Construction on bypass set for December

For the city to move along with its plan to build a Highway 25 bypass, it will first have to buy and demolish South Valley Trailers, at the intersection of Highway 25 and San Felipe Road.

Plans to redirect Highway 25 by building a bypass that cuts
through town are reaching final stages, and construction should
begin by December.
The Highway 25 bypass project recently received its last
environmental clearance, according to county transportation planner
Lisa Berg. Progress had been delayed for five years because of
federal reviews.
Plans to redirect Highway 25 by building a bypass that cuts through town are reaching final stages, and construction should begin by December.

The Highway 25 bypass project recently received its last environmental clearance, according to county transportation planner Lisa Berg. Progress had been delayed for five years because of federal reviews.

Now local officials will begin the process of acquiring properties along the route, according to Berg. If that goes smoothly, construction on the $24-30 million highway addition should start by the end of 2004.

Work is scheduled to last about 18 months, which means it would be finished in the late summer of 2006, according to Hollister Public Works Director Clint Quilter.

Before that happens, though, Berg and other transportation officials plan to negotiate over the next nine months with individual property owners. She said they hope to avoid using eminent domain, which is governmental condemnation of properties.

“We would much rather negotiate with property owners than resort to eminent domain,” Berg said.

The bypass project will create a new roadway starting where the Bolsa Road portion of Highway 25 connects with San Felipe Road in Hollister.

The constructed bypass will run directly east just past Chappell Road, and then south – cutting through Santa Ana Road, Meridian Street and Hillcrest Road before connecting with Airline Highway adjacent to Safeway. A small section will be six lanes; the rest will be four.

The project – which first showed up in the city’s General Plan of 1959 – is intended to ease burgeoning traffic congestion, particularly on San Benito Street.

“Its purpose is to improve circulation in Hollister,” Berg said.

The county’s Council of Governments (COG) received the final environmental clearance from Caltrans on Dec. 18. Next, planners – who are wrapping up the design – must submit a 95-percent blueprint back to the state in early February, Berg said.

But the appraisal and negotiation of several properties along the route, Berg said, is the number one priority if building is going to start in December.

“The big ticket item right now is the acquisition and appraisal,” Berg said.

She said one business property is needed – South Valley Trailer. And two houses are needed, along with other “minor locations” along the route and parts of other properties. South Valley Trailer has known about the government’s pending acquisition for several years, she said.

The highway project will be funded by a combination of local, state and federal dollars. As of now, the city and county will pay a total of $7.3 million; $5 million is slated to come from Measure A – a 1/2-cent sales tax passed by voters in 1988; developers will pay $2.4 million; state grants will fund $7 million; and a federal grant will pay for $2.25 million.

The $24 million total, though, will likely rise by the time construction begins, Berg said. But the price would still be relatively low compared to a $200 million widening of Highway 25, she said. That’s because the costlier project involves two interchanges (at highways 156 and 101), along with a railroad and rivers, that jack up the costs.

It was those federal dollars awarded in the late 1990s, Berg said, that contributed to further delays of the bypass project. Recent reviews by federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lasted eight months.

In the future, COG hopes to find one environmental review that is suffice to both Caltrans and the federal government.

“We learned our lesson on taking federal money, and what we have to with it,” Berg said.

About a year or two after the bypass is completed, San Benito Street – technically Highway 25 now and therefore owned and operated by Caltrans – will likely become a city roadway, Quilter said. The city then would hold responsibility for construction and maintenance of the street.

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