Santa Clara County shoulder some repair costs
Hollister – After weeks of feuding over a $33 million flyover design to fix the notorious Don Pacheco Y, San Benito County Supervisor Pat Loe and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority officials say a solution may be at hand.
The change in tone between officials in both counties, who have been squabbling over the best flyover design to fix the dangerous intersection, came after San Benito County Council of Governments board members Pat Loe and Pauline Valdivia traveled Monday to Sacramento. During their meeting with state officials, they discussed concerns that the VTA’s design will funnel more truck traffic into San Benito County, potentially harming local roads.
Last week, COG passed a resolution supporting the flyover design preferred by the VTA, which would connect westbound 152 directly to 156, with the condition that the VTA and Caltrans provide funds to San Benito to repair and improve county roads that might be affected by an increase of traffic. Loe, who has been vocal in her displeasure with the flyover design, has for several weeks been trying to get the VTA or Caltrans to commit funds for road improvements along 156 to alleviate supposed increases in traffic.
The resolution requests a formal memorandum of understanding between COG, Caltrans and the VTA to deal with this and future transportation issues. According to Loe, San Benito county staff are working with VTA counterparts to craft an agreement between the agencies.
“We carried two messages: We do not want to stop the flyover, but we also need to plan for the safety of the people of San Benito County,” Loe said, adding that a final agreement may come within a few weeks.
Loe believes the flyover project will siphon more traffic toward Shore and Frazier roads and Highway 25, thoroughfares already in need of repair. She said she had no specifics about how future improvements might be funded.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said he does not believe the cash-strapped VTA – or any other agency in his county – should foot the bill for road improvements long sought by officials in San Benito County.
“The reality is that they’re one of the smallest counties in the state,” Gage said. “They’re limited in the number of dollars they can get. I applaud them for trying to find money, but I’m not willing to go spend a bunch more when we’ve already studied it. Caltrans said they’re fine with this plan.”
He said any further delays could jeopardize state funding for the flyover project.
“If we’re not moving forward, they’ll give the money to a project that’s ready to go,” Gage said. “The reality is you’ll never see the money again.”
While insisting the flyover will not increase traffic on San Benito County roads, VTA spokesman Jayme Kun said the agency would likely sign off on an MOU with San Benito County if they are allowed to help formulate the agreement.
“If there was a significant increase resulting from the 152 project, which we do not believe there will be, we would be willing to discuss and work with San Benito County to deal with those issues,” Kunz added.
San Benito County supervisors Tuesday formally endorsed the flyover project for the Don Pacheco Y, while supporting the San Benito County Council of Government’s efforts to seek funding to repair and improve local roads.
Though supervisors have said individually that they are in favor of the flyover, Tuesday’s action was the first formal resolution in support of the project.
Valdivia said Monday’s meeting, during which they discussed their concerns about the possibility of increased traffic on county roads, was a good first step toward creating a cooperative partnership with Caltrans and Santa Clara County.
“It went very well. They heard our concerns,” she said. “We still have to continue to work with them.”
The intersection at highways 152 and 156 has long been an inconvenience for motorists traveling between Interstate 5 and Highway 101. Westbound motorists who want to get onto Highway 156 from 152 now have to make a left hand turn and cut across moving traffic, creating a safety issue and delays.
Good Samaritan motorists often stop to let traffic turn left on to 156, which can cause get-away weekend traffic to back up 13 miles to Gilroy.