San Jose sidewalk construction causes pedestrian safety concerns
Sidewalk closed due to construction near Santana Row in summer 2021. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Reed.

Prolonged construction on a busy Santana Row intersection has frustrated some locals who say it poses a threat to pedestrian safety.

Resident Benjamin Reed told San José Spotlight he contacted the city months ago about construction on the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Olsen Street, as well as Santana Row and Stevens Creek Boulevard. He said barriers blocked sidewalks on both sides of Winchester and Stevens Creek at one point, including a bus stop.

The placement of barriers forced pedestrians to walk in traffic to get to bus stops, which he found to be risky, Reed said.

“Even now it’s pretty dangerous because the temporary walkway is pretty narrow, and cyclists have to use it too, so you have cyclists and pedestrians going both ways on this temporary walkway,” he said.

Temporary construction barriers near a bus stop on Santana Row in summer 2021. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Reed.

During the summer, the city added a temporary walkway across Santana Row to access one of the bus stops, but Reed said the other bus stop is still blocked, and the temporary walkway is still there. This is especially inconvenient for a busy thoroughfare like Santana Row, which has seen significant economic growth even at the tail-end of the pandemic.

“It’s just insane,” Reed said. “I could understand if it lasted like a weekend because construction happens… But this has been months.”

Prolonged sidewalk obstructions may harm San Jose’s goal to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists. According to a city memo published in October, 110 pedestrians have been killed by cars during the 2016-2020 period. There’s a growing trend of pedestrians getting killed while walking outside of marked crosswalks, the report stated.

A temporary walkway to facilitate pedestrian traffic around ongoing construction on Santana Row. The barriers have since been removed. Photo courtesy of the San Jose Department of Public Works.

City spokesperson Colin Heyne told San José Spotlight the construction on Santana Row is part of a major signal modification and pedestrian infrastructure upgrade tied to the Westfield Valley Fair expansion project. Last year, Westfield Valley Fair unveiled a $1.1 billion expansion of the upscale westside mall, which included a parking ramp near Stevens Creek and an outdoor dining area.

Barriers were erected to protect pedestrian access to the corners of Stevens Creek and Santana Row, Heyne said. Intermittent closures proved necessary when construction extended beyond the work zone and posed potential hazards to pedestrians.

The next phase of construction, which is expected to last three to four months, will move to the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection, he said. During that period, the north-south pedestrian crossing will move from the west side of the intersection to the east.

A traffic control plan has been approved to protect vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and workers traveling through the work area.

But construction projects can create obstacles on sidewalks that severely impact people with disabilities. Autumn Elliott, litigation counsel for Disability Rights California, told San José Spotlight her organization frequently hears complaints about ongoing roadside work.

“It’s important when these kind of construction projects are being planned to think through how they’re going to impact people with a wide variety of disabilities,” she said.

Heyne noted the traffic control plan for the construction area is based on federal standards that take into account how people with disabilities may be affected. He sympathizes with the inconvenience the work is causing, especially for those who need the bus stop location.

“Fortunately, the end result of this project will be a more comfortable and a safer walking environment with shorter crossing distances and fewer conflicts between people walking and drivers,” he said.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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