San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaking at a press conference
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks on a recent grant award of $12.9 million to add safety features to four dangerous traffic corridors across the city, including Curtner Avenue between Canoas Gardens and Highway 87. Photo courtesy of Colin Heyne.

San Jose is getting millions in federal dollars to make some of the city’s most dangerous roads safer.

San Jose will use $12.9 million from the Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program to add safety features to four transit corridors. City officials and safety advocates announced the award and detailed the safety changes on Wednesday at one of the city’s most dangerous corridors slated for improvements—Curtner Avenue, between Canoas Gardens and Highway 87.

Gina LaBlanc, a transit safety advocate with San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets, said she has been pushing for the city to take action at this intersection for years. In 2016, LaBlanc’s son Kyle was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking near Curtner Avenue.

“It’s very painful when you lose someone to a crash like this, and everything’s cleaned up and life goes on as normal. Then you hear about another death and another death,” LaBlanc told San José Spotlight. “It’s like your child, my child, never mattered.”

LaBlanc, who recently joined the Vision Zero Task Force, said city officials had not previously identified Curtner Avenue as one of the city’s dangerous roads, despite numerous fatalities. San Jose will construct a raised bike path to separate vehicles from pedestrians, and add a new sidewalk.

Earlier this year, the city expanded its 17 most dangerous roads to 30, including Curtner, Moorpark and Meridian avenues. Eight of those additional corridors are expansions to previously identified streets.

Other corridors that will be addressed by this grant are along Monterey Road at Curtner Avenue and Tully Road, Capitol Expressway at Senter Road and East Santa Clara Street at 11th Street. Modifications for each road will be different depending on need, ranging from additional time for pedestrian crosswalk meters to building raised and separated bikeways.

Councilmember Pam Foley, who chairs the Vision Zero Task Force, said the city has had 47 traffic-related deaths so far this year. This is a significant drop from last year, when the city recorded a record number of 65 traffic-related fatalities.

“These are statistics, but each fatality represents a loved one,” Foley said at the recent news conference. “Though fewer people have been killed by traffic violence so far in comparison to 2022, each fatality is a tragedy, and even one traffic death is way too many.”

The projects identified in the grant will begin the design phase in September 2024, said Colin Heyne, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Transportation. Construction is slated to start in fall 2027 and conclude by fall 2029.

The city received about $74 million toward traffic safety improvements in the past fiscal year. The monies have come from its general fund and grant awards, according to a city memo. Of those funds, about $36.4 million will be used for Story Road-Keyes Street in East San Jose and $10 million for Senter Road. San Jose is also among six cities piloting a project to use traffic cameras in school zones and “safety corridors” to catch speeding drivers to reduce traffic crashes and fatalities.

Foley said the city transportation department received funding to hire a grant writer to continue obtaining funding for safety projects.

LaBlanc said she hopes the city will not ease up external funding sources and intends to keep pushing the city to increase traffic safety.

“As a nurse, if something was life threatening, then we were going to do something or we were going to stop it,” LaBlanc said. “My job as an advocate is to keep the pressure on and to make sure that (the city knows) it’s not okay to get caught up in bureaucracy. Let’s get this done.”

Editor’s Note: the story misreported the funding amount for the Story Road-Keyes Street project, and that funds had been spent that are still available.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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