Mineta San Jose Airport to shut down runways during fireworks show

Concerns over safety for the traveling public are prompting Mineta San Jose International Airport officials to take an unprecedented step. The South Bay airport will shut down both its runways Wednesday night, due to the planned fireworks show above downtown.

The fireworks show, sponsored by the Rotary Club, is set to begin around 9:30 p.m. at Discovery Meadow. But during the show, the skies will be free of airplanes.

Air traffic at Mineta San Jose International Airport will see delays Wednesday night, but not due to weather. The slow-to-a-stop is due to the city’s annual fireworks show.

This, after the Federal Aviation Administration objected to the show. In a letter last November, federal officials cited fireworks as safety risk to take offs and landings.

“We have worked with the FAA to close our two runways for 30 minute beginning at 9:30 p.m.,” said Rosemary Barnes, the spokeswoman for Mineta San Jose International Airport.

She says initially, there were conversations about moving the show. But closing the runways turns out to be the better option.

“The mayor brought everybody together. Looked at other potential venues, and it was determined that Discovery Meadows was the right place. We’re the 10th largest city in the U.S. whatever we can do to bring out community together on such an important day,” said Barnes

During the day on the 4th of July, Mineta’s travelers were scrambling to catch flights and connections out of town. Airport officials say three commercial flights will be impacted by the runway closures. 

“I am very glad to get out of here before that, because I do not want to be delayed here at the airport,” said Austin, Texas, traveler Jeff Wagers, as he rushed to catch his plane back home to Texas.

There are also concerns about motorists' safety on the roads.

“It can get unsafe. Generally what people do is they’re traveling on the freeways… they’ll actually come to a stop,” said sergeant Christopher King, of the California Highway Patrol’s San Jose office.

He said 'Looky-Lou' motorists have their eyes on the skies above, not realizing approaching traffic may not. The result has been increased traffic collisions in three key stretches of roadway. Highway 87 through downtown San Jose. Highway 101 near Great America amusement park, and the north end of Highway 237.

“You have a freeway that’s traveling at 65 miles per hour. That’s the expected speed for everybody else. And you come to a complete stop and you’re not paying attention to what’s coming behind you. Your focus is either to the front or to the side. So yeah, It does create a very dangerous situation,” said King.

He said CHP officers are poised to close a stretch of Highway 87 through downtown, and will monitor the other trouble spots. This, as officials both on the roads and in the air try to make sure enjoying the holiday doesn’t lead to a disaster on the holiday.

“If you’re gonna observe the fireworks, do it in a safe place,” said King.

A safe place would be downtown at the city-sanctioned fireworks event. Remember, fireworks are illegal in San Jose and most places in Santa Clara County. The fine for a first time infraction of lighting illegal fireworks is $500.