Breaking Barriers: Fixing the Freeway Problem

A city street under a freeway overpass.

What is the status quo and what have we heard from the community?

Residents have frequently shared concerns about the impacts of the two downtown freeways on their quality of life: State Route 87 and I-280. State Route 87 runs north-south above street level, bisecting areas on the western side of Downtown. I-280 runs east-west along the southern edge of Downtown, acting as a barrier to neighborhoods to the south.

Both freeways present significant barriers to anyone who is trying to travel without a car, particularly pedestrians, wheelchair users, and bicyclists.

San José’s downtown will continue to grow and intensify over the coming decades. This means that the number of people who experience the negative impacts of these freeway barriers will also increase. This is especially true for State Route 87 since it bisects the downtown core from the emerging and rapidly growing Diridon Station Area.

What is being contemplated as part of this big move?

As part of the DTP, the team is considering several long-term approaches to overcoming these freeway barriers. If public feedback suggests we should pursue a big move, it might get its own new study or plan. Long-term approaches could include the following options:

  • Transforming State Route 87 into an urban boulevard. This could include changing the existing elevated structure to a street-level thoroughfare with high quality landscaping and open space, like the Embarcadero in San Francisco.
  • Decking over the I-280 Freeway like Freeway Park in Seattle. This could include building a structure or “deck” over portions of the freeway to create a public plaza and better connect neighborhoods on either side.
  • Consolidating freeway ramps.

Return to the Big Moves Survey.