With growth, planners converge

Local governments talk over plans for roads, housing

Local planning commissioners discussed roads and transportation at a joint meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners from San Benito County, Hollister and San Juan Bautista gave presentations on and discussed capital improvement projects, housing growth, sphere of influence, affordable housing and public transportation.

The meeting was discussion only, and no action could be taken.

The full county planning commission was in attendance, which included Mark Tognazzini, Jean Zlotkin, Pat Loe, Ray Pierce and Robert Rodriguez. The city’s had less representation. Commissioners Carol Lenoir, David Huboi and Chris Alvarez represented Hollister, with Gabriel Torres and Johnny Rosa absent. Commissioners John Hopper, Darlene Boyd and Scott Freels represented San Juan Bautista, with Ernest Franco and Andy Moore absent.

Notable meeting attendees included Hollister City Manager Bill Avera, Councilman Ray Friend, City Development Services Director Bryan Swanson, Business Council Executive Director Kristina Chavez-Wyatt and San Juan Councilman John Freeman.

City Engineer Danny Hillstock went over Hollister’s capital improvement projects relating to roads. He spoke on the several projects going forward and addressed traffic concerns on San Benito Street.

“A traffic operational study for San Benito Street is ongoing and anticipated to complete on June 30, 2017 so that we can try to figure out our traffic operations in the downtown area,” Hillstock said.

County Public Works Employee Jim Pulfer addressed county capital improvement projects relating to roads.

“We have completed a pavement management system and the report states what kind of situation county roads are in,” Pulfer said. “With respect to that, we’re preparing a five year road improvement program to be used as a budgeting and priority tool for our board to review and hopefully approve.”

Pulfer discussed the Pavement Condition Index, a tool used to determine the condition of roads. He said an index of 70 is the goal and that anything under that needed work. The average index for county roads is 33.

San Juan Bautista Community Development Director Matt Orbach covered road projects for his city such as small street overlays and striping projects.

“We have a reconstruction of Muckelemi Street between Fourth and San Antonio, one of the gateways of our town there,” Orbach said. “The 129 San Juan Highway where the new Rancho Vista development is going in is actually going to get a roundabout. Roger, our city manager, is a big fan of roundabouts. That’s going to be the first of several we have planned, but that’s probably the only one that will go in this year.”

The discussion grew murky as commissioners discussed housing growth, sphere of influence and affordable housing. It refocused when the topic of transportation came up.

Council of San Benito Governments (COG) Executive Director Mary Gilbert spoke on the state of public transportation in the region.

“We actually received some new funding in the past couple of fiscal years which allowed us to expand some of our (bus) services we offer between Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Gilroy,” Gilbert said. “We have extended service to the Gilroy Transit Center specifically to meet that need of going back through San Juan Bautista.”

County Commissioner Jean Zlotkin asked if busses were full during commuting hours. The busses aren’t full, but service is still offered to meet trains heading north to San Jose, Gilbert said.

“I think a lot of folks, it’s easier to just take their car,” Gilbert said. “Sometimes busses get delayed if a train is delayed. But we do offer that service.”

Commissioners agreed that public transportation will be vital to future affordable housing residents without access to personal vehicles.

Gilbert also said COG was working on an update to the Regional Transportation Plan.

“That’s our long term 2040 regional plan where we look at all modes of transportation from highways to busses, including aviation,” she said. “We’re putting together the draft right now and the project list includes expanding Gilroy services, as well as to Salinas and to Watsonville. You’ll hear more towards that at the end of the calendar year. In December we’ll have a draft plan out for public review.”


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