Farm bureau: Best proposal for moving traffic

Traffic congestion at the intersection of Highway 25 and the Highway 156 bypass.

The San Benito County Farm Bureau said the 3-in-1 highway
proposal is the best alternative to save lives and to ease traffic
congestion despite statements to the contrary by local experts.
Traffic experts such as Capt. Bob Davies with the California
Highway Patrol have said that the 3-in-1 proposal is not a viable
option. However, the farm bureau is pushing ahead with its plan
because members believe it is the safest and least expensive way to
move vehicles through the county and region.
The San Benito County Farm Bureau said the 3-in-1 highway proposal is the best alternative to save lives and to ease traffic congestion despite statements to the contrary by local experts.

Traffic experts such as Capt. Bob Davies with the California Highway Patrol have said that the 3-in-1 proposal is not a viable option.

However, the farm bureau is pushing ahead with its plan because members believe it is the safest and least expensive way to move vehicles through the county and region.

Greg Swett, chairman of the farm bureau’s transportation committee, said Davies is not taking into account the reality of local politics or government funding.

“In his perfect world, how many children have to die before this can be done?” Swett said.

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

Davies said last week 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 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,” he said. “The only way to ensure motorists would use that route would be to destroy (highways) 156, 152 and 25.”

The proposal calls for the construction of an estimated $250 million highway project that would begin 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, and then out to U.S. 101 just south of the existing Highway 25 and U.S. 101 interchange.

Swett and farm bureau member Paul Hain said they do not doubt Davies’ is committed to public safety, but said he is overlooking an easy answer to the traffic problem.

“He’s really heavily invested in the “Stay Alive on 25″ and he is not allowing himself to see the larger picture,” Hain said. “I have great respect for Capt. Davies, but we don’t always agree.”

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 for use.

“A six-lane freeway would go across much poorer soil. This would be a way of protecting that land,” Hain said.

And the creation of the 3-in-1 project would not have direct access to the section of Highway 152 or Highway 25 between Hollister and Gilroy.

“That would essentially turn them into rural roads for the farmers and the residents who live there,” Swett said.

Swett and Hain reject rumors the 3-in-1 proposal might be dead from lack of public and political support. They said the farm bureau’s proposal is the most likely one to receive funding.

“The 3-in-1 would be considered an east-west focus route, and focus routes are eligible for state and federal funding,” Swett said.

He said because the 3-in-1 proposal would be the primary traffic route linking the region with the Central Valley, an approved proposal could be funded and under construction before the end of this decade.

“What is dead truly is Highway 25,” Swett said. “People are saying (funding for) 25 is much further out.”

One of the reasons for the 3-in-1 project, they said is because it can receive funding faster than other highway projects.

“Part of our objective is that focus routes get money, and by combining these routes we’re going to get funding sooner,” Swett said.

“Which are they going to use, the 3-in-1, which has an estimated drive time of 15.7 minutes at an average speed of 65 mph, or … a Highway 25 which is 16.5 miles, has graded intersections, six traffic lights and a drive time of 18.1 minutes,” he added.

Farm bureau members said finding a solution to the county’s traffic congestion calls for innovative thinking.

“If we want to get a safer highway built, then we have to come up with more innovative ways,” Hain said. “Our interest is that a good, sound transportation system benefits everyone.”

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