Transportation Needs Conversation
San Benito County is home to about 60,000 residents, who rely on our transportation system to get to work, school, home, and so much more, every day. There are significant transportation needs throughout the county, from local streets and roads, to major highways. The fact is, San Benito County roads are crumbling under the weight of decades of underinvestment, and average daily traffic on Highway 25 has doubled since the mid 1990’s.
The Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) is the County’s transportation planning agency. Our locally elected Board of Directors is composed of five members representing all areas of San Benito County, including the City of Hollister, the City of San Juan Bautista, and the unincorporated areas of San Benito County including Aromas, Ridgemark, Tres Pinos, and others. Both the COG Board and Staff are committed to maintaining and improving transportation for all of San Benito County.
Our recently adopted San Benito Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) 2040 identifies projects with the recognized transportation needs of the public. The investments proposed are reflective of the Council of Governments’ policy goals as well as the suggestions expressed by interested community groups, policy makers, partner agencies, stakeholders and the public. We heard a need for local roadway maintenance, improvements to State Route 25, as well as a desire for healthier, more walkable and bike‐friendly community. Community members also emphasized the importance of transportation to support the economic vitality of the region.
Our Regional Transportation Plan has identified a need of more than $1.8B in projects across multiple modes of transportation and areas throughout the county. Our transportation needs are a shared responsibility of federal, state, regional, and local funding sources including commercial, industrial and residential developers to ensure that new developments pay their fair share of the transportation costs. Even with this, we have gap of $700m in need to address the most critical issues — including improving and maintaining local roads and widening Highway 25 to increase safety and relieve traffic.
The Roads and Transportation Safety Investment Plan details the most pressing needs and a prudent solution to address them. After a community engagement effort to collect feedback, including three community meetings, and dozens of stakeholder and opinion leader conversations, The Expenditure Plan was unanimously approved the COG Board, San Benito County, the City of Hollister, and the City of San Juan Bautista. These vital steps have paved the way for Board of Supervisors to place a measure on the November ballot to implement the San Benito County Roads and Transportation Safety Investment Plan with a 1% sales tax, which will address these critical issues and help shape a successful transportation future for San Benito County residents for generations to come.
San Benito County:
Jaime De La Cruz, Chairperson
City of Hollister:
Jim Gillio, Director
San Benito County:
Anthony Botelho, Director
City of San Juan Bautista:
Tony Boch, Vice Chair
City of Hollister:
Ignacio Velazquez, Director
What are the transportation needs of San Benito County?
We are assessing our needs and developing a detailed Transportation Expenditure Plan and have recently updated our Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), in which our needs include:
- Maintain Local Streets and Roads: San Benito County roads are crumbling under the weight of decades of underinvestment due to funding deficiencies. Our region is one of seven counties in the state to have an average pavement condition of 46, well below “at risk,” and significantly worse than the statewide average. San Benito County has a combined pavement maintenance need of over $350 million. Well maintained streets and roads will improve safety and traffic flow on local roads.
- Widen Highway 25: Average daily traffic at the San Benito/Santa Clara County line has more than doubled since the mid 1990s. We have made significant improvements, but we need four lanes. Widening Highway 25 will increase safety and relieve traffic congestion.
- Repair potholes and roadway cracking. Apply slurry seals and overlays.
- Increase pedestrian and bike safety.
- Protect and enhance bus and paratransit services for seniors, people with disabilities, and youth.
What is the Council of San Benito County Governments?
The Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) is San Benito County’s regional transportation planning agency. The Council of San Benito County Governments improves the mobility of San Benito County travelers by planning for and investing in a multi-modal transportation system that is safe, economically viable, and environmentally friendly. The Council of Governments is committed to enhancing and improving transportation in San Benito County.
What about existing transportation funding?
The San Benito COG makes every effort to use resources wisely. With no locally controlled source of dollars, we struggle to compete for state and federal matching fund dollars. Even with SB1 and other funds, the burden is growing to adequately repair and upgrade our transportation system and infrastructure needs.
What is the solution?
Guided by community feedback and conversations held throughout San Benito County, COG Board and staff members developed an Expenditure Plan, called the San Benito County Roads and Transportation Safety Investment Plan. This plan evaluates, addresses, and provides solutions for major transportation issues throughout San Benito County, including relieving traffic congestion on Highway 25, maintaining and repairing local streets and roads, increasing pedestrian and bike safety, and protecting and enhancing bus and paratransit services for residents, including seniors, people with disabilities, and youth.
Does the Expenditure Plan align with the mission, vision, and goals of our County’s transportation needs?
The Expenditure Plan is guided by the Board adopted Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) 2040. The RTP 2040 identifies $1.8B in transportation needs for our region between 2018 and 2040, including fully funded projects like 156. The detailed Roads and Transportation Safety and Investment Plan addresses our funding shortfall for critical projects by ensuring stable local funds that qualify us for State and Federal matching funds.
Is the Expenditure Plan based on our most significant transportation needs?
Based on community input and conversations held, we have established which needs are most important to San Benito County residents and developed a tiered, needs-based priority list from feedback received. Tier 1 consists of widening Highway 25 to relieve traffic congestion. Tier 2 projects include maintaining local roads, repairing potholes, and improving traffic flow throughout the county. Tier 3 includes other areas identified as critical needs, including pedestrian and bicycle safety; mobility, bus and paratransit services for seniors, people with disabilities, and youth; administration (capped at 1 percent); and future planning and contingency.
Does the Expenditure Plan include accountability and taxpayer safeguards?
The detailed plan, built with community and expert input, includes accountability and taxpayer safeguards and detailed project descriptions. This plan includes independent annual audits, annual reports, a citizens’ oversight committee, and administration capped at 1%. A sales tax would be combined with existing sources of local revenues for a special fund only for the projects outlined in the detailed Expenditure Plan.
What is a self-help county?
24 counties in California are self-help counties. They have a stable source of local funding for their transportation needs. San Benito County has transportation needs outlined in the Expenditure Plan which can be addressed by becoming a self-help county to ensure a stable source of local funding for our San Benito County roads and highways and to become competitive for State and Federal matching funds to leverage taxpayer dollars even further.
Why is having a locally sourced Expenditure Plan that allows for state and federal matching funds important?
Local funds from San Benito County for our local transportation needs are a reliable and stable source of funding that cannot be taken by the state or provided to other counties. All funds will remain in San Benito County. With reliable local funding, we qualify for state and federal matching funds to leverage taxpayer dollars even further.
Is Highway 25 our local responsibility?
Highway 25 is a shared responsibility between state transportation agencies, federal transportation agencies, and our local San Benito County. The cost for Highway 25 improvements on the Santa Clara County-San Benito County border will be shared with Santa Clara County as well.
What about Highway 156?
Highway 156 does have needs that are being addressed, including widening the road to four lanes, but those improvements have already been fully funded by state highway funds and fees paid by developers building new homes in San Benito County. New residential and commercial building in the County has increased traffic on Highway 156 and developers are paying their fair share.
What about developer fees — do builders pay their fair share?
Our primary objective is to ensure that new development pays its fair share of the transportation costs associated with growth and the increased demand on the transportation network. New development (housing, commercial and industrial) pays for their fair share through our transportation impact mitigation program. Right now, each new house built requires payment into a fund for road improvements to fairly mitigate impact. Funds have been collected since the 1990s and have paid for other major road improvements with a $27 million investment. In 2019, $10 million of developer fees will help pay for the Highway 156 widening. In the future, we anticipate another $247 million will be collected over the next 22 years to add significant roadway improvements as well. Even with these funds, the burden is growing to adequately repair and upgrade our transportation system and infrastructure needs.
What is the proposed tax and how much money will be generated for San Benito County?
The measure being developed is a 1% sales tax that would raise about $16M per year. This revenue would be dependent on the economy and the amount of goods sold in San Benito County and would be supplemented by state and federal matching funds.
Who makes the final decision on a local sales tax measure?
The locally elected San Benito COG Board is the legal entity that must take action to call for an election. Taking such an action would then put the question to local San Benito County voters to decide. Ultimately, the San Benito County REGISTERED VOTERS would have the final say when they vote for or against the measure as absentee voters or at the polls.
Where can I go for more information?
Read the full plan by visiting our website at www.sanbenitocog.org. To learn more, contact COG Executive Director Mary Gilbert at email@example.com or Transportation Planner Veronica Lezama at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the COG office: 831-637-7665 and dial extension 207, or visit Sanbenitocog.org/TransportationNeedsConversation.