Two years after San Jose voters passed a $650 million disaster preparedness bond, the city says it is making headway on fixing roads, preventing floods and improving emergency response times.
The City Council voted unanimously to put Measure T on the 2018 ballot after dilapidated roads, mismanaged land and lack of emergency centers threatened resident safety.
Roads, bridges, lights
In a presentation to the City Council on Dec. 8, Matt Cano, director of public works, said the majority of Measure T funding will go toward road repair.
San Jose has a 2,434 mile pavement network but many of the city’s roads are in “fair” or “poor” condition, according to Councilmember Johnny Khamis.
“We want to get to the ‘good’ on average,” Khamis said. “So we actually have a plan to pave more than 200 miles of street every year for the next nine years until the bond money runs out.”
Of the total, $300 million is being used to repair 388 miles of streets and 45 bridges in poor condition. The city is focusing on maintaining bridges that are most vulnerable to earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Coucilmember Dev Davis said residents already may have noticed repaving in their neighborhoods. While more than 120 miles have been completed as of October, the effort will not likely be finished until 2028.
Bridge and road repairs funded by Measure T are part of the city’s larger Pavement Maintenance Program which also draws from Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority’s 2016 Measure B, a half-cent countywide sales tax.
LED lighting is also another important part of Measure T. The city is replacing less energy efficient bulbs with higher efficiency bulbs that can be brightened or dimmed, depending on the time of day.
Overall 36,000 more street lights need to be converted, according to Cano. The city will prioritize lighting near parks and along trails. That work will start within the next few weeks and will conclude in 2024.
In winter 2017, the Coyote Creek Flood forced 14,000 San Jose residents to evacuate and caused $100 million in damage to three neighborhoods. Using Measure T money, the city purchased about 672 acres in Coyote Valley in 2019. The Open Space Authority will manage the property and ensure the area is less susceptible to floods and will monitor water contamination, according to Khamis.
Additional stormwater capture projects and storm drain improvements with Valley Water will also reduce excessive flooding. The city is planning storm drain improvements in the Charcot area which will minimize flooding east of Zanker Road between Trimble Road and Brokaw Road. This project could reduce flooding from 35 acres to 7 acres, according to Cano.
Khamis also said emergency response times — especially for the fire department — have not been up to snuff. Measure T is helping create six new or relocated fire stations.
Davis said the number of stations needs to increase as San Jose grows if the city wants to maintain fast response times. This is why she has pushed for the new Fire Station 37 to be built next to the Willow Glen Community center, in addition to upgrading old fire stations and creating a new emergency operations center.
Police response times have also suffered, according to Davis, because the police academy is operating out of a substation meant to provide south San Jose with police service, forcing officers to travel longer to get to emergencies in south San Jose. Measure T dollars will help fund a new training facility to solve this problem.
Some of the bond money will also be used to improve emergency shelters around San Jose. According to Davis, emergency shelters were used to help residents stay safe during summer heatwaves, blackouts and wildfires.
Davis said given increase in power shut- offs, providing shelters with backup power is imperative. City officials are still working to identify which shelters could use improvement, and will provide updates by spring 2021.
“I continue to be grateful that the voters passed Measure T and that we have the ability to do these projects to help improve not only the quality of life, but the safety of our residents,” Davis said.
A community oversight committee will conduct an audit of the Measure T spending. The results will likely come to the council in February. Currently, there are three vacant positions on the committee from District 3, District 8, and an at-large seat for environmental focus.
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.