San Jose ends controversial plans for Charcot Avenue extension
Orchard Elementary School has been the center of debate around pedestrian safety for the proposed Charcot Avenue Extension Project. File photo.

Contentious plans for the Charcot Avenue Extension project in North San Jose have reached the end of the road.

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to drop plans to build an overpass that would cross over Interstate 880 from Paragon Drive to Oakland Road and divert the remaining $3.9 million in budgeted funds to two pre-approved road projects near Highway 101 in the same district.

The discourse and vote marked a significant switch from a year and a half ago, when councilmembers approved the project despite strong opposition from the local community—including a lawsuit from parents and teachers at Orchard Elementary School near the project site.

Parents and teachers were upset because construction of the overpass would require the city to widen Silkwood Lane, the road immediately behind the school, and take up part of the school’s baseball field to act as a connector for the overpass. Some classrooms would also be as close as 40 feet to the new road if constructed.

At the meeting, many of the same residents, including those who levied litigation, celebrated alongside councilmembers regarding their willingness to listen to the community and switch lanes.

“Our district and community organized a significant voice of opposition to Charcot,” Orchard School District President Stephanie Hill said. “And you (the council) have listened. For this we thank you.”

Many parents, teachers and local organizers specifically thanked Councilmember David Cohen who represents District 4 where the project was located. They said without a change in district leadership, the project would’ve likely stayed on course.

Cohen previously told San José Spotlight reversing the extension project was one of his primary goals when he took office in 2021, six months after the City Council approved construction for the overpass.

“There are a lot of reasons why this project I think was no longer a worthwhile project, and I believe that we should always be prepared as a council and as a city to reevaluate what’s in our plans for the current times,” Cohen said at the meeting.

He added the overpass may have made sense as part of the city’s general plan in 1994 when North San Jose was mostly industrial—it would’ve supported the development and economic welfare of the region. But in the last 28 years, the area changed significantly with a new elementary school and neighborhood.

Cohen, along with many environmental groups, also noted creating an overpass to allow for more cars would contradict the city’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030.

State Sen. Dave Cortese and Assemblymember Alex Lee both supported ending the Charcot extension project, and both sent letters to the City Council.

“The project creates unacceptable environmental, health, and safety risks for the adjacent school and community,” wrote Cortese, who voted against the environmental impact report that included the Charcot Avenue project when he was a councilmember in 2005.

VTA also voted in December to divert its funds, $27.5 million, from the project to support other North San Jose transit projects that will help improve access to the North San Jose Development Area, Mineta San Jose International Airport and the Berryessa BART Station.

Those projects are the Zanker/101/Fourth Street connection and a new interchange off Highway 101 at either Mabury or Berryessa—both of which are still short of funding, according to a memo by Councilmembers Cohen, Pam Foley, Raul Peralez and Mayor Sam Liccardo.

“Given the BART station there and the real choke point at Oakland Road and 880, the improvement on 101/Berryessa will be a huge benefit to our community,” said Cohen, who is excited for those two projects to move forward.

The council did not decide how to allocate the funding to the two projects, but will within a couple of months when the city updates its North San Jose Plan.

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

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