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The Intergovernmental Committee approved sending Caltrans a letter requesting to prohibit left turns onto Highway 156 from Flint and Bixby roads, and Lucy Brown Lane between 3-7 p.m. This is an effort to limit the access points onto the highway because motorists are using the back roads to bypass bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 156 and Mitchell Road. The letter will also include requesting the California Highway Patrol to increase local traffic enforcement.
The Intergovernmental Committee is made up of two representatives from the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, Hollister City Council and San Juan Bautista City Council, a representative of the Hollister School District Board of Trustees and the San Benito Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto.
While San Benito County Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki said it might not make a big difference in traveling time, it will help avoid potential accidents. He said he brought this issue up because residents have voiced concern over additional vehicles on the back roads as well as speeding and road damage.
The request is that this is done temporarily while construction for Highway 156 is ongoing.
The $105.9 million San Benito Route 156 Improvement Project includes constructing five miles of four-lane expressway between The Alameda in San Juan Bautista and Business Route 156 in Hollister. The project is funded by the State Transportation Improvement Program and local funds.
Hollister City Council member Rick Perez said while he was on board with the idea, he was concerned that motorists would just find a new intersection to merge onto Highway 156. The other only access point onto Highway 156 from the back roads in that area is Mitchell Road, which already experiences bumper to bumper traffic up to the traffic light.
Hollister Mayor Mia Casey also said she was onboard but her concern was that without enforcement from the California Highway Patrol, motorists would just ignore the signs.
Council of San Benito County Government’s Binu Abraham said CHP has said it would be difficult to do enforcement on Highway 156 given the lack of shoulder area to safely pull over a vehicle.
San Juan Bautista City Council member Jackie Morris-Lopez said she didn’t buy CHP’s “excuse” that it could not enforce the no-left turns if it was adopted.
“When they need to they will pull you over. The cars are going at very slow speeds because there is such a delay and traffic jam that they are not going to be traveling at high speed, racing speeds to pull people over.”
San Juan Bautista City Manager Don Reynolds warned that travelers using the back roads will experience even more delays when the city begins to install its wastewater infrastructure to connect to the Hollister Wastewater plant on Nov. 13. That 18-month construction project includes installing pipes under San Justo Road, Duncan Avenue, Freitas Road and Mitchell Road.
“There will be a lot of people who will be experiencing probably further delays than they are now,” Reynolds said about motorists on the back roads.
The committee opted to wait for the result of a traffic study being conducted on the Rocks Road and Highway 101 intersection before considering requesting to prohibit a left turn there too.
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