Highway 25 project still ready to go despite state’s economic crisis

The proposed Highway 25 bypass project is still on track and
should not be effected by the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

The project is still a go,

said Lisa Berg, transportation planner with the Council of San
Benito County Governments.
Berg and other COG officials said a majority of the funding for
the bypass comes from a combination of federal highway grants and
traffic impact fees raised through the Measure A sales tax.
The only funding concern centers around $7 million from the
state’s transportation fund earmarked to help with the early phases
of the bypass construction.
The proposed Highway 25 bypass project is still on track and should not be effected by the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

“The project is still a go,” said Lisa Berg, transportation planner with the Council of San Benito County Governments.

Berg and other COG officials said a majority of the funding for the bypass comes from a combination of federal highway grants and traffic impact fees raised through the Measure A sales tax.

The only funding concern centers around $7 million from the state’s transportation fund earmarked to help with the early phases of the bypass construction.

Berg said some of the state’s transportation funds were used by Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature to help balance the budget.

“The governor borrowed money from the traffic relief program and the traffic congestion program with the promise that the state would pay the fund back, which they have been doing,” Berg said. “As long as the state’s transportation crisis does not continue for more than two or three years, which it doesn’t look like it’s going to, then we should be fine.”

COG recently won approval from the Federal Fish and Wildlife Agency for the environmental component to its construction plans.

Approval of the detailed environmental document has held up the bypass project for the better part of a year as COG officials have been waiting for more than seven months to get the environmental documents approved.

In 1996, when it appeared the Highway 25 bypass project might not have enough money to complete the project, officials asked Congressman Sam Farr, D – Carmel, to help them come up with the difference, COG officials said.

Farr later secured about $2.25 million in federal transportation funds to help with the project.

The problem with using federal funds is the project has to be held to federal environmental standards set up in the National Environmental Quality Act.

This tied up construction plans because COG had to do a completely new environmental review similar to the state’s environmental impact report. That meant the COG officials had to start the environmental review process all over again.

Under federal regulations, the new environmental review has to be taken to any government agency that may be effected by the project and get each agency’s approval before construction can begin.

Part of that review has included doing a study of the possible impact the bypass might have on the return of steelhead trout to the Santa Ana Creek. To do that officials had to send someone to walk the entire length of the creek.

That study was required by fish and wildlife officials because the bypass calls for the construction of a pipe that would siphon off rainwater from the highway and discharge it into the creek.

The Highway 25 bypass was first publicly considered in the 1959 Hollister General Plan to reduce traffic congestion in downtown. The bypass is a 2.6-mile highway which calls for the construction of a four-lane roadway that would extend east from the Bolsa-San Felipe Road intersection about a quarter of a mile, then turn south crossing Santa Ana Road, Meridian Street and Hillcrest Road.

The bypass would then become a 6-lane road connecting with Airline Highway at the Sunnyslope-Tres Pinos Road intersection.

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