Crossing San Jose streets may become less dangerous
The Tully Road and Senter Road intersection is one of the most dangerous locations in San Jose. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

One of San Jose’s most dangerous roads will receive multi-million-dollar funding from the state to reduce accidents and fatalities.

The city is receiving $10 million in state funding to install more street lights, build out bike lanes and other protective measures around Senter Road. The 4.7-mile stretch from Monterey Road to Story Road ranks sixth in terms of traffic accidents, with more than 570 accidents since 2016. During this period dozens have been seriously injured and killed.

State Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who represents part of the city’s east side, advocated for the $10 million for fiscal year 2022-23. The funding will add concrete medians and partitions for bike lanes, enhanced crosswalks with flashing beacons and better street lights. It also includes a new traffic light at Senter Road and Balfour Drive to simplify the complex intersection, and new signage and additional radar speed signs on other streets.

District 7 Councilmember Maya Esparza said for years, residents have been asking for more street lights, better signals and additional protections for bike lanes and that’s what this money provides.

“We’ve had some just really heartbreaking accidents on Senter,” Esparza told San José Spotlight. “You have the elderly crossing the street with children. You can see moms out there with strollers, so that’s why the urgency to do something immediately was there.”

During the last decade, San Jose traffic deaths more than doubled from 29 in 2010 to 60 in 2021. Last year was a record high with 60 deaths and 2022 is on track to beat this number with 36 deaths to date.

Senter Road is the first major safety corridor redesign project in San Jose that has been prioritized through City’s 2020 Vision Zero Action Plan, Kalra said. San Jose adopted the Vision Zero initiative in 2015 to analyze traffic data and develop safety programs after 60 traffic fatalities occurred that year. In 2018, the city identified 17 of its most dangerous corridors — seven of the streets run through District 7.

“The proposed improvements will make this corridor safer and more amenable for all street users,” Kalra wrote in his budget letter request. “Especially for the city’s disadvantaged communities that live and work in this area of San Jose.”

Data analyzed by San José Spotlight found those roads account for more than 70% of all traffic-related deaths last year. District 7 had the most fatalities with 16. The deaths occurred along Monterey and Story roads, McLaughlin Avenue, Capitol Expressway and Tully and Senter roads.

The city has funded temporary, quick-build infrastructure solutions to make streets safer. On Senter Road, the city spent under $1 million to paint the intersections and put green balls and plastic barriers in place to force drivers to slow down. These efforts saw traffic death and serious injuries along Senter Road drop from 15 in 2020 to five in 2021, according to city data. 

Esparza said while that was a notable improvement, she is ecstatic to see a much larger investment on the east side.

“This $10 million is to serve people that are already there in the heart of San Jose,” Esparza said. “It’s not to serve a new project. It’s not to build new development. It’s to do right by the people who live in the heart of our city. And that’s what’s different about this project. It’s the equity part of it.”

The redesign of Senter Road has a $30 million price tag, but the $10 million allows the city to move forward and qualify San Jose to apply for additional grants. Typically, money for transportation projects is doled out only when there is new redevelopment, which is why this investment is noteworthy, Esparza said.

“Nothing’s real in transportation until you have money,” Esparza said. “Now that we do, we are literally applying for more grants this month.”

By August, the city will release the timeline for the Senter Road corridor safety improvement project. It’s unclear how long the build out will take.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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