Hwy. 25 expansion costs reach $245M

As plans for the proposed widening of Highway 25 to four lanes
continues to move forward, the price tag continues to increase,
hovering at about $245 million, according to the latest estimates
from The California Depart-ment of Transportation.
The previous estimate for the proposed expansion of the rural
highway was $177 million, Caltrans Project Director Richard Rosales
said.
As plans for the proposed widening of Highway 25 to four lanes continues to move forward, the price tag continues to increase, hovering at about $245 million, according to the latest estimates from The California Depart-ment of Transportation.

The previous estimate for the proposed expansion of the rural highway was $177 million, Caltrans Project Director Richard Rosales said.

Caltrans officials said the widening of Highway 25 was not a done deal yet, but all indications were that if the state recovers from the current budget crisis, construction could begin as early as 2009, three to four years earlier than it normally takes to have such a project receive approval and begin construction.

The widening project has received political support from both local and state officials, and Rosales has put together a team of state experts, engineers and planning officials to host a public forum on the project Sept. 3. The discussion will be held at R.O. Hardin Elementary School, 881 Line St.

“This is just to show the public what we have so far and to solicit their comments and ideas,” Rosales said.

The informational meeting is part of Caltrans’ planning process to make sure any planned construction meets residents’ needs.

The project has even been brought to the attention of federal officials as a possible pilot project for communities with major safety concerns.

Officials have nearly completed the environmental documents and reports needed to begin the design phase of the project.

Until recently, planners have considered two alternatives for the widening project; a straight raised, four-lane highway was initially estimated at just less than $200 million or an expressway style project estimated at about $245 million.

Caltrans officials said the widening project will use a phased-in creation, which means building the chosen alternative in phases as funding for each step of construction becomes available. Caltrans officials said it was unlikely the state will have the millions necessary to build the project in one phase and the best way to get the widening project completed was through a cooperative effort between Caltrans, San Benito and other counties or agencies.

Caltrans officials are asking for public input on various additional aspects that could be added to the highway to increase its safety and usage.

Some of the aspects being considered are:

– Extending the four-lane Highway 25 over U.S. 101 to connect with Santa Teresa Boulevard.

– Build interchanges at both the Highway 156 and U.S. 101 intersections.

– Eliminate two at-grade railroad crossings by elevating the highway over the railroad tracks.

– Build a 61-foot wide median on Highway 25, eliminating the need for a center barrier.

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