3-in-1 highway plan hits a bump

As the death toll on local highways reached 41 during the past
three years, the San Benito County Farm Bureau is pushing forward
with its freeway proposal, despite traffic experts saying the
project will not save lives.
As the death toll on local highways reached 41 during the past three years, the San Benito County Farm Bureau is pushing forward with its freeway proposal, despite traffic experts saying the project will not save lives.

Farm bureau officials said their 3-in-1 proposal would save lives and cost millions of dollars less than current plans to widen highways 152, 156 and 25.

“It comes down to one thing, how do we stop the slaughter on the highways,” said Greg Swett, chairman of the farm bureau’s transportation committee.

Swett said the 41 deaths on highways 152, 156 and 25 since 2000 are above the state average and something must be done.

However, state statistics indicate that only Pacheco Pass Highway is above the state average in terms of road-related fatalities.

“Each of these highways come in at higher than normal,” Swett said. “This is one of the deadliest corridors in the state.”

However, Capt. Bob Davies, commander of the California Highway Patrol’s Hollister-Gilroy Unit, said the highway proposal would not save lives or reduce traffic problems in the region.

“Even if we built the 3-in-1, the existing highways would still have heavy use,” Davies said.

The popular solution under consideration to reduce highway deaths would be to widen sections of highways 152, 156 and 25 with a center divider or median to reduce the number of head-on collisions, which have proven to be the deadliest accidents.

The farm bureau for the past two years has called for a four-lane highway which members said would make the need for expansion of highways, 156, 25 and 152 obsolete.

The proposal calls for the construction of an estimated $250 million highway project that would run from the Don Pacheco “Y” at the Highway 156 and Highway 152 intersection. The proposed highway would continue southwest along the existing Highway 156 to the corner of San Felipe Road and Highway 156.

After repeated studies and discussion, Davies said the 3-in-1 project, if built, would go unused because it would call for motorists to go miles out of their way to use it.

“This does not allow for the commuter mentality, which is to take the shortest most direct route to their destination,” Davies said.

He said the 3-in-1 proposal would require a large portion of the 23,000 cars per day that use the Union Road-Highway 156 interchange to instead travel through the city of Hollister to reach the proposed highway.

“Just because you build a road in the middle of San Benito County does not mean they will come,” Davies said. “The only way to ensure motorists would use that route would be to destroy (highways) 156, 152 and 25.”

Swett said the proposed highway would not only save money but it would also save hundreds of acres of farmland.

“There is a significant amount of acreage that would be saved because you are not building out a total of 18 lanes,” Swett said.

He said the expansion of Highway 25 alone would make 10 to 15 deep agricultural wells unusable.

“Each of those wells is worth more than $100,000,” Swett said.

Davies said it is unrealistic to believe that San Benito County residents would be willing to fund the construction of a highway through the county just to make it easier for truckers from Merced and the Central Valley to reach U.S. 101.

“I think the county needs to stop putting efforts into what we can’t fix, and I think we need to spend our energy on things we can fix, like widening Highway 25,” Davies said. “Highway 25 needs to be improved to a four-lane highway, to meet the needs of the community.”

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