San Benito County is looking at ways to make the Fairview Road and Fallon Road intersection safer for residents and is expected to present an update to the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 20.
At the Oct. 23 supervisors meeting, Resource Management Agency Director John Guertin said there have been nine accidents with two fatalities at the intersection in the last five years.
Other reported accidents on comparable intersections during the same time frame, Guertin said, are Shore Road/Frazier Lake with two fatalities in six accidents and Wright Road/Highway 25 with seven accidents and no fatalities.
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz questioned Guertin’s data, saying a friend of his died at the Wright Road/Highway 25 intersection in the last five years. Guertin replied that he would reconfirm his information with the California Highway Patrol.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Anthony Botelho said the numbers were surprising because there have been a lot of accidents that don’t occur right at the intersection, but in the vicinity, because people drive at high speeds.
“What we need is traffic calming measures throughout that whole stretch of road,” Botelho said.
The best option, Guertin said, is to “T-up” the intersection to improve visibility of oncoming traffic. Fallon Road does not intersect Fairview Road at a 90-degree angle.
Another challenge is the existence of private property next to the intersection, which could lead to right-of-way issues, Guertin said.
However, some of the property near the intersection is owned by Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has expressed willingness to talk to the county about right-of-way acquisition, Guertin said.
Guertin provided San Benito County supervisors with “a quick estimate” that county engineers came up with for the Fairview Road/Fallon Road project.
- $500,000 for road improvements and T-ing up the intersection with minimal change of direction of Fallon Road
- $300,000 for traffic signals
- $400,000 for design, permitting, and construction engineering
- $200,000 for right-of-way, including land acquisition. Guertin noted land acquisition costs, which he estimates at $100,000, could significantly increase or decrease depending on which land the county purchases.
- $200,000 for contingencies
Guertin said it is at least a one-year-project that would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.
The county has applied for two grants in the last six years to improve the intersection, Guertin said, but did not qualify because there weren't enough fatal accidents.
However, if Measure G passes on Nov. 6, the project would be one of the priorities for the county, Guertin said.
Botelho asked if the county had existing traffic studies and impact fee funds from developments like Santana Ranch to use for the intersection.
Supervisor Mark Medina added to Botelho’s question and asked if there was any way to move the stop light from Fairview and Hillcrest to the intersection at Fallon Road.
“The stop light right down the road on Sunnyslope and Fairview—in my opinion—I’m not an expert at this, it’s ample,” Medina said.
Guertin said the light Medina was referring to was a requirement for approval of the Santana Ranch Project and that there were no requirements related to the development of the Fallon/Fairview intersection.
When Supervisor Jerry Muenzer asked if a roundabout was more costly, Guertin said compared to a a signal light at the intersection, it would cost more, but that he believes it would be good to explore that option.
Resident Melissa Michaelson spoke during public comment and said she had a “horrific” accident at the intersection and that jaws of life had to be used to get her out of the car. She said what raises her blood pressure now is that there needs to be more fatalities in order to get funding.
“It just hurts me because these are kids,” Michelson said crying. “I don’t want our kids to be a statistic because that’s the volume of people going through that intersection twice a day.”
Resident Nants Foley said there are accidents that are not reported because there are no injuries.
Resident Tim Foley also said he was glad to see a concrete process unfolding, but wanted a temporary solution like yellow flashing lights or a speed reader to slow down drivers.
“If we can get something in there that can get done for the next couple of years, I think it’ll be life-saving,” Foley said.