Housing / Land Use

COMMENTARY: Our Local Road Network is About to be Overwhelmed

Poor planning and lack of implementtion will soon overwhelm the Fairview Road, Airline Highway and Union Road portion of the local road network

San Benito County and the City of Hollister have not implemented workable transportation plans to support the growth south and southeast of Hollister. It’s hard to believe, but until only recently the county did not even have a complete and up to date comprehensive local planning map – did the supervisors think the transportation issues would take care of themselves?

All the approved and projected growth in this area will use the same three critical roads, Fairview Road, Airline Highway and Union Road. Yet the essential improvements, especially to Union and Fairview roads, the county’s primary responsibilities, are not on anyone’s near horizon; if they only come 20 years after they are needed it will be too late we will be in local gridlock.

Union Road will get additional feeds from city development south of Hollister and along its length and off Southside Road and county development near Ridgemark; Fairview Road is already strained and will get much worse.

The county still has done essentially nothing about the existing and potential Fairview Road traffic including traffic to John Smith landfill that takes in loads of out-of-county trash – the landfill had a stunning 13,690 to and from trips in May 2016. Nor, except for one intersection, has it mitigated the immediate impacts of the Santana Ranch Development approved many years ago. In the latter case the county even took the Highway 25 improvement off the table for political reasons, giving up $9 million in impact fees.

The county desperately needs to staff both its Planning and Public Works Departments with adequate qualified personnel to get this work done. The Board of Supervisors’ continued financial mismanagement and disdain for the essential long-term, between project, grunt work that real planning requires means that their ideas are merely empty shells that rarely, if ever, come to fruition or a good end. “We have a plan” is an inadequate response if it is not a good plan that is actually being implemented in a timely manner. We have rooms full of plans that never got past the plan stage.

This neglect has the potential of a gridlock nightmare that will last for years because the county is always broke and won’t do anything until it has money in hand. Without a solid foundation of operating processes, every project has to start from scratch resulting in an overly long and overly expensive process. The root causes of their financial distress are lack of foresight and bad decisions of their own making.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.