Caltrans wants to make certain Highway 37 drivers traveling east toward Vallejo play by the rules when confronted with backups at the Highway 121/Sears Point traffic signal.
Afternoon rush-hour drivers often encounter a long backup in the Vallejo lane and a shorter backup in the approach to the Sonoma left turn lane. Some stay in the Sonoma lane and try to force their way back to the Vallejo lane at the last moment.
“The intersection has experienced congestion caused in the part by the queue-jumping in the eastbound lane of Highway 37,” a Caltrans press release said.
Caltrans plans to restripe the intersection the nights of Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 to try to thwart these traffic line-cutters.
The intersection is outside of Napa County in Sonoma County. It is along a highway that runs through Solano, Sonoma and Marin counties, coming near to Napa County only at the county’s southwestern tip amid wetlands.
Still, Napa County is affected by Highway 37. A Caltrans report said it is heavily used by recreational travelers heading to wine country. Local transportation officials say Highway 37 traffic woes prompt drivers to use major south Napa County highways as a relief valve.
Highways 37/121 intersection problems came up at Highway 37 open houses held last year in American Canyon, Vallejo, Sonoma and Novato. Those attending could leave written comments for Caltrans.
One person wrote that drivers following the law must wait “because of this constant stream of illegal late mergers who feel that they are more important than anyone else on the highway.”
The result is an increase in road rage, accidents and near-accidents, he wrote.
Whether Caltrans proposed solution will work should soon be known. The new striping will move the point where traffic separates for the Sonoma turnoff closer to the light in an attempt to take away the opportunity for queue jumping.
One person at the open houses worried this approach will make going to Sonoma harder. Some Highway 37 users want to keep the lanes basically as they are, but install a concrete barrier to stop the queue-jumping motorists.
A Caltrans report said the trip on Highway 37 takes 20 minutes without traffic and more than an hour-and-a-half with congestion. Ninety percent of the accidents are congestion-related. The 21-mile highway links Vallejo in Solano County with Novato in Marin County.