by Kim McCarthy
“Sometimes when we try to make things better, we make them worse…” This statement by Council member Laura Freese during a recent City Council meeting was in reference to yet another City-created debacle, the Del Obispo Railroad Crossing just past Camino Capistrano.
Cost to SJC taxpayers: $1.1 million to “upgrade” it with a signal that creates major congestion. Apparently the signal was added because the City thought it was required in order to establish a “Quiet Zone Crossing”… until the Councilman Derek Reeve asked at a council meeting whether the signal at the railroad track was required for a Quiet Zone. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) representative answered “no” and went on to say, “The [OCTA] project team never made that recommendation because of the concerns about traffic”. My first thought was, “then why the heck did we pay to put it there?”
Councilman Sam Allevato offered the following observation, “…the Quiet Zone was the most important thing…I understand that people might experience a slight delay…”. A “slight delay”? Really? He must not drive to the other side of town much. In his typical tone-deaf manner, he also referred to the “Ghost Train” as “…a slight irritant.” Probably because he’s a retiree with grown children who lives East of the freeway, the Ghost Train traffic is out of sight out of mind for Sam. He isn’t one of the many parents who shuttle their kids to school or the Sports Park, or one of the thousands of residents who live in neighborhoods off Del Obispo who sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic daily, thanks to the domino effect generated by this mess of an “improvement”. You can thank him at the ballot box in November.
After wasting all that money, we can’t even get the “Quiet Zone” because of the “improvements”. Our City Manager stated that no company will insure us as long as we have that signal there. So, it seems that we taxpayers may now have to pay to remove the signal that we just paid to install, in order to qualify for insurance.
But there’s more; when the City constructed the new landscaped median on Del Obispo, they didn’t leave enough room for emergency vehicles to pass on the left when traffic is backed up. I guess Councilman Allevato would just advise those of you who live West of the tracks not to have an emergency during high-traffic hours. If you do, good luck getting around the traffic – there’s nowhere to go. Just another “slight irritant” I suppose.
So, who’s responsible for this series of expensive blunders? Records indicate that Mayor Larry Kramer voted to recommend the Council approve the project on 7/9/08 when he was on the Transportation Commission. Mayor Kramer, in his usual dismissive manner didn’t offer an apology but rather, just wanted to move on when this was pointed out. Sam Allevato voted to approve it on 9/16/08 as a member of the City Council and Council member Laura Freese voted to approve almost all subsequent changes to the railroad crossing (five at last count).
This proves that it’s too easy for elected leaders to abuse spending other people’s money when they aren’t held accountable. That may change in November, when you can hold Sam Allevato and Laura Freese accountable for a job poorly done on this and other wasteful spending; don’t re-elect them…fire them.