As safety improvements on Highway 25 continue, the Council of
San Benito County Governments is vying for an $8.5 million federal
grant that would go toward widening the road to four lanes.
As safety improvements on Highway 25 continue, the Council of San Benito County Governments is vying for an $8.5 million federal grant that would go toward widening the road to four lanes.
The COG Board is reportedly in the running for the multi-million dollar grant with the help of Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. Farr is sponsoring the grant request for priority funding through the federal transportation bill known as TEA-21. The massive funding act provides millions of dollars for road and transportation projects across the country.
Lisa Berg, a transportation planner with COG, said the grant will fall far short of the estimated $177 million needed to complete the widening of Highway 25.
“It may not be as high an amount that others would like, but it can all be used for the State Highway 25 Widening/Safety Project,” Berg said.
That means any funding that goes to the project can be used for an assortment of expensive but necessary pre-construction expenses, which include environmental studies and plans or architectural drawings. The grant could also be used as matching funds for the actual construction.
While COG is working on the grant, California Highway Patrol Capt. Bob Davies said another stage of safety improvements to Highway 25 is scheduled to begin this spring.
The next step includes making the same kind of improvements to the section of Highway 25 from the Santa Clara County line to the U.S. 101 on-ramp that were made on the San Benito County section of the road.
Davies said the improvements do not mean that officials have given up on widening the rural highway
“We want to make Highway 25 as safe as possible immediately while we work on the widening of 25 to four lanes,” Davies said.
Davies, who chairs the Highway 25 Safety Corridor Task Force and is a member of COG’s Technical Advisory Committee, said improving Highway 25 is the most important transportation issue facing San Benito County.
“Highway 25 has not gone away. People are still having accidents out there every day,” he said. “The highway patrol has not stopped its special enforcements and the traffic counts are continuing to go up.”
Davies said the public and local officials should not let their attention to Highway 25 be drawn away by other highway proposals that have no real chance of being implemented.
“Should we focus our efforts on Highway 25, which has public support from residents like Brad Pike and the ‘Stay Alive on 25’ group? Political support from COG and the support of Caltrans? Or should we focus our efforts on a proposal that has neither the support of the public, the government or any of the funding needed to build it?” Davies said.
It is estimated that the actual widening of Highway 25 would not begin until 2011. However, local supporters of the project are looking into ways of shortening the projected timeline.
Davies believes widening the highway would be the best thing that could be done to increase safety for local motorists.
“It is incumbent upon us to take care of ourselves and our children and improve that road,” Davies said.