Highway 156 expansion project gets right of way certification

Caltrans to request funding from state transportation commission in December, with two-year construction phase expected to begin next summer.

Caltrans will request funding approval from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) in December for the Highway 156 expansion project after receiving the right of way certification, employee Scott Eades said on Nov. 19. The two-year construction phase is expected to begin next summer.

“We completed what’s called ready to list status on Oct. 27, which is great news,” Eades said at a meeting of the Council of San Benito County Governments (COG), the regional transportation agency. According to the Caltrans Construction Contract Award Guide, ready to list means “applicable design, right of way, environmental, regulatory, and statutory conditions have been addressed in the plans, specifications, and estimate.”

“That allows us to go ahead to the California Transportation Commission to allocate the funds for construction,” Eades said.

The $105.9 million expansion project consists of constructing four new lanes on the five-mile stretch of Highway 156 between The Alameda in San Juan Bautista and Hollister. Caltrans estimates the new highway will save $34.6 million in accident and vehicle operating costs over 20 years; will provide a $102.8 million return on investment in the same period; and reduce congestion by 1,902 hours daily and 694,257 hours annually. The project is funded through local traffic impact fees and the statewide transportation and improvement program (STIP).

Eades said Caltrans continues to work on obtaining the property necessary for the Highway 156 expansion project and anticipates completing that step in March.

Project Manager Brandy Rider said Caltrans is in negotiations with two property owners which she could not identify because of property rights. She added that the agency has settled with 24 other property owners for the expansion project.

Caltrans is going through eminent domain proceedings for the last two properties and has two court dates, in February and March, to finish orders of possession, Rider said. She added that the March court date is where she expects the parties to execute a final agreement. 

Lawsuits over property acquisition have been the primary delay in the project, which has been in the works since 1999.

Eades said construction will be advertised in January. “We’ll have a construction contract in May. That is the expected schedule.”

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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.