And then there were two.
The Mobility Partnership Committee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and the Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) narrowed down the new trade corridor project to two routes on Sept. 9. The committee unanimously voted to eliminate alternatives 1 and 4.
The easternmost route (alternative 3) connects Highway 156 and Highway 25 near Fairview Road and east of Shore Road. The westernmost route (alternative 2) would connect the highways near the Grove and west of Shore Road.
The project would replace Highway 152 as the main route for trucks and connect it to Highway 25. The corridor aims to improve the movement of goods between the Central Valley and northern Central Coast regions, improve commuter routes between the Central Valley and employers in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas, and improve regional and recreational travel.
The eliminated routes scored the lowest in the evaluation criteria adopted in June with 53 and 49 points, respectively, out of 100. They also represented the least and most costly options, based on a preliminary estimate that only considers construction and right-of-way acquisition.
Morgan Hill City Councilman and Committee Chair Larry Carr said the decision was significant.
“We’ve been talking about multiple routes for many years now and we narrowed it down to just this area between these two options,” Carr said. “I’m glad we are there. We’re getting with each step a little bit closer on this.”
With 62 points, alternative 2 was among the highest scoring in four of the seven categories that include operations, multimodal (having several modes of activity), access to economic centers, community acceptance and potential for tolling.
According to VTA project manager Chris Metzger, stakeholders including the Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County, the San Benito County Business Council and the San Benito County Farm Bureau did not have a consensus on an option but preferred alternatives 2 and 3 over the others.
Metzger said the concern with alternative 1, the northernmost alignment, was that it was too close to the existing alignment and that it would not benefit economic development in San Benito County. The stakeholders also felt the southernmost alignment, alternative 4, was too far out of the way and too close to the Highway 101-156 interchange.
He also noted that the routes are not definite, but an estimate of where they would be located.
COG Director and Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez said he preferred alternative 3 because it was closer to commercial zoning areas and because alternative 2 affected more homes in the area.
“It’s going to make more sense with alternative 3, definitely for the future of San Benito County, to increase the growth in commercial/industrial and not inconvenience so many other property owners with their homes and crossing through those areas,” Velazquez said.
Though San Benito County Supervisor Peter Hernandez said he had hoped that alternative 4 would score the highest, he too is leaning toward alternative 3.
“Within the realm of ability, No. 3 seems to be the closest to be the best of both worlds where it allows for a commercial focus,” Hernandez said.
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