OPINION: Bad Road Ahead – How the Board of Supervisors Added Decades and Millions to the Route 25 Widening Project

Who benefited from the votes that stopped collecting Route 25 widening impact fees from new development?

At the April 17 meeting Supervisor Jerry Muenzer took his usual election year swipe at out-of-town developers over fees and roads. I guess he forgot that the county has been paying a pile in legal fees trying to defend an in-town developer and former member of the Board caught in a development conflict-of-interest scandal that occurred while he was in office. .

It also apparently slipped Jerry’s mind that it was his own votes and maneuvering that helped eliminate the Route 25 widening project impact fees for approximately 5-years and added more than a decade, perhaps two, and millions of dollars to the cost of its ultimate completion.

The public should be asking who benefited from the votes that stopped collecting Route 25 widening impact fees from new development? Certainly not the majority of county residents and why did Jerry Muenzer lead the charge to keep it that way?

What happened to the widening project is a perfect example of how politicians manipulate the system. In 2011 Supervisor Muenzer and other members voted to stop collecting impact fees for the Route 25 widening project as part of the Traffic Impact Fee Mitigation Study.

That vote also automatically removed it from the Caltrans active project list even though it was a major project in the 2010 Regional Transportation Plan only a year before and Caltrans had identified the route concept in the Transportation Concept Report (TCRP) as a 4-lane rural highway from the Santa Clara County Line to San Felipe Road.

That no-fee situation remained for about five years because in 2014 when he had a chance to correct that bad decision, Supervisor Muenzer moved heaven and earth – including removing the Board’s COG representative – to keep the project off the active list. No project – no fees.

Instead of the widening project, the Board inserted a phony placeholder, two one-half-mile passing lanes; a start from scratch idea designed to never go anywhere and that’s exactly what happened; you’ve probably never even heard of it.  The baseless excuse for killing the widening was that the county did not have a funding mechanism for the project, but neither did they have a funding mechanism for the passing lanes and they even admitted that the passing lanes would not bring Route 25 to the required level of service.

Now Supervisor Muenzer wants to use the road’s problems – problems he made worse – as an issue in his reelection campaign. He is certainly not the only local political leader to try and choke the county by stifling its transportation needs, but his actions were especially egregious and he believes he can benefit from the problem he helped create. Well, let’s give him credit for nerve.

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Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.