SJPD adding patrols for Cinco de Mayo; Caltrans closing freeway off ramps

Cinco de Mayo celebrations are underway across the Bay Area. In San Jose, a decades-old ban on cruising is no longer the law. And that has enthusiasts looking forward to hitting the streets.

"I like the lowriders. I love the Impalas," said San Jose resident Vincente Ferreira. "San Jose is where it’s at. San Jose is the city."

Friday afternoon James Alcorn took his ’53 Chevy Club Coop for a practice ride in North San Jose. The car enthusiast has poured tens of thousands of dollars into making the car cruising-ready.

"It’s something that I grew up with…And something I’m gonna die with, you know? It’s just a good feeling rolling around with your club, rolling around with your friends. Having a good time," said Alcorn, a member of Firme Classics Car Club.

This year, Cinco de Mayo kicks off the weekend. As in years past, large crowds are expected to gather on city streets and choke traffic on area freeways.

"Our goal this year is to ensure that families, friends, and visitors can all enjoy the holiday safely," said Officer Steve Aponte of the San Jose Police Department.

Starting at 2 p.m., San Jose police began adding extra patrols to key locations to address potential public safety issues.

Those areas include Downtown San Jose and the King Road corridor – between McKee and Tully. Officers will also crack down on sideshows drivers, and spectators.

"Because of that proactive policing, it changes the behavior to make sure people understand if you’re gonna conduct any kind of sideshow activity, you’re not gonna do it in San Jose," said Aponte.

Additionally, starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Caltrans closures of exit ramps begin on Highway 101, Interstate 280, and Highway 87 through downtown. The goal is to prevent traffic from flowing into the downtown area.

"Historically, the Downtown San Jose area will see an influx," said Victor Gauthier, a Caltrans-Santa Clara County spokesman. "So this will reduce some of that congestion of people looking to go to the downtown area where most of these gatherings are gonna take place."

That news is being received with mixed emotions by those looking to showcase their wheels while cruising on Cinco de Mayo.

"Obviously we’d like to be able to cruise, and not have to be directed off the roads and sent home," said David Polanco, a member of United Lowrider Council of San Jose. 

Added Alcorn, "It’s a good thing, not having congestion. I understand that. The buses and everybody trying to get through. But us out here, we’re just trying to have a good time. We’re not trying to bother anybody or cause any problems. We just wanna show off our rides."

The lowriders say they have a contingency plan in place if they can’t get to downtown.

The affected freeway ramp closures are from 7 p.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday; and from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. from Saturday into Monday morning.

The closures points are:

Northbound and southbound U.S. 101 at McKee Road, Julian Street, Santa Clara Street, and Story Road; southbound I-280 at McLaughlin Avenue; northbound State Highway 87 at Auzeraise Avenue, Julian Street, and Taylor Street.

Roadblocks in the downtown area led to gridlock traffic. Police said the road closures were for public safety to reduce the likelihood of sideshows and vandalism.

"It’s kind of excusable because there’s been some things happening throughout the years. But since the pandemic it has been calm," said Vicente Ferreira, who was making and selling flags along Santa Clara Street. 

There was some on-and-off rain but nothing that dampened the spirits of those looking to celebrate.  "The rain isn’t going to stop us. It’s never going to stop us. We’ll be here. We’ll be here."

KTVU reporter Elissa Harrington contributed to this report.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv