Sneak peek at a wider Hwy. 25

Caltrans’ project manager Edujie Imoisilli, left, explains how the widening of Highway 25 would affect traffic during an open house Wednesday. NICK LOVEJOY/Photographer

A roomful of interested residents and property owners got their
first peek at possible designs for a four-lane Highway 25 on
Wednesday.

We were hoping to hear the public’s interest in our three
alternatives for 25 and any other alternatives and suggestions
people might have,

Caltrans Project Director Richard Rosales said.
A roomful of interested residents and property owners got their first peek at possible designs for a four-lane Highway 25 on Wednesday.

“We were hoping to hear the public’s interest in our three alternatives for 25 and any other alternatives and suggestions people might have,” Caltrans Project Director Richard Rosales said.

Caltrans officials said the widening is not a done deal, but all indications are that if the state can recover from the current budget crisis, construction on the project could begin as early as 2009, four years earlier than it would normally take to get such a project approved and under construction.

As part of the process toward creating a final design for the widening project, Rosales put together a team of state experts, engineers, planning officials, and even a historian to talk to residents about all aspects of the project.

“It’s a good chance to talk to property owners and answer any questions they have about the environmental process we’re conducting right now,” Rosales said.

The open house received high praise from public officials.

“I think this is just the first stage, but this process will have to continue because I don’t know if the first way is truly the best,” Supervisor Pat Loe said. “But this is a great first step.”

A number of residents asked experts some tough questions about the project and the three alternative routes being considered.

“I found it very informative. It was a good meeting that let you know all the alternatives and what directions this is taking,” resident Everett Clark said. “I’m more concerned with the fact that they don’t have a real direction yet. All of this could change in the next month or the next year.”

The alternatives include a route which closely traces the current path of Highway 25; one that includes a high-speed interchange at U.S. 101 that would encroach upon a large agricultural business near the U.S. 101 and Highway 25 interchange, and the third alternative would not harm growers as much but it would mean possibly destroying a historical landmark.

Although the gym at R.O. Hardin was not filled with people, the Caltrans open house was successful for such an early point in the process.

“I think the turnout was outstanding. We had a lot of people come in. A lot of property owners, business owners, public agencies and private agencies,” Caltrans Public Affairs Manager Lauren Wonder said. “We had people stay until the end. They came in at 4 p.m. and left at 8 p.m.”

The public input, which was negative at times, was important to officials to hear.

“Caltrans always wants to get public input on this road and any kind of improvements that will have an impact on the citizens,” Wonder said.

She said the public input can be a crucial component in designing any major project.

“This can help us determine the scope, whether a road needs to be built at all and if so where it should be built,” Wonder said.

Seeing the proposed routes was especially gratifying to residents who have been pushing for the expansion of the highway for the past three years.

“Obviously I’m pleased to see the project is where it is at,” said Brad Pike, founder of the Stay Alive on 25 organization.

“Three and a half years ago I didn’t think I would be sitting in a gym looking at alternative plans for a new highway,” Pike said. “It’s satisfying to see true progress being made .”

Although the death toll on Highway 25 is not as high so far this year as it was in 2002, Pike said now is not the time to stop making improvements to the highway.

“Absolutely not, because even if we stop building new roads, our children are going to grow up and they are going to have to have a place to drive,” Pike said. “I think this is the beginning of proper infrastructure and we’re deciding what we are going to be like as a community in the future.”

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