More Opinion

OPINION: Traffic Impacts – Deficiencies, Legalities and Cost

This is the third in a series of articles about residential development in the City of Hollister

The biggest complaint regarding the impacts of new developments is increased traffic congestion.  Why does it take so long for the impact fees to become road improvements? There are several answers to that question including existing deficiencies, the legal limits of impact fees and the cost of the improvements.

Impact fees are based on the philosophy that development should pay for the cost of providing the facilities necessary for growth. Those costs are financed based on some measurement of a development's impact on future needs.

“Impact fees are not intended to be used for operational expenses or to pay for capital improvements to correct an existing deficiency or shortfall” (my emphasis).1

California regulates the way that impact fees are imposed. An agency must (1) Identify the purpose of the fee; (2) identify the use to which the fee is to be put; (3) show a reasonable relationship (nexus) between the fee's use and the type of development; (4) show the reasonable relationship between the facility to be constructed and the type of development; and (5) account for and spend the fees only for the purposes and projects specifically used in calculating the fee.1

The upshot is that the city or county cannot merely foist all their previous deficiencies or future needs off on new residents. New residents are only responsible for the portion of impacts they cause and a nexus (connection) study has to establish that relationship.

Transportation infrastructure costs, and especially administrative costs, are extraordinarily high in California.

For example, the total cost of Highway 25 4-lane Widening Phases 1 & 2 is estimated at $248 million; the impact fee portion of that (to year 2035) is $88 million. Therefore, $160 million is not attributable to new development. Those funds would have to come from other entities such as the city, county and/or state, if they had them.

Based on the latest nexus study, the City of Hollister single family residential traffic impact fee maximum is increasing from $14,305 to $18,690. To put that into perspective, it would take 53 homes to generate $1 million in gross traffic impact fees or more than 13,000 homes to fund just the impact fee portion of the 14 current road projects.

If we wait 18 years and build 13,000 homes we may be able to get all the road projects done, provided others entities have their share. That is obviously not acceptable; therefore, we need a better solution.

There is a good alternative - development agreements. In my opinion, the City of Hollister has failed to effectively use this powerful tool to improve the traffic situation. More on that in a future segment.

1. 1991, ASCE Successful Land Management II: Managing and Paying for Growth Conference, “Impact Fees: Practical Guide For Calculation And Implementation” by Dennis H. Ross, Fellow, ASCE, and Scott Ian Thorpe, RCS Principal.

Marty Richman (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. You can follow Marty Richman on twitter @Marty_Richman. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.


Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

Marty, it won't be long before you are a developer. The real way to make a difference is to try it. 

Todd, not only am I triple retired, but I'm also financially secure; why would I want to risk my future at my age?  Besides, I doubt if I could handle the hard work and aggravation.

Unlike so many, I do not see developers ae the enemy in any way, shape or form, but neither do I see them as saviors.  They are business people and developing is a business - they are not doing the city or county any favors, they are willing to make an investment in the hopes of making a profit (God bless them).  It's no sure thing.

"Permission to develop" - for lack of a better term - can be a valuable commodity belonging to the public depending on the circumstances; we need to "sell it" at a best price based on what we need to get out of it and the long-term and near-term benefits and costs.

"It's not personal Sonny, it's strictly business."  We need to make developers an offer they can't refuse..

(Side note -  The screenwriting in The Godfather is some of the best American fiction ever penned, by anyone, at any time.).

Marty Richman

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

Marty, you are smarter than I. I was triple retired at age 36, then decided I wanted to make a contribution and so I tried developing needed things, like a hotel in Hollister on the 400 block and senior housing in San Juan. Guess what happened, now I'm far less retired. A lot of aggravation and financial losses. I even tried to do them as a non-profit since I didn't need the money. That was even worse. Now I simply try to advocate, it's so easy for the unwashed masses to criticize the developers; actually shooting themselves in the foot in the process.  

Hi Marty, off specific topic but deals with traffic. Do You know what happened to Governor Schwartzenegger's  2006 Strategic Growth Plan , that included funding/ fixing  Hwy 156? It appeared to be a go. I am sure that you have seen this, I just wanted your opinion. Hwy 156 is loaded with semi truck traffic, the equivalent to the Altamont Pass / I 580 as a connector to I 5. " Will the madness ever end ? " Thanks for your looking out.


I really don't know, but I'd guess it died or was delayed due to the financial crash of 2008.  Rte 156 is an inter-regional road so it does have some state priority; the widening project for a portion has been approved.

"The San Benito Route 156 Improvement Project will construct about 5 new miles of 4-lane at-grade express-way from The Alameda in San Juan Bautista to Business Route 156 near Hollister" - it's scheduled to start in October, 2019.

Here is a link to the project sheet and schedule (which keeps getting delayed) now due for completion in December 2021 at a cost of $81 million.

Note the map on page 2 of the project sheet, the current road becomes a frontage road for most of the 5 miles.

If I were guessing I'd say the next big project after that will be something involving Santa Clara County and THEIR portion of Highway 25 - the 101/25 interchange and, eventually, the re-routing Hwy 152 going south to meet 25 which would be widened to 4 lanes to the new overpass, but that's a long way off.

Marty Richman

Submitted by John Noble on

While I'm a big supporter of enlarging H156, I don't understand the logic of it's coming expansion.  From what I gather, the project that's about to start will only "move" the backup, its not going to solve anything.  It merely going to provide more "parking" for stopped traffic between SJB and UInion Rd.  Also; look forward to cars and trucks on H156 blocking H25- because that's where traffic will be backed up to from Union Rd. to the east.

To do this right, the overhaul needs to be from the 156/152 triway all the way to H101, with better connections with H101.  Obviously that will cost much, much more, but it won't have to be fiddled with again for a very long time.


John, I have some old, old, traffic count data that shows a large portion of the 156 traffic at peak-hour volumes are just between Hollister and 101.  Don't know if the data is still valid.

PM-Peak Hour Volumes Northbound/Eastbound.

US 101 to The Alameda: 1,037.  The Alameda to Union Road: 989,  Union Road to SR 25:  561,

If they are accurate 4.6 percent exits 156 around SJB and 43 percent of what's left of original flow exits between there and Union Road (inclusive).

Marty Richman


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