About 20 residents gave the Council of San Benito County Governments’ (COG) Local Transportation Authority input on three options for public transit between Hollister and Gilroy at its Dec. 11 meeting at the Veterans Memorial Building. The options are: construction of an 11-foot shoulder on the existing Highway 25 corridor exclusively for the County Express bus; a new route beside the railroad tracks; and a passenger rail service.
About 147 daily riders utilize the County Express bus from Hollister to Gilroy, according to Darryl DePencier with Kimley Horn. By 2040, the estimates of daily ridership are expected to vary between 529 and 866, depending on which option is selected.
The meeting was part of the regional transportation agency’s outreach program for a $150,000 Caltrans grant to study the Highway 25 corridor between Hollister and Gilroy. Attendees included San Juan Bautista’s councilman and planner John Freeman and Todd Kennedy, Supervisors Peter Hernandez, Jim Gillio, and Jaime De La Cruz, county management analyst Dulce Alonso, Pinnacle Strategy President Victor Gomez, and District 2 Supervisor candidates Frank Barragan and Wayne Norton.
Additionally, COG Executive Director Mary Gilbert told residents that staff will also be asking for public input outside Target and Hollister Super on Dec. 14; the agency previously conducted a survey of about 70 riders on Dec. 10.
Gilbert noted that this a planning level study and not an alternative to the $242 million Highway 25 widening project. She said that any decision made from this study would not involve Measure G funds. The highway widening is scheduled to begin in December 2025, according to a COG fact sheet. The design phase is scheduled to be completed in July 2023.
“There is a third tier, a smaller portion that’s available for transit projects,” Gilbert said. “This is considered a transit project so that might be something we pursue in the future, but certainly not the Highway 25 piece of it.”
Transportation planner Regina Valentine said that based on the meeting, a majority of the attendees preferred the bus route along the railroad tracks over the other two options. The estimated price for that option is over $40 million, with $1 million in annual operating and maintenance costs.
Based on information presented by DePencier, it would take passengers 37-43 minutes to get from the proposed Gavilan satellite campus on the corner of Fairview Road and Highway 25 to the Gilroy Transit Station, using the bus route option.
The option with the quickest travel time was the passenger rail at 24 minutes from the Hollister station near McKray and Meridian streets to the Gilroy Transit Station. Estimated cost for that option is $100 million, with more than $3 million in annual operating and maintenance costs. The high price tag is primarily because it would require replacement of the track, infrastructure at crossings, and purchasing rail vehicles, DePencier said. He noted that the estimates are based on a heavy rail train, and that a light rail would be even more expensive because of the electrical infrastructure required.
The bus on the shoulder option has an estimated cost of over $40 million and over $1 million in operating and maintenance costs.
LTA will solicit more input on the transit corridor options on Dec. 14 in front of Target and Hollister Super.
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