The Hollister bypass was constructed in 1997 along SR-156 in San Benito County, California with the primary purpose of diverting inter-regional truck traffic from the downtown area.
Project Type:Bypass Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:10,000 Length (mi):5.50
Economic Distress:0.74 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):39 Population Growth Rate (%):-0.06
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.00 Market Size:68,800 Airport Travel Distance:65.2333 Topography:20
Region:Rocky Mountain / Far West State:CA County:County
City:Hollister Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:36.865268 / -121.443257
Initial Study Date:N/A Post Constr. Study Date:2003
Constr. Start Date:1985 Constr. End Date:1997
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): N/A Planned Cost (YOE $):12,500,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):15,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):23,711,784
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
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NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
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The Hollister bypass was constructed in 1997 along SR 156 in San Benito County, California with the primary purpose of diverting inter-regional truck traffic from the downtown area. The bypass was considered to be an effective way to reduce operational conflicts and traffic bottlenecks without significantly altering the local economy. Reduction of truck traffic in the downtown has led to congestion relief, as well as noise and environmental benefits. Hollister is currently transitioning from a rural agricultural community to a bedroom community for the San Jose metropolitan area, a trend that began before the construction of the bypass, and has continued after completion of the bypass. While downtown businesses experienced some loss in sales immediately after construction of the bypass, this has been mitigated by population growth and the reorientation of some businesses to serve local customers. Overall, the bypass has not resulted in long-term economic gains or losses for the community.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Hollister is located in northern San Benito County, approximately 100 miles southeast of San Francisco, 45 miles southeast of San Jose, and 40 miles east of Monterey. The community lies between the Gavilan and Diablo Ranges of the Santa Cruz Mountains along the Central Coast of California. It has become a growing bedroom community of San Jose for those looking for housing beyond the inner Silicon Valley suburbs.
Major highways connecting to Hollister include SR 25, which runs northwestward to Gilroy and southeastward to Pinnacles National Monument. SR 156 runs westward to Monterey Bay and northeastward to Los Banos in the Central Valley. SR 156, with its connection to SR 152 and the Pacheco Pass, is the most direct path for traffic between the Central Valley and Monterey Bay, as well as several coastal California communities. The Hollister Municipal Airport, a city-owned public use airport, is three miles north of the central business district.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
The City of Hollister, with a population of 35,000, is the largest community in San Benito County and the county seat. In recent years, Hollister has experienced rapid increases in population due to low real estate prices and its proximity to San Jose and Silicon Valley. Between 1990 and 2000, the city population nearly doubled. This has led to new amenities such as groceries, retail, and civic uses that serve local residents rather than just the agricultural community.
For most of the 20th century, food processing and agricultural production have driven growth, and agriculture still remains a major component of the local economy. Today, Hollister's economic development strategy includes the marketing of wineries and the commercial development of an industrial park that links the downtown to the airport.
The SR 156 Bypass, which cost approximately $15 million, is a two-lane expressway located northwest of the City of Hollister. The alignment of the bypass departs from the old SR 156 just west of the Sewer Treatment Plant at San Juan Road and runs in a northeasterly direction, rejoining the old SR 156 at San Felipe Road, just north of the Hollister Airport. The total length of the bypass is approximately 5.5 miles. Each end of the bypass has been designed to accommodate future upgrades to freeway interchanges.
As identified in the 1990 Project Report, the primary reasons for the SR 156 bypass were to improve traffic flow, facilitate truck operations, and reduce congestion within Hollister city limits, especially in the downtown area. At the Fourth Street intersection, traffic needed to make a 90-degree turn and many trucks were unable to complete the turn. This added to congestion at the intersection, which was already operating at Level of Service (LOS) D during peak hours in 1989. A designated alternative truck route was created in order for trucks to avoid the intersection, but many trucks failed to use the new routing.
Another major concern was traffic safety. According to the report prepared for the initial public meeting held for the SR 156 Bypass, several intersections along the highway within city limits displayed collision rates over twice the expected statewide rate.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Before and after traffic counts show that the bypass diverted a substantial amount of traffic from downtown Hollister (Table 1). In 1996, the year before the bypass opened, over 22,000 vehicles used SR 156. By 2004, traffic had dropped by about 10,000 vehicles per annum on the former route and nearly 10,000 vehicles were using the bypass, representing a direct diversion. Since the opening of the bypass, traffic has grown by about 4% on both the new bypass and the bypassed route.
The bypass has reduced congestion in the downtown resulting from large trucks unable to maneuver ninety degree turns at intersections. The bypass has also improved safety in the downtown area as a result of traffic reductions.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the project predicted that the effects of the project on housing, employment, displacement of businesses, property values, and tax base were expected to be minimal. The document cited the removal of two residences that could be relocated and closure of a walnut orchard. No other businesses would be displaced by the bypass, and a temporary increase in employment and demand for lodging would occur during the two-year construction period.
Recent interviews with small businesses indicate that there were no major economic gains or losses in the bypassed area or along the bypass since its construction. One small business owner suggested that along the new bypass, the only viable businesses would be gas stations or other stop-over uses because Hollister is located too close to major tourist destinations, without being one itself. Casa del Futo (on SR 152), 15 minutes away from Hollister, is a more tourist-oriented destination than Hollister. Monterey also attracts more visitors than Hollister, and provides amenities to serve visitors.
When the bypass was built, there was an immediately 10-15% loss in sales for the downtown McDonald's. Interviews with small business owners suggest that the bypass had a similar impact for some other retailers (gas stations, pass-by uses) in the 4 blocks leading from 4th Street up to the bypass, with the biggest impact on the weekends. While McDonald's and other businesses could not recapture lost sales from diverted through traffic, overall growth in the city has made up for these losses. SR 25 and the State Recreational Park still generate substantial business to McDonald's, even without the pass-by traffic, and other businesses, such as the coffee shop that was often frequented by truckers started catering to local clientele. McDonald's returned to pre-bypass sales levels within 1-2 years. Over all, businesses in the downtown believe the bypass has made the city more viable. Some speculate that the bypass reduced congestion and therefore more local customers are willing to shop in the downtown.
Since construction of the bypass, no new development has occurred along it and most of the land remains agricultural. The only real noticeable development was an expansion of the wastewater treatment plant. In the upcoming general plan there was an interest expressed to develop land along the bypass, which may alter the original designated land use. Overall, there were no long-term net gains or losses to business sales or jobs due to the construction of the Hollister bypass.
Since the Hollister housing market is tied to the San Francisco Bay Area economy, the county and the city grew significantly during the period of the construction of the bypass. People who could not afford to live in the Silicon Valley, or suburbs closer to employment centers started moving into Hollister, which had relatively lower median home values. Due to insufficient sewer capacity to sustain continued development, the city enacted a building moratorium in 2002, freezing the issuance of new building permits. Thus, new housing development has not kept pace with neighboring cities such as Stockton and Merced. The current economic crisis has left many homes vacant or in foreclosure in cities where supply outpaced demand. Hollister has not been hit as severely because development has been controlled.
Over the last several decades, Hollister shifted from being primarily an agricultural community to being a bedroom community for San Jose and the Silicon Valley. This shift has led to growth both in population and retail business. The reduction of traffic congestion in downtown Hollister has given the town the ability to redevelop, but the city has not changed zoning policies to encourage more development within the city limits.
In addition to the SR 156 bypass, Measure A, a San Benito County sales tax measure funding transportation improvements, included the McCrae Street Bypass, a rerouting of SR 25 through Hollister. This project is now (2009) proceeding and will relocate SR 25 one block to the east of its current location along San Benito Street. While not a true bypass, the rerouting of SR 25 will help relieve traffic congestion in the center of downtown. There is new development occurring in the downtown that local planners attribute to this roadway improvement.
California Department of Transportation and System Metrics Group, Inc. ?California Bypass Study. The Economic Impacts of Bypasses. Volume 2: California Case Studies.? Hollister Bypass. May 2006.
California Department of Transportation, District 5. Final Hollister Bypass Project Report. October 11, 1990.
California Department of Transportation, District 5. Route 156 in Monterey and San Benito Counties, Route Concept Report. 1986.
California of Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. ? Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report Hollister Bypass for Highway 156 in and near Hollister ? Social and Economic Environment Section. 5-SBt-156-7.3/R15.1.
OrganizationCaltrans District 5 Downtown Hollister Association City of Hollister McDonalds Measure A Sales Tax Committee