An East San Jose traffic signal has finally been replaced after a monthslong saga between East San Jose residents and Santa Clara County. The installation is viewed as a minor victory.

County workers installed a new signal at the intersection of Ocala Avenue and Capitol Expressway last Thursday after a traffic accident demolished the old one last September. The replacement was originally slated for March, but East San Jose residents said the delay points to ongoing patterns of disparities in certain communities.

The county maintains eight expressways, which have fewer intersections and driveways than other roads. It’s also in charge of mountain, rural and other roads in unincorporated county areas.

East San Jose resident Veronica Licon said that one traffic signal caused months of stress—and a job change. She said the temporary signal the county installed was short and barely visible in a busy intersection near the school where her children and others walk daily. Her concern over the signal factored into her switching from a busy hospital position to a library job so she could pick her children up after school, she said.

“I had to find another job because I was so worried about the safety of my children having to walk and use that unsafe intersection,” Licon told San José Spotlight. “Thankfully, they were safe, but it was driving me crazy.”

Licon said poor road safety in East San Jose has become normalized. While San Jose is working to address road safety through federal grants and the Vision Zero initiative, the city has also reached record-highs in terms of traffic fatalities, tallying 65 deaths last year. East San Jose is home to the most dangerous streets in the city, like White and McKee roads. She said she’s been contacting county and city officials about the signal since last October, only to be told to wait.

“East Side of San Jose is always put at the bottom,” Licon told San José Spotlight.

Ananth Prasad, deputy director of road and signal operations for the county, said the county fixed the signal as quickly as possible and that workers followed up every week with street light vendors in Oklahoma to get the replacement. He said delays are happening across counties, given supply chain disruptions and employee shortages.

“That’s not just for us, it’s for anybody that’s ordering poles,” Prasad told San José Spotlight. “The vendors are telling us that they also have truck driver shortages… Material supply can probably cause some delay, and then even after that, they have to overcome the (driver) shortage.”

Prasad said fixing the Ocala and Capitol signal was a bigger task: while the county generally has shorter signals in stock to replace in case of accidents, bigger signals require custom replacement orders.

“The chances of these big poles going down are slim,” Prasad told San José Spotlight. “When that happens, we have to go through reordering the pole to the same specifications, so that the foundation can be retained… that’s the challenge.”

Licon said she’s relieved the signal is fixed, but still concerned about reasons behind the delayed timeline. Other worries linger, too—the intersection her children use daily still doesn’t have a crossing guard, she added.

“I’m glad that it’s finally put up,” she said. “I’m really hoping that everything will be okay.”

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