On June 12, City Council approved a cost sharing agreement between the City of Santa Clara and County of Santa Clara for the widening of the San Tomas Expressway. Although the agreement passed, it’s not yet finalized as various City departments involved in the work have to submit relevant paperwork.
The bulk of the project consists of expanding the expressway from six lanes to eight between El Camino Real and Homestead Road. However, the full scope of the project also includes maintaining the HOV lane, working on Phase I the San Tomas Aquino Creek Spur Trail, adding a sidewalk on the east side from El Camino Real to Homestead Road, maintaining bike routes, replacing soundwalls and improving landscaping. Either Phase II of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Spur Trail or a sidewalk from Benton Street to Homestead Road on the west side will be delivered.
The need for widening of the expressway was conceived in 2008 when it was determined that, due to increased growth in the area, additional lanes were needed to curb traffic congestion. Construction initially began in 2014 but progress was hampered, in part, due to weather conditions. The lanes will be constructed between El Camino Real and Williams Road in Santa Clara and San Jose. Because the need for improved traffic flow impacts mobility in both the City and County, costs of the project will be shared. However, the County is taking the lead on the initiative by preparing plans and environmental documents. The City will review and approve work to be done within its jurisdiction.
The total cost of the endeavor including preliminary work is $14.1 million. Currently $8.8 million in construction costs have yet to be garnered, and both City and County staff are working to secure the funding from local, state and federal levels. In about a month and a half, following the cost sharing agreement passage, the City will spend over $1.1 million on the design of the widening project and another $100,000 on San Tomas Aquino Creek Spur trail design. The County will simultaneously start environmental and preliminary engineering work.
“Extension of the San Tomas Aquino Creek trail on the west side of San Tomas provides for a direct link to bike lanes on Benton and Homestead, connecting the trail to neighborhoods, retail and schools,” states literature from the County’s Roads and Airports Department. “The trail extension is the result of Santa Clara’s public trails planning program. Addition of the through and turn lanes will improve traffic conditions at the San Tomas Expressway intersections with Homestead, Benton, and El Camino Real, reducing delay and idling emissions, saving on gas consumption and traveler time. Replacement of the sound walls should result in a noticeable decrease in background traffic noise for the adjacent owners that are closest to the expressway. Replanted trees will be sited and sized to avoid conflict with overhead utilities.”
Over 200 trees have been removed to make way for the widening project. During the public comment portion of the June 12 Council meeting, concern was raised over the dearth of trees along the expressway and it was recommended that more funds be allocated to improve the appearance of the landscape.