Caltrans accelerates Highway 25 project

The project to widen Highway 25 to four lanes is two years
closer to becoming a reality, with construction possibly beginning
as early as 2009, according to state transportation officials.
Caltrans District 5 Director Greg Albright told the Council of
San Benito County Governments Thursday that the proposed $177
million widening of Highway 25, which was originally slated to
begin construction in 2011, could break ground before the new
decade.
The project to widen Highway 25 to four lanes is two years closer to becoming a reality, with construction possibly beginning as early as 2009, according to state transportation officials.

Caltrans District 5 Director Greg Albright told the Council of San Benito County Governments Thursday that the proposed $177 million widening of Highway 25, which was originally slated to begin construction in 2011, could break ground before the new decade.

“Originally, we were looking at construction not starting until 2011, but now with the proper team working with designs and other innovative techniques, we’re looking at 2009,” Albright said.

During a meeting Thursday, Albright and one staff member, Richard Rosales, laid out the current timeline for completing the widening project.

Rosales said officials were nearly halfway through completing the necessary environmental documents and reports needed to begin the design phase of the project.

Rosales said there are currently two alternatives being considered for the widening project, a straight-raised, four-lane highway that could cost approximately $143 million or a freeway style project that would cost about $177 million.

Albright said the widening project is using a phased-in creation, which means building the chosen alternative in phases as funding for each step of construction becomes available.

Albright said it was unlikely Caltrans would have the millions needed to build the project in one continuous phase, so the best method to complete the project would be through a cooperative effort between Caltrans, San Benito County and other counties or agencies.

Speaking as a resident and not a member of the Hollister City Council, Tony LoBue spoke out against what he saw as an attempt by two members of the City Council to renege on a promise to supply $10 million toward safety improvements.

“The $10 million was a stipulation requested by San Benito County that be put in for the safety improvements for Highway 25. It was approved unanimously by the Redevelopment Agency for the City of Hollister,” LoBue said.

What had LoBue so concerned that he had to bring it up at the COG meeting was the possibility that some Council members might be going against their promise.

“Now there is some discussion going on about whether the $10 million should be used because of budget constraints. Well, what they are saying to me is that they are willing to use $2.2 million for a private developer to come in and develop a downtown building, but not toward the $10 million in safety improvements, and that concerns me.”

In defense to make clear that he has not tried to renege on the city’s $10 million promise, Councilman Tony Bruscia spoke to the COG Board and asked members if anyone had voted against using the funds for the highway widening.

His question was met by the blank stares of COG directors who said they had no knowledge of the city trying to go against its promise.

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