Wanting more time to digest the impacts of proposed alternatives to the Highway 25 widening project, the Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) Board of Directors opted to delay an agreement with Caltrans to begin the environmental phase at its Aug. 13 meeting. COG also launched a new website, hwy25.org, to keep residents updated on the process.
The Highway 25 widening project price tag is now estimated at $342 million, according to the meeting agenda packet. The original estimate for the project was $240 million, funded by Measure G. County voters approved the 1%, 30-year sales tax in November 2018. It’s expected to generate $16 million annually for a total of $480 million.
Measure G funds are broken down into three tiers, with the Highway 25 widening project set to receive $242 million in Tier 1; $216 million toward local streets and road maintenance in Tier 2; and $27 million for other projects such as planning and pedestrian/bicycle safety in Tier 3.
COG is also conducting a study on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Measure G funding.
While the design for the widening project has not been adopted, COG directors were presented with two options last December: add two lanes to the existing route or construct four new lanes.
According to the agenda packet, the project is planned to be built in two phases: the first is from San Felipe Road to Hudner Lane; the second is from Hudner Lane to the county line.
COG and Caltrans engineers came up with six construction alternatives during a value analysis study that they say still meet community needs and accelerate the widening project while staying within budget. Alternatives include:
- North segment split alignment
- North segment only
- South segment only-widen existing
- South segment only-adopted route alignment
- 25/156 Interchange only
- Caltrans giving ownership to San Benito County
The alternatives range in cost from $40 million to $275 million and could accelerate the project completion date by as much as 30 months.
In presenting COG directors with the six options, Eric Trimble with Value Management Strategies, Inc. said four were selected to move forward into the environmental phase based on performance, cost, time and risk. Among the alternatives was only building the Highway 25/156 overpass, which he said would be the most beneficial to the area. It’s estimated to cost about $40 million.
COG directors were particularly interested in exploring taking over responsibility for Highway 25. However, Trimble cautioned there were unknowns and risks, including liability for any accidents. He also said if this were to happen, there would be savings on the front end, but the county would be responsible to maintain the route.
“This was an interesting one. Really looking at what can the county do on its own,” he said.
San Benito County Resource Management Agency Director Harry Mavrogenes told BenitoLink that if the county took over ownership of Highway 25, it would look like the portion of Highway 156 between The Alameda and Highway 101 in San Juan Bautista.
Aside from funding challenges, COG is simultaneously dealing with Caltrans’ proposed $10 million roundabout at the intersection of Highways 25 and 156; the New Trade Corridor that would use 25 as a connector between Highways 101 and 152; and the design of the Highway 101/25 interchange. All three have impacts to the widening project.
COG directors and San Benito County residents have voiced their opposition to the roundabout, calling it a waste of money because an overpass will be constructed at the intersection as part of the widening project. The new trade corridor, a project put forth by the Mobility Partnership Committee between COG and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, will eliminate Highway 152 as the main route for trucks and substitute it with one of four alignment options that connect to Highway 25 between Llagas Creek on the Santa Clara County side, to east of Shore Road in San Benito County.
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