Caltrans plans to build a roundabout at the intersection of Highways 25 and 156 scheduled for completion in August 2021, while it would eventually get replaced by an interchange when the Highway 25 expansion project moves forward at an undetermined time.
The roundabout project with a $7.7 million construction cost, to go with $3 million in “support costs”, will be funded by the state as a safety improvement project through the State Highway Operations and Protection Program, or SHOPP.
“It’s considered, really, a safety improvement for the highway,” said Council of San Benito County Governments Executive Director Mary Gilbert, “because the intersection has a pretty high accident rate.”
That project remains in initial planning stages. There is “concept layout” and it is heading into the design and then construction phases, said roundabout Project Manager Brandy Rider. Plans presented to the local COG board in recent months show Caltrans will be ready to list the roundabout project for bidding in late August 2020, and it is set for a target end construction date at the end of October 2021.
The roundabout is separate, however, from the Highway 25 expansion. The timing and financing of that will depend on whether San Benito County taxpayers approve a 30-year, 1 percent sales tax on the November ballot.
Under long-term Highway 25 expansion plans, the roundabout would be replaced by an interchange. That replacement would happen many years down the road, and Rider said it could be 15 years or so until such a change might occur.
While Caltrans is paying for the roundabout, the state has made it clear local taxpayers would have to cover the majority of the expansion funding, which would come from the ballot measure if approved. The nearly $300 million expansion would result in a four-lane, 11.2-mile commuter highway from Hollister to Santa Clara County.
The reason for Caltrans’ relative urgency on the roundabout is safety, Rider said.
“We have the larger Highway 25 widening project,” she said. “This would be part of that long-term vision. Ultimately, what’s going to be at the intersection is an interchange.”
Gilbert said Caltrans made an initial presentation on the roundabout idea before the COG board about six months ago. It’s considered a “replacement for the signalization” currently in place there.
“It’s a good improvement,” Gilbert said. “It will address a critical safety issue out there and, of course, we support that.”
Rider explained that the Highway 25 expansion would be constructed in phases, and an interchange replacement would be part of that process.
“Each phase will have to go through its own environmental process,” Rider said.
Caltrans also is considering the uncertainty about the larger expansion project while moving ahead on the roundabout.
“Otherwise, they’ll have to figure out another source,” Rider said of the ballot measure. “From our standpoint, we have to address the safety need out there at that intersection.”
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