Santa Clara Expressways plan update

If you live in Silicon Valley and your New Year resolutions included a commitment to civic involvement, here’s your chance to be involved.

The Santa Clara County (CA) Roads Department is updating its long term plan for county expressways. A series of community meetings outlining the proposed plans begins tomorrow night in San Jose. If you can’t make that meeting, you’ll have four more opportunities through February 13, 2014.

Santa Clara County Expressways plan

South Bay residents and workers are familiar with Santa Clara County’s unique system of county expressways. County road planners created this system of high capacity arterials beginning in 1957 as a hybrid between surface streets and highways. Like highways, private driveways are generally not allowed. Unlike highways, at-grade crossings are permitted. Most intersections feature large pork-chop islands for high speed right turns from cross streets, and some even have freeway-style acceleration ramps and auxiliary lanes.

In the current plan created in 2003 and updated in 2009, the county would like to convert many intersections into fully grade separated crossings to give motorists the promise of a more free flowing driving experience.

When creating the new 2040 Plan, County Roads listed these items in the scope of their study:

  • Identify benefits of the expressway system to the economic health of each city and the County as a whole, including public user understanding and perception.
  • Assess traffic impacts and ramifications of projected growth in the Study area along each expressway.
  • Develop consensus and commitment to the vision and role of each expressway as part of the local and regional transportation system.
  • Develop and prioritize project list for capacity and operational improvements consistent with expressway vision.
  • Develop Complete Streets improvement project lists consistent with expressway vision (pedestrian, bicycle, finishing program elements).
  • Identify connectivity and access issues along and across the expressways for all users and recommend improvements, including operational improvements to allow or enhance cross signal coordination on side streets.
  • Confirm and update Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Element. This is the everyday task of patching pavement, trimming trees, adjusting traffic signals and so forth.
  • Here’s the big one: Identify funding needs, potential funding opportunities, and implementation strategies.

The timing is important because California’s dramatically improved budget situation in this election year means counties and cities in high growth areas (such as Santa Clara County — the fastest growing county in population and employment in California) will see increased tax revenue and spending opportunities for capital projects. People would love to spend that money on high dollar capital projects like freeways and stroads.

The first community outreach meeting takes place Tuesday night, January 7, 2014 at the Seven Trees Community Center, 2590 Cas Drive, San Jose, CA 95111. Subsequent meetings are:

  • Thursday, January 9, 2014: West Valley Branch Library, 1243 San Tomas Aquino Road, San Jose CA 95117.
  • Tuesday, January 14, 2014: VTA Auditorium, 3331 North 1st Street, San Jose CA 95134.
  • Thursday, January 16, 2014: Los Altos Youth Center, 1 North San Antonio, Los Altos CA 94022.
  • Thursday, February 13, 2014: Morgan Hill Community Center, 170000 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill CA 95037.

All meetings take place from 6 PM to 8 PM.

Hopefully, the presenters will have the promised “fact sheets” for each expressway by the time of the first meeting. So far, I can only find this fact sheet for a project to convert Lawrence Expressway into a fully grade separated highway. These fact sheets — one for each expressway — will show a vision statement for the expressway; a map of the corridor; history, existing conditions, and adjacent land uses; proposed project elements and objectives; operations information such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities, bus stops and carpool hours; maintenance information; and proposed project capital costs, funding availability and schedule and contact information.

This video of me cycling at night on Lawrence Expressway shows what conditions are like on many of our expressways. Note the slip ramps and merge lanes.

More resources:

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