While a permanent fix for the safety traffic concerns at Nash Road near a major high school crossing is at least 20 years away, San Benito County supervisors were asked Tuesday to offer direction on an interim solution that could be ready in two years.
The board was responding to San Benito High School District Trustee Ray Rodriguez’s recent plea for the county to address increasing congestion where high school students cross the street between the main campus and a freshmen campus.
Public Works Administrator Steve Wittry said that the long-term solution to allowing the high school to close Nash Road will come with an extension of Westside Boulevard. But that project will need 15 to 20 years before funding allows construction to begin. Working with the intergovernmental committee and high school trustees, the stakeholders have come up with another solution that would create an interim bypass from West to Monterey streets on property the county parks and recreation commissioners are hoping to turn into a regional park and river parkway.
“It is an area we are pursuing for a regional park,” Wittry said. “The interim road would allow flow (of traffic) between Monterey and West and would allow the high school to move forward with the closure.”
The issue of safety at the Nash Road crossing came before the board at an April 3 meeting, when Rodriguez broached the topic with Principal Krystal Lomanto attending as well. According to a 2007 traffic study, 11,000 trips are made across the block that connects the main campus to the freshmen campus on the south side of Nash Road, between West and San Benito streets. Though supervisors acknowledged they had no direct authority over the roadway – which is in the city’s jurisdiction – they signed a resolution supporting improvements at an April 19 meeting.
Wittry said the roadway would also serve as access to a regional park. He asked the supervisors for authority to move forward with a memorandum of understanding between the agencies that would be involved in such a roadway – the county, city of Hollister, San Benito High School and the council of governments.
“When I first heard this idea I had a ‘Wow’ moment,” Barrios said. “Now I am hearing talk of us using our money. I thought it was a partnership. I thought the high school was giving us land and in return we would provide amenities. Now they are getting money.”
Wittry said the idea for funding the road is that the county would be acquiring land from the high school for the regional park. With funding from the sale of the land, the high school would provide the money to the county to construct the road.
“For the park to function we have to have a road,” Wittry said. “We are looking at developing access to the park.”
Barrios recommended that all three agencies involved find a way to fund part of the road construction.
Wittry estimated the construction of the road would be about $500,000 because it would be a temporary street without sidewalks.
Two members of the parks and recreation commission expressed concern about the proposal.
“My concern is that we have a very finite pool of impact fees and we want to try to leverage it the best we can,” said Dan Dungy, the parks and recreation commission chairman. “Right now it is looked at as an easy pool of money. We need to work together to have the ability to put something in now.”
Commissioner Don Kelley said the panel has plans for how to proceed with the regional park or river parkway if some property owners are not willing to participate. He said the commissioners had been working with a landscaper and that “this (the roadway) is not one of the elements that has been proposed.”
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer suggested that the parks commissioners be involved in meetings so that there is an understanding of the impact on parks.
“The process is under way,” Wittry said, of the landscaper designing some portions of the parkway. “But this dovetails with that. They haven’t looked at specific plans between Fourth Street and Hospital Road.”
The supervisors directed Wittry to meet with the other agencies and bring more information back to the board at a future meeting.