Deadly San Jose road to get makeover
The intersection of Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue has been identified as one of the most dangerous roads in San Jose. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    San Jose is gearing up to address safety concerns along one of the region’s deadliest roads.

    Congressmembers Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Jimmy Panetta announced last week San Jose will receive a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help convert Monterey Road from a highway into a boulevard in an effort to make it safer. The grant is part of the federal agency’s $185 million investment to help cities improve roadway infrastructure. San Jose is among 45 cities that received funding.

    City officials said the money will fund a design study that would reconstruct Monterey Road, increase pedestrian accessibility, and build out dedicated transit lanes and protected bike lanes, among other safety measures. Monterey Road, an important transit corridor running through San Jose, has a deadly history in the South Bay. Once part of the El Camino Real in 1700s, the 9.6-mile stretch from Keyes Street to Metcalf Road has become increasingly dangerous in the past few decades, officials said.

    The road currently has six lanes with vehicles going as fast as 50 mph. It also lacks sidewalks and crossings at intersections. Between 2019 and March 2022, San Jose recorded 42 deaths and severe injuries on Monterey Road. The street, known among locals as “Blood Alley,” also saw more than 350 minor injuries and about 480 collisions over the same time period, according to city data.

    A previous San José Spotlight analysis of the city data shows Monterey Road is the deadliest road in the city. The intersection of Monterey Road and Curtner Avenue recorded four traffic-related fatalities between 2017 and 2021.

    “With high vehicle speeds, missing sidewalks, and a lack of safe crossings, the road is both hazardous and divides adjacent communities,” the congressmembers said in a joint statement. “We welcome investments that will help transform this corridor so pedestrians and drivers alike stay safe and areas downtown are connected.”

    Councilmember Bien Doan, who represents the area, said the $2 million is essential to start addressing longtime safety concerns. As a former fire captain, Doan has seen firsthand countless traffic collisions on Monterey Road.

    “This will help us study and understand how we can create a slower and safer street for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers,” Doan told San José Spotlight. “And not only that, we need to beautify the Monterey corridor with more landscaping.”

    The federal grant comes as San Jose is scrambling to address a record number of traffic fatalities. During the last decade, traffic deaths more than doubled from 29 in 2010 to 60 in 2021. The city saw a record high with 65 deaths in 2022. San Jose has identified 17 most dangerous streets in the city, the majority of which are on the East Side, through an initiative called Vision Zero. Officials adopted the Vision Zero initiative in 2015 to analyze traffic data and eliminate deaths through safety programs.

    City officials have worked on various piecemeal solutions along Monterey Road and surrounding streets over the years. The city has spent roughly $5.1 million on Senter Road, a nearby busy and dangerous street, to construct a median island between Guerra and Balfour drives and improve bike lanes, pedestrian fencing and landscaping. San Jose also spent about $500,000 to paint the intersections on Senter Road and install plastic barriers to slow down traffic, among other safety measures.

    San Jose also received $10 million in state funding last August for more street lights, bike lanes and other protective measures around Senter Road. Last year on Monterey Road, San Jose installed pedestrian median fences, cameras and other safety measures. City officials hope to upgrade damaged guardrails along Monterey Road this summer.

    Colin Heyne, spokesperson for the city’s transportation department, said the city expects to start the study by the end of the year. San Jose is planning a number of public engagement opportunities for residents to weigh in on the new design, he added.

    Doan said San Jose will need more funding from the state and federal government to fully transform Monterey Road.

    “This is going to be expensive,” he said. “We’re doing the best that we can with the budget we have, but we’ll have to push for more funding.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

    Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story included a smaller amount for improvements to Senter Road.

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