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Flooded Westbound Highway 37 Reopens To Commute Traffic

NOVATO (CBS SF) -- Working non-stop Caltrans crews were able to reopen the westbound lanes of Highway 37 early Wednesday nearly a week after run-off from a fierce winter storm breached a nearby levee and flooded the roadway.

While the news was a welcome relief to commuters using the westbound lanes, work continued on cleaning up the eastbound lanes. Only one lane in the eastbound direction was open to traffic as of 7 a.m.

Caltrans advised commuters in the area to anticipate delays and allow for extra travel time for any lane closures that remain in effect.

The problems started on Thursday when strong storms and heavy rains battered the North Bay causing a levee near the highway to give way. About 650 million gallons of water from the Novato Creek and the San Francisco Bay filled nearby fields, eventually coming up over the highway's westbound lanes.

Heavy equipment operators brought in hundreds of tons of boulders and dirt to build a makeshift dam near the roadway. Crews also lined the roadway with k-rails, draping them with plastic, and sealing the wall with dirt. Then, highway scrapers were used to throw the water out of the secured roadway.

While the work was underway, drivers worked their way around it.

"About 10 extra minutes, something like that," said one driver told KPIX 5 as they waited in the backup.

The detour on Atherton Avenue was often a 15-minute crawl through the southern end of Novato.

"This is a county road that is definitely not used to freeway level traffic and speeds that come with it. These people are used to commuting on a highway and now they're commuting through a neighborhood," said Sgt. Ross Ingels of the California Highway Patrol.

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