Though actual construction for the Highway 25 four-lane expansion is several years away, local elected officials and candidates gathered on Oct. 7 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the latest milestone in the project. The ceremony—hosted by regional transportation agency the Council of San Benito County Governments (COG)—was held along Highway 25 near the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office shooting range across Briggs Road.
Following a months-long value analysis, the COG Board of Directors recently approved a phased strategy in September that lowered the overall estimated cost of the project from $342 million to $241 million, close to its original estimate.
“We’re kicking off a really important phase for the Highway 25 expansion project,” COG Executive Director Mary Gilbert said. “We’ve made some significant progress over the past six months.”
The project is partially funded through Measure G and impact fees, with additional funding expected through state and federal grants. 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.
Gilbert, who has worked on this project for 20 years, was joined by county supervisors Jaime De La Cruz and Peter Hernandez, Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez and California Highway Patrol Capt. Chris Armstrong in highlighting the importance of the partnerships that enabled the project to proceed.
“This is the ribbon-cutting for the biggest project in San Benito County history,” Velazquez said, adding that a four-lane highway is a big step toward bringing commerce into the county.
The day before, Gilbert gave a presentation to supervisors and said it is a priority to expedite the estimated eight to 10 years needed to complete the expansion project.
The project is separated into a north and south segment, with the latter being the primary focus. This includes the Highway 25/156 interchange, and a new four-lane segment from Hudner Lane to San Felipe Road west of the existing route.
The north segment of the project would include constructing only two northbound lanes and using the two existing lanes for southbound traffic.
“To build four new lanes of expressway and leave the old highway behind as a frontage road would be much more expensive,” Gilbert said. “In an effort to save costs we’ve proposed this phasing.”
The south segment is further broken down into four areas: the Highway 25/156 interchange; San Felipe Road to Highway 156; Highway 156 to the Santa Clara county line; and from the county line to Bloomfield Avenue.
The 25/156 interchange has become a priority in the project, with hopes of utilizing Caltrans’ $10 million budget toward a $40 million overpass rather than the planned roundabout.
Gilbert said the next step for COG is to sign an agreement with Caltrans for the environmental study and preliminary design in December. She expects to kick off the environmental phase in March or April 2021.
While COG works on Highway 25 expansion project, it’s also collaborating with Santa Clara County through the Mobility Partnership Committee to address the Highway 25/101 interchange. The project is currently in its first phase of design.
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