SJB against 4-lane highway

Discussion on median barrier design turns into disdain for 156
widening
Council members and citizens of San Juan Bautista showed a
moment of solidarity last week when they collectively voiced
disdain for the CalTrans plan to widen Highway 156 and put in a
median barrier.
Discussion on median barrier design turns into disdain for 156 widening

Council members and citizens of San Juan Bautista showed a moment of solidarity last week when they collectively voiced disdain for the CalTrans plan to widen Highway 156 and put in a median barrier.

CalTrans officials have given San Juan a choice in the matter: Do residents want a concrete median or a split-rail barrier, and if it’s concrete, what kind of design do they want imprinted on it?

“Santa Clara (County) has grown tremendously,” said Councilman Dan Reed. “The impression I get is that they would like to see as many four-lane highways through San Benito County as possible.”

Councilman John Hopper said the only issue the town can legally weigh in on at this point is in the project’s environmental reports. City Manager Larry Cain agreed.

“If you don’t put comments into the EIR, then you can’t get back into the discussion,” said Cain.

But Reed urged fellow council members to continue fighting what could be a loosing battle, similar to – well, fighting City Hall.

“We need to fight CalTrans as much as we can,” he said. “They’re taking our whole valley away from us.”

Councilman George Rowe said he opposed the widening of the highway as well.

But a revealing moment rippled through the meeting when Cain uttered his opposition to the project, for what seems to be entirely different reasons from those of the council.

“The amount of land they want to take away is equivalent to 920 homes!” said Cain.

Mayor Priscilla Hill didn’t waste a second to ask him, “How many acres is that approximately?”

“I forgot,” he answered. “About 100 plus acres.”

Residents attending the meeting also voiced their opposition to the project, and one seemed to have done more homework on the issue than the city had. Cara Vonk presented a list of potential environmental problems of a median barrier, including destruction of endangered species like the Red Legged Frog and other wildlife, noise pollution, a negative impact on the town’s tourist economy and speeding drivers.

Councilman Robert Quaid said the widening of the highway was “a totally bad idea and a waste of money.”

Cain warned that the last Council of Governments meeting he attended, the city of Hollister and the California Highway Patrol expressed strong support of the widening.

“We need to be clear that it’s our environment,” he added.

Hopper suggested that the council draft letters opposing the projects to CalTrans and sending copies to Hollister and the CHP.

* * * *

Council members also congratulated one another during the meeting for their save-the-day actions when the town ran out of water four weeks ago and porta-potties and bottled water had to be trucked.

After reminiscing about the day of the water fiasco and expressing thanks to their staff, council members discussed whether they should sign on to a letter to the Pinnacle, authored and organized by the San Juan Chamber of Commerce’s Director Terry Marberger. In the letter, Marberger calls on businesses to pull advertising from the publication.

Hill and Reed were opposed to signing it.

“It’s free speech, people,” said Reed. “We can talk until we’re blue in the face.”

There was no answer and no action was taken on the Chamber letter.

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