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VTA pushes sprawl, congestion on San Benito Co. via 152/156

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  • 8/24 Gilroy Dispatch
    Published Wednesday, August 24, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch Supes Still Not Satisfied With Flyover By Luke Roney HOLLISTER -- A presentation from the Santa
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2005
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      Published Wednesday, August 24, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch

      Supes Still Not Satisfied With Flyover

      By Luke Roney

      HOLLISTER -- A presentation from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation
      Authority, along with a vote of support from Caltrans, did nothing to
      change supervisors' opposition to the proposed Don Pacheco Y flyover
      they feel will funnel more traffic onto San Benito County roads.

      In fact, following the meeting, Supervisor Pat Loe said she would like
      to see the VTA start over on its environmental plan and delineate
      exactly what traffic impact the flyover will have on county roads and
      how it will be taken care of.

      During the Tuesday presentation, supervisors agreed that a flyover is
      necessary at the intersection of highways 152 and 156 to improve
      safety and ease traffic, but they feel that Santa Clara County traffic
      planners are not taking seriously their concerns that the VTA design
      will increase traffic on county roads.

      "When increased traffic comes into San Benito County, how will the VTA
      pay for our roads?" Loe asked John Ristow, the VTA's deputy director
      who spoke before the board Tuesday.

      Ristow emphasized that the flyover is a short-term fix to improve
      safety at the intersection. He also said that the VTA choose the
      design it did because it is less expensive -- by about $2 million --
      and fit the existing landscape better than the San Benito County's
      favored design. The VTA's plan allows for the future widening of both
      highways, he said, and both designs would result in the same increase
      of traffic onto San Benito County roads.

      Both Loe and Supervisor Anthony Botelho, thought that was debatable.

      Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, who represents the southern
      part of that county, said he is concerned that San Benito's continued
      opposition could jeopardize the funding for the $33-million project.
      After years of frustration, officials were able to assemble a
      patchwork of federal, state and local dollars to complete the project.

      "You run the risk of losing the money," he said. "If that happens,
      there will never be a flyover there."

      [BATN notes that it is brilliant "use it or lose it" "logic" like this
      which was the publicly-professed reason for VTA squandering millions
      of dollars it could not and cannot afford on a 101 interchange to
      nowhere at Bailey Avenue south of San Jose ... oh, except that it just
      "coincidentally" subsidises the property interests behind the Coyote
      Valley scam. We'd be shocked, shocked to discover that anybody with
      an interest in developing San Benito County sprawl subdivisions had
      any input into VTA's "decision making" process.]

      The dispute between the two counties first erupted when the VTA did
      not include the flyover design favored by the Council of Governments,
      San Benito's transportation agency, in its recently-released
      environmental report for the project. According to Loe, the VTA
      agreed in 2003 to include both designs in the environmental report.

      Supervisors believe the VTA's plan will funnel more traffic onto
      county roads because it will be easier to head onto Highway 156 than
      to take the flyover to 152, which heads toward Gilroy. They prefer an
      alternative that sends traffic into San Benito County via a flyover.
      COG and the Board of Supervisors sent letters to the VTA last month
      demanding to know why the COG-favored alternative was not included in
      the report.

      "I'm frustrated," Loe said. "If they wanted to work with us, where
      have they been for the last year-and-a-half? Now they say we're
      holding up the project."

      But Ristow said that his agency never agreed to include the
      COG-favored plan, and standard procedure dictates including only one
      design in an environmental impact report.

      "I firmly believe that this is the best alternative that meets the
      project purpose and need," he said to the board, adding that the
      flyover is only a short-term fix for the intersection.

      The intersection has long been an inconvenience for motorists
      traveling to and from the Central Valley. 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.

      "We're trying to solve that one problem," Ristow said.

      During Tuesday's meeting Caltrans District 5 representative David
      Murray told the board that Caltrans supported the VTA's plan for the
      flyover.

      [BATN is very hard pressed to think of a freeway widening or an
      opportunity to spend millions of dollars which Caltrans doesn't
      support.]

      "We are committed to working with you and Santa Clara Valley
      Transportation Authority to come up with long-term solutions," he
      said.

      Loe didn't seem comforted.

      "Will Caltrans financially support widening our roads?" she asked
      Murray.

      Murray again said Caltrans would work with San Benito County without
      making a specific commitment.

      Botelho said the debate over the flyover highlights the need for a
      freeway that connects Interstate 5 to Highway 101. The "3-in-1
      proposal," as it is called, would build a four to six lane freeway
      from Highway 101 to the intersection of highways 152 and 156.

      "I really, truly believe that if we want to move traffic safely
      through this region, we need one freeway that takes the 5 to the 101,"
      he said. "It's something I've been promoting for a number of years."

      Botelho said he will try to get a discussion about the 3-in-1 started
      at Thursday's COG board meeting. Also at that COG meeting, board
      members will discuss how the VTA's preferred alternative will affect
      San Benito and what steps might be taken to mitigate the effect.

      "I would like for them (VTA) to redraft the environmental document and
      spell out what it means for San Benito County, and then start talking
      about mitigation," Loe said.


      [BATN: See also:

      Editorial: San Benito should get with the sprawl program, widen "Y"
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/25839

      Hwy 152/156 'Y' fix design triggers inter-county traffic spat
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/25723

      More hard selling for $32m Hwy 152/156 flyover
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/24913 ]
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