The map above shows where the Highway 156 improvement project will affect the intersection of Union Road when completed. Image courtesy of Caltrans
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There’s good news for San Benito County motorists regarding the upcoming Union Road closure as Caltrans has proposed an accelerated time frame for road work at the intersection of Highway 156. Previously, the closure was estimated to last for seven months, but in a report to the San Benito Council of Governments (COG) last week, Caltrans unveiled plans for a shortened time frame of eight weeks.

This was the solution reached by interested parties in an effort to alleviate public frustration after a slated November/December closure of one of the area’s busiest intersections. Now, the work will be pushed out to the summer 2024 and will take far less time than initially proposed.

“We were able to work with the contractor to see if there were ways to alter the schedule to allow for more work to take place which could include working seven days a week. The closure will occur early next summer, leaving time to refine the schedule, assess work completed at that time, and consider other measures to modify the details of the closure,” said Jim Shivers, the Caltrans District 5 public information officer.

Teichert Construction, the contractor for the Highway 156 corridor project, has agreed to extend work hours and get the Union Road phase of the project completed five months earlier than initially expected. While this effort will shorten the work window, it will add an additional $400,000 to the project cost.

The San Benito Route 156 Improvement Project will construct a four-lane expressway immediately south of the existing Hwy. 156 alignment. This 5.2-mile project will begin in San Juan Bautista at The Alameda and continue to just east of Fourth Street in Hollister, according to Caltrans.

Access from Highway 156 to Mission Vineyard Road in San Juan Bautista will be closed and commuters will not be able to access San Juan Hollister Road from Union Road. As the original road closure date in late November approached, county officials scrambled to find a better solution.

District 2 Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki was vocal about his frustration with Caltrans officials about their lack of communication with the county. Kosmicki said in a Nov. 7 Facebook post that the initial Union Road closure plan was “poorly thought out.” 

Since then, Caltrans worked to provide alternatives and presented two options to the COG for a future road closure. The second option would have seen the work done in the same eight-week timeframe, but during November/December of this year. That option would have dealt with potential delays due to winter weather conditions and limited daylight.

Hollister Mayor Mia Casey, who sits on the COG board of directors, said that Caltrans has been amenable to the community’s needs.

“The COG has developed a strong working relationship with Caltrans. They have been very responsive when we bring residents’ concerns,” Casey says. “Their willingness to negotiate with the construction company resulted in a shortening of the Highway 156/Union Road Closure from seven months down to eight weeks.”

Casey said Caltrans will cover the additional $400,000 cost from their contingency budget and that no additional funds have been requested from San Benito County.

Caltrans will continue to have open communication with the county, Shivers said.

“We are always open to finding methods to enhance our communication during this project to our partners and the traveling public. We will continue to issue news releases, social media posts and videos as we have done in the past,” Shivers said. 

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