Instead of just adding two lanes to the existing State Route 25 between Hollister and Gilroy, state officials are proposing the construction of a new four-lane expressway, using the current two-lane highway as a parallel frontage road.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in cooperation with the Council of San Benito County Governments and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, revealed in detailed maps this month they are proposing the eventual replacement of 11.2 miles of the existing State Route 25 two-lane highway with a four-lane expressway in San Benito and Santa Clara counties.
The project would ease a big strain on the commuting route for the more then 12,000 San Benito residents who commute daily on Route 25 to Santa Clara County.
The Highway 25 project is a shared responsibility between state and federal transportation agencies and San Benito County. The $241 million cost will be shared with Santa Clara County. Traffic impact fees charged to new construction will pay a portion of the project cost, up to $88 million.
The plan includes a future new interchange at state routes 25 and 156, would require widening Route 156 between just northwest of Hollister, and would involve the construction of a new bridge over the Pajaro River. Caltrans is the lead agency for this project under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR), completed in June 2016 evaluated a proposed route adoption and includes a route adoption study (a broad Tier I environmental analysis), according to CalTrans.
Three alternatives for the route adoption were under consideration, including a “no-build” alternative, which was rejected because of the growing traffic congestion.
The final EIR selected a preferred alternative for route adoption, which Caltrans submitted documentation to the California Transportation Commission in 2016. The commission finally approved the preferred route (see map) last year.
The stated purpose of the proposed route is to:
- Select a corridor for State Route 25 between Hollister and Gilroy that will accommodate existing and future travel demand;
- Facilitate local and regional land use planning by identifying future right-of-way needed for the State Route 25 corridor;
- Improve traffic flow and reduce delays on State Route 25 between San Felipe Road in Hollister and Hudner Lane in San Benito County; and
- Increase capacity along State Route 25 between San Felipe Road in Hollister and Hudner Lane in rural San Benito County.
According to the 2007 Transportation Concept Report for State Route 25, the long-range vision for State Route 25 is to convert the two-lane conventional highway to a four-lane expressway, with access control.
“The conversion would improve mobility and reliability for all users within the corridor,” CalTrans said in a statement.
“We are currently developing a benchmark schedule that takes into account the environmental, right of way, and final design phases, and look forward to sharing that schedule with the public later this year,” said a spokesperson for the Council of Governments, in response to questions from this newspaper.
“The change [for a completely new expressway] was made because such a long expressway would be difficult to secure funding for and difficult to construct as a single project in San Benito and Santa Clara counties,” said the council.
“An increased number of vehicles travel this stretch of State Route 25 due to the rapid population growth and commuter traffic between northern San Benito County and San Jose and the northern Santa Clara Valley,” the council said. “State Route 25 between Hollister and U.S. 101 passes through agricultural land and includes pull-out areas used by agricultural equipment. At peak commute hours, traffic becomes heavy, resulting in congestion. Traffic is often delayed by vehicles turning into and/or out of the numerous driveways and local roads, affecting the flow of faster vehicles. Conflicts between faster vehicles and slow agricultural traffic occur during off-peak traffic hours. Reduction of these conflicts at intersections and driveways reduce the frequency of conflicts by separating local trips and regional through trips.”
The CalTrans report identified approximately 54 driveways and 11 intersections with local roads along the current State Route 25 section.
According to the traffic analysis completed for the project, on State Route 25 the existing annual average daily traffic count is 14,700 vehicles between San Felipe Road and State Route 156; 21,300 vehicles between State Route 156 and the San Benito County-Santa Clara County line; and 22,500 vehicles between that point and U.S. 101 in Santa Clara County.
In 2018, on existing State Route 25 between San Felipe Road and State Route 156, the predicted annual average daily traffic count was expected to increase by 34.7 percent, with 5,100 more daily vehicles than in 2006. In 2038, traffic on this segment will have increased by 8,300 more vehicles per day, a 56.5 percent increase in traffic.
The county expects to be granted local road repair funds by this fall.
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Community participation is encouraged, and community input sessions will be scheduled, according to the council.For details, visit sanbenitocog.org.