A tight project budget and lack of support from area residents
have canceled plans for the construction of a one-half mile-long
concrete barrier along a rural section of Highway 25, according to
directors of the San Benito Council of County Governments
Hollister – A tight project budget and lack of support from area residents have canceled plans for the construction of a one-half mile-long concrete barrier along a rural section of Highway 25, according to directors of the San Benito Council of County Governments (COG).
The proposed barrier along Hwy. 25 between Briggs and Wright roads would have been part of the $12 million Highway 25 safety improvement project scheduled for completion in 2006. The entire project will include other stretches of concrete barrier and “soft meridian” barrier, full shoulders on the sides of the highway, and acceleration and deceleration lanes.
The half-mile-long concrete barrier between Briggs and Wright Road, while originally seen as a potential safety necessity, has been in question from the beginning, according to COG Director Tony LoBue.
“They did a study last year that justified putting the concrete barrier there. They wanted to put in as much concrete center divide as possible, and it was the next logical place to put one. But there’s all those people on Briggs Road (who don’t want it), and with the funding we have available, that was going to be something to get rid of if we were looking at getting rid of something,” LoBue said.
The barrier had actually already been stricken from the plans before Thursday’s meeting, according to COG Director Pat Loe. Somehow, though, the barrier managed to make it onto the map of the project sent out to area residents on Nov. 10. This was a mistake on the part of either CalTrans or the printer, Loe said.
“When CalTrans originally brought the project forward, they brought us everything we could possibly do. Then, of course, we had to cut out some of the things that we didn’t want or didn’t have the money for, and this barrier was one of them,” she said.
Dist. 1 City Councilman-elect Brad Pike, who also formed the “Stay Alive on 25” campaign, said this was a logical course of action. Accident statistics had not warranted a concrete barrier along this particular stretch of 25, he said, especially when a barrier would greatly inconvenience area farmers.
“I would like to help the people who live out there; I don’t want to take away their livelihood or take away convenience. It might cause more conflict than it’s worth. I’m glad they made that decision to keep the barrier out of there,” Pike said.
Concerned residents of the area in question spoke out at Thursday’s COG meeting, believing the barrier was still set for construction after seeing it on the mailer they had received.
George Rajkovich, a Hollister farmer, said he was opposed to the barrier because he has orchards on both sides of 25 and needs to be able to cross the highway as easily as possible.
“If they put in a wall, it would dissect our property to where we wouldn’t be able to get equipment across the road or haul our fruit,” Rajkovich said.
This was a key factor in the board’s original decision to strike the particular stretch of barrier from the plans when the California Highway Patrol Highway 25 Task Force was formed in 2000, COG Director Pauline Valdivia said.
“There’s too much farm traffic out there, and the people who live there would really have to go out of their way to make a U-turn. We’re going to be making sure that’s not in there,” she said.
Jessica Quandt is a staff writer for the Free Lance. Reach her at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or at [email protected]