December 3, 2021
VTA is hijacking funding for a controversial highway project, the target of community outrage for years.
The transit agency’s board of directors agreed to approve nearly $ 200 million for 11 infrastructure projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion in Santa Clara County at its meeting on Thursday. At the request of the director and mayor of San José, Sam Liccardo, the board of directors agreed not to allocate the $ 9.5 million planned for the Charcot Avenue extension project.
Residents have complained about the project since its inception, saying it threatens the safety of children at nearby Orchard Elementary School. Parents staged protests and signed petitions asking lawmakers not to continue with the project.
Citing community concerns, Liccardo suggested that the board divert funding to two other projects in north San Jose. County manager and supervisor Cindy Chavez agreed, noting that the board has heard complaints from residents about the expansion project for years.
“We need to encourage the ability to stop a project that we no longer believe is useful to the communities we represent,” said Chavez. “So I’m very comfortable considering reallocating resources to other projects. “
The board agreed not to allocate the funding, but stopped before immediately allocating funds to another project. If San Jose City Council also agrees not to fund the expansion, VTA will direct the money to one of two other high priority proposals: the 101 / Maybury interchange and the 101 / Zanker Road / Skyport Drive / improvements. Fourth Street.
The Charcot Avenue extension is one of many infrastructure proposals that voters in Santa Clara County agreed to fund in 2016 through Measure B, a half-cent sales tax. which is expected to produce $ 6.3 billion over 30 years.
In 2019, the VTA approved $ 25 million in Measure B funds to build the Charcot Avenue extension, which would cross Hwy 880 from Paragon Drive to Oakland Road. At the time, the city was also planning to widen Silkwood Lane just behind Orchard Elementary School.
The controversy surrounding the project has not subsided in recent years. Many residents and advocates have urged the transit agency to divert funding from the extension.
“I call for support for Mayor Liccardo’s note to allow San Jose to redirect the funding of this very misguided and environmentally racist Charcot extension project,” said Linda Hutchins-Knowles, co-founder of the group environmental Mothers Out Front Silicon Valley.
Erin McCarthy, president of the Orchard Teachers Association, told council the overpass would have a serious impact on the school.
“Teachers stand wholeheartedly with our community in opposition to this road,” said McCarthy. “It’s not safe, not good for the climate, and certainly not good for our students… don’t build it.”
San José City Council member David Cohen also spoke out against the project, which would be located in his district.
“It’s important that we reassess projects over time based on current conditions,” Cohen said. “The Charcot project was conceived 25 years ago and the neighborhood around it has changed.
Several residents thanked council for its vote. Robin Roemer, a critic of how VTA funds highway projects, praised the board for removing the extension.
“Today is a day of great relief for the Orchard community,” said Roemer.
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