PACHECO PASSROUTE 37, NO. CALIFORNIAHISTORY State Route 37 (SR 37) is a state highway in the northern part of California that runs 21 miles (34 km) along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay. It is built from U.S. Route 101 in Novato and runs through the southern tips of Sonoma and Napa Counties to Interstate 80 in Vallejo. It serves as a vital connection between the four counties of the North Bay Area, north of San Francisco (wikipedia). The area was named after Don Francisco Perez Pacheco who received a large land grant from Mexico that covered a large area that now includes the pass for which he is named. The land was originally inhabited by the Ausaymus Indians There is however, a particular section of this highway that narrows to two lanes with a concrete divider that was constructed in 1955. It crosses Tolay Creek and continues through the Napa Sonoma Marsh. Prior to the divider being installed, it was a three-lane stretch of road with the middle lane serving as a passing lane for cars in either direction. Most likely because of that dangerous configuration - coupled with the higher rates of speed of modern high performance, faster vehicles - the high number of fatal accidents that occurred there brought it the chilling moniker of "Blood Alley". Photo by Gilroy Dispatch In the early 50's, the original plans were to construct a freeway-style passage that would encompass the entire length of Route 37. Those plans were subject to constant change and modification because of economic and environmental obstacles. In 1955, plans were made to establish Route 37 in the Vallejo region as a toll road, but when that failed to materialize, planners decided that travelers would best be served by a four-lane highway. This plan was met with opposition by residents of the Vallejo Country Club Crest whose homes would be affected and the waters were further muddled by a Federal oil embargo to battle inflation that limited gas-tax income resources available to complete such a project. These limitations resulted only in a widening of the approach between Fairgrounds Drive and I-80. In 1977, a Napa Valley levee would break under heavy rains and flood of a large area of land around the highway resulting in the establishment of marshland areas that would eventually fall under protected wetlands designations that contained a fair number of endangered species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse and the clapper rail bird. This new status forced developers to conduct further environmental studies to best ascertain how to continue the project as widening was now impossible. Later that decade, Gov. Jerry Brown de-emphasized highway transportation and cut funding. By 1980 the project was declared all but dead. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake resulted in most highway funding to be directed toward seismic retrofits of bridges and overpasses, again severely the ability to address other projects. While such actions were being considered, a new problem began to shape in the area between Sears Point and Mare Island. In a four year period alone between 1966 and 1970, twenty people met their deaths on this stretch of road - the infamous "Blood Alley". County officials brainstormed ways to reduce the risk of accidents, including the establishment of a requirement that all drivers on the road keep their headlights on during daylight hours as well as designating passing lanes. None of this seemed to make much difference however. When 18-year-old Frankie Poulos died as the result of injuries suffered in a crash, his father Jim led a spirited campaign to have a barrier between lanes erected to stop vehicles from crossing lanes of travel. The California Department of Transportation had reservations about this plan, citing the difficulties emergency personnel would encounter in responding to accidents, as well as some existing environmental concerns. In this time the fatality count in a six-year period from 1990 to 1996 reached thirty-one. Despite opposition, Poulos's idea gained momentum and eventually a barrier was indeed constructed. While some reacted strongly to the elimination of passing lanes, the fact is there have been no reports of cross-over accidents since its placement in 1995. To address emergency contingencies, electronic gates were placed at certain points along the barrier to allow ambulance, fire and police personnel access and timbers and sheeting were placed along the highway to protect foliage. To address another wildlife concern, holes were placed in the barriers to allow the salt harvest mice to cross the highway.THE HAUNTINGS OF BLOOD ALLEY Pacheco Pass is the subject many legends associated with those who have traveled the route. Many have reported experiencing a variety of phenomena, much of which concerns a kind of time distortion that results in a journey of many miles appearing to take only a few minutes time. There seems to be a common feeling that washes over travelers of sadness, One of the most ardent of correspondents as to the highway's strange ambiance is noted psychic Sylvia Browne. In her book Haunted Houses of California, Browne relates a particularly harrowing trip through Blood Alley. "A little girl in a covered wagon cowering with her fists pressed against her eyes while Indians raged around the wagon train. Her sense of hopelessness was overwhelming. Scenes from a series of battles followed involving Spaniards, Mexican, American settlers." - from "Haunted Houses of California". There have been other reports of strange sightings on Pacheco Pass, including numerous reports of a woman seen searching for her child who, when approached, simply vanishes into thin air. The sound of a stage coach and the accompanying sound of horse's hooves and snorting. Men in Western garb have also been spotted from time to time. A phantom hitchhiker has also been reported. In this instance it is a young woman dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans who solicits truck drivers for a ride. If the driver agreed, she would walk around the front of the truck and head to the passenger door. But the door would never open. When drivers go outside the truck to locate her, they would find she was gone. It is generally assumed the ghost is of a woman who was killed hitchhiking years ago. There is also a "traveler" legend that goes along the lines of a woman who was killed by a truck driver appearing in the passenger seat of vehicles who lets out a blood-curdling scream and then simply vanishes. A headless man has been reported on the old Bolsa Road, He walks on the shoulder of the road and is said to be searching for his missing head, which was decapitated from its torso in a violent car accident. As you drive past mission San Juan Baustista, there is a small grove of trees opposite an outcropping of rocks. Late at night they say the you can view the ghost of a woman in that spot. The story goes her fiancée died in a car accident on this stretch of road, and the devastated bride-to-be donned her wedding dress, traveled to the scene of the accident, climbed the rocks and jumped to her death. It is believed she did not join her beloved in death, so she wanders this stretch of road searching for him. It is believed the spirit of a Franciscan monk in a black robe has been spotted standing on the side of the highway between Casa De Fruta and Bell's Station. The entity is normally seen late at night or just before sunrise. There have also been multiple reports of strange lights in the sky that appear in virtually the same spots. On the crypto side of things, a half-man, half-bird creature has been spotted on the side of the road. Others have reported it in flight, terrifying travelers driving through the area. Likewise, road rage seems to be a fairly common manifestation on Pacheco Pass as highway patrolman report breaking up numerous fights between travelers. There have been many incidents where drivers have tagged bumpers of cars ahead of them intentionally and other reports of drivers who fly through traffic as if to somehow get off the road as quickly as they can. Psychics who have visited the area seem to come away with a common impression of bloody battles between settlers, Spaniards and Native Americans as well as psychic impressions of some of the more vile activities that have taken place in the surrounding area including hangings, highway robberies and violent confrontations between those who looked to stake a claim to the land.