With a new influx of cash, the Story Road-Keyes Street corridor in East San Jose will be transformed from a danger zone to a safe stretch.
The San Jose City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to secure the final funding for safety infrastructure across the 2.3-mile road project. The dollars will transform one of San Jose’s most hazardous corridors into a haven for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit takers and drivers alike. But it will still be three years before the city breaks ground on the project.
“Three years is a long time to wait, but it gives us time to make sure we get it right,” Mayor Matt Mahan said.
Councilmembers approved matching a $3.6 million grant from a regional transit agency with city dollars through the next budget cycle. With this approval, the city can finalize designs for permanent safety improvements in the Story-Keyes area.
The project will redesign the corridor stretching from Third Street to King Road that sits between State Route 87 and Capitol Expressway—and connect several East San Jose neighborhoods to a variety of commercial districts that predominantly serve Vietnamese and Latino communities. John Ristow, city director of transportation, said it’s also one of 17 most dangerous corridors in San Jose.
The city wants to add separated bikeways, protected intersections, transit boarding islands and better lighting, among other safety improvements. Bus-only lanes are also planned for wider parts of Story Road for the right-most lane—which would significantly improve transit for one of Santa Clara County’s highest-ridership bus routes, Ristow said. In the wider parts of Keyes Street, lanes would be reduced from five to three.
“It is unlike things that we have seen because it is a buildout for a specific corridor,” said Jessica Zenk, deputy director of transportation. “This is not going to be plastic and paint (like downtown). This is not a quickbuild project. This is an expensive and permanent build out project.”
The total projected cost of the project is $45 million. The majority of the funding is coming from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a government agency responsible for regional transportation planning and financing in the Bay Area. In January, MTC awarded the Story-Keyes project two different grants totaling $36.4 million. The city is required to match a certain percentage of each grant, for a total of $8.7 million over the next few years.
Several councilmembers said the city should work with nearby businesses and residents to ensure the plan comes to fruition—especially because it is one of the most heavily traveled corridors. Councilmembers Omar Torres, Sergio Jimenez, Peter Ortiz and Bien Doan said in the past, some transportation projects failed to receive enough resident engagement. They want to make sure the community is involved in the design and construction process.
“The history of fatalities is a justice issue and I hope this project can address this,” Ortiz said. “I want to be mindful of our residents who work and live adjacent to where all this work will be happening and it’s important we set a high bar for engagement.”
San Jose streets have only gotten more dangerous in recent years. The city saw a record high with 65 traffic-related deaths in 2022. San Jose has recorded nine traffic-related deaths so far this year.
The city adopted the Vision Zero initiative in 2015 to analyze traffic data and develop safety programs after 60 people died from crashes that year. In 2018, the city identified 17 of its most dangerous corridors—most of which run through East San Jose—Story Road included.
San Jose has funded temporary solutions to make other streets safer. On Senter Road, the city spent close to $1 million to paint the intersections and put green balls and plastic barriers to force drivers to slow down. These efforts reduced traffic deaths and serious injuries along Senter Road, dropping from 15 in 2020 to five in 2021, according to city data.
This year, some of the city’s most dangerous streets—Branham Lane, Saratoga Avenue and McKee and White roads—are scheduled for similar infrastructure safety measures as Senter Road. McKee and Tully roads are getting major upgrades that include more street lights, bike lanes and other protective measures.
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