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Caltrans responds to concerns over concurrent road work on Highways 25, 156

Spokesman says contractor was fined for creating a detour onto San Felipe Road without checking with Caltrans

Recent roadwork on both Highways 25 and 156 prompted questions from San Benito County drivers who have wondered why Caltrans would schedule work on both main commute routes at the same time.

Nike Andersen posted on the Hollister Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook that she expressed her concerns about "the Highway 25 boondogle" to Caltrans and received a response from public information officer Jim Shivers, who shared his response with BenitoLink:

"Our Caltrans resident engineer overseeing the work of the contractor shared this unfortunate scenario which occurred earlier this week. The foreman for the contractor decided on his own to implement a detour without authorization from Caltrans. This decision impacted many commuters which we are sorry for. The contractor will face financial repercussions because of this decision. Caltrans could have agreed to this plan, if the discussions were held weeks ago, allowing proper planning and public notification. As a rule, we do not implement detours which impact local surface streets. Again, we are sorry for what you experienced and our Caltrans engineers have made it clear that this decision by the contractor was unacceptable."

Shivers, in a separate email, told BenitoLink that the issue involved a detour that diverted traffic to San Felipe Road, "a local road and we typically don't place detours onto local streets." He noted that he is "not aware of the dollar amount involved" in the fine for the contractor, which he said was Granite Construction.

Asked if it is typical to have construction take place simultaneously on both major highways in a county, Shivers said, "I am not a traffic engineer. It has been known to happen, but it also depends on several factors which might include working in a direction opposite the morning or afternoon commute, how many outlets there might be or whether it is emergency work to name a few. Your county is smaller, so I would think we would take this into consideration."



Adam Breen (Adam Breen)

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.


Based on my professional experience, Cal Trans permits have an excruciating long lead time for official approval. I'm not excusing Granite Construction here, but I've managed water utility construction projects in Cal Trans right of ways wherein the agency took a really long time to review/approve a permit application. I can well imagine that Granite had to make a decision to alter its traffic plan and figured 'It's easier to beg forgiveness than be granted permission in a reasonable amount of time with hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment/labor hours standing by while Cal Trans reviews a traffic plan update."

"Time is money" - but there is no incentive in California's public sector to keep any costs down especially the further the agency is divorced from the taxpayers and the more secure their careers. It's quite the opposite.

The mantra for that group is not "Time is money," it's "Backlog is job security."  The more it costs and the longer it takes to complete a project the less likely it is that anyone will measure their contribution by accomplishment.  They get credit for whatever is completed on their watch even when their contribution doesn't even rate a certificate of attendance.

Their symbol contains two mottos - "Make it complex" and "We need more help."  As I have posted many times California has some of the highest construction administrative costs per lane mile in the nation and that is no accident; it's indicative how the state operates.

Marty Richman


California nowadays actually puts performance clause language in bid contracts because contractors used to flagrantly abuse cost overruns such as you cite. So if, for example, Granite bid on a job that was specified to be completed in 10 days but it took longer, they would have to pay penalties for every day past day 10 and potentially lose money.

In order to accomplish that, contractors would always find ways to take short cuts and/or perform substandard work. My job was to inspect or supervise construction inspectors so that water utilities were installed correctly or were protected from other underground utilities being installed too close to our existing water pipes. 

It became a huge problem during the new Apple Campus construction project and I don't miss that part of my former career. 

The real question is, does the State of California put effective "performance clause language" in the "contracts" of the public employees at Caltrans or any other of their other mega-agencies?  That is what I was referring to, obviously.

Let me save you the trouble of looking it up - the answer is no.  When is the last time you heard of anyone being fired for inefficiency or ineffectiveness or even gross negligence?  Bad engineering when the Bay Bridge anchors and hardware suffered from hydrogen embrittlement - a foreseeable problem known to every aerospace engineer worth a dime, but not specified by Caltrans.  How many shots does the state get to accurately forecast the cost of the bullet-in-the-head train even within hundreds of millions of dollars plus or minus?  They missed by many billions, with a "B".

There is no incentive to do a good or an efficient job because there is no penalty for failure for the public employees at the state level.  No private company could run their business like that.

Marty Richman

Submitted by John Noble on

I think we need to back up a bit.  Let's assume positive intent shall we?  Instead of crucifying the guy who made an on-the-spot decision, I think that the decision was intended to solve a problem and was just not the best decision overall- an unintended consequence.  

All the people piling on the poor guy is likely going to get him fired/career ending, is that really what we want?  Graniterock has/does an awesome amount of really good things, especially in our community.  I for one am happy to cut them some slack because a mistake was made, we don't see that happen very often from them.

Submitted by (Henry Machens) on

I love the coverage as a commuter that day was a morning of hell.

Submitted by (Marie D.) on

Thank you so much for posting this because I am also a commuter and it was awful! I was 30 min late to work and this is actually the second time due to work on that intersection and I feel this is unacceptable.
Did I miss them or why weren't any orange signs posted with dates and times for this roadwork?
Even now it is obvious they are not done. Is there a message board or notice of when they will resume work so commuters can prepare? I could not find anything on the caltrans link.
Thank you

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