Copper Theft Blamed for Lights Out on Busy Stretch of 280 in San Jose

By Nannette Miranda
|  Friday, Apr 18, 2014  |  Updated 11:23 PM PDT
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Drivers near Interstate 280 and the 87 split in San Jose have been noticing the lights at some sections never come on at night. Now they're wondering what’s taking Caltrans so long to fix the issue. Nannette Miranda reports.

Drivers near Interstate 280 and the 87 split in San Jose have been noticing the lights at some sections never come on at night. Now they're wondering what’s taking Caltrans so long to fix the issue. Nannette Miranda reports.

Drivers near Interstate 280 and the 87 split in San Jose have been noticing the lights at some sections never come on at night. Now they’re wondering what’s taking Caltrans so long to fix the issue.

Motorists say they've been complaining for months.

“It's beginning to be the norm to drive in the dark,” driver Aurelia Sanchez said. “That's not where we should be. Not in this century.”

The lights are out on a very busy stretch of 280, from the 11th Street onramp to the Highway 87 interchange.

Downtown San Jose resident Sanchez says it’s a safety issue.

“Your vision is not as good as during the day,” Sanchez said. “So that’s my issue … is not being able to see something, therefore get into an accident.”

Sanchez has been told by her elected representatives that copper thieves are to blame for the dark portions of the freeways.

But her complaint hasn’t been addressed. Sanchez says the problem is at least two months old.

Caltrans says it’s aware of the problems but simply can’t keep up with repairs.

In fact, the agency’s director testified in Sacramento recently that thieves have stolen 19,000 feet of copper in a short amount of time, and it’s draining their resources.

Earlier this year, an agency spokesman described the magnitude of copper thefts throughout California.

“Just in 2012, statewide we had to spend $50 million on repairing damage done by copper wire thieves,” Caltrans spokesperson Bob Haus said.

California already has laws requiring recycling centers to check a copper seller’s photo ID or take their picture and obtain their thumb print.

The seller must also come back three days later for their money or have a check mailed to them.

Sanchez says, obviously, that’s not enough, and she has a message for state and local leaders.

“Do something about it,” she said. “Don’t just let it go on.”

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