SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) -- A vote early Wednesday evening approved a North Bay highway construction project that will receive a major funding boost to ease traffic along one of the most congested corridors in the entire Bay Area.
Highway 101 just north of Novato is one of the worst freeway choke points in the region. The freeway is six lanes through most of Marin, but suddenly shrinks to four, creating a nightmare for merging traffic.
The California Transportation Commission approved $40.1 million for the final highway segment of the Marin-Sonoma Narrows Project at a meeting Wednesday evening.
The section of the project, known as B7, will widen the roadway to build the final portion of carpool lanes from Novato to the Marin/Sonoma County line. The project will construct 3.5 miles of northbound carpool lanes and 6 miles of southbound carpool lanes to fill the gap and complete the overall 17-mile corridor.
When the Marin-Sonoma Narrows Project is complete, a 50-mile HOV network will stretch from north of the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to Santa Rosa.
"We have been grateful to work with the Transportation Authority of Marin and the California Transportation Commission to secure the funding for the Marin Narrows project. Today's funding is a game changer for North Bay commuters and we're so appreciative to the Commissioners for their supportive vote," Senator Mike McGuire said in a press release issued by the CTC. "The Narrows is one of the most congested highway corridors in the Bay Area and we all have felt the pain sitting in that gridlock. Finally, relief is on the way."
"What great news that we received this funding. The Marin-Sonoma Narrows has been a top priority project for Novato and for the region. We are enormously grateful that the CTC recognizes the importance of this project to our residents, our business community, and thousands of commuters," said Judy Arnold, Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) Board Chairperson and Marin County District 5 Supervisor.
The $40.1 million is only the starting point. The budget for the total project is $130 million. Those funds are currently tied up in court by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association contesting the 2018 Regional Measure 3 bridge toll hikes.
It passed with a simple majority, but the suit alleges the measure required a two-thirds majority. The funds in question are being held in escrow until the State Supreme Court decides the case.
North Bay drivers are looking forward to a wider freeway helping clear the bottleneck.
"I think it's a great thing. There's too many cars and not big enough roads," said one commuter.
"That'd be great. It'd make for less accidents and easier transportation," said a second.
In addition to the carpool lanes, new interchanges and frontage roads have been built to remove unsafe access from private properties and local roads. The project also includes continuous Class I and Class II bikeways between Novato and Petaluma.
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