One by one, county agencies are having to empty their pockets to
fill the state
’s coffers.
One by one, county agencies are having to empty their pockets to fill the state’s coffers.

In November, the Santa Clara Valley Water District announced it will lose $51 million in property tax revenue over the next two fiscal years, and now Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to once again balance the budget with highway improvement funds has left the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in limbo.

That means the flyover over Highway 156 for eastbound Highway 152 motorists may be delayed for at least four years, even though the VTA has called the project one of its highest priorities.

The project was promised in 1996 ballot Measure B, but that half-cent sales tax couldn’t cover the costs. Many feared it would be further delayed after the cash-strapped state rejected funding for it early this year, but the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission in March decided to spend $11.5 million in federal funds on the junction.

“This only makes a tight situation even tighter,” said John Ristow, a deputy director with the VTA. “We’ve had to patch this project together, and we thought we were in good shape, but now we’re left doing a lot of scrambling.”

The governor’s budget proposal includes siphoning about $3 billion from Proposition 42, a voter-approved ballot measure that sets aside fuel tax revenue for highway improvement projects. The VTA was counting on receiving the balance of the $30 million it needs for the project this summer.

Construction was slated to begin in summer 2006. Now, due to idiosyncrasies of the State Transportation Improvement Projects fund, Ristow said it will be at least four years before the money is available.

The VTA will move forward with the already funded design and environmental review phases of the project.

“It’s unlikely there’s going to be any money, but it’s all guesses right now,” Ristow said.

“There was always a possibility that we’d have a complete design, and all the right-of-way work done, and not be able to build.”

Ristow said that the budget crisis also puts the proposed widening of Highway 25 between Gilroy and Hollister “outside the bounds of any possibility of any funds anytime soon. That project, which would turn 2.5 miles of Highway 25 into an expressway, has been estimated at as much as $700 million.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will hold an Informational Open House for the proposed Pacheco Pass project.

The proposed project would reconfigure the existing at-grade intersection to a grade-separated intersection by:

n Constructing a single lane, at-grade, direct connection between eastbound SR 156 and eastbound SR 152 and between westbound SR 152 and westbound SR 156.

n Constructing a single la-ne, grade-separated flyover ramp for eastbound SR 152 continuing on eastbound SR 152 through the intersection.

n Constructing a single la-ne, at-grade, diagonal ramp for eastbound SR 152 and westbound SR 156.

The purpose of the open house is to provide the community with project information and an opportunity to ask questions about the project.

The Informational Open House takes place Wednesday, Jan. 26, 6-8pm at Casa de Fruta, Gate 5, Pacheco Hall, 10021 Pacheco Pass Highway, Hollister, 321-7575 or (TDD only) 321-2330.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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