, if not worse.

Here’s a question from a reader:

I drive back and forth on Highway 37 every day because I work in Novato.  It seems like the traffic in the afternoons has been horrendous for the last 2-3 months.  It doesn’t matter which day of the week but the backup often extends beyond the Petaluma River and even sometimes it will backup close to 101.  Even more shocking is that it is summer time and kids aren’t even in school so one would think it would actually be lighter.  Did Caltrans change the timing of the light at Sears Point?   Scott

Scott sent us the question in mid-August, and this week we receive an answer from Caltrans spokesman Robert Haus:

We agree that traffic congestion on Highway 37 is significant.  It is especially heavy during the summer and early autumn months, when the tourism season is at its peak.

We are always looking for ways to improve traffic flow through better signalization and more efficient traffic operations systems.  We recently conducted a field review of the light at 37 and 121, and determined it is operating at peak efficiency. We also noted that two of the “Left Lane Must Turn Left” signs are missing. We will replace those signs shortly to reduce any potential confusion.

As you know, Highway 37 passes through one of the last great marsh areas of the Bay Area.  Any sort of highway improvement or modification project through a marsh area would be subject to stringent environmental regulations.  In addition, the current financial challenges faced by the State of California are forcing more projects to compete with each other for the available funds.

If you feel strongly about the subject, we encourage you to communicate your feelings to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the Transportation Authority of Marin, the Solano Transportation Authority and the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency.  Being the local transportation authorities, they have a substantial voice in determining which highway projects should proceed.

We will continue to closely monitor the traffic levels on Highway 37, and will take any practical measures to reduce congestion.

From the Road Warrior:  After we first heard from Scott, he sent us a follow-up message that the “backup on Highway 37 eastbound normally occurs every day during the work week and can start as early as 3:00p in the afternoon and can still be bad as late as 7:00p.  It doesn’t seem to matter which day of the week it is or whether it is a holiday although Fridays are particularly bad.”

He also added:  “For some reason, this back up never was an issue up until about 4-5 months ago.  Our (company) president has been commuting from the Glen Ellen area for 28 years now and he said that he has never seen it like this.”

And: “We can’t seem to figure out what has caused this gridlock and it really impedes the productivity of our business (and I’m sure many others).  Not to mention the sanity of our employees.” So much so, he noted in another email, that his company was considering changing employee’s work hours.

And after we received Caltrans’ response, Scott wrote: “I guess we’ll just have to gut it out on this end.  We’ve already implemented a revised work schedule.” 

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If you have a question for the Road Warrior, please email it to jim.fremgen@pressdemocrat.com

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