WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board today issued two urgent safety recommendations calling for direct Federal safety oversight of San Jose’s streets and highways by the Federal Department of Transportation.
In its ongoing investigation, the NTSB examined the safety oversight for non-motorized users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, and wheelchair users. The NTSB found little improvement in San Jose’s safety culture since 2013, when pedestrian deaths hit a two-decade high.
Testimony at the hearing confirmed that the present oversight body, the bicycle advisory committee (BAC) relies on San Jose Public Works and/or City Council to respond to any safety concern, finding or recommendation. The BAC lacks the power to issue orders or levy fines and has no regulatory or enforcement authority.
“There is now a lack of independent safety oversight of San Jose streets and highways,’’ said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “This is an unacceptable gap in system safety.”
In its safety recommendation letter to the Secretary of Transportation, the NTSB said that San Jose has ignored ongoing safety problems, while pursuing highway expansions. A proposed Santa Clara County transportation sales tax measure would spend $650 million on highway expansion — half in San Jose. The widenings come at a time of worsening air quality, and carbon emissions.
The NTSB has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to seek authority from Congress to designate San Jose “non-compliant” with Clean Air rules and traffic safety so the Federal Department of Transportation can exercise direct safety oversight.
The NTSB has designated the safety recommendations as “urgent,” and has asked the Department of Transportation to respond within 30 days detailing the actions it intends to take to address the safety issues outlined in them.
The NTSB has also opened an investigation into the city and county of San Francisco, after reports surfaced that the Mayor was relying on his optometrist to provide expert traffic safety advice.