Caltrans insists on roundabout at Hwy 25/156 intersection

Agency estimates Hwy 25 widening will take nine years.
Preliminary design for the proposed roundabout at Highway 25 and 156 intersection. Image courtesy of Caltrans.
Preliminary design for the proposed roundabout at Highway 25 and 156 intersection. Image courtesy of Caltrans.

In a letter to the Council of San Benito County Governments (COG), Caltrans says it remains opposed to delaying construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Highways 25 and 156 for safety reasons, because the Highway 25 widening project schedule is too far into the future. COG is the local transportation agency representing the unincorporated county, Hollister and San Juan Bautista. 

The May 19 letter also says that though COG presented a plan to Caltrans on Feb. 12 to combine funding for both projects that would result in an overpass at the intersection, the cost and delivery time were underestimated.

The letter, signed by Caltrans District 5 Director Timothy Gubbins, points to its review showing that “the total cost of the interchange would be $35 million-$40 million and take approximately nine years to complete the project. Even if the funding were available today, this schedule is not timely enough to address the current safety concerns.”

Caltrans is proposing a $10.7 million, two-lane roundabout because of the intersection’s collision rate of 1.11 per million vehicles, double the state average of 0.5 per million. According to the data used for analysis, between July 2010 and June 2013, there were 37 collisions at the intersection with 16 injuries and no fatalities. At a community meeting, Caltrans Project Manager Brandy Rider said there were 126 collisions between 2009 and 2018, and two fatalities at the intersection. The project is funded through the State Highway Operation and Protection Program.

Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2021. The project is currently in its final design phase, according to the June 18 COG meeting agenda packet. 

In order to reduce collisions, the letter states, Caltrans has implemented the following countermeasures:

  • Upgraded the reflectivity of the “Signal Ahead” signs
  • Added double flashing beacons to the “Signal Ahead” signs
  • Increased the size of the signal faces from eight to 12 inches
  • Added additional signal heads
  • Added red indicators to the signal head
  • Modified the signal timing to reduce the number of vehicles caught in the dilemma zone

Caltrans will continue to implement additional measures in the coming months, such as modifying the signal timing to increase the all-red clearance interval, adding additional signage on the approach legs and installing yellow reflective strips around the signal heads to increase visibility.

COG directors and members of the public have voiced concerns about the construction of a roundabout next year when it will be replaced by an intersection with the Highway 25 widening project. COG has pushed to accelerate the project to a timeline that is acceptable for Caltrans to use the $ 10.7 million toward an overpass rather than building a roundabout, which has a life cycle of about 10 years. 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.