Hoping to address concerns regarding the proposed $10.7 million roundabout at the intersection of Highway 25 and Highway 156, Caltrans held a public meeting at the Veterans Memorial Building on June 25. However, some residents left feeling the agency wasn’t there to receive community input.
“They don’t want input they want output,” Hollister resident J. W. Paine said after the meeting. “They want to tell you what they want to do.”
Other residents were frustrated at how the meeting was conducted, particularly at the end when Caltrans Project Manager Brandy Rider asked residents to hold off on their questions until the end of the 30-minute presentation. She then instructed residents to approach any of the multiple Caltrans engineers and public affairs representatives individually.
While some of the 60 residents in attendance began to form lines at different parts of the room, others began walking out saying “good luck with that.” Some asked each other why Caltrans wasn’t having a Q&A panel-style meeting so attendees could hear answers to various questions and avoiding representatives answering the same questions from different residents.
“They’re experts and they probably get paid a lot more than I do and have studied this stuff so on a certain level I have to trust that the information that they’re giving me is correct,” Hollister resident Pete Bobsin said.
Among his concerns was truck traffic and how the 25-156 intersection would be affected during the construction.
During the presentation, Caltrans project engineer Ben Jensen said roundabouts have truck aprons that are elevated between two and three inches to discourage vehicles from driving through the roundabout while also allowing the trailer of a large truck to negotiate it.
At the beginning of the meeting, Rider presented the status of the project: it’s in the design and right-of-way phase, with construction scheduled for summer 2021 and completion by the end of that year.
According to Rider’s presentation, the roundabout is a safety project because of the higher than average rate of collisions at the intersection. According to data presented to the audience, there were 126 collisions between 2009 and 2018, almost double the state average for similar intersections. Two fatalities resulted from those collisions.
“That is our project need and purpose and so the idea of this project is to resolve that,” Rider said.
Senior transportation engineer Roger Barnes took over the presentation in breaking down the collision history. He said two types of collisions stand out, with broadside being 46.5% of them; rear-ends accounting for 37%; and sideswipes 14.2%. He added that the most common collisions in roundabouts are sideswipes.
Paine pointed out that taxpayer money is funding this project. A trucker by trade, he suggested Caltrans should prohibit trucks on that part of Highway 156 while it builds the bypass to ensure the safety of Caltrans employees and to make sure the project is done correctly on the first try.
“Water finds where it needs to go. Drivers will find the way to go,” Paine said.
Other related BenitoLink articles: