Safety improvements to Highway 25 between Hollister and the
Santa Clara County line came in approximately $685,000 under
budget, and despite efforts to re-direct that funding to other
local projects, that remainder will be returned to the state.
Safety improvements to Highway 25 between Hollister and the Santa Clara County line came in approximately $685,000 under budget, and despite efforts to re-direct that funding to other local projects, that remainder will be returned to the state.
The Council of San Benito County Governments reported last week that the project, expected to cost just more than $10.8 million in 2006, came in at just more than $10.1 million, leaving about $700,000 unspent.
“The timing of it was the issue,” said transportation planner Mary Gilbert. “Construction prices were peaking when we bid the Hwy. 25 bypass project in 2007, but when we bid this project in 2009, construction prices had dropped significantly. We didn’t have a lot of good data to change our estimate at that time,” so the budget was left intact.
The so-called Highway 25 Safety and Operational Enhancements Project included the installation of about five miles of concrete barriers to separate the eastbound and westbound lanes of the well-traveled route between San Benito and Santa Clara counties. An upgraded rumble strip, additional frontage roads for agricultural vehicles and improved lighting at Hunder Lane and Shore Road were included in the construction cost, the state portion of which was funded by state Proposition 1B.
Bids came in “well under the estimate” Gilbert reported to the COG board and cost savings during the project left money in the budget. The board approved a complete asphalt/concrete overlay of the project area and still had the $685,004 remaining.
COG staff looked into using the remaining funds to make additional improvements in the project area, including an additional concrete/asphalt overlay from the northern end of the project to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on Hwy. 25, but the California Transportation Commission denied the request, saying it would be considered a new project and ineligible for funding.
The extra funds must now be returned to the state by October 2012, when all project closeout work is expected to be completed.
“We wish we could have used that funding locally, but it will go to another state highway project, which will help create some jobs and stimulate the economy,” Gilbert said.
The Hollister Redevelopment Agency provided just under $2.5 million for the project as well. The RDA portion’s budget had about $18,000 remaining. It can be used for remaining Hwy. 25 bypass work.
A spate of accidents and 37 fatalities on Hwy. 25 between 1993 and 2002 prompted the formation of a safety committee that looked into ways to improve the two-lane corridor, which bisects farmland. A no-passing center line and rumble strip project was the first safety improvement, followed by the installation of median barriers in 2002 to prevent head-on collisions.
A public awareness campaign – “Stay Alive on Highway 25” – reminded drivers to drive safely along the route and the safety project’s construction phase started on June 1, 2009.