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Move to slow traffic in downtown Hollister continues

In its latest move to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, the Hollister City Council adopts traffic analysis; changes coming at Fourth and Fifth streets
Stop signs will replace lights at Fifth and San Benito streets, but the utility box will remain to preserve art.

As Hollister officials continue to move the city on a journey to transform downtown to be more pedestrian-friendly through re-striping, removing stoplights, and narrowing San Benito Street, the city council voted unanimously Aug. 7 to adopt the Traffic Operations Analysis of downtown streets and intersections, but not before Councilman Jim Gillio asked a few questions of David Rubcic, interim city engineer.

Gillio said that after contacting the Hollister Downtown Association about the resolution, particularly about the intersection of Fourth and San Benito streets, which the analysis revealed had traffic flow was unacceptable and would require $175,000 in modifications, he wanted to know the thinking behind other intersection considerations. He said both Fourth and Fifth streets have signals or stop signs, but then it’s another three blocks before there are any traffic controls. Gillio said businesses owners were asking if Rubcic would consider traffic slowing measures every two blocks instead of three.

Rubcic said the engineering company that conducted the analysis looked at the idea of installing stop signs at Sixth Street, but they determined there was not enough traffic to warrant installing signs there. He explained further that delays along San Benito Street were not caused by the four-way stop at Fifth Street, but instead by the situation at Fourth Street.

“Putting stops signs at Sixth Street would drastically increase the liability for the city,” Rubcic said. “An unwarranted stop sign is like putting a stop sign there and telling people not to pay attention to it. People won’t see the stop sign and pedestrians are liable to walk into the crosswalk in front of a car that wasn’t expecting a stop.”

Gillio wanted to know that if the stop signs at Fifth Street were eliminated, would signs at Sixth Street be warranted. Rubcic told Gillio they would not and that Fifth Street is much busier than Sixth, so the signs should remain there. Gillio asked Hollister Fire Chief Bob Martin Del Campo, who was in the audience, if it was important to the fire department to have a four-way stop at Fifth Street. Martin Del Campo said the signs did provide a degree of safety.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez mentioned to Gillio that the proposed changes were a part of the overall traffic calming measures that have been taking place along San Benito Street for the past two years.

“It’s worked great,” Velazquez said. “What’s happened at Fifth and San Benito streets has changed downtown. I remember cars racing through there all day long, running the red light to get to the next point as fast as they could.”

Additional traffic slowing measures are incorporated along San Benito Street, but Gillio wondered about recalculating the lights at Fourth Street and why it was so expensive to replace the poles there. Rubcic said the $175,000 price tag—which would be eligible for Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP) fund reimbursement—was due to the arms that hold the lights being extended farther out across the streets, which required sturdier poles to support them. The mayor questioned the reasoning behind needing to extend the arms. Rubcic explained it had to do with aligning the signals with lanes to help increase the flow of traffic. Also, longer arms require new poles and other equipment, all of which would be paid by the state grant.

“What we don’t have to do is dig up the street or put conduits in,” he said. “Otherwise, it would be much more than $175,000.”

Councilman Raymond Friend said he disagreed with the logic of stops signs at Fifth Street versus stop lights. He said it would make no difference moving the lights because “it’s the same traffic and you’re just moving it a hundred yards. The same amount of people are going to be on San Benito Street. What the difference?

Rubcic said more people work or visit government buildings or the Hollister House Bar & Grill along Fifth Street. He said if it’s more difficult to make a left turn on Fifth Street, more of them will go through the alley behind The Vault. People taking shortcuts would cause increased traffic in places it was not anticipated, he noted.

“Will that traffic move to Sixth Street?” Rubcic asked, rhetorically. “A little bit will, but not all of it, and it won’t be equal to the Fifth Street intersection.”

Friend concurred with Gillio that a three-block area with no traffic controls turns that section into a racetrack. Rubcic replied that using stop signs in an attempt to control speed is not a good idea. He said that by stopping cars at unwarranted signs, there will be more rolling or "California stops." Eventually, people will just forget to stop because there is not that much cross traffic.

“At Fifth Street there is, and that’s one of the reasons why the stop signs will remain there,” he said and reiterated that the congestion was being caused by poorly timed lights at Fourth Street. He added that within the next year or so, 50 to 60 percent of people entering the city from the north will turn right on Buena Vista Road (North Street) after it has been completed through a new 81-acre development. Once that takes place, he said it will give the city time to evaluate what equipment will be appropriate for Fourth Street.

Gillio asked Rubcic about the timeline for completing improvements at Sixth Street. Rubcic said the next phase, once approved by city council, would be to evaluate narrowing San Benito Street with landscaping, which would allow restaurants to use those areas for outdoor seating. Gillio reminded Rubcic of the need to let the business community know what to expect in the days to come. Rubcic said that is already planned and the first step is to put up signs to let those who drive through town know about the coming changes.

In addition to modifications to the signal lights at Fourth Street, the analysis determined that there should be an additional east-bound left-turn lane and two north-bound travel lanes. However, the changes were not recommended because of traffic-calming measures that have already been implemented along San Benito Street.

Rubcic confirmed that the flashing lights at Fifth Street would be removed, as well as any electronics from inside the utility boxes, but the boxes themselves would remain because of artwork on them.

About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

Former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist. Award-winning writer for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University. Graduate studies at USC Cinema School. Also, author of eight novels, copywriter and scriptwriter.

Comments

Close the street to vehicle traffic, that's guaranteed to slow it down.

They will never get the effect they want until they start enforcing the laws regarding excessive noise.  Who wants to eat outside when the booming speakers in the passing vehicles are rattling the windows?  The answer is not too many people.   .

Marty Richman

In the meantime the 800 block gets ignored. You want to see speeding. Speeding going south because the drivers just came through downtown and they had to slow down or racing north to make the light at South Street. It's terrible. I always wonder if that's how fast they go down their street.  They are going 40 by the time they get to Nash Road. We could all use some traffic calming. We have a very active and productive block now and I would like to see the same considerations as we are also "downtown".  

Submitted by (Bill) on

I don't like the 4 way stop at 5th. Traffic flowed better with the signals operating at 5th, since vehicles with a green at 5th and a green at 4th did not have to stop one or two times, like they do now. The stop sign means many vehicles miss the green light at 4th, further backing up traffic beyond 5th towards 6th or towards 3rd St. in the other direction.

If the city insists on a 4 way stop at 5th, they should prohibit all left turns onto San Benito or 5th to make traffic flow more freely on San Benito. This is what you typically see in the downtown of a large city like SF or San Jose. Left turn traffic without dedicated lanes impedes through traffic horribly.

If funds are available in the future, light crosswalks at 5th on San Benito (like those at the high school) would make the crosswalk and pedestrians much more visible to drivers who are paying attention primarily to a stop sign and traffic ahead of them, usually backed up from 4th.

Submitted by (jd ) on

They need to also consider the heavy vehicle traffic which has drastically increased since the state turned the street over to the city.

These vehicles are too heavy for the soft roadway and also tie up traffic, turning at San Benito & 4th especially, obstructing traffic, damaging the traffic signal poles and property, and turning the signals in the wrong direction, which has directly caused several accidents and at least one serious injury accident.

Trucks were not allowed to turn at San Benito & 4th (as well as San Benito at Nash) and were banned from San Benito Street while it was a state highway because of the traffic problems and the damage they do.

Why is the city now allowing these problems to come back? The city is going to end up paying for the costly damage to roads and property.

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