Infrastructure halt may hurt South Bay


The long awaited fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel, the synchronization of San Jose's traffic lights, and the new affordable housing units in Palo Alto are all officially on hold. On Wednesday, a state panel decided California simply can't afford them.

"Now we're going to have state money pulled out of infrastructure projects. That's going to put people out of work, it's going to kill projects and have a big negative impact on the City of San Jose," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Mayor Reed thinks San Jose and every other community in the state continues to be caught in the middle of this budget crisis. Of the 2,000 infrastructure improvement projects that will be affected, 85 are in Silicon Valley.

"To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement," said Neil Struthers, from the Santa Clara County Builders and Construction Trades Council.

The state's decision is making construction and trade union members nervous. The only thing many have been surviving on since the housing market and economy slowed is public works projects.

"When you cut public works at this time, it's a perfect storm, people are going be out of work. Right now, unemployment is 15 percent, if this happens, I would suspect you could easily double that," said Neil Struthers.

The project freezes will impact 4,500 construction workers in the South Bay and 200,000 statewide. The projects vary in scope. They include homeless shelter construction, highway pothole repair, school district expansion, and transportation upgrades.

"The commuters have suffered a long time for projects that should've been built years ago, decades ago, and until recently, there hasn't been a proposal to get them done," said Randy Rentschler, from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The Caldecott Tunnel expansion project was supposed to begin next year, to ease the 175,000 daily drivers' commute. As long as the legislative gridlock lasts, so will the one on Highway 24.

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