2 hours and 24 minutes

Our View: travelling Highway 152 from Gilroy to the Don Pacheco
Y is a nightmare that should top every transportation improvement
Instead of visiting the police station or showing up at the Chamber of Commerce dinner, every legislator representing our area should do what reporter Kristen Munson did on Thanksgiving eve: Drive from Gilroy’s 10th Street on Highway 152 to Casa de Fruta. Really, almost any Friday will do.

If that could somehow happen, we’d have a new highway connection from the Don Pacheco Y, where highways 152 and 156 converge, with U.S. 101 lickety split.

But alas, we have no magic wand. What we do have is a brave reporting soul who wrote a first-person story about her experiment that should be required reading for our state legislators and for Valley Transportation Authority officials. Kristen Munson left town around 5pm to brave the traffic and pulled into Casa de Fruta TWO HOURS AND TWENTY FOUR MINUTES later. The return trip took 18 minutes.

That statistic alone should be enough to get elected officials moving. Throw in the heavy accident rate on this 13-mile stretch of Highway 152 insanity and you’d think there would be a stampede to fix it.

But, no, it’s more like a puff of smoke than a fire. And the next “fix” is more of a Band-Aid approach.

The $30 million flyover planned by the VTA will help alleviate the “good Samaritan” problem when motorists heading east on 152 from Gilroy graciously stop at the intersection – although they have no stop or yield sign – to let stacked-up westbound drivers make the turn. This is part of the problem that causes traffic to back up all the way to Gilroy.

If San Benito County officials don’t totally torpedo the project for ridiculously provincial reasons, flyover construction could begin in 2006.

Voters should remember, though, that the VTA promised to build this flyover in 1996. It was a project on the Measure B sales tax increase list that voters passed. Ten years later, what do we have? A two-hour and 24-minute trip from Gilroy to Casa de Fruta on one of the main arteries connecting coastal California to the Central Valley.

If BART-to-San-Jose and light rail (they call it light because of ridership numbers) gobble up all the sales tax dollars earmarked for transportation, it will be an absolute marvel if any significant road projects get built.

Our Santa Clara County supervisor, Don Gage, who is also a representative on the VTA Board, has vigorously fought San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and his Silicon Valley Leadership Group cartel on the proposal for yet another sales tax increase to fund BART-to-San-Jose.

That’s fighting the good fight – and one we have to win.

But the big prize for our region is to get a new connecting road built from U.S. 101 to the Don Pacheco Y. Let’s make sure we keep our collective eye on that.