Copper Theft Blamed for Highway 87 Flooding in San Jose

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sam Brock
    Crews were able to flush the water off a flooded Highway 87 with an external transitional pump, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

    The rain wasn't the only reason some Bay Area roads flooded. Caltrans is blaming copper thieves for flooding a San Jose freeway.

    Overnight, all the rain caused a huge amount of ponding on Highway 87. After several cars got stuck, the California Highway Patrol had to close down all but one lane of southbound 87 at the Taylor Street underpass. The right-hand lane reopened around 2 p.m. after being closed for about 10 hours.

    Between 87 and the Guadalupe River is a water pump that’s supposed to keep water off the roadway. Caltrans officials say the pump was inspected on Thursday. Sometime between that inspection and early Friday morning, according to Caltrans, someone stole the copper wire that helps power the pump, leading to a serious traffic issue in the South Bay.

    Crews were ultimately able to siphon out the water by bringing in an external transitional pump, which flushed the water away.

    Caltrans spokesperson Bob Haus said the agency has a serious issue on its hand.

    “It’s a recurring problem,” Haus said. “Just in 2012, statewide we had to spend $50 million on repairing the damage done by copper wire thieves. And they don’t just hit pump houses; they hit traffic signals, metering lights, irrigation systems, changeable message signs.”

    If this story sounds family, there’s a good reason: The same pump station was hit back in late 2012.

    According to Caltrans, the cost of copper on the open market is up 350 percent over the last five years.

    As for a suspect, San Jose police say they have no leads.